A college education can be valuable for a number of reasons. Well educated people are better able to adapt to a changing world; they probably become better citizens, and knowledge has intrinsic value. Increasing access to a college education also has a positive impact on social mobility. Most high paying jobs require a college education or an advanced degree. Young people without a college degree do not have access to many higher paying jobs. Some even argue that we need to produce more college graduates in order to reduce unemployment. They claim that a large number of high paying jobs are not being filled because there are not enough high skilled candidates available to satisfy the demand. This article argues that sending more young people to college is not a solution for the unemployment problem.
If we look at the employment opportunities for recent college graduates we find that 44% are employed in jobs that do not require a college a college education. We have a serious under-employment problem. We also find that wage growth has been stagnant for young college graduates. One would expect that wages would increase if there was a shortage of college graduates. The real problem that we have is that we are not creating enough jobs that require a college education. Most of the projected job growth by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is in low paying occupations. We need to find ways to create higher paying jobs, and we need to develop paths from lower paying jobs to higher paying jobs. It is not clear how this can be done. We shipped a lot of low skill manufacturing jobs to low wage countries but the middle management jobs in our factories went elsewhere as well. Those jobs required a college education. We have seen a lot of growth in high technology markets. They provide good opportunities for talented graduates but they employ relatively few jobs in relationship to market capitalization. Google and Facebook are good examples. They do not employ anywhere near the numbers of college graduates that were employed by GM, Ford and GE in their heydays.