They say there’s an education bubble. Makes sense. A bubble is when there’s a pocket of capital concentrated in one place where assets are valued disproportionately to their actual value. When you’re in a bubble you think you’re hot, but you’re not. Everyone thought dotcoms were awesome; but they weren’t. Same with mortgage-backed securities, which were made of CDOs and toxic subprime loans. Like in those cases, at some point your bubble bursts. Like when your friend thinks that she’s all that and a bag of chips, you say something like ‘I hate to burst your bubble, but…’
So the question is: how is there an ‘education bubble’; if so, why? and what will happen if/ when it bursts?
Short answer: there’s no short answer. I have to read more. I’m not prepared to say anything yet. I’ve read a few things so far (Forbes, Economist, Chronicle of Higher Ed, n+1, Education Sector), but I need to keep looking into it. My understanding, at this point, goes like this:
A bubble is when assets are valued disproportionately to their actual value. If there’s an education bubble, it means education is valued disproportionately to its actual value. At this early stage in my thinking I want to add the following idea, which doesn’t seem present in the discourse:
Schooling isn’t education. We entrust our schools (primary, middle, high, higher) to educate children, but what happens in these buildings and institutional settings isn’t necessarily educational. We rely on them to reproduce our social norms and maybe even progress them beyond the status quo. But educational experience itself isn’t subject to economic bubbling. Education–transformative learning experience–will always be valuable.
To the extent that schooling insures the citizenry against low wages, our schools–particularly university schooling, since we don’t guarantee it like we do K-12–are vulnerable to bubbling. That’s what we see happening now: we think schooling will protect us from low wages (or bad household income in general). But we’re wrong.
That’s what’s happening. But it’s not an education bubble. It’s a schooling bubble.