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Correct Assessment of the Current Crisis in Higher Education

  • Dec 6, 2012
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The laundry list of problems that the higher education faces these days seems to grow on an almost daily basis. Hardly a day passes that I don't come across a big article or two lamenting the unsustainability of the current model of higher education. Many writers have correctly pointed out some of the main issues that trouble the higher educational industry - from the rampant drinking culture, over obsession with athletics, to the ever decreasing teaching standards - but the ultimate cause of all these maladies is very simple: overly easy access to too much credit. Easy money is a precursor to all major investment bubbles, and the higher education is, indisputably, in a big bubble of its own.

This short book correctly identifies some of the most salient features of the current higher educational bubbly: the unchecked rise in the cost of higher education over the past few decades, the radical increase in the overall college debt, and the decreasing value of college education. There are many similarities with the recent housing bubble, with some important distinctions: unlike mortgages, under the current laws it's impossible to write off college debt if one files for personal bankruptcy. This reduces the flexibility of borrowers to walk away from their college debts. Instead of preventing the eventual bursting of the higher education bubble, it will only make its eventual demise more painful and devastating.

This short ebook offers several suggestions for the improvement of higher education industry, but I am afraid most of those will either fall on deaf ears or not really implemented. There is a tremendous amount of inertia in higher education, and I am afraid that the painful bursting of this bubble is inevitable. It will almost certainly happen before this decade is over, and perhaps even much sooner than that. I am personally inclined to believe the more pessimistic scenarios.

In my opinion this ebook is perhaps the best account of this problem that I've come across. It correctly identifies all the major features of the higher education bubble, the best advice in what should be done about it (but it won't be), and what lies ahead. However, the account is too brief and it doesn't go into much depth. I think there is a great need for someone with deep technical economic background to write an in-depth book on this issue, including the detailed description of all the most likely scenarios and their outcomes. Hopefully someone will do that soon, because this problem will only become even more intractable in the upcoming years.

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About the reviewer
Bojan Tunguz ()
Ranked #50
I am a benevolent rascal. I love lounging in bed on a Sunday morning. Rainy days make me melancholy, but in a good kind of way. I am an incorrigible chocoholic. I hate Mondays, but I get over it by Wednesday. … more
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Glenn Harlan Reynolds is the Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee. He writes for such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, Forbes, Popular Mechanics, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Examiner. He blogs at InstaPundit.com.
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