College Enrollment Skids for 8th Year in a Row in 2019, But Student Loans Skyrocket. What Gives?

The stunning decline of men in the student headcount.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

With college costs blowing through the roof, with “luxury student housing” and not so luxury “student housing” having become asset classes – including, of course, CMBS, now in rough waters – for global investors, with textbook publishers gouging students to the nth degree, and with the monetary value of higher education questioned in more and more corners, the inevitable happened once again: College enrollment dropped for the eighth year in a row.

The post-secondary student headcount – undergraduate and graduate students combined – in the fall semester of 2019 fell 1.3% from the fall semester last year, or by over 231,000 students to 17.97 million students, according to the Student Clearing House today. In the fall of 2011, the peak year, 20.14 million students had been enrolled. Since then, enrollment has dropped by 10.8%, or by 2.17 million students:

This is based on enrollment data submitted to the Student Clearing House by the schools. It does not include international students, which account for just under 5% of total student enrollment in the US. Duplicate headcounts – one student enrolled in two institutions – are removed from the data to eliminate double-counting.

The 10.8% decline in enrollment since 2011 comes even as student loan balances have surged 74% over the same period, from $940 billion to $1.64 trillion:

Enrollment in for-profit colleges collapses.

The overall decline in enrollment hasn’t been spread evenly across the board. After myriad scandals, lawsuits, government action, and government inaction, enrollment in for-profit four-year colleges has plunged by 54%, from 1.64 million student in the fall of 2010, as far back as the data series is available, to 750,000 now.

The current year-over-year decline of 2.1% pales compared to the plunges of 15% in 2018, of 7% in 2017, of 15% in 2016, and of 14% in 2015. Despite the relatively small share of total enrollment – by 2019, the share has withered to just 4% – these for-profit colleges account for 41% to the total decline in enrollment since 2001:

Enrollment at public two-year schools, such as junior colleges, has plunged by 22% since 2011, to 5.37 million (green line in the chart below).

But enrollment at private nonprofit four-year colleges has ticked up 3.9% since 2011. Yet, even these schools saw enrollment decline by 0.6% over the past year, to 3.84 million (brown line in the chart below).

And public four-year schools too had been hanging in there and the student headcount remains up 2.2% from 2011 though it too declined 1.2% over the past 12 months, to 7.82 million. At public schools, the peak was in 2016 with 8.1 million students (blue line):

Where the heck are the men?

Women by far outnumbered men in total enrollment in the fall semester of 2019 with 10.63 million women enrolled and just 7.61 million men, meaning that overall there are now 40% more women in college than men:

  • At public four-year schools, there were 30% more women (4.51 million) than men (3.48 million)
  • At private non-profit four-year schools, there were 50% more women (2.32 million) than men (1.54 million)
  • At private for-profit four-year schools, there were more than twice as many woman (508,000) than men (241,000).
  • At public two-year schools, there were 38% more women (3.11 million) than men (2.26 million).

Over the past three years, enrollment has declined for both men and women, but faster for men (-5.2%) than for women (-1.4%). Since 2011, enrollment has declined by 13% for men and by 9.4% for women.

Enrollment by state.

Of the big four states, California had by far the most students, at 2.45 million. Over the 12-month period, enrollment ticked down by 0.8%, and over the three-year period by 2.7%.

In Texas, with 1.49 million students, enrollment inched up by 0.3% this year, and by 0.7% from three years ago.

In New York, at 1.04 million students, enrollment declined 1.8% year-over-year and fell 4.4% over the three-year period.

In Florida, with 933,000 students, enrollment fell by 5.3% year-over-year, or by 52,328 students, the largest headcount decline among the states. And it fell 7.0% over the three-year period.

Enrollment in 35 states declined. Here are the states with largest enrollment declines by percentage change this year:

  • Alaska: -10.6% year-over-year to 22,300 students; -14.3% from 2017
  • Florida: -5.3% year-over-year to 933,000 students, -7.0% from 2017
  • Arkansas: -4.9% year-over-year to 144,000 students; -7.2% from 2017
  • Missouri: -4.4% year-over-year to 323,400 students; -6.9% from 2017
  • Vermont: -4.4% year-over-year to 38,200 students; -4.5% from 2017
  • Wyoming: -4.4% year-over-year to 27,600 students; -5.8% from 2017.

And in 15 states, enrollment increased. Here are the biggest gainers:

  • Utah: +4.9% year-over-year to 362,000 students; +13.8% from 2017
  • New Hampshire: +3.4% year-over-year to 157,200; +6.4% since 2017
  • Arizona: +1.8% year-over-year to 456,543 students; +1.1% from 2017, having dipped in 2018
  • Georgia: +1.5% year-over-year to 518,800 students; +5.5% from 2017
  • Kentucky: +1.5% year-over-year to 243,300 students; +1.8% from 2017

The overarching theme is the horrible expense of getting a higher education, as each layer element in the University-Corporate-Financial Complex extracts its pound of flesh, largely funded by parental sacrifices and by student loans, which are a mix of taxpayers funds when the loans default and students’ future sacrifices when the loans don’t default. The vision of a pile of student loans for years to come act as a discouragement to students who spend more than two minutes thinking about it.

But clearly, there are more factors at work. The collapse of enrollment in for-profit colleges is a result of numerous scandals and scams that left students with huge student loans and either no degree or with a degree that’s utterly worthless. It is likely that these for-profit schools marketed to people that would otherwise not have gone to university and enticed them with government-funded student loans.

The declining proportion of men among students has long been observed. That women flock to higher education is a great thing, but why did men bail on the system in such large numbers? This is subject to endless and wide-ranging discussions. One explanation that has been offered, and only a partial one, and only covering the past few years, is the relatively good job market where young men decided for forgo a higher education and instead enter the workforce after high school – and that makes sense in many cases, especially if it involves learning a trade.

Whatever the explanations may be, for most parents and students it has become a daunting task to pay for higher education and feed the University-Corporate-Financial Complex.

And so student loans have become the biggest problem area of consumer loans. ReadThe State of the American Debt Slaves, Q3 2019

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  225 comments for “College Enrollment Skids for 8th Year in a Row in 2019, But Student Loans Skyrocket. What Gives?

  1. Zantetsu says:

    My graduating class of Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science in 1994 had, I think, 3 females out of about 120 graduates. How times have changed! Social life must be much better. Well, except for how terrible social life has become for kids these days with social media.

    • Mike G says:

      CS and Engineering are still 80-90% male.

      • joe saba says:

        not to worry – I quit programming 15 years ago when dot bomb happened
        until then I earned good living – but when hourly rates went to $30 an hour I said see yah
        I could not have gone to school today given super high price
        I had $5k saved by time I graduated high school and it paid for nearly 2 years of school – tuition, books, living

        • sc7 says:

          If your hourly rate dropped to $30/hr you were a terrible programmer, sorry.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          My hourly rate dropped to zero when my company moved software engineering and development to offices in Russia, Poland, India, China, et. al. 2008-2011

  2. daniel weise says:

    My Plumber owns three houses in SOCAL and a condo on the big island,pretty sure he has never finished college. even smarter people have gone into “Public service” and retire on a nice FAT pension after driving a school bus for 10 years. friend of mine retired from a public utility with a good bye bonus of 250K on top of her generous pension,she has no college degree. so yes,perhaps college is over rated? in my next life i will….

    • Huck says:

      Not all public pensions are FAT. The average CALPERS (California public retirement) retiree earns approximately $30,000 a year. I would not necessarily consider that FAT, when considering the cost of living in CA.

      • Cas127 says:


        What is the median CALPERS pension?

        How many beneficiaries are there?

      • Cas127 says:


        At 2 pct T bond rates, it takes a 1,500,000 dollar private sector portfolio to generate a 30k per yr public sector perpetuity pension.

        What pct of public sector workers that you have known have led careers worth 1.5 million bucks?

        • Mel says:

          Nevertheless, don’t forget the parallel question “What does it take for a couple or individual to live?”
          And question 3: “If these people weren’t spending $30,000 a year into their communities, who would?”

        • BrianC - PDX says:

          My Dad…

          My father spent his entire working career as a ranger in the National Park Service. The most he ever made was ~29k/year right before he retired. When I started as a bright new computer science graduate in 1984, my starting salary was more than he was making at the time with 20+ years of experience.

          Because he had only worked for the City of Denver, and the Federal Government, he never paid into social security. So no Social Security for him. My mother was a homemaker, diagnosed with MS when I was 18 mo old. So she never accrued Social Security benefits either…

          She did receive a 5k inheritance from the sale of her Grandfather’s farm in Kansas after his death. Which she took to D A Davidson and invested. Over time, with the miracle of compounding, this grew to allow:
          1) The payment of all of her medical bills over the last ~15 years of her life. About 1.6 to 1.7 million dollars.[1]
          2) The passing on of an estate valued at about 1 million to her three surviving children.

          [1] Counting what was paid out of pocket. My father cared for her at home for the first 9 years. For about 5 of those years he had at least one CNA in the house 24/7. Then she moved to a nursing home. Later, after my father’s death, I became her guardian. I was paying about 96k/year for the last 3 years of her life as she was in a secure facility. She required 24/7 skilled nursing care for her last 8 years. At the end her federal survivor’s benefit was about $1800/mo.

        • Bob says:

          And that does not even start taking into account the cost of ancillary benefits. What no one seems able or willing to see happening right before their eyes is that the 90% are slaves to the 1%, and the remaining 9% are tangential beneficiaries, like the proverbial shovel salesmen during the gold rush. Only things are worse, the 1% slave owners don’t even care about their 90% slaves anymore, because they’ve abandoned them for cheaper overseas slaves they both keep elsewhere and import as they neglect and dispose of their 90% slaves.

      • pedro says:

        i know a lot of workers in San diego who are retired or are close to retirement(government workers)those are state or city employees. most of them have 100% of their last year income as their pension.And it really depend how greedy they get with their last year at work.they all taking overtimes last year to bump up earnings last year.but non of them is making less them 65k a year without overtimes.look at firefighter as a great examples.

    • AlamedaRenter says:

      I’m a public employee with the City of SF.

      Your friend is lying to you about that 250k/year.

      The pension tables for age and years of service are easy to find on google. If you work the max 30 years AND are 62 then you get the maximum expansion factor.

      I make 137k/year and will be getting about 38k/year since I plan on retirement before 30 years of service.

      • pedro says:

        ok.tell me why you should get any pension?what extra did you contribute to system then people who do not get any.nothing.ok make a law that every small business have to provide lets say minimum pension plan and you will see how many will go belly up.

        • weinerdog43 says:

          You are completely missing the point pedro. NO ONE whether private or public employee has to do something EXTRA to warrant a pension.

          Who cares what ‘every small business’ does or does not do. A race to the bottom is not very appealing.

        • Anon says:

          As a rule of thumb, government jobs require a high level of skill (education), but pay poorly compared to the private sector. The old age pension compensates for the years of low salary. It’s about the only recruitment and retention tool that governments have.

          But that’s ok. Believe what you want.

