Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Education Bubble

The education bubble is the number of people willing to borrow nearly $200,000 for a BA (or PhD) in Anthropology or whatever subject that exceeds the number of positions available that require that degree at that price. I read an article yesterday that mentioned a detective with a PhD in Anthropology. While it seems to be working for him, I just don't see it as economically efficient. If we look at the causes of this inefficiency and bubble, we see similar government incentives and payouts to those that drive up the price of houses and medical care.  

At some point, maybe soon, all of that money being borrowed to pay for college education is going to be hard to get.  If we keep expanding grants and loan programs supported by the taxpayer, the government will distort the market and prevent costs from dropping to match demand.

So how should the government spend its money? If public universities were run in a lean fashion, with a passion for getting rid of wasteful spending, without a distasteful focus on athletics and other distractions, they would provide more than adequate competition for private universities at fair prices. By focusing on subjects that are in demand in the economy, they could support the progress of humanity.  By virtue of selective admissions, they could continue to avoid the fate of bland ineffectiveness that has befallen public primary and secondary education. 

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