Great Chart Showing How Pell Grants Have Failed To Keep Pace with Rising College Costs

Paul Krugman, in response to the Thomas Edsall piece I wrote about below, was especially struck by this chart, (which comes from an Education Week webinar held last summer), showing the declining value of Pell grants compared with college costs:


The “Reservoir of Resentment” Over College Access

Thomas Edsall wrote an excellent piece for the New York Times yesterday that is packed with data (and charts) showing how the high price of college access today, combined with a dramatic rise in recent years in the college premium—the difference in annual earnings of a high school graduate and a college graduate—is contributing to growing increasing income inequality and reinforcing class stratification in the U.S.

Edsell believes this problem presents a political challenge—or opportunity—for candidates running for office in 2012:

Politically, the lack of access to a four-year college education is a crucial problem for one of the key battleground constituencies of 2012: whites without college degrees. Several issues that can be mined by enterprising politicians cluster around this debilitating lack of access — in fact they help cause it — including the enormous debt loads carried by students and recent graduates, as well as the emergence of for-profit colleges saddling low-income students with loans for programs they cannot complete. The data show that a disproportionately large percentage of young adults from working-class families who, according to their test scores and grade point averages, are equipped to earn a B.A., are either not going to college, or failing to finish — relegating them to a life of stagnant or declining wages. There is a reservoir of resentment over this fate waiting to be tapped by either party.

The question is whether candidates will attempt to simply exploit that resentment without actually addressing the underlying problem—as some already have—or actually try to do something about it.

Quote of the Day

From a New York Times piece on state budget cuts to higher education:

“There has been a shift from the belief that we as a nation benefit from higher education, to a belief that it’s the people receiving the education who primarily benefit and so they should foot the bill,”

– Ronald G. Ehrenberg, Director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute

According to this report from the Center for the Study of Education Policy, (cited in the Times piece), state appropriations for colleges fell by 7.6 percent in 2011-12, the largest annual decline in at least 50 years.

Anthony Carnevale: Skills Mismatch Not the Whole Story

Whatever you think about the effectiveness of federal job training programs, Amy Goldstein’s story in Saturday’s Washington Post notes the basic problem with relying too heavily on job training to solve the country’s unemployment problem by itself.

Anthony Carnevale, the director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, which has produced valuable research on the relationship between earnings and educational attainment—including the long-term value of a college education—acknowledges, according to Goldstein that “retraining can’t always overcome a scarcity of jobs.” She writes:

That skills mismatch, while real, is not the whole story, Carnevale says. At the moment, he points out, the country has 3 million to 4 million job openings. But if you add up the people who are unemployed, in part-time jobs because that’s all they could find or so discouraged that they’ve quit looking for work, he says, the country has more than 20 million people who could use a job. (my emphasis)

In other words, not enough jobs are out there, even if every single person who needed re-training received it. None of this means that re-training, investments in community colleges, and increasing access to higher education are bad policies, but it does suggest that there are other factors that need to addressed in order to fully address inequality and economic opportunity.

Interestingly, the Post comes back today with a story on the skills mismatch in some areas of the manufacturing sector.