Despite what the public is willing to acknowledge, the importance of a bachelor’s degree has been wildly oversold. In 2007, for example, about 67 percent of high school graduates [in the United States] went directly to college, compared with just under half in 1972.
The usual argument put forth in defense of a four-year degree is that it contains a decided wage premium. Studies have consistently found that those who have a degree on average earn more than those who don’t. But all these studies were conducted before the new global economy fully emerged. Its presence calls into question long-held assumptions.
If Alan Blinder, former vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, is correct, the only jobs that will be secure in the next decade will those that cannot be sent abroad electronically. That means plumbers, electricians, and auto mechanics, for example, will be working steadily while many of their degreed classmates will be collecting unemployment checks.
Moreover, since wages vary within any occupation, degree holders who are still employed will not necessarily be earning top salaries. The same holds true for non-degree-holders, of course, but at least they will be in far greater demand because their skills cannot be offshored. As a result, they will be in a position to command wages at the top of their respective brackets.