February 26, 2024

Your Degree Is Worth Less Than It Was Yesterday


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Your 10 year old self who hated school wasn’t all wrong.

The only way to stop the student debt crisis is to stop going to college. And it’s not as insane as it sounds. Because your degree is worth less today than it was yesterday anyway.

The tldr primer on how we go here. Starting in 1976 through the mid 2000s, tons of laws were passed to make declaring bankruptcy on student loans as hard as possible. Everyone was hysterical (by everyone I mean just the lenders) that students would abuse the bankruptcy system that applies to, well, everything else you get a loan for. More specifics here.

I know, I know. “James, people should repay their debts? Why was this bad?”

Because it made creating student loans a nearly risk-free proposition for lenders. So they gave loans to anyone and everyone. Which in turn made it a risk-free proposition for universities to keep raising tuition exponentially. Because everyone could now “afford” it.

And it predictably spiraled out of control. Here we are.

Unfortunately, the only way to ‘fix’ the issue would be undoing all the laws, sticking lenders with decades of default all at once, and starting another financial crisis. Wonderful.

Except it isn’t the only fix. Companies could simply stop requiring degrees. And people could stop going to school for them.

I know, I know. “James, that’s insane. Companies are awful and will never get away from check-the-box hiring.”

Except they will. It is happening. Slowly but surely.

From Business Insider: “Between 2017 and 2019 employers cut degree requirements for 46% of middle-skill and 31% of high-skill jobs, which have been most pronounced in finance, business management, engineering, and health care occupations.”  Here.

And that was before the pandemic.

I know, I know. “James, it’s still insane. How is anyone going to learn anything?”

Google it. Literally. Google is doing their own classes in Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, Project Management, etc. Here.

And they’re not alone. Corporate learning is being productized for a fraction of the cost. And when you add in better technology (low-code, AI, etc.) and allow more to be done with less, it’s not hard to see where this is going.

We’ll still need the biggest nerds – doctors, scientists, and the top tier of technical Office Dorks™️ – to learn from the very best in a university setting.

But the rest of us? I’ll go out on a limb and say that most of you reading this learned your day-to-day skills at the School of Hard Knocks.

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

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