    • A says:

      These stories are disproven statistically. You may have a couple lucky friends but the simple fact is there is a massive wealth gap between people with a college degree and this without it – and outside of a few lucky small business owners, there’s no way around it.

      Right-wing media told an urban legend for years that welders were making 6-figure incomes. When an academic actually went and researched it, it turns out welders were all making far less almost ever touching 6-figures and were stuck in a life where they’d be overworked overtime for months and then unable to find a job for months – it was a hard life!

      Basically, there’s a lot of urban legends about someone’s brother in law making 6 figures as a welder and getting a $250k bonus from some municipal government but when you look at the data and try to figure out how to actually get such a job those stories fade away like a mirage. College is the only reliable way to become affluent and the college industrial complex knows it has a stranglehold on your future and will suck as much money out of you as it can

      • Paulo says:


        My son makes 200K plus per year as an electrician in northern Alberta. Add to this a full range of benefits, pension contributions, housing allowance, travel time, tool and safety allowance,etc he is doing pretty darn good. His Masters degree Dad gave him some advice 13 years ago which was to become an electrician. Why? Simply said, I told him we will be living in an increasingly energy constrained world, and available energy will always be transformed into electricity for transmission (step up transformers and high voltage distribution), possible increases in solar and wind power supplies, and the need for clean energy utilization. Does he have to live there? No, he stays with a friend who owns a house and his company pays for the basement suite. He works 2 weeks on and 2 off which gives him 180+ days off per year.

        This is a private company, the union is Unifor, they just negotiated a new 4 year agreement, and have work lined up for years.

        The meme about fat Govt pensions is just right wing propaganda. Most defined benefit plans allow 2% per year of the last, or sometimes best, 5 years of earnings. In the case of the big fat pensioned school bus driver this would translate to 20% gross after 10 years, with a reduction if he retired early, usually early means before 60 or 65.

        My google search produced this: “How much does a School Bus Driver make in California? The average School Bus Driver salary in California is $38,157 as of November 25, 2019, but the range typically falls between $30,807 and $46,503.”

        By my reckoning that would be about 9K per year at the max rate earned. Wow.

        and this : “These calculations are made by dividing the average annual pension for a CalPERS participant in 2012, $30,456, by the average years of service, 19.93. The result, $1,528, is the amount the average CalPERS retiree accrued in annual pension benefits for each year they worked during their careers.”

        last: “The CalPERS Pension Buck illustrates the sources of income that fund public employee pensions. Based on data over the past 20 years ending June 30, 2019, for every dollar CalPERS pays in pensions: 58 cents comes from investment earnings. 29 cents from employer contributions.”

        Maybe it’s time to stop listening to neighbours and friends with a bone to pick.

        • Harrison says:

          “My son makes 200K plus per year as an electrician in northern Alberta. ”

          Or plumbers I hear as well. Yet the reality is that if everyone wanted to become a plumber or electrician they would be paid minimum wage due to the glut of labor.
          Not to mention the fact you usally need an apprenticeship, which are not easy to find. His salary is a reflection of the scarcity of entry positions as much as anything else.

          Brain-surgeons may make 200K but society only needs so many of them.
          A limited number of hospital residencies prevent there from being a glut.

          So the implication that societal inequality can be solved by everyone becoming a plumber is not practical.

          The bottom line is that the rising costs of education along with a rising cost of living no longer make a four year degree worth the price if the end game is to work in Mcdonalds at minimum wage. If you look closely at most well paid positions there is always some limitation to entry positions or they work through nepotism or some kind of favoratism in hiring (like most civil servants in my area).

        • RD Blakeslee says:

          @A: “Maybe it’s time to stop listening to neighbours and friends with a bone to pick.” – Paulo


        • Greg Hamilton says:

          I think the trick is not to work for the government and receive a CalPERS pension. The trick is to be the one managing the CalPERS pension. I don’t know, but I imagine those fees are quite extraordinary whether the returns are good or bad.

        • c1ue says:

          Electricians, plumbers and what not are unionized and have both entry barriers and professional certification barriers.
          It isn’t surprising that they are doing well – especially in the era of million dollar homes and clueless homeowners.
          The problem is that these protected professions are a tiny minority of what’s available to those without a college degree.

        • Zantetsu says:

          Paulo, do you understand the difference between personal anecdotal data and a study surveying an entire employment field? It doesn’t seem like it.

        • Shawn says:

          All you had to say is Canada, Unions and extortion. There is no free lunch, some one has to pay for the nepotistic unionized salaries somewhere. In Canada, it is usually the tax payer.

        • NARmageddon says:

          No disrespect intended, Paulo, but being an electrician working in the field of tar sand extraction, for an oil company, may not be the typical or median electrician job.

        • Anders Gronskog says:

          Do your son buy lottery tickets because he seems to be lucky?

        • AlamedaRenter says:

          In the union world…plumber can mean a lot of different things.

          Most of guys digging up the street replacing a water main in the middle of night…they’re classified as plumbers in the City if SF.

          They deserve to be well paid.

      • RD Blakeslee says:

        “… outside of a few lucky small business owners … ” – A

        My son worked his tail off restoring old houses and building a few new units to rent to students at the local doctor’s college.

        Why is he “lucky”?

        • Harrold says:

          0% interest rates.

        • CreditGB says:

          RDB, Your son worked to be successful, a lost art these days. No luck involved. Luck is a political term used by class envy driven parasites in political office.

          Now, the young are partying for 4 to 6 years, and spoon fed utopian dreams in safe rooms that cost a couple hundred thousand.

          An entire new economy will be built upon caring for these useless people and charging high rates for simple services. I’m thinking of contracting out light bulb changing for $45 each including house call. Get it?

        • Prairies says:

          The luck there is location. If I did the same thing in my town I would have lost a lot of money since prices in my town have been in steady decline since 2015, haven’t found bottom yet so can’t even try and get in on the ground floor of the next hike.

        • char says:

          The luck is not in the work but in the entrepreneurship. It is not the hard work that made good money but his business sense. If he hired somebody to do the work the returns would be almost as good.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        No college degree here. No high school diploma either. Retired from fortune 50 company after salary into six figures not counting bonuses. The computer/software industry provided opportunities in the 80’s and 90’s if you were willing to learn and work. Then came all the BS certifications that major companies found were another profit center. The number of such opportunities is severely reduced.

        I’m fine. But…I would be better off if I had taken up an offer to become an IBEW electrician at age 21.

    • sc7 says:

      Here we go, the token anecdote about the one outlier wealthy plumber that is treated as gospel, when the evidence still continues to show far better outcomes for college grads.

      • Wolf Richter says:


        I don’t know what the situation of daniel weise’s plumber is, but…

        There is a huge difference between a plumber working as an employee, and a plumber who has his/her own business and a few employees, or more than a few. Those small businesses can throw off a lot of money.

        I know an electrician like that. He still does electrical work himself but has a business with employees. He’s doing very well. Construction boom helps.

        But that’s the difference between being an employee and being an entrepreneur.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          Entrepreneurship has a few downsides. I was self-employed 20+ years. Long, long hours, working through weekends, few vacations, income instability, no-pay clients, and all the administrative work managing. It’s not for everyone.

          But it’s fun.

          PS: City of Chicago union plumbers appear to be doing quite well.

  3. Just Some Random Guy says:

    If I were 18 today, I’d join a police force, work overtime as much as I could, make $200K a year, then retire at 45 with a $80K pension for life. Or firefighter, or some federal agency.

    Govt work, that’s where the money is today. College is for suckers.

    • Trinacria says:

      Many pension systems will experience heavy turbulence in the years to come. This is well documented. In fact the Dallas TX police pension has serious issues; so much in fact that many retirees were cashing out instead of taking a higher pension fearing the system would not be around. Three states in particular…Kentucky, Illinois and New Jersey are the poster children for being seriously underfunded. CalPers and CalSters are not as bad, but no so good either. These are enormous systems…are bailouts a possibility ? I have no idea, but they better gird their loins.

      • Cas127 says:

        By they do you mean we?

        Taxpayers are legally on the hook for gamed public sector pensions.

        When things get bad enough there may be a taxpayer rebellion and special taxes levied upon the upper 50 pct of gamed pensions – but public sector unions will fight that fairness to the last dead Dem politician and MSM dildo.

        • Harrold says:

          Dallas is in such bad shape that they will need to quadruple property taxes in the coming years to pay for the Police & Firefighters pensions.

        • BrianC - PDX says:

          States and Cities may have the option of Chapter 9 Bankruptcy.

          Check your state.

          My two cents:
          I am not so sure taxpayers *will* be on the hook for bailouts. There is going to be a lot of time and money spent to get out of those obligations.

        • Kent says:


          Government agencies are contractually obligated to meet pension promises, just as they are to meet bond payments for roads/water systems/etc… What they are not contractually obligated to do is provide basic services like police/fire/libraries/parks/trash collection and all the other basic functions we take for granted. Because of that, those basic functions are first in line for cuts.

      • Old-school says:

        The Fed and Congress have done a good job of extending the economic cycle which means more people working and paying into pensions.

        The downside is it has been done by blowing the largest debt bubble, stock bubble, bond bubble, military bubble, welfare bubble, pension bubble, student loan bubble and tech bubble in history. This bubble hasn’t popped because govt has stimulated even at the end of a business cycle. Might be biggest mistake ever made.

        What is worrying is LaGarde has let the cat out of the bag, it’s all going to be taken out of savers hide. You see central banks don’t really value real savings because they can conjure up fake money out of nothing to keep the party going. They are ready told us they will steal our savings to invest in windmills and electric cars. It’s for the children. Governments go to excuse for blowing money.

        • west says:

          Most poignant comment on the reality for the future. You all best be nimble and not stuck in some paradigm that will most likely disappear. All this theater in DC and Hollywood is to keep you distracted as to what is coming. God Speed and Merry Christmas!

      • Just Some Random Guy says:


        Cities and counties will raise taxes to 150% before they cut a dime of public union pensions. And unions will always find a friendly judge (if you know what I mean) who will make sure pensions are never cut.

    • Jeff Relf says:

      If I were 18 today,
      the first thing I’d do is get a vasectomy.

      Health degrades with age,
      and money is no substitute;
      so I’d focus on education, not money.

      • Kessler says:

        Why would you need education? That sounds like a huge time waster to me.

        • Jeff Relf says:

          Kessler asked me:
          > Why would you need education ?

          Because money is no substitute
          for (mental) health.

          Look how dark, isolated, and ignorant,
          socialist North Korea keeps its citizens,
          locked up in the basement, ripe for abuse.

          Karl Marx impregnated his maid,
          abandoned the resulting child,
          and lied to his wife about it.

          That’s communism in a nutshell:
          a fairytale; you never have to grow up.

          If you like the truth,
          no matter how horrid,
          you’re a capitalist.

    • wkevinw says:

      In CA, where I spent much of my life, and other states with similar politics, the government jobs are very desirable. My wife was one such employee. We left because I could do much better in the private sector out of CA. An excellent decision for us.

