The Student Loan Bubble

This post should be subtitled “Is a college education, as it is delivered by colleges and universities today, over-hyped?”
From 16 Shocking Facts About The Student Loan Debt Bubble And The Great College Education Scam,” The American Dream, December 21, 2010:

#1 Americans now owe more than $875 billion on student loans, which is more than the total amount that Americans owe on their credit cards.

#2 Since 1982, the cost of medical care in the United States has gone up over 200%, which is horrific, but that is nothing compared to the cost of college tuition which has gone up by more than 400%.

#3 The typical U.S. college student spends less than 30 hours a week on academics.

#4 The unemployment rate for college graduates under the age of 25 is over 9 percent.

#5 There are about two million recent college graduates that are currently unemployed.

#6 Approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loans.

#7 In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

#8 The Project on Student Debt estimates that 206,000 Americans graduated from college with more than $40,000 in student loan debt during 2008.

#9 In the United States today, 24.5 percent of all retail salespersons have a college degree.

#10 Total student loan debt in the United States is now increasing at a rate of approximately $2,853.88 per second.

#11 There are 365,000 cashiers in the United States today that have college degrees.

#12 Starting salaries for college graduates across the United States are down in 2010.

#13 In 1992, there were 5.1 million “underemployed” college graduates in the United States.  In 2008, there were 17 million “underemployed” college graduates in the United States.

#14 In the United States today, over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees.

#15 Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of the full-time students who began college in 2001 received a bachelor’s degree within four years.

#16 According to a recent survey by Twentysomething Inc., a staggering 85 percent of college seniors planned to move back home after graduation last May.

See also a recent New York Times article by David Segal on many law school graduates not being able to find employment as attorneys, unable to repay tens of thousands of dollars in student loans: Is Law School a Losing Game?,” January 8, 2011.
The really depressing thought is this:

While a college education may be overhyped, not getting a college degree is not a solution either. The employment prospects of someone with only a high school diploma are even worse.

The fact of the matter is that America is a post-industrial, post-manufacturing economy that is service intensive. Alas, there are two kinds of service jobs:

  1. “Hamburger flippers”: low-paying jobs that take minimal skills and training and thus, little education is required.
  2. Knowledge-intensive service jobs (in science, engineering, medicine, law…) that are high-paying because they require not just a college diploma, but a post-graduate Master’s and/or Doctoral degree(s).

But not everyone has the finances, temperament (stick-to-it-ness), and intelligence to get a post-graduate degree. All of which means that a post-industrial economy will be less and less the diamond-shaped society of old, wherein the majority of the population are middle class — the bulge of the diamond — with a minority who are very wealthy and who are very poor (the top and bottom of the diamond). Instead, a post-industrial economy promises to be a society comprised of:

  • A super-wealthy upperclass that is more meritocratic than the traditional elite (those knowledge-intensive high-pay high-education jobs) who are global, not national, in outlook;
  • A dwindling middle class;
  • A growing lower class of the working poor, its ranks expanded by migrants from the former middle class of the now-gone Industrial America; and
  • A growing class of bottom-feeders — the  nonworking welfare dependents.


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College didn’t seem worth it 20 years ago and you had to have the credential to do anything useful then… this really stinks.


“College didn’t seem worth it 20 years ago, and you had to have the credentials to do anything useful then….” Say what? Sadly, we need credentials to pick our , well not our, but our client’s noses.Maybe a license and a permit too..Dear Jesus, save me from my breather’n….. Well, I have some friends from The Netherlands, that’s the place where wooden shoes and windmills are. They PAY their kids to go to university. I mean they provide free schoolin’ and actually pay them, like they have a job to go to university. Talk about CRAZY!! I mean ,crap, we… Read more »

Doc's Wife
Doc's Wife

I am just thankful that three out of our four have college degrees and more, and they all have jobs! Number two son is working on his,but at present is making more in his job than many with graduate degrees. It is all upside down!

Happy Return
Happy Return

Great article however it needs to be pointed out that most or all of these Colleges do not pay taxes at the same time they are some of the biggest Landlords in the City buying up vast tracts of property. Harvard practically owns half of Cambridge and check out their endowment funds worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Most of them are packed with large amounts of professors teaching useless subjects such as womens studies and such.