PIMCO bond fund legend Bill Gross grabbed the spotlight a few weeks ago when he questioned the value of a college education in today’s economy. In “School Daze, School Daze, Good Old Golden Rule Days,” he wrote, “College was great as long as the jobs were there.” Gross also described the liberal arts education as a “four-year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing.” That’s not something parents wanted to read as they packed up their cars to take this year’s incoming freshmen class to college.
The facts Gross offers to lay the foundation for his thesis include: College tuition has increased at a rate 6% higher than the general rate of inflation for the past 25 years, making it four times as expensive relative to other goods and services as it was in 1985. Also, the average college graduate now leaves school with $24,000 of debt. College graduates, he reasons, “can no longer assume that a four year degree will be the golden ticket to a good job in a global economy that cares little for their social networking skills and more about what their labor is worth on the global marketplace.”
Certainly, we all know college graduates who are struggling to find employment. And we all know students who are in college who, for whatever reason, would be better served elsewhere. However, it seems a bit of an overreaction to let the current job market, influenced by a confluence of unprecedented market events, dictate how we prepare the next generation of thinkers to compete in global marketplace. Surely, the goal at the end of a college education is meaningful employment, but higher education cannot be governed by the economy alone. The business leaders I have interviewed typically recommend a college education for today’s young people.
What do you think?