      College costs have made the decision about attending significant. The numbers are skewed due to the non-STEM majors- as far a gender stats and big loan balances for long periods after graduation.

    • c1ue says:

      That might work, it might not.
      Police salaries were synonymous with corruption in the 1970s; that we’re at the high water mark today doesn’t mean that this will be true in 10-15 years, much less the 20-30 years required to complete a police career and the years needed to educate, train and get accepted.

      • Cas127 says:


        I have no problem believing the average police salary is not 200k – but if you add in gamed benefits (particularly heavily abused overtime, special duty, and pension rules) average total compensation is well over 100k for each police worker (including many, many, many administrative positions that don’t even theoretically face the often mythic dangers that over 600k law enforcement officers are thought to frequently face (cough, tv shows, cough).

        It is as simple as working backward from relentlessly inflating municipal and police/fire/teacher budgets in an era when non political class workers have seen their taxed pay stagnate for decades.

        The money in those engorged budgets is going somewhere and even a little digging exposes a lot of gaming by public “servants” – defended to the death by their unions…who provide the hard core of one political party.

    • CreditGB says:

      I guess I don’t understand how pensions can offer any benefits before retirement AGE of 65.

      My -(frozen 8 years ago)- pension couldn’t be touched until age 62 and then it was a reduced benefit. Only by waiting until age 65 were the frozen unreduced benefits available.

      How can any pension be solvent when paying out benefits to a 45 year old retiree for 30 or more years.

      • Cas127 says:

        “I don’t understand how pensions can offer …”

        You have not sworn lifelong fealty to the political class that controls tax policy and the printing press.

        A lot of “magic” can be worked when the Constitution and the citizens are betrayed.

    • NBay says:

      Don’t forget becoming traumatized “in the line of duty” as early as possible and retiring on disability, move up to the Redding area with the others, build a home on 5 acres, and pick up a backhoe, Bobcat, and a few other construction rigs, for extra $$$s.
      Very common M.O., although a lot can’t pull it off and have to do 20 years.
      Still works out very well.

  4. BlowOffTop says:

    Blow off top in “higher education”: declining students with increasingly more debt; could go exponential, can we get a 3 handle on that T with 16 million enrolled by 2030?

    Cant imagine men who dropout and/or forgo all together “higher education” that actually “make it”… will recommend it to their children (at least under the terms of “take out as much debt as possible because you’re worth it™)…

    • panatomic-x says:

      couldn’t agree more. as someone from a family educated exclusively at private universities. i don’t know what advice to give my high school aged daughter. i paid off my student debts by 30 and have had a middle class career in the visual arts. i don’t see this as a possible path for her. it seems crazy to get in lifelong debt to pay for 4 years at some top tier private college and graduate with a ba.

      • Just Some Random Guy says:

        Unless the private university is a Harvard, Yale, Duke, Stanford type, ie top 25, it’s a colossal waste of money to attend a private school. Go to a state U for 1/3 of the cost.

        • BrianC - PDX says:

          Even State U costs are huge.

          U of AZ for my out of state son is about 45k/year. I can do it and he’ll come out without debt. My other son (twin) is at home contemplating community college or work for a year or so.

          Completely different from my first year at Montana State in 78-79. Where my *total* out of pocket cost was ~$1900/year. (For 3 quarters!) Back then I could be self employed running a chain saw in the woods and make $2400 in a summer. More if it was a fire year and I could score a temp fire fighting job.

        • RagnarD says:

          Paying $15k/yr at Appalachian state in NC for my son, All in: tuition room and board for two semesters. Chapel hill is a bit more but not much. Best dealA around, I think.

          Probably worth It for kids to move to work / live NC for whatever time it takes post college, in order to get resident status.

          And then have mom and dad pay from their home state.

        • Zantetsu says:

          I agree BrianC – those costs for instututions with those reputations are not worth it.

        • Zantetsu says:

          Instututions -> Institutions

          Believe it or not my keyboard is going bad. Also my fingers probably.

        • sc7 says:


          I wouldn’t bank on doing that for anyone 5+ years out. The NCGOP is doing a good job of gutting the things that make NC attractive, including their destruction of the education system.

        • panatomic-x says:

          she will most likely get into a top 25 but unless it’s a stem degree, it will most likely be a bad economic decision to go there. i now realize how different things are now. my parents never considered sending us to fancy schools to be a career move. it was just something that educated people did for their kids so that they would be well rounded and have critical thinking skills. they made some sacrifices but it was doable. an education like mine is now ten times as expensive as it was in the early eighties.

      • Keith says:

        Consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. If you work for govt for ten years, making on-time monthly payments, the federal govt forgives the entire loan amount. Another plus, this is exempted from being a taxable event. Next Dec, my six figure student loan gets eaten by the feds, and I become free to go as I please, but working for the feds is a sweet gig.

        One note, consolidate under the Dept of Ed and do not go for a lower rate at a private company. That’s where people mess up and then cannot get the loan discharged.

        • panatomic-x says:

          yes, i’ve heard good things about going the public service route. one thing i was warned about: if you aren’t careful about the paperwork trail and filling out the forms on time, they will screw you and not forgive the loans.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          I assume that also includes 10 years of contributions to a gov pension for old age?

  5. Huck says:

    Additionally, these same employees are paying into the state retirement, and not into Social Security. Therefore they are not eligible for SS benefits, unless they were vested In SS while working another job. Minimum retirement ages have incrementally been raised, and amounts received have been lowered. Yes it is true there are some who get plush state retirements, but that is not the norm.

    • Tom says:

      In NY most public employees pay into Social Security

    • Harrold says:

      If you don’t pay into Social Security, you are not eligible for MediCare.

      • Rg says:

        You pay into Medicare even if you don’t pay into Social Security. Medicare is a separate line item on the pay stub.

  6. California Bob says:

    “Enrollment at public two-year schools, such as junior colleges, has plunged by 22% since 2011, to 5.37 million (green line in the chart below).”

    This is sad to hear; an AA or AS from a junior/community college can be a great stepping stone to a career–esp. in the trades–or to an advanced degree. My late father designed the original auto shop class at DeAnza JC in Cupertino, from which many successful auto technicians graduated and made good livings (I knew several). These jobs are not exportable.

    • Ridgetop says:

      California Bob,
      We thank your dad for such a great program. Three of my sons friends are taking the auto technician program there. Very popular and hard to get into. If you miss a hour, you have to make it up another time or you don’t pass that class.

      A friend went there in the 70’s and a later taught there. Worked at several dealerships in the area, became a Shop Manager for the local BMW and Honda dealerships. Made very good money, enough to own a house in one of the best neighborhoods in Silicon Valley. Then started his own business, had several employees, handling the paperwork for warranty repair for seven dealerships.

      Hard work but worth it.

      • RagnarD says:

        Yes, odd too. Community colleges are dirt cheap, comparatively.

      • California Bob says:


        I just checked with my mother; Dad was paid $100/mo and it took him a couple years of moonlighting from his job as a factory rep based at the Ford Assembly Plant in Milpitis. Mom said a ‘consultant’ initially started the design, but Dad said they installed a door that was too small to fit cars through!

        Dad went from Ford to Modesto Junior College, taught career courses and served as a career counselor, then became an administrator. He didn’t like the politics, and went back to being a teacher and counselor.

    • Paulo says:

      As per California Bob’s comment:

      I did 1st year at a local BC College, 2 years university by correspondence while working full time, (before computers and online availability…they mailed the course work and book packages by snail mail, and I mailed in the assignments. I wrote exams in a secure setting at a local college or Govt office. (Did math, and geology/geography course work). Then, commuted for 2 years and lived away for the undergrad. No student loans required. I worked at an office in my home shop, starting at 5:00 am every morning in order to get 2 hours in before heading off to work flying float planes on the BC Coast.

      There is no reason whatsoever to attend a university campus for under-grad work. Post grad and specialty training? Sure. Like I told my kids, you don’t go to university to ‘find yourself,’ or figure out what you want to do.

      The result was that for 17 years I “got” to teach construction/carpentry, fine woodworking, electronics, fabrication and mechanics at a local high school. My pension is about 30% of what I grossed, and my wife’s is about the same. Added together it was a good move for us and allowed us to retire quite young. I know many many college instructors who have done the same thing after working years in industry. Of course they teach trades and technical subjects. And you are right, the jobs are not exportable.

      Plus, in Canada they did not gut trades training like the US system did. In fact, for some years I was the highest paid teacher in our District, paid at 108% salary. For some reason trades work in the US has had some kind of lower class stench applied to it by the entrenched powers, and citizens have been gullible enough to go along with it. My Manchester-born Father-in-Law had his accent holding him back in life, and in the States the big questions is, “Where did you go to school”? Nuts. Just look at the recent admissions scandal!!

      If I had to do it again, right now……I would work as a HD technician (Heavy Duty Mechanic) at the company my son now works at. He receives a lot more of everything and has better prospects and more ‘life balance’ than I ever achieved. Respect, is at the top of the list.

      • RD Blakeslee says:

        ” … you don’t go to university to ‘find yourself,’ …”

        … and if you need a “safe space”, reapply at your local kindergarten.

      • Harrold says:

        The main benefit to attending college in person is the connections you make.

    • wkevinw says:

      Yes. I also went to a CA JC. Ended up with PhD after that…

      Dollar for dollar and hour for hour, the most efficient education I ever received.

      Dollars for tuition equaled $0.

      It was a different world for sure.

  7. andy says:

    My 3 kids watched lectures on the bus on the way to/from university, and often had a video link at school instead of the physical lecturer who was in a separate room (lecture held over 3 rooms).
    Put 4 years of lectures for an arts/law/medicine/engineering/finance degree on memory sticks, run online exams (as for pilots in the aviation industry) and sell the kit for $100 per year. Plus a bit extra for lab sessions if required.
    One day in the education industry, brand value will collapse like a NY yellow cab, and market price will equal marginal cost of supply in the internet age – next to nothing.

    • WES says:

      Andy:. Until I saw my son go through his industrial millwright schooling, I had no idea that I had learned all of what he learned when I was back in high school! Yes high school shop courses!

      True after electrical engineering school, I worked on building heavy open pit mining machinery so I got to practice everything I learned in my high school shop courses.

      Looking back I almost wished I had careered as an industrial millwright. But such was fate back then. Everybody in my family were engineers or nurses.

    • wkevinw says:

      Some of the “STEM” curricula require “lab or shop”.

      There is no substitute. (why off-shoring jobs is also not a good idea).

      You have to learn a lot of physical/empirical/experiential items.

    • sc7 says:

      If it was going to happen, it would have by now. Fact is, self-directed online education continues to produce poorly educated, poor performing graduates when compared to brick and mortar. Every job candidate I interview from online schools is noticeably worse in so many ways.

      Yet another oversimplification by someone who doesn’t understand education.

      • Dave Kunkel says:

        In IT, I’ve spent a lot of time learning things on my own. I’ve taken regular classes and many online classes over the years.

        When I worked for Cisco, they had a lot of company sponsored online classes. I took one of their online classes on virtualization when VMware was in it’s infancy.

