ERP Blogstorm Part 2: Education

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Part two of our series of charts from the Economic Report of the President is all about higher education. First off, here’s the college premium over time:

When I graduated from my local state university in 1981, I had no debt because attending public universities was practically free. On the other hand, my earning prospects were only about 20 percent higher than a non-college grad. Today, college grads often have tens of thousands of dollars in debt, but their earning prospects are 70 percent higher than non-college grads. So who got the better deal? That’s not entirely obvious.

Next up is a different measure of the value of a college education:

This helps answer the question, “How high can university costs go?” The answer is, “Pretty high.” Even with higher tuition, college is still a great deal. A bachelor’s degree, on average, pays off nearly 10:1. That means there’s a lot of room to raise tuition and still provide enough of a bargain that anyone who’s qualified will be willing to pay. Treating higher education this way may be a bad idea, but nevertheless, this chart suggests that states can continue to raise prices if they want to.

The first two charts have been all about nonprofit schools: community colleges, state universities, and private universities like Harvard and Morehouse. But for-profit institutions—which are typically trade schools—have exploded over the past three decades:

The number of trade schools has skyrocketed since 1987, from about 300 to well over a thousand. And that brings us to our final chart:

At first glance, this chart seems odd: the students with the smallest debt have the highest chance of defaulting. There are multiple things going on here, but the biggest one is that a lot of these students attended trade schools for a semester or a year and then dropped out. Their debts aren’t the biggest, but with not even a trade school certificate they can only get low-paying jobs that make it very hard to pay back their loans.

Too often, for-profit schools cajole people into signing up with promises that the government will pay for everything. Unfortunately, a lot of their students just aren’t suited for further schooling, so they drop out and end up with less than nothing: no certificate, and a big chunk of debt. The trade schools themselves don’t care much, since they get paid whether anyone graduates or not, but it’s a helluva bad deal for the students who end up broke. This is why President Obama’s recent crackdown on the worst offenders among for-profit trade schools is so welcome.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate