Saturday, July 22, 2006

Should a College Education Equal Higher Wages?

Tannock, S. (2006). Higher education, inequality, and the public good. Dissent, 53(2), 45-51.

Abstract

The author of this article makes the argument that the real issue of access to higher education is not cost. Instead, the issue is the large gap between the earning power of college graduates and non-college graduates. He argues that since most jobs do not require a college degree, and that as most Americans are not college graduates, the best solution would be to suppress the wage gap so that a college education is not the only real viable choice for social mobility.

The article documents the widening gap in income levels between those with college degrees and those without. This is then coupled with commentary on those who then argue that college should be for all. The author disagrees with this, states fewer should attend college, and then argues that higher education today is a failure because it is a cause of the wage disparity.

Higher education is criticized for marketing itself as an investment in future income. Further, higher education is accused of pushing graduates into high paying jobs and ignoring lesser paying jobs due to high student debt loads. Public law and teaching are cited as examples of areas for the public good that many college graduates can not afford be employed in.

The author argues that universities should turn their research agendas towards studying ways that the education wage disparity can be shrunk. Further, he wants institutions of higher education to lower the pay disparity between professional and non-professional staff. Why should faculty make four times more than the cleaning crew?

Implications

I found this article down right goofy and full of impossible recommendations to be of any real note. However, in the larger environmental scanning mode, I can see the importance of this article. While the arguments may not always be on target, I can see the public at large begin to doubt the need for higher education in the future.

As tuition costs creep ever higher, and more and more become disenfranchised from the process, many will ask “why bother?” Leftist activists who believe that everyone should have the same income coupled with right leaning populist who wish to diminish the power of the “egg heads” may work together to undermine the universal importance of higher education. I can see a real push to create additional gatekeeping processes which allow individuals access to positions of power and influence that cuts out the need for higher education. Higher education advocates will need to prove the value of academia.

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