        A few weeks after I completed the class, someone from Cisco called me and wanted to know why I completed the class. It seems that I was one of only a very few who had actually finished one of their online classes.

  8. WES says:

    Well what you describe is my family exactly!

    Oldest son went for a trade, industrial millwright.

    Younger daughter chose 4 year public university.

    When I went to engineering school in the early 1970s it was all guys and no women. Socially it sure sucked. Zero dates.

    So you telling me if I went to school now, I would be out numbered almost 2 to 1 by women! But are the guys really getting any dates?

    But wasn’t the ratio of women supposed to be 2 to 1 in Kansas City back in the day?

    • Jaya says:

      I did a PhD in computer science. Then I worked in silicon valley for 15 years. Then I retired.

      Education worked out great for me.

    • Unamused says:

      When I went to engineering school in the early 1970s it was all guys and no women. Socially it sure sucked. Zero dates.

      Looks like you went to college for the wrong reasons. It would have been cheaper just to go to Las Vegas.

      • Zantetsu says:

        Looks like you misinterpreted his remarks, obviously intentionally. Why? What was the point of your post?

        • Unamused says:

          What was the point of your post?

          That one does not attend an engineering school to get dates.

          Evidently the misinterpretation is not on my part.

  9. I live next door to a fellow who runs a medium sized heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) company. He tells me he can’t find enough qualified technicians to hire. And he says it’s not just his company; this is a nation-wide problem. The demand for skilled technicians in HVAC, along with the Plumbing, and Electrical industries, is there, but the qualified technicians are not.

    I asked him what kind of qualifications does someone need in order to work at his company. He said, 1. A vocational school certificate in HVAC. 2. A clean driving record. 3. No drug offenses of any kind. He told me he can’t find many young folks with all three of those requirements. Those he does find, he starts them off at $18 – $20 per hour. Within a year or so, the big players in the central Florida market start hiring his employees, starting them at $25 – $28 an hour. He says it’s a constant struggle to replace those who leave.

    If I was a youngster in today’s world, I think I’d have to strongly consider the skilled trades as a career choice.

    • Cas127 says:


      Since a HVAC certificate maybe rqs 6 to 12 months max (and could easily be sponsored by allegedly employee starved employers), these kind of stories always have at least a whiff of bs about them – the training period is awfully short and the alleged salaries awfully high (in comparison to the tens of millions making 25k per yr).

      • rhodium says:

        I worked in electrical for a few years and I’ve tried to tell people that pay in the trades is stagnating. It’s all relative though, for most hs grads sure probably better than what they’re doing so go for it. People are though and the shortage is overblown. The complaint in the field is not we can’t find enough workers, it’s we can’t find enough “good” workers. My major problem with it was despite all the whining, if you study historical bls data and compare it to now you’ll find pay in trade careers has risen slower than official inflation (which is likely understated) over the last 30 years. This is not the case for many other careers. Why get on a sinking ship if you can do better?

        • Unamused says:

          Why get on a sinking ship if you can do better?

          I dunno, maybe because the other ships are already booked.

          The point is that just about anybody can get rich becoming HVAC and electrician tycoons and nobody needs to go to college. All others can get rich selling overpriced houses to HVAC and electrician tycoons with money borrowed at negative interest rates.

          What could be better? A nation of HVAC, electrician, and RE tycoons would have an economy as solid as the Bank of England and will be required in the US by royal decree right after the 2020 coronation.

      • RD Blakeslee says:

        Why is it that Someones life experience is sometimes poo-pood in favor of a theory?

        • Harambe says:

          Because the plural of anecdote is not data.

        • BrianC says:

          I agree – the plural of anecdote is *not* data…

          The larger point is that people are so fixated on *college prep* in high school and a 4 year degree is the *only* path to success, that they are passing over any other option.

          Maybe the answer isn’t HVAC, auto tech, or becoming an electrician. Maybe it’s going to be something else. The point is to get busy and look around for something/anything that will work for *you* or your family members…

          Years ago the son of a friend of mine sat down with his step dad, a retired Consolidated Freight driver. He just wasn’t going to do the college route. So he and his stepdad went through the options. He chose to get a CDL and get a job driving a garbage truck. (His thinking: People are always going to buying stuff and throwing it out, right?) His girlfriend/wife (married right out of high school) went through a two year program to become a dental tech.

          He wound up doing commercial pickup. On the clock at 4:00am, off at noon. Home every night. His wife picked up part time work from noon to 6:00pm. They bought a *little* house, had a kid. Grandpa and Grandma baby sat a couple of hours every work day. 10 years later the house was paid off, they had a savings plan.

          This won’t work for a lot of folks. They had family support. (A *freaking* big deal – no money, but good advice and on demand child care when it mattered.) They, as a young couple, knew how to live within their means.

    • Just Some Random Guy says:

      HotTub: Can we please stop with the shortage of workers BS? If your friend offered $25/hr to start, or $30, he’d have a line outside his door with people. There is never a shortage of workers. There is a shortage of workers willing to work for the wage offered. See also truck drivers.

      • Cas127 says:

        see also truck drivers.”

        Agreed – truck drivers are the other major sector complaining of a worker shortage (see also construction workers)

        But a lot of these claims don’t gibe with BLS salary stats – there are millions and millions and millions of food service workers, office clerks, retail salespeople, cashiers, and (now) home support aides who make 20k to 25k – they would switch in a flash if they could get an immediate 50 pct jump in pay with a lot more to follow.

        Employers are simply talking their book (making BS up to serve their interests) when they talk about hundreds of thousands of well paid jobs they “can’t” fill.

        • NBay says:

          Agree 100%. What we have going on is basically Gilded Age #2, which was unleashed in earnest around 1980, but with much more complexity and therefore not quite as visibly severe………at least not yet, although increasing homelessness is much harder to hide than pockets of slum living and jail population.
          I sent Wolf a great (to me, anyway) official IRS Revenue data sheet that gives a complete picture of worker economic status. Unfortunately it is for 2009 and I cannot find a similar document at the IRS website, and was hoping he could if they still generate them.
          Anyway, at that time median gross individual wages were $26,261.29…..of those who HAD jobs, those numbers are also in it (about 151M) by income groups and cumulative total.
          I doubt that has increased much.
          It also shows from which groups the most IRS revenue comes, putting to bed another big “job creator” myth.

      • Mike G says:

        It’s like the “pilot shortage” airlines have been whining about for decades. Yes, there’s a shortage of pilots willing to work as FOs for a commuter airline for $25k after racking up six figures of debt for training.

      • BrianC - PDX says:

        Bingo – Years ago my parents had a remodel done on their house. The guy they contracted to do the work taught trades at the local community college.

        He told my folks the local business people were constantly crying about employees not showing up, stealing equipment, etc. Plus the whole – can’t get employees to work.

        His take – Just pay 50 cents to a dollar an hour more than the prevailing wage and you get the cream of the crop. No thefts, jobs get done on time, customers are happy. Not having to mess with all the other crap more than made up for the extra *cost*. Sadly, most business people he’d talk thought he was crazy.

        Best part from his standpoint, was that because he had a good rep he never had to advertise and was always as booked as he wanted to be.

      • HotTub Marmalade says:


        Go back and read the post again. He said he can’t find qualified techs for his business. That means a vo tech certificate AND NO drug offenses and a CLEAN driving record. He can’t find all three. Why is this important? Because his business requires his techs to drive HIS company vehicles. You want someone with a drug offenses and a lousy driving history working driving your vehicles in your business? Didn’t think so.

        I’m just saying that this is what he told me. Why should I disbelieve him? As for the starting wages, this is what he starts his apprentices out at.

        • sierra7 says:

          You are correct. Experienced, skilled, with clean driving records are hard to find. Have family that has owned and operated a small to medium size technical oriented business (sales and service) for over 30 years. That’s why they “take good care” of the good ones they are able to hire.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        I agree. I myself have noted a critical shortage of BMW dealers willing to sell me a new 730i for $20,000.

    • CreditGB says:

      Hot Tub,

      The hiring situation is abysmal. My son works for a startup auto parts manufacturer. Hiring assemblers has been a revolving door nightmare of hires, no show, or they just can’t cope with having to show up for work at a specific time or even working 8 hours.

      The big issues are driving record and drug testing, followed by zero initiative. Most of these are college grads.

      As a non college grad, with 4 grown kids, 6 grand kids, two paid for homes, a paid for car, and NO debt, my “Initiative” way back in 1971 was not starving and not having to sleep outdoors. Might also call it incentive. In either case, it worked.

      I look at what is portrayed as the great life, pedaling a Peloton in a high rise box or losing days per week in some fantasy game on a phone, is just a depressing vision of vacuous robots without souls or the happiness of a good conversation with another human. Something is really wrong.

      Sorry for the preaching.

    • Dave Kunkel says:

      His problem is common to many others who complain about not being able to find qualified employees. He can’t find enough people willing to work for what he’s willing to pay.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      Perhaps he might consider paying those employees, whom he knows well as they have been his employees, the same $25-$28 an hour that his competitors pay?

  10. Iamafan says:

    My youngest son quit first year college about a year ago. He was extremely bored. I can’t blame him. I told him he can take a break as long as he wants. He went on to study Japanese instead. He said he wants to go to Japan for a while. Things are different now. If you go visit schools now, you’ll probably mistake them for country clubs.

    • Unamused says:

      Believe it or not, very few college students can afford to take a couple of years off to hang out in Japan.

      If your kid is bored cut him off and make him work his way through college. That should provide plenty of excitement and won’t require travel.

      • NBay says:

        Choosing wealthy parents is the absolute best first decision a human being can make, second best isn’t even remotely close.

        • Lisa_Hooker says:

          Long ago I was told the three rules of life:

          1) be sure to be born to wealthy parents
          2) if you didn’t do #1, be born very good-looking
          3) if you didn’t do #1 or #2, learn to be entertaining

  11. Cindy Faithe says:

    I have two kids in college, the amenities are crazy! Both schools have rock climbing walls and full gyms. My daughter is at a Cal St school which has 3 pools. Only one for athletics. They one attached the gym has a tiki hut bar! The food hall serves sushi! Someone has to pay for all this, federal student loans!

    • Paulo says:

      Cindy, you forgot to mention “Safe Spaces”. :-)

      From the land of construction.

      When I was doing my carpentry apprenticeship ( at age 18) God help any slacker who dared to come on site. (And this was a union job). The owner/superintendent would follow them around and yell, often telling them to “get your finger out of your A**”. Geez, nowadays he would be on charges. I thought he was a great guy and one of the best employers I ever worked for. He paid bonuses. Amenities? Heated trailer for coffee and to eat lunch in, and an outhouse….I guess no hand washing required when I think back on it. I’ll bet we had a lot more fun than college students! We used to stockpile bits of wood and ‘ends’ and wait for some lucky sod to furtively head for the out house. Then, we would throw wood at the place every time he tried to open the door and get out. Sometimes we would hold the slide back and shoot our nail guns…all from the upper floors of our building. We could keep a guy pinned down for up to 5 minutes before we ran out of ammo.

