There are too many people in college.
With the sudden explosion of an educated labor force, many positive externalities come about. The marginal benefit difference of educated versus uneducated is far from small, but I believe we have gone too far. We have surpassed the maximum marginal benefit of the current college education system. There are too many people going to college and earning degrees in fields that simply do not pay enough to ever generate enough income to properly offset the investment. High school guidance counselors are quick to point out that the average college graduate will make about $25,000 dollars more per year than their high school diploma holding counter-part. What fails to be properly displayed in this statistic is standard deviation and distribution. Yes, $25,000 is the average difference, but it is skewed heavily by the high wages generate by the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and statistic base fields. Unless you are attending college to study one of the aforementioned areas, then there is a good chance your income will never be high enough to pay off the costs incurred by obtaining the education. To force every person into college, which seems to be a policy in most high schools, does not stand up to economic rationale. Potential future income of non-STEM and statistic based fields is grim. There is a high probability that they will come out making less than they would if they had a high school diploma and four years of work experience. Certain fields need formal training, these are not the fields that most of the top ten degrees are in. There is no formal training needed to be able to communicate proficiently. The ability to be great with words is an innate gift. The greatest artists of all time were not the products of institutions. Formal education is needed to give new skills; experience is need to refine skills already known. College should be for people searching to gain a skill that’s apathetic towards experience. The fact that there is a negative stigma towards vocational work shows a misunderstanding of the economic factors that shape wage. Wage is the product of the marginal production of labor and price level. Price level can be held constant, so wage is the result of how “in demand” is your field. The largest economy with a massive intensified sector still needs vocational labor because there will always be needs for infrastructure. With so many people earning unproductive degrees, it is not surprising to hear stories of wielders earning $100,000 plus per year, far greater than what the average non-STEM field graduate can expect to earn. Knowledge is one of the greatest gifts one can receive, but not all knowledge comes from formal education. Yes, there are certainly positive economic externalities with education, but they do not outweigh the negative externalities of having a population burdened with a bad economic decision forced upon before their 18th birthday. Knowledge, not only through education, is the key.
Counter argument: Are there too many people in college?
Counter argument: Developed economies have had the most educated populations for some time. Economically speaking the exchange of ideas and knowledge are the main drivers behind innovation, which is key to economic growth. Education not only encourages the development of new inventions, but intellectual innovation creates more efficient systems of production. It is general knowledge that as the total output of goods and services increase (GDP), via refined production processes, the standard of living of an economy also rises. Due to this fact, I believe education is essential for the growth of any economy. Additionally, education drives technological advances, which may result, to the future demand for uneducated labors decreasing as more skilled workers are required. In fact this is currently reflected by the high college wage premium: the median annual wage for young college-educated workers now is $45,500, in comparison to $28,000 for high school graduates - a difference of $17,500 which is over half the salary of non-college graduates. This gap in wage premium is widening too, for the gap in 1965 was much less at just $7400. Looking at these numbers, it is clear to see that there is an actual income benefit from investing in education – why work for 30 years when you can work for 20 years, while generating the same amount of income? It seems irrational not to invest in an education.
Another point to make is that education diversifies an individual’s skill set and allows them to be marketable to more than just one industry sector. For example, coal miners only hold a specific skill set for that particular industry, yet with a college degree they would be able to interchange between different and higher roles within their desired occupation, or have the ability to change industries due to the flexibility that education allows. In conclusion, while the gap in wage premium continues to increase such differences in wage can contribute to growing income inequality in the US. Data shows that not only do college educated workers fill many positions of the highest paid jobs, but so too do they take home a bigger pay check than uneducated workers within the same occupation. Such differences have created winners and losers, but rather than technology and education being at arms “if workers have flexible skills, then the supply of skills will increase as demand increases for them. Growth and the premium to skill will be balanced and the race between technology and education will not be won by either side and prosperity will be widely shared." Education is key to moving forward economically and socially, thus there is no such thing as too many people being in college.