Higher education: reality and policy disconnect

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released data on unemployment and average wage by education attainment for 2012. As their education pays chart (below) demonstrates the evidence is overwhelming that those with a four year degree or more work and earn more than anyone else. End of story!

education pays 2012:bls


And yet its not end of story. There continues to be a constant barrage of stories that getting a college degree is no longer a good investment. That there are too many college graduates. That the real job demand is in lower skilled occupations. Its malarkey!

To make matters worse, in addition to too many of us are giving our kids bad advice, policy increasingly is moving in the wrong direction too. Politicians from both parties run on more and better jobs platforms and then when in office cut funding for the driver of more and better jobs: higher education. Not smart!

Jordan Weissman in the Atlantic in an article entitled A Truly Devastating Graph on State Higher Education Spending writes about states across the country slashing higher education funding since the onset of the Great Recesssion. (Only energy rich states Wyoming and North Dakota have increased higher education funding since 2007.) The result: much higher tuition. He presents data (below) that demonstrate “deeper budget cuts did generally correlate with bigger tuition increases.”


If more and better jobs are the goal: support for higher education is one of, if not the most, powerful lever available to policy makers. We need to end this disconnect between policy and the economic reality.

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