      The climbing wall was 4 floors up. Nothing like walking the outside walls to scrape off ice in February. There were no safety lines then. You just didn’t fall. Ever.

      • RD Blakeslee says:

        ” … you forgot to mention “Safe Spaces”. :-) ” – Paulo

        The student should be over the need for this as a pre-requisite for elementary school, completed in Kindergarten.

  12. timbers says:

    For profit colleges and education is a contradiction in terms as is for profit healthcare.

    Profit motive fails in many areas because it is not appropriate like in education and healthcare because it is the exact opposite not only the Hippocratic oath but the entire mission of education and many other areas of society.

    How about for profit roads and bridges? Should be privatize roads and let the owners charge the highest possible price for us to use them?

    The illegality of for profit education and medicine should be restored. Ronald Reagan’s decision to legalize for profit hospitals and healthcare is a catastrophic disaster.

    The profit motive is a proven failure in not only in education and healthcare, but public infrastructure and utilities where they exist as monopolies.

    • WES says:

      Timber:. There is of course the other extreme where everything is 100% owned by the government.

      My 1983 stay in Siberia comes to mind. A worker’s paradise! Nothing worked.

      Had to bring your own toilet paper, coffee, and beer!

      I flew 44 cases of beer and 2 cases of Johnny Walker from Moscow to Siberia!!

      The Russian baggage crew said I had to put the all the booze inside the plane so it wouldn’t freeze! I took their word for it! They would know!

      It took up most of the single ile floor space between the seats from front to back in that narrow body Russian plane!

      I am sure those Russians are still talking about what a bg boozer that American was!

      • Unamused says:

        There is of course the other extreme where everything is 100% owned by the government.

        A situation which has never existed anywhere.

        Unlike the contrasting situation where everything is 100% owned by the rich, including the people picking the cotton to make them rich.

        If you’re going to be inventing self-serving conspiracy theories out of utter vacuums you’ll have better luck screwing the rubes if you at least make them plausible.

      • rhodium says:

        A completely pointless aside. He didn’t say anything about non-profit beer or communist beer. Beer making is generally a competitive industry and benefits from the profit motive to make better beer than one’s competitors. Timbers is making a specific argument that when an industry is inherently a monopoly or relative monopoly where competition and choice are infeasible, then eliminating the profit motive eliminates price gouging. With that being said, it’s funny to me how many people worried about socialism rarely complain about monopolies, since the primary argument for the efficiency of capitalism stems from competition. Monopolies might as well be communism.

    • intosh says:

      Long-term (real) innovation also fails to materialize if left in the hands of the private sector alone. Without the Department of Energy, no Tesla Motors, no EV market as we know it today. There would have been no AI craze that we’ve experienced in the last few years either. The Googles and Facebooks of this world have been grabbing the fruit of decades of AI research, funded with public money, by hiring all those experts and researchers in universities. US 5G technology falling behind China is an example of what goes wrong when relying on private R&D.

      Success due to government initiatives is rarely known, much less celebrated.

      An interesting book touching the subject is The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis.

    • Cas127 says:

      And “non-profit” motive is usually a bullshit mask hiding hypocrisy, greed, and political corruption.

      It is no accident that the sectors most subject to toxic multi decade inflation are the alleged caring professions grossly subsidized by a captured, money printing gvt – medicine, higher education, public serpents – er, servants.

      • Kent says:

        The toxic places are really private organizations heavily funded by the federal government. Where, as you say, the private sector has captured government expenditures. Adding to your list I’ll throw in military hardware. I have a relative who works for the biggest of these firms and he gets an annual $250k+ bonus. Every bit is tax payer money. Health insurance and student loans (especially to for profit schools) are the biggest scams on the planet.

      • intosh says:

        “It is no accident that the sectors most subject to toxic multi decade inflation are the alleged caring professions grossly subsidized by a captured, money printing gvt – medicine, higher education, public serpents – er, servants.”

        You have sources for that or is it religious.. er, ideological beliefs speaking?

        • Cas127 says:

          “sources for that”

          Fastest response – Google “inflation” and medicine, higher education, and government budgets – you will find thousands of sources indicating the relentless inflation in these “non profit” dominated sectors.

    • Kent says:

      I was thinking that too.

    • Unamused says:

      It always has been.

      Jesus’ expenses are high, and he never made much as a carpenter selling crosses to the Romans. Later on he made up for it by owning a third of the land in France and having a couple of million serfs do the work.

      • Sandy Toes says:

        Sandy Toes;

        I appreciate Wolf’s articles and the comments. Most comments are insightful and respectful.

        All of us can agree that the purveyors of higher education have been taking advantage of students.

        The cost of tuition, books, etc is obscene, and the rate of increase usurious. Their counseling to vulnerable students into degrees with limited financial future is simply negligent.

        Nevertheless, let’s keep this forum professional.

        While I respect everyone’s opinions and beliefs, these 3 comments about religion are inaccurate, inappropriate for this forum and disrespectful. Perhaps they were meant as humorous.

      • Mark says:

        Organized religion has been the perpetrator of the biggest slaughters, invasions, crusades,and general horrors that our world has known.

        And it’s still the case

        And they’re in it for the money ( or sex, if you’re in the Vatican)

      • Unamused says:

        And they’re in it for the money ( or sex, if you’re in the Vatican)

        That’s not true Mark. It’s almost exclusively in the parishes. The candles, the incense, the frilly outfits – it sort of sets a mood, y’know?

        Still, the Religion Industrial Complex is bigger than the Education Industrial Complex but smaller than the Military Industrial Complex and far less than the Financial Industrial Complex. It helps to keep these things in perspective.

    • Unamused says:

      For profit colleges and education is a contradiction in terms as is for profit healthcare.

      When they introduced the profit motive, actual education and health care became expenses to be minimised at best, at worst became pretenses to sucker fresh victims, and in either case became utterly irrelevant.

      Profit maximisation requires increasing prices while crapifying products and services to reduce costs. Taken to its logical conclusion you end up paying a fortune and getting nothing for it, a goal that several corporations outside the FIRE sector have yet to achieve.

      For further information see “Phyletic Size Decrease in Hershey Bars” by Stephen Jay Gould.

    • Happy1 says:

      Reagan had nothing to do with the introduction of for profit healthcare. This has existed for decades. A democratic Congress passed and Nixon signed the HMO act of 1973, which significantly accelerated for profit healthcare generally, but profit motives have been part of healthcare in the US much longer than since the 1980s.

  13. Ole C G Olesen says:

    I have a question :
    So… what are the men who do not study … doing ?
    Where are they ?..

    • WES says:

      Ole:. Just a guess.

      Young men are at home playing games because women are too expensive?

      Noticed young women complaining about shortage of suitablely educated young men earning enough to raise a family. Women don’t want to marry down.

      Seems like the opposite of earlier generations where men routinely married down.

      I think Wolf may have done articles about what is happening in Japan. The same male/female problem but much worst.

      • Unamused says:

        Women don’t want to marry down.

        That’s what you get for letting them vote and have careers instead of keeping them barefoot and pregnant at home serving their masters like the bible tells you.

  14. Gandalf says:

    Where are the men?

    It’s not sexist to emphasize that male and female humans have different strengths. Men are generally 10% larger, stronger, and faster, with faster reaction times.

    Coaching youth soccer, I was struck by how early this difference showed up – a soccer match my daughter played in the U-10s between an all girl team and all boy team – the boys were an order of magnitude faster to the ball with their reaction times than the girls, etc. Same thing with youth tennis – boys are much faster and hit harder early on.

    Males were designed for hunting and war and hard outdoor farming work. Females were designed for the more dull repetitive hard work of gathering, basket weaving, etc.

    This translates today into – Females are better at sitting down and studying and patiently reading books and making good grades. Males, not so much. They’d much rather be outdoors working with their hands, doing physical stuff, like sports.

    Generalizations, yes, and there is a huge overlap – females can train and be pretty darn good at the physical stuff, males can be great at studying and doing well in school. But ….. that’s not where the inherent genetics trend

    The only reason more men than women attended college was because of the suppression of women opportunities. This started to change decades ago.

    When I went to medical school, only 25% of my class was female. by the 2000s, this had flipped – more women were getting into medical school than men – there were simply more women with good grades than men.

    • Ensign_Nemo says:

      It’s not just grades.

      The SAT (the most popular American standardized college aptitude test) once was broken into two parts with equal weighting, math and verbal. Now there is an essay section, and the test is now slightly curved rather than graded absolutely. Each part has a score of 200 to 800 points. When I took it back in 1986, there was no essay section, and you had to answer every question correctly on both parts to get a perfect 1600 score. There was no “rounding up”, or subjective grading of essays.

      Today they “round up” a fractional score, the essay part is averaged in with the standardized verbal testing score, and it’s possible to miss a question or two and get a “perfect” score.

      IOW, the “raw score” is not the same as the “scaled score” – you can miss a question and still get a “perfect” scaled score, in some instances.

      Women tend to write better than men, and score fewer points on standardized tests, so these changes are all designed to skew the results to favor females and disfavor males. It’s an example of women changing the rules to suit women at the expense of men.

      As women tend to do better in reading and writing and worse in math, the addition of an essay section, and the slight curving of the scores, together make it easier for females to get a final score that is as high as or higher than the best male scores. This is especially true for admission to the top colleges, as there is fierce competition.

      Men outnumber women at the extremes of IQ – there are more idiot males than females, and more genius males than females. Blurring the lines at the top of the test scores – the 98th and 99th percentiles – makes it much easier for women to gain admission to the top colleges.

      It’s ironic that women changed the rules to exclude men from colleges, and then turned around and complained that there are three women for every two men at college. This outcome was very easy to predict, but they went ahead and did it anyway.

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        Nemo that’s not how the SAT essay works now. They did try what you describe but a few years ago they reverted back to the older system. Now the essay is available but optional and the score is separated from the verbal multiple-choice section.

    • backwardsevolution says:

      Gandalf – “Females were designed for the more dull repetitive hard work of gathering, basket weaving, etc.”

      That “etc.” covers a lot of stuff, like child birth and raising children. Bar none, the hardest job I ever had!

      Women gravitate to “people”. Men gravitate to “things”. They have tried hard to get women into engineering and computer sciences, but there have been few takers. They’re not interested in “things”.

      Women are more conscientious and agreeable (generally) and conform more easily; men are risk-takers and less agreeable, more impulsive and conform less.

      But you’re right, men are physically stronger. There are huge differences in the sexes. It’s too bad we’re so intent on trying to say there isn’t. BOTH play an integral part.

      • Trent says:

        “Women are more conscientious and agreeable (generally) and conform more easily; men are risk-takers and less agreeable, more impulsive and conform less.”

        THIS! I’ve noticed in the many low level soulless jobs I’ve had in corporate America that they seem to be predominiatly hiring women. Many departments were 80 to 90% women. If you mistreat them at work (abuse them with heavy workload) they won’t speak out because they’d rather fit in.

