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The End of the University as We Know It:
The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students. […]
Here’s the tentative structure for my book in progress, The Case Against Education.
The book’s basic plot:
Chapter 1: The Magic of Education
The labor market heavily rewards educational credentials even though academic curriculum is seriously disconnected from the jobs people actually do. The best explanation for this strange fact is that education is a strong signal of pre-existing worker productivity.
Chapter 2: Useless Studies with Big Payoffs: The Puzzle Is Real
While the return to education is often overstated, it remains high after making various statistical adjustments. Degrees in useless subjects really do substantially raise wages.
Chapter 3: Signaling Explained
Education signals a package of desirable employee traits: intelligence of course, but also conscientiousness and conformity. Many people dismiss the signaling model on a priori grounds, but educational signaling is at least as plausible as many widely accepted forms of of statistical discrimination.
Chapter 4: Measuring Signaling
Empirically distinguishing signaling from human capital is notoriously difficult. But literatures on the sheepskin effect, employer learning, and the international return to education confirm that signaling is moderately to highly important.
Chapter 5: Who Cares If It’s Signaling? The Private, Familial, and Social Returns to Education
How much education should you get? The human capital-signaling distinction isn’t important at the individual level, but the policy implications are enormous.
Chapter 6: Is Education Good for the Soul?
The non-pecuniary benefits of education are over-rated, and the non-pecuniary costs (especially boredom) are under-rated. There’s a massive selection bias because the kind of people who hate school rarely publicize their complaints.
Chapter 7: We Need Lots Less Education
The most important implication of the signaling model is that we spend way too much money on education. Education spending at all levels should be drastically reduced, and people should enter the labor force at much younger ages.
Chapter 8: We Need More Vocational Education
The education we offer should be more vocational. Especially for weaker students, vocational education has a higher private and social return than traditional academic education.
Higher Education, Merit-Based Scholarships and Post-Baccalaureate Migration:
Many merit-based scholarships for college are administered at the state level, targeted to in-state residents and require attendance at an in-state institution. Though these subsidies have the potential to affect lifetime education and migration decisions, much of the literature to date has focused on just one or two outcomes (e.g. college attendance and completion) and one or two states (e.g. Georgia). Given that one of the stated goals of these programs is to increase the quality of a state’s workforce, understanding the long-term effects of merit-based scholarships on mobility is crucial for evaluating their effectiveness. In this paper, we utilize the broader expansion and long history of these programs to build a comprehensive picture of how merit aid scholarship availability affects residential migration and educational attainment. To do this, we incorporate data on the introduction of broad-based merit aid programs for fifteen states and Census data on all 24 to 32 year olds in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010. We use variation in merit aid eligibility across cohorts and within states to identify treatment effects. Eligibility for merit aid programs slightly increases the propensity of state natives to live in-state, while also extending enrollment in-state into the late twenties. These patterns notwithstanding, the magnitude of merit aid effects is of an order of magnitude smaller than the population treated, suggesting that nearly all of the spending on these programs is transferred to individuals who do not alter educational or migration behavior.