Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Are Attitudes Toward Higher Education Changing?

Among Echo Boomers, the attitude has shifted more in Millennial males than females.

Of the Echo Boomers I've discussed finances, over half of them have taken at least one college class or plan to attend college at least for a semester (the majority of these Echo Boomers being females). A few of them failed to continue their education or begin it, while most of them continued it or started it. Still what I find on a daily basis is that Echo Boomers value higher education.

One way the education bubble might pop is when people's views on higher education change. If people perceive that $60,000 is a good deal for a four year degree, then they will borrow money to pay for it or work multiple jobs to cover the costs. Young people aside, parents may be willing to save money to cover their kids tuition without considering that tuition may be overpriced.

Echo Boomers are now amassing the college debt, and only ad hoc analysis will show us what the result of that debt was. Will these Echo Boomers spend decades paying back student loans instead of creating jobs and demand in other parts of the economy? Will high levels of debt affect the social environment and delay maturity? Will Echo Boomers eventually tire from massive loan balances and refuse to pay back their debt? All of these questions, while valid, won't be known.

We will, however, note changing views on education in the coming two decades. As we witness the result of this "educational experiment" on Echo Boomers, the next few generations (like Generation Z) will use Echo Boomers and their stories as motivation to either attend or avoid school, much in the same way that Echo Boomers used their parents stories on the validity of education to put massive amounts of money toward higher education.

I should note here that when we report data for educated people and claim that they perform better than the "uneducated," we are relying on past data. Philosophy arguments aside, using past data and trying to make future predictions - while popular - can misinform. We cannot know for certain if education will pay as big of dividends for this generation as it has for former generations. I would assume that, in general, the educated will do better than the uneducated, but of course, I could also argue that the self-disciplined will do better than the lazy. Education, unfortunately, doesn't mean that a person will do automatically better, and Echo Boomers, who have focus and a work ethic, whether they attend school or not, will perform better than other Echo Boomers, lacking those characteristics.