  15. R2D2 says:


    Uni education is going online.

    And part-time.

    Due to stratospheric full-time uni costs, more and more 18-40yo are working full-time, while simul-studying part-time by distance-learning, evenings, and weekends.

    You can save a fortune. My UK neighbour saved -90% on the total cost of their 3-year undergraduate degree. The online savings are enormous.

    • Off The Street says:

      You can also test out of numerous courses to get credits. That has been popular for completion of the lower division general education classes such as X hours each in humanities, social sciences or sciences.

      The motivated high school student can shave off a year or more and move into upper division classes sooner to graduate in less than four years.

      Alternatively, leverage your schedule to get enough hours for a double major to make that now-extra fourth year pay off more. I did it and had fun, too.

  16. Cas127 says:


    “these same employees are paying into the state retirement”

    What pct of total contribution? – taxpayer pays rest, also on hook for shortfalls.

    “Minimum retirement ages have incrementally been raised, and amounts received have been lowered. ”

    Specifics please. When did these unspecified improvements start?

    Trend from gross abuse to slightly less gross abuse isn’t a triumph, it is a public sector union talking point, even as vaguely fleshed allusions are a MSM stock in trade.

  17. Cas127 says:


    At 2 pct T bond rates, it takes a 1,500,000 dollar private sector portfolio to generate a 30k per yr public sector perpetuity pension.

    What pct of public sector workers that you have known have led careers worth 1.5 million bucks?

    • patrick helmick says:

      do not forget government salary takers also get much better and more expensive health care for life on your dime as well

  18. Matt K says:

    Boomers over-bloated the universities. They gotta stay big somehow.

  19. Page88 says:

    Young people may consider being more practical with education expenses and entrepreneurial. An example of generating multiple sources of income is a “side hustle” of rental income from rental properties. Live in one portion of the rental property with roommates (living expenses are reduced) and rent out the other units (duplex, four-plex, type properties). Be an over the road trucker (flat bed truckers allegedly make more income) or highly skilled pipeline welder for a couple of years and pay off the debt service on rental property. When you are younger, living cheaply is not as much of a shock to the system.

    With the “corporate jobs being precarious” for long term income at one company, people are considering multiple sources of income. Some of the youth that I talk to are very leery of taking substantial loans out for education. They have seen the disruption from a loss of a job in their parents or relatives. They see the dangers and pitfalls of traditional college education costs and lack of financial return on college investment.

    The “gig” economy is a tricky proposition. People have to think short-term, medium term and long-term for their own benefit.

    • Page88 says:

      Additional note….As your are a trucker driving flat-bed over the road or highly skilled welder on pipelines, get your post-secondary education online during “down time”……

      On-line education seems to be a very viable alternative to on-site college classes. Be efficient with your time and money.

      • Mike G says:

        There’s a lot more to going to college than knowledge. And which college matters more than ever. Kids don’t fight to get into Harvard or Stanford because the English Lit 101 lecturer is slightly more accomplished than at State U.
        So much of American life now is about credentialism and who-you-know — we’ve become as ossified as old Europe.

        • Zantetsu says:

          Yet more FUD that continues to be spread by people who believe other people spreading the same FUD.

          Those kids coming out of Harvard and Stanford are GENUINELY better qualified for their profession of choice. It’s not about ‘credentialism’. Have you ever interviewed candidates from different universities? If you have, you would know and understand the difference.

          NO, not EVERY Stanford grad is great and NO not EVERY Podunk U grad is terrible, OBVIOUSLY. But the trend is real and clear.

      • Zantetsu says:

        I imagine trucking is going to be mostly automated within the next 10 years. I personally would not advocate a career in a shrinking market.

  20. Dale says:

    One thing I track is real (CPI-adjusted) per capita PCE expenditures for various categories of services and goods. One thing that had mystified me was that, after increasing nearly x10 in the preceding 50 years, in the last 7 years the real per capita PCE for higher education had leveled off.

    Now I understand why: enrollments have decreased 10% in that timeframe.

    Thanks Wolf.

    • historicus says:

      (PCE is a terrible metric. It allows items that go up in price to be “substituted” with cheaper items. Low inflation biased.)

      However, your point is still a good one.
      When I went to college, a good entry level job was about 4 xs the annual tuition. Now its under 2 xs from my casual observances.

  21. historicus says:

    Schools should do the lending to the students.
    The cost of tuition would drop.
    Better educated students would be the desire of the school to help ensure payback.
    Why not? Huge endowments should be the lender for tuition.
    The easy credit is the reason the cost of school being way too high.

    • Petunia says:

      I heard of a reprehensible idea one university was proposing of offering an education in exchange for a portion of the student’s future earnings. Apparently these “educated” people don’t know slavery was abolished.

      • Clete says:

        @Petunia: I hear ya, but I wonder if this couldn’t be a path to success for seriously smart, seriously motivated kids. If the deal were fair, and included not just tuition but all of the costs, it might make a ton of sense for some kid from a modest background to get in. I would have been happy to give up 1 or 2% off the top for a free education (but I wasn’t smart enough or motivated enough at 17 to make it worthwhile).

  22. John Beech says:

    Where are the men?

    They are playing COD and other video games at home at their parent’s because the only jobs available pay $8/hr.

    Put another way, they are on strike.

    • MC01 says:

      There’s actually good money to be paid in playing video games, and I am not joking: influencers reviewing video games can make if not exactly a killing at very least some nice extra money to help make ends meet.
      Superstar influencer DanTDM (who’ll show you all the intricacies of the Minecraft videogame) has made over $18 million, but there are all sorts of influencers out there, down to the guy who’ll post a few videos and will get $50 or less from Alphabet.

      Like it or not influencer marketing it’s huge money: worldwide it’s predicted to be worth well north of $5 billion worldwide. Estée Lauder, a S&P500 company with over $11 billion in revenues, has earmaked 75% of their advertising budget for social media influencers, and profits seem to indicate they are on to something.
      In a way this is what Lauder has always done, using celebrities to endorse their products, but they get more bang for their buck as social media influencers are generally cheaper and more effective at shifting goods.
      I won’t even get how big this stuff is in China, where young people tend to trust influencers much more than traditional magazines and websites, seen as too easily bought and sold.

      Influencers have to walk a tightrope if they want to make good money: don’t infuriate potential corporate sponsors by being too honest but don’t infuriate your followers by being too diplomatic. Either can dump you faster than you can say “YouTube” or “Instagram”. ;-)

    • Petunia says:

      There’s a lot of truth in your comment. A minimum wage job that barely covers the cost of going to work can be a further burden on the family. If a job doesn’t cover health care and the cost of going to work, the family can be better off taking another tax deduction. Also, with so many young men out of work, there is no longer a stigma to not having a job.

      • Just Some Random Guy says:

        min wage jobs aren’t supposed to be careers. They’re entry level stepping stone jobs. I read that only 2% of all min wage jobs are done by people who have been in that job for more than a year. Which means the sob story family of 4 living on minimum wage is largely a myth.

    • georg says:

      Yes, on strike! Any culture that survives has to solve this problem: how do you socialize young males? How do you transmute their risk-taking opportunism, compulsive appetites, hair-trigger distractedness (today we call it a “disorder” but you might consider how being “poly-aware” in landscapes with snakes and tigers might have evolved), competitiveness, readiness to identify with gangs and teams — how do you transmute these into forces that are generally individually and socially beneficial? Forces that can are even pivotal to whether that society thrives or fails?

      Across time and space, overwhelmingly, there’s been a recognition that boys’ and girls’ socialization needs are different.

      In the West generally but esp. in America, we’ve completely destroyed the institutions that used to do that. We’ve let the marketplace supply the goods — for instance, absolutely outrageous video games in their stead. And we’ve almost completely cut off boys from ordinary contact with men at the ages — after early childhood and before adolescence — when the framework for how they’re going to manage their masculinity is established. It’s self-defeating madness on the order of Mao’s Cultural Revolution or Pol Pot slaughtering anyone with glasses or a degree, but along the way, a lot of bureaucrats get to enjoy their life-or-death powers.

      My guess is that the West’s competitors have looked at the giving up of young men — disappearing from higher ed, from family formation, he labor force, falling into drugs — and aren’t going to make the same mistakes.

    • LouisDeLaSmart says:

      There are 3 categories of people the system takes into conideration when it looks for jobless numbers: the one that have a job, and the ones that seek a job…A third category exists, it’s the ones not seeking the job, and not holding one either, or are holding an invisible full time job (houewives, full time mothers, full time nuring of loved ones, etc.). They are excluded from the statistics to the extent that the change in numbers by age groups is not reported.
      And then comes the question that your comment invoked:
      Are these young men going to work, or did they give up?

  23. Cobalt Programmer says:

    The reason US is the best country in the world is not because of the trade jobs and blue collar workers. They are essential but science and technological advancements put US on the world map. Lesser college degrees means expect less in future. World will laugh at this.

    Not only men are lesser in college. In general, men are increasingly withdrawing from the society and culture as a whole. Although women are in colleges more, most of them are in the social sciences like gender studies and non-stem majors. Women cannot find a good husband these days. mmm? I wonder why.

    Meanwhile a coyote wanders in to college campus and came out with $ 25,000 credit card debt. The debt (not student loans and college books) is from “living the best of life” and “enjoy thy youth”. Urban and progressive campus will increase the debt. I don’t know who give credit cards to students.

    Colleges are concentrating on athletics, parking garages and endowments. Students are always disposables. A sucker is born every minute.

  24. Unamused says:

    Over the last eight years enrollment has declined in a straight line at 1.35% per year.

    Over the same eight years student loan debt has also increased in a straight line at nearly ninety billion per year.

    At this rate the last college student will drop out around the year 2090 and leave over seven trillion in debt that will never be repaid because the economy blew up over two generations earlier.

    Wherever enrollment and debt are going they’re going in straight lines, but at least they’re not going to heck, a village in Scotland.

    One must pity the children, knowing they have no future.

    Back in the day we students had to pool our money and hire our own instructors. There were no entrance exams but postulates needed a wealthy sponsor. After graduating there were only dead-end jobs with the church and in merchant halls unless you were good at sucking up to your betters and went in for politics.

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      There’s no straight-line decline, it’s nearly all demographics. There are fewer college-age children in the country right now. Meanwhile, a big part of the enrollment peak spike in 2009-2012 was people hiding out in education to avoid unemployment. And 1/4 of the enrollment decline is due to the for-profit diploma mills losing their government support after robbing their “students” blind.

      • Unamused says:

        There’s no straight-line decline

        I’m looking at the graph. What are you looking at?

  25. breamrod says:

    the reason that student debt is higher now even with lower enrollment is due to loan forbearance. Borrow now but you don’t have to start paying it back for 4 or 5 years. Guess what? the interest doesn’t stop. I’ve seen 20,000 balances become 80,000 balances over time. I believe student loans cary a 6.5% interest rate. You would think they could at least lower those to a more manageable 3.5%. There needs to be some serious discussions with parents and teachers about basic math compounding and common sense!

