Average is over: send everyone to college?

I haven't yet finished Cowen's book, but I have gotten over halfway, and searched the index, and here is something Cowen does not seem to address: if his analysis of our economic situation is accurate, and machines are increasingly replacing lower-skilled office workers, then the current push to get everyone into college is sorely mistaken. After all, for what sort of job does a college degree with average grades and no specialized STEM training qualify one? Generally speaking, a low-skill office job, or precisely the sort of jobs that are disappearing. Pushing more people into colleges is not going to magically make more of these jobs appear; instead, it will merely create more competition for the diminishing supply.

There is a category of job that requires intelligence, can be very fulfilling, and allows workers great autonomy and the opportunity to exercise creativity: high-skill manual-labor jobs. If the returns to capital are increasing, the people getting those returns are going to be expanding their houses, decorating them, hiring musicians for their parties, having murals painted on their walls, installing fancy custom tile work, getting more massages, having their clothes custom tailored, having gourmet meals prepared for them, and so on. Those jobs cannot be outsourced to India, and none of them require a college degree. If a high school guidance counselor deal he cares about the future of his charges, then he shouldn't be sending a disinterested C student on from high school to become a disinterested C student at a second-tier college. Tell that student to become a carpenter, or a skilled tile worker, or an auto mechanic, or a chef.

1 comment:

  1. UNinterested, dammit! I know, I know, they are falling together--"uninterested" may in fact be on the way out, but still...

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