Higher Education Enters Its Recession as Economy Rebounds

So when the economy falls into a tailspin and many people lose their jobs we are told we, adults in particular, that we must all improve (a synonym for purchase these days!) our educational credentials to be able to get skills for the latest technology jobs and to participate in the new knowledge economy. College enrollments and tuitions rose like bottle rockets for several years but now they are crashing as quickly as spent fireworks. The* NY Times* reports, “College Enrollment Falls as Economy Recovers”:

College enrollment fell 2 percent in 2012-13, the first significant decline since the 1990s, but nearly all of that drop hit for-profit and community colleges; now, signs point to 2013-14 being the year when traditional four-year, nonprofit colleges begin a contraction that will last for several years. The college-age population is dropping after more than a decade of sharp growth, and many adults who opted out of a forbidding job market and went back to school during the recession have been drawn back to work by the economic recovery. Hardest hit are likely to be colleges that do not rank among the wealthiest or most prestigious, and are heavily dependent on tuition revenue, raising questions about their financial health — even their survival

Of special interest for homeschoolers, who often feel colleges demand more tests and evidence from them than conventionally schooled applicants, is this sentence: “The most competitive colleges remain unaffected, but gaining admission to middle-tier institutions will most likely get easier.”

If college degrees are so important for our country’s economy to grow, then why are people opting out of college as soon as they can find decent work? This, to me, is another sign that higher education, while appropriate for those who are motivated to learn what is being taught in college, is most likely a consumer purchase done to “keep up with the Joneses” by most people. Indeed, I’ll bet many of the marginal colleges seeking to boost their enrollments will use marketing tactics to prey upon people’s fears that they are stupid or will be left behind in the economy and life in general if they don’t have a college degree. However, there is plenty of evidence that being a good employee or an innovative person does not depend upon being a college graduate, and this latest turn in the economy provides us with more evidence of that.