    • freewary says:

      20 years ago the student loan interest was subsidized. Now the rates are far above prime- system is now predatory.

      Since then I have read about a lot of things and conclude it’s illegal under the US Constitution for the Federal govt to be involved in education (and many other things). Where in the Constitution is the Federal govt authorized to create a predatory loan system to entrap young people?

    • Harrold says:

      Student loans are the only loans a minor can sign for and be held accountable.

  26. freewary says:

    Online bachelor’s degree- $8000
    Online masters degree – $10000 to $20000

    I have advised my children that since online degrees exist, the program I will support involves living at home, getting a full time job, paying their share of family expenses, doing their share of chores and enrolling in an online program that they pay for if they want a degree. No support for anything else- on their own.

  27. David Hall says:

    According to one source, 80% of workers in the healthcare industry are women. My niece is attending nursing college. My nephew quit an engineering job and is in a physician’s assistant program.

  28. Mars says:

    Over the years I have managed/worked with many teen-twenty somethings and am always amazed by the progressive lack of engagement and context, objective/analytical thinking skills many have; the drive for instant gratification, and, the pretzel logic explanations and rationalizations they have for not taking care of their own situation and responsibilities.

    This is a sweeping generalization and I know people my own age with these problems but I am not surprised by the decline in college enrollments. My exGFs 15 yr daughter is more concerned about social media and and consuming pop-celebrity culture than anything and has not read a non-digital book in years. While spending little time on homework she has As and Bs as a HS freshman. I am not implying she is gifted intellectually instead the standards for above-average student participation and production has fallen.

    I would be interested in correlations between number of students taking ACT SAT and corresponding year’s enrollments.

    In the 1980s I took out a student loan for one semester as I didn’t save enough to pay at enrollment. I was taking 12 hrs night school at a local 4 yr U. While it solved a short-term cash flow problem I never borrowed any more and paid that off as well as saving for the next semester. It never occurred to me to borrow for anything else (book, food, apartment, personal expenses) but just tuition and fees.

    Plenty of folks in the WolfStreet universe have made similar plans – work as you attend, self-fund.

    • Just Some Random Guy says:

      It’s interesting you say that because my kids who are in primary school now are doing things that I didn’t do until Jr High. My oldest started doing algebra in 4th grade for example. Which really surprised me because I had been told over and over how education is being dumbed down. Granted, she’s in a top school, and everyone in her school is the son/daughter of upper middle class over achieving helicopter parents. So not a typical school. But still.

      Speaking of my kids, their babysitter when they were younger just graduated. She studied Latin, as in actually learning to speak it, nit just learning roots for the SAT. Why? Because she liked the idea of being able to actually speak Latin. And her boyfriend, who ended up getting a full ride to an Ivy school, ran a side business in high school fixing laptops. They were really cute nerds together. Point is, there are still kids out there who care about more than just Instagram and have their head on straight. Both of these kids are going to go far in life.

      • RD Blakeslee says:


        I’m an old man and my five kids ARE DOING well in life – different times, different opportunities, so different paths than your kids.

        You will take satisfaction in their ultimate success, J.S.R.G.

    • Unamused says:

      Over the years I have managed/worked with many teen-twenty somethings and am always amazed by the progressive lack of engagement and context, objective/analytical thinking skills many have; the drive for instant gratification, and, the pretzel logic explanations and rationalizations they have for not taking care of their own situation and responsibilities.

      It’s not entirely their fault. It’s how they were raised, mostly by television.

      Contemporary marketing culture, particularly in the US, teaches people to be shallow, irresponsible, ignorant, lacking in critical thinking skills, and defensive about it, not only so they’ll be more profitable and indebted consumers but also to ensure they’ll vote the right way, if indeed they do vote, which probably won’t be needed for much longer anyway.

      The plan is working.

      Higher education is supposed to be a challenge. Part of the training is to learn how to overcome obstacles.

      The primary purpose of an education is to enable the student to get along without the teacher.

      – Frederick Chopin

      • Mars says:

        I agree, Unamused.

        “Part of the training is to learn how to overcome obstacles.”

        In an ideal world this begins in the home or is wonderfully innate in the kid’s character. I’m afraid in this case her father has never said “no” and has custody. My exGF is a CPA and works 80+ hrs/wk during tax season, four months a year with prep for clients’ docs starting about now.

    • Zantetsu says:

      God almighty these forums have become just a conduit for people to tell their own personal stories and then act like they represent some grand truth that everyone else would benefit from if they would just repeat whatever life experience they had.

      Guess what — the world is different now than it was in the 1980s. The world of the 1980s was different than it was in the 1950s. If we had in the 1980s then 40 and 50 somethings who went to college in the 60’s would be writing basically the exact same comment (in spirit) that you just wrote.

      • Mars says:

        I just re-read the first post in this thread. No mention of college enrollment skidding nor student loans skyrocketing and it seemed a bit anecdotal and dated, fwiw ;)

        Wolf’s and his associates’ essays and analyses are the reason I come to WS.

        The comments are opinionated, entertaining, not always on topic and some days are better than others, and, not ad hominem like other sites. In other words, a forum.

  29. Just Some Random Guy says:

    One way to easily cure the problem of overpriced college is make colleges have skin in the game. 18 year old Johnie takes $200K in loans to attend your school, you’re partly responsible for those loans if Johnie graduates and is working at Starbucks for $11/hr 5 years later.

    I realize that’s a lot easier said than done and opens up all sorts of potential issues. But as long as colleges are free to charge as much as they want, knowing Uncle Sugar, err Sam is there to pay for it, this will never end.

  30. RoundAbout says:

    I’ll never forget in the mid 90s my first day of Digital Circuits at UC. Arrived in the Applied Mathematics building first day and whoa lots of hot girls in the class room. Going to like this. Professor comes in writes ECE XYZ on the board and one by one the women leave. When the last lady was leaving the class erupted for her not to go. She said the Psychology class room was not assigned right, waived and walked out the door. The prof just smiled.

    • Just Some Random Guy says:

      Dude, there was no rule about only dating women from your department, you know that right? :)

  31. Mr. T says:

    I’m a recently retired high school teacher and the past couple years I went from giving a “rah-rah go to college!” advice to my graduating seniors to one of “wait.” I saw most of my former students who graduated from college get into jobs outside of their degree. That was typical. Or, they ended up with hourly jobs, well below their education.

    My own three sons ended up in great careers, but only one completed college. One became an electrician via an apprenticeship program and within five years he started his own contractor’s business. The other graduated with a masters degree, but used it only as an adjunct at a state university on starvation wages. He finally got into an internet startup as a programmer (!) and makes twice what I ever did as a teacher. The third went through the marine corps (not recommended by the way) and also ended up with an internet startup.

    Go to college? Take the patient carpenter’s advice: measure twice before cutting. A college degree anymore might be a step toward a good life, but if you choose the wrong major and/or attend school solely through student loans, it can be a boat anchor around a leg that you drag through the next twenty or so years.

  32. Huck says:


    In my particular profession, the minimum retirement age has incrementally been raised for new hires over the last ten years. It has gone from 50 to 55 and is now at 57. In addition the employee contributions have been incrementally been raised to 15 percent of employee pay.

    To earn maximum retirement benefit, an employee must work to the minimum retirement age, and have worked and contributed for a total of 30 years. I believe that approximately 60 percent of the retirement benefits come from the fund investments.

    I believe that calpers understands that there is a shortfall, which is why the age has been raised, as well as contributions.

    In my particular profession, most employees will probably not make it to 57 years old with maximum contribution, and will probably not receive maximum benefit. Due to the seasonal nature of Department, employees have to work several calendar years to earn 1 year in retirement deposits.

    I read a study several years back, that if worked to age of 60 in my profession, that the employee lived on average 6 months into retirement before death. This does not take into consideration the employees that die from heart attack or cancer before retirement. So in many instances it is a win for the State and the Fund, since they never collect contributions.

    • Just Some Random Guy says:

      In my particular profession, the minimum retirement age has incrementally been raised for new hires over the last ten years. It has gone from 50 to 55 and is now at 57. In addition the employee contributions have been incrementally been raised to 15 percent of employee pay.


      Normal people have to work until 70 to get SS benefits and contribution is 12.4% of pay. Plus paying for health care their entire lives, which is free for you. And how much vacation do you get? 6, 8 weeks vs the typical 3-4 weeks for private sector workers.

      Cry me a river.

      • Kent says:

        Hasn’t always been that way. Only when normal people stopped joining labor unions. But that was there choice right?

    • tom says:

      What profession are you in with a life expectancy below 61?

      • Cas127 says:

        “What profession are you in with a life expectancy below 61?”

        Agreed – unless he is 007.

        Actually, I think the Cal Highway Patrol Union ginned up a similar “analysis” a few yrs backs – pointing to stress, smog, donuts…

        The public sector unions spend a *lot* of time generating political cover for unjustifiable pay practices.

  33. ft says:

    Back in the day, a lot of us young men went to school not to get an education but to get a student deferment from the draft. There was this fracas in SE Asia and we didn’t want to go. Bought me some time but the draft did eventually catch up.

  34. libdis says:

    Florida is relatively cheap if your a state resident, about 3k a semester for full load. Of course room and board add another 8, but my son lived at home, worked and graduated debt free with an engineering degree.

    The decline may be in out of state where the cost is 5 times that of a resident.

    Again, attach another 8K living expenses per for out of state……

  35. Wisdom Seeker says:

    I’m disappointed that this article didn’t make the point that higher education has been facing well-known demographic and technological headwinds for a decade. For starters, the post-millennial generation is simply smaller in numbers than those a few years older. The 4-year schools are more in demand so they are maintaining enrollment (albeit with softer admissions standards) and the less-desirable 2-year and for-profit schools are taking the brunt of the bust.

    Meanwhile, a big part of the enrollment peak spike in 2009-2012 was people hiding out in education to avoid unemployment during the recession.

    And 1/4 of the enrollment decline is due to the for-profit diploma mills losing their government support after robbing their “students” blind. Good riddance!

    The good news is that the economy is strong so on-the-job training is returning, and a lot of knowledge is now readily available online instead of having to take a class. None of this is particularly bad for the country, except for the male-female imbalance and the student-loan bubble continuing to run amok.

    • Unamused says:

      And 1/4 of the enrollment decline is due to the for-profit diploma mills losing their government support after robbing their “students” blind.

      Like the one in NYC that defrauded thousands of students and was shut down. The owner wasn’t jailed for racketeering for that or for the phony charity he used as a checkbook, but he was required to repay $25 million and has since gotten another job where he’ll never have to worry about unhappy victims coming back to give him grief about his scams.

      I’m disappointed that this article didn’t make the point that higher education has been facing well-known demographic and technological headwinds

      I’m disappointed that you won’t admit that higher education has simply become unaffordable and that the cost/benefit analysis has largely become unfavorable. That’ll sure keep people from getting ideas, won’t it?

