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The impending burst of the higher education bubble

September 17, 2010

Those of you who know me outside of the intertubes know that I’ve ranted about the unsustainable pyramid scheme of academia on many occasions, and often my rants focus on the fact that the value obtained for the education is much less than it seems.  Like the housing bubble, expectations are high, and they are driving prices high.  If you go to grad school in the hard sciences, with stipends and tuition waivers, it gets even worse, because you are led to believe that you’re getting a free education, when what you’re really doing is setting yourself up for years of indentured servitude at the graduate student and postdoc level, all because there is this huge oversupply of students, and a severe lack of meaningful career paths for them after graduation.

The Washington Examiner featured a great piece recently addressing the academic bubble, looking at it as more of an economic issue, and comparing it to other recent bubbles.  I think the piece was spot-on, and really brings to light one of the biggest issues with academia – the cost of an education is skyrocketing, while the real value plummets.  It’s just not something that’s going to last, and something has to give soon.  Unfortunately, many students will get caught in the mess, and you can’t declare bankruptcy or let the bank foreclose on a student loan.  You’re saddled with that debt no matter what, and if you can’t get your money back from it, you’re pretty much screwed.

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