From The Wall Street Journal:
In data compiled for a coming report, the Economic Policy Institute, a center-left think tank in Washington, found that the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage for male college graduates aged 23 to 29 dropped 11% over the past decade to $21.68 in 2011. For female college graduates of the same age, the average wage is down 7.6% to $18.80.
“New college graduates have been losing ground for 10 years,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the institute, which derived the figures from regular government wage surveys. The drop in average wages for young adults is in contrast to U.S. government figures showing that average inflation-adjusted hourly wages for production and nonsupervisory workers of all ages and education levels are up 3% from a decade ago.
To put those income numbers in context, here are some facts from a recent Chronicle of Higher Education story by economist Alex Tabarrok:
– Only 35 percent of students starting a four-year degree program will graduate within four years, and less than 60 percent will graduate within six years.
– The U.S. college dropout rate is about 40 percent, the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world.
– Over the past 25 years, the total number of students in college has increased by about 50 percent. But the number of students graduating with degrees in STEM subjects has remained more or less constant.
– In 2009, the United States graduated 37,994 students with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information science. That’s not bad, but we graduated more students with computer-science degrees 25 years ago!
– Few disciplines have changed as much in recent years as microbiology, but in 2009 we graduated just 2,480 students with bachelor’s degrees in microbiology—about the same number as 25 years ago. Who will solve the problem of antibiotic resistance?
If students aren’t studying science, technology, engineering, and math, what are they studying?
– In 2009, the United States graduated 89,140 students in the visual and performing arts, more than in computer science, math, and chemical engineering combined and more than double the number of visual-and-performing-arts graduates in 1985.
– Moreover, more than half of all humanities graduates end up in jobs that don’t require college degrees, and those graduates don’t get a big income boost from having gone to college.
And as Computerworld magazine notes, the science and engineering bit of the U.S. workforce has stalled:
Hey, I love liberal arts majors. I have a double history-poli sci major from Northwestern University. But do we want to subsidize the sort of higher education, as Tabarrok writes, “less likely to create the kinds of innovations that drive economic growth?”
And rather than pushing students to attend a four-year, brick-and-mortar college in pursuit of the BA, how about business-backed training and apprenticeship programs leading to a high-skill technical degree just like in Germany and some other northern European nations? In Germany, 97% of students graduate from high school, but only a third of these students go on to college, Tabarrok notes. In the United States, we graduate fewer students from high school, but nearly two-thirds of those we graduate go to college.
More education for all. But not college for all.