This blog post, by Bob Samuels, from the blog “Changing Universities,” not only concisely ties the link between income inequality and higher ed., but identifies what every adjunct ultimately learns and what every student needs to be taught as regards the value of a college education:
Of course, the wealthy have used their financial advantages to not only game higher education but also the political system, which helps to enhance wealth through tax policies and anti-labor practices. Yet, even with all of the ample evidence that most of the wealth and wage inequality is being driven by corporate hording and governmental policies favoring the super-rich, Cassidy continues to argue that we really do not know what is going on: “Why is this happening? The short answer is that nobody knows for sure. One theory is that corporate cost-cutting, having thinned the ranks of workers on the factory floor and in routine office jobs, is now targeting supervisors, managers, and other highly educated people. Another theory is that technological progress, after favoring highly educated workers for a long time, is now turning on them.” Here we see how the focus on technology and education blinds us from seeing how human greed is driving the exploitation of labor, and without any counter-force, like strong unions, governmental regulations, and progressive tax policies, there is nothing to stop the concentration of wealth at the top.
Instead of hoping that higher education should be the solution to all of our economic problems, we should follow Cassidy’s advice and return to the notion that college is a public good and an end in itself: “Being more realistic about the role that college degrees play would help families and politicians make better choices. It could also help us appreciate the actual merits of a traditional broad-based education, often called a liberal-arts education, rather than trying to reduce everything to an economic cost-benefit analysis.” If we focus on making higher education more accessible and affordable as we enhance its quality, we can at least make sure that it does not enhance inequality and decrease social mobility. The first step is to stop believing that college degrees produce good jobs.