Thursday, September 20, 2012

That's an uncomfortable set of facts...

From an interesting article in Bloomberg Businessweek on student loans and the cost of college:
So maybe the real problem is that credentialism has trumped learning. That drives people to get degrees simply to displace others who don’t have degrees, says Richard Vedder, who directs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. He notes that the U.S. has more than 100,000 janitors with college degrees and 16,000 degree-holding parking lot attendants. (emphasis mine)
Political scientist Charles Murray would get rid of the bachelor’s degree altogether. In an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate last October in Chicago, he said education is or at least ought to be a lifelong process for everyone, diploma holders or not. “We are all engaged in the same process,” Murray argued. “We are not divided into professionals and service workers or blue-collar workers. We all start out as apprentices. We become journeymen, and we all strive to become master craftsmen.”
Yikes. No one likes credentialism; perhaps the problem is the cost of higher education? Dunno.


  1. I think universities like credentialism. Fake online universities LOVE credentialism

  2. It does appear that the new "high school diploma" is a bachelor's degree. That's what makes me worry about future college costs.

  3. Does UOP count among college degrees?

    Maybe I'm a luddite, but I can't possibly believe that a "degree" one gets in a housecoat and bunny slippers in front of a computer has any value. Now, if one wore said housecoat and bunny slippers to a physics lab, well, maybe that's different: made of fire retardent material, of course.

    1. Does the education one gets on a grade curve, with instructors who are preoccupied with research grants, often who speak broken english and put students to sleep for 4-5 years count for more?

    2. Get your bachelors degree at a small college, then get your advanced degrees at big universities. You'll enjoy small classes and professional faculty in both instances, if you choose well.

  4. The young man who works in my local pub behind the bar is taking an Open University Maths undergraduate course, which in my opinion is very sensible. He will be able to continue working and is doing it to continue something he is interested in. He realized that he does not need the debt or the "social" aspects of traditional university and he will most likely come away with a better understanding of the material as well.

    The only worry is snobbery unfortunately, which just goes to show that credentialism really is what universities are all about.

  5. Credentialism has always been part of the picture.

    In the UK there is a little advertised qualification called the BTA, which is a pre-requisite for Big Pharma entry at the PhD level. The BTA is, of course, the "Been to America" qualification. Not always required, naturally, but mediocre and thoroughly obnoxious people can punch well above their weight when armed with the BTA.

  6. In some respects, though, the credentials are necessary. I'm not sure about other universities and institutes but mine has had a problem in the last 10 years or so of fakers getting prestigious jobs then failing in spectacular fashion. And by fakers I mean people who have done no work in the field claiming to be respected leaders in their fields, including the military, science and humanities, becoming high level administrators via networking. Then very public scandal ensues when the truth comes out. I just got an admin job at the university and had to submit a copy of my actual degrees for the job, in addition to the pubmed links to my papers and book chapters. On top of references that were verified by a background check.

    So while calling it an -ism might make people on the outside feel better about themselves, employers are doing it to protect themselves from charismatic fakers. And that's a good thing for everyone involved. Having worked in the lab with one I can attest to the level of chaos and general bad working environment they cause.

  7. I always suspected credentialism is a gentleman's agreement between the suburban dads of America to keep each others' kids in the standard of living to which they've become accustomed. Science is a special case, but there's absolutely no reason a high-school graduate couldn't do the kind of cubicle-farm job they hire communications majors to do.