Education and the Iron Law

In which millions of university students are going to learn that they should have taken economics in high school:

MILLIONS of school-leavers in the rich world are about to bid a tearful goodbye to their parents and start a new life at university. Some are inspired by a pure love of learning. But most also believe that spending three or four years at university—and accumulating huge debts in the process—will boost their chances of landing a well-paid and secure job….

The supply of university graduates is increasing rapidly. The Chronicle of Higher Education calculates that between 1990 and 2007 the number of students going to university increased by 22% in North America, 74% in Europe, 144% in Latin America and 203% in Asia. In 2007 150m people attended university around the world, including 70m in Asia.

It’s not rocket science. If supply is increasing faster than demand, then wages for university graduates are going down even as tuitions rise. Any given university degree may or may not still be worth buying, but it is as stupid to attempt to determine if going to college today is worth it or not based on your experience of 20 years ago as it is to think you’re going to get a gallon of gas for $1.14. Value isn’t merely subjective, it’s dynamic.