The truth is that, although the college wage premium has increased in the past three decades or so, it’s not because young graduates are on average better off. Between 1986 and 2013, their median real annual earnings increased by less than $800. But over the same period, for those with no college, real earnings dropped by $2,525. The economic choice this country poses to young people about higher education has stopped being about opportunity for wealth—now it’s about fear of poverty. Empirically, the latter is a more effective motivator. Whether or not this is an appropriate way to produce educated workers is, in theory, a question for our democracy.
Higher education was never supposed to be about job training, but due to a variety of factors over many years that is what it became. Unfortunately for higher ed, one of the most rapidly growing sectors in this country is technology. And that sector’s reliance on, and reverence for, the college degree is at an all time low and dropping.
The bubble may not exist and may never burst, but more and more of those dollars are probably going to go into dev bootcamps and out of traditional universities.