“Credentialing Gone Amok—In 20 Years, You’ll Need a Ph.D. to Be a Janitor”

(p. 17) Call it credential inflation. Once derided as the consolation prize for failing to finish a Ph.D. or just a way to kill time waiting out economic downturns, the master’s is now the fastest-growing degree.
. . .
“There is definitely some devaluing of the college degree going on,” says Eric A. Hanushek, an education economist at the Hoover Institution, and that gives the master’s extra signaling power. “We are going deeper into the pool of high school graduates for college attendance,” making a bachelor’s no longer an adequate screening measure of achievement for employers.
Colleges are turning out more graduates than the market can bear, and a master’s is essential for job seekers to stand out — that, or a diploma from an elite undergraduate college, says Richard K. Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
Not only are we developing “the overeducated American,” he says, but the cost is borne by the students getting those degrees. “The beneficiaries are the colleges and the employers,” he says. Employers get employees with more training (that they don’t pay for), and universities fill seats. In his own department, he says, a master’s in financial economics can be a “cash cow” because it draws on existing faculty (“we give them a little extra money to do an overload”) and they charge higher tuition than for undergraduate work. “We have incentives to want to do this,” he says. He calls the proliferation of master’s degrees evidence of “credentialing gone amok.” He says, “In 20 years, you’ll need a Ph.D. to be a janitor.”

For the full story, see:
LAURA PAPPANO. “The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s.” The New York Times, EducationLife Section (Sun., July 24, 2011): 16-17.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story is dated July 22, 2011.)

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