      I refuse opportunities to teach university despite my expertise in the Arts and Sciences because I’m not a low-paid contract commodity.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Wisdom Seeker,

      “I’m disappointed that this article didn’t make the point that higher education has been facing well-known demographic and technological headwinds for a decade. For starters, the post-millennial generation is simply smaller in numbers than those a few years older.”

      Gen Z, estimated between 82 million and 90 million, is the largest US generation ever. The older ones of Gen Z are now graduating from college. Gen Z follows the Millennials which were the largest generation ever until Gen Z came along. When you look at the demographics, the enrollment debacle looks a lot worse because demographics are a huge tailwind that should have boosted enrollment.

      • Wisdom Seeker says:

        Ok Boomer*. Just admit you got the Census data WRONG after being called out specifically for overlooking it.

        The data for 2018, by current age:

        Age 27: 4,813,980
        Age 26: 4,728,714
        Age 25: 4,606,281
        Age 24: 4,533,776
        Age 23: 4,438,724
        Age 22: 4,434,743
        Age 21: 4,292,514
        Age 20: 4,273,822
        Age 19: 4,263,601
        Age 18: 4,319,722
        Age 17: 4,241,936

        Age 2: 3,991,437

        Over the past 10 years the college-entering age group has dwindled by over 500,000 people (at each age level). So the total college-age population has shrunk by nearly 2,000,000. Not everyone goes to college and economic factors matter, but that’s a big part of why enrollment is way down. The higher-ed literature has been all over this.

        And no, it’s not about the cost of college: if that were true then the private 4-year programs would be shrinking and the 2-year ones would be booming. But the data show the opposite. I’m with you that the loan bubble has prevented a much-needed reckoning among the 4-year schools.

        But todays’ 2 year olds are another 200K fewer in number than the teens applying to college right now. So without immigration the college-population squeeze will continue for another 15 years.

        Data here:

        P.S. It’s really insulting for boomers to refer to the younger groups as “X”, “Y” and “Z” instead of treating them with respect and not stereotyping them by age. Someday this form of ageism will be as recognized as being as pernicious as sexist and racist language…

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Wisdom Seeker,

          Let’s be rational about this and look at the numbers.

          Your link doesn’t work, but I think I found it. Go to this page:

          go down to and click on:
          “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Single Year of Age and Sex for the United States: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2018”

          I also googled to see what I could find out about the age distribution of students in higher education. This is for the year 2015, but I assume the age distribution has not changed radically:

          “In 2015, there were 11.8 million college and university students under age 25 and 8.1 million students 25 years old and over.” This includes a whole bunch of people over 30 . The link below has a chart by age group:

          So let’s say that the sweet spot has been between 18-29 in recent years. And let’s ignore the masses over 30 for now.

          Then, in the data table you linked, for each year, add up all the 18-29-year-olds. The population in this age group hit the highest level ever in 2018, as you can see in the chart I made of the data you linked:

          So demographically, universities have had a tailwind at least all the way through 2018. The way it looks, the tailwind weakened but likely continued through 2019. I admit that the curve is flattening out and that it will turn down in the future. This has not happened yet. But the decline in enrollment has been going on for eight years.

          Also, as an aside, I take your original criticism to heart that I ignored the demographics, and I will make sure to include this data in my next article on enrollment.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          P.S. I find myself wondering how much the population in the 25-29 (and higher) age groups is boosted by immigration, both of undergrads and grad students to fill the domestic demographic hole, and of workers educated overseas to fill domestic labor demand (and keep wages low…). Data on numbers of immigrants-by-age might be quite interesting. But work beckons.

  36. Huck says:

    Random Guy,

    I am not crying at all. Just passing along info.

    I think you may have missed my point that In my profession, many employees will never make it to that age with a full retirement. This is due to not making enough contributions for enough years.

    If they do make it to that age, and are able to collect a full retirement, the average person does not last long, therefore not collecting, leaving their contributions in the system for others.

    Additionally, my healthcare is not free.

    • Just Some Random Guy says:

      Are you a sky diver or something? What profession has a life expectancy of 60 years in America?

    • Kent says:

      My brother retired in the Florida Retirement System after 30 years as a Deputy Sheriff. In Florida, the system works like this:

      1. Must have a minimum of 6 years to vest. He did 30.
      2. Must work for 30 years to make retirement or age 62. He was 54.
      3. He had a public safety retirement multiplier of 3.
      4. Final retirement is average high 5 years ($62,000 for him) x (number of years x multiplier as a percentage). So he gets 90% of 62k or $55,800.
      5. He can keep his county medical insurance but has to pay full freight. At $1850/month that comes to $22,200 per annum out of pocket.

      public school teachers have a multiplier of only 1.6. So a teacher retiring after 30 years at $48k will get $23,040. The average benefit payout in the State is a little under $9,000 simply because the vast majority never make 30 years, and most workers do stuff like cleaning out ditches and painting walls, so they don’t make a lot of money to start with.

    • Cas127 says:

      “many employees will never make it to that age with a full retirement.”

      Which skews the claimed average pension way, way, way down – leaving a hardcore of gvt lifers getting zero work pensions far in excess of the working life median *household* (*two* earner) income – even the Dem dominated MSM has been forced to occasionally cover the story (after decades of cancerous studied silence).

      As the data become more and more widely known, there will be blowback – and the quickest fix will be to expropriate the top half of public pension recipients to cover system shortfalls accumulated during the decades of their stewardship.

      An informed taxpaying public won’t hike their taxes to pay for “promised” public sector pensions often in excess of their working salaries. Although I’m sure the unions will employ every MSM asset they have.

  37. HollywoodDog says:

    I have a number of thoughts based on these comments:

    1. For-profit colleges served vital function when they concentrated on two-year technical degrees. They gave students valuable training in areas with high employment demand and just enough exposure to some liberal arts. Employers often provided curricular guidance to these colleges and sought out their graduates. When the University of Phoenix got into the game, they expanded the offerings to four-year professional degrees–but without the level of intellectual rigor demanded by those fields. Then a slew of other “institutions” saw the government-backed student loan money on the table and the circus began. I can not begin to describe how unscrupulous the owners, officers, and managers were in these schools. (Let’s just say that making up a SSN was a routine way of increasing enrollment and revenue.) These schools specialized in targeting poor minority applicants and were rightly targeted by the Obama Administration.

    2. On the other hand, many private and public four-year institutions are plagued with academics who have zero business acumen. They will spend hours arguing–as if their lives depended on it–over different definitions of “post-colonialism,” “cis-gender,” and “equity” while their programs either decline in enrollment or leave graduates without basic writing and math skills. Some academic departments and even colleges can be insular to the point of absurdity. McSweeney’s does an admirable job satirizing these folks, probably because many of them have no other career options besides writing for McSweeney’s.

    3. The current state and national initiatives to focus higher education on career preparation (and ROI of taxpayer money) do so at the exclusion of personal exploration and civic knowledge. For the life of me, I don’t know why providing a student with a marketable skill complemented by appreciation of the liberal arts is that earth-shattering of a goal.

    4. The best career path might be to obtain a master’s in computer science, secure a tenured teaching position at a state institution with a generous pension, and code on the side. For added income and security, partner with someone who is a registered nurse with a HVAC certificate…

  38. Young people who opted to join the work force first and get their education later will be hard pressed in this current recession. Construction jobs have gotten easier, the barriers to entry are a lot lower. Jobs numbers and housing starts are edging up due to malinvestment caused by the Feds surreptitious rates cuts, History tells us when companies leverage up before the slowdown the impact is much harder when the recession hits; more bankruptcies, and layoffs. The flood of global money, China’s capital flight, will reverse the flow. You can forgive potus for cheerleading the economy and wall st. but Jay Powell should know better.

  39. Chris from Dallas says:

    It now takes an average of 5.2 years to graduate with a 4 year degree, excluding those who do not graduate!

    For too many, college is like a summer camp, with tons of intramural sports, over 60% in frats/sororities (we are in the south), too much drinking, drugs, and addictive video games, followed by short periods of cramming.

    If I had been a better parent I would have forced my boys to pay for college themselves, but then they would have done what I did and not graduated.

    I did require they start working at 15 and every summer through college, but not during school. I also got them to take credits at the community college, which cut costs and helped 1 graduate on time, and 1 missing it by just 1 class.

    Yes, Blue Collar jobs can be very financially rewarding, but I deal with many of these people on a regular basis and can tell you that most of their lives are severely constrained financially.

    Exceptions in supply-limited jobs and those that own businesses and do very well are just that, exceptions.

    Perhaps the best reason for college is that it gives hope… even for the person working at Starbucks.

    I’ve come to believe that, like the guy who only has to outrun his friend to escape the bear, it doesn’t matter that education has been dumbed down, it is still an extremely valuable differentiator. And is only becoming more important with all of the online submittals of resumes.

    The caveat should be that it be done on a pay-as-you go basis, without burdening your future or your parents’ future.

    That said, I fervently believe that ultimately the primary components of success are drive, problem-solving ability, people skills, and integrity.

  40. Unamused says:

    I didn’t go to school to avoid unemployment, or to meet girls, or to evade conscription, or because my parents forced me, or to get a better job.

    I went to school because I liked to learn. The world is full of fascinating things to find out about. Lattice gauge theory wasn’t easy, but it’s fun. It’s supposed to be fun, and if learning isn’t fun for you, you’re doing it wrong.

    Those things you learn without joy you will forget easily. Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. Education is teaching our children to desire the right things.

    For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
    Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      You are so right. The purpose of school is to teach people to self-educate themselves. That lasts a lifetime. The purpose of college is to provide libraries and laboratories and experienced consultant/mentors. It should not be “if I follow this set of instructions I will get a nice job.” I actually figured this out in 5th grade.

  41. gorbachev says:

    Re- less men in college.

    The way education has changed favors women.Inclusiveness,

    shared knowledge etc.Men on the other hand learn best

    using rote.Think basketball.1000 shots doing the same thing

    over and over and over.But for men it works. We need more

    men in higher education .I don’t think rote is the answer

    but our current methods are not working well.

    • Unamused says:


      Would you agree that perhaps young men are under more pressure to succeed than are young women, and in different ways, and from a very young age? Performance anxiety can be paralysing. If more women than men are in college, it may be because some men may prefer to avoid failure by not trying.

      If the child is not learning the way you are teaching, then you must teach in the way the child learns. It is not so easy to repair broken adults, so one must be careful not to damage them as children. We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.

  42. njbr says:

    Perhaps the simplest explanations are the best (and accurate)…

    More women in college than men? Not a mystery when you realize there are many more decent paying job options for men without a degree, as opposed to women. (Construction, etc..)

    The men vs. women percentage has actually closed a little bit in the last decade…see

  43. Cobalt Programmer says:

    I know the morning tea is going to taste super when I saw the title of the post. Comment section is totally lit up. One more suggestion. Include a button to share it social media facebook, twitter and others. The only link sharing is email it to a friend. Drag yourself to 2020s. The insta-age.

    • Ripp says:

      Wolf posts all of the articles on his Twitter. I think that’s his only social media “presence”


    • Wolf Richter says:

      Cobalt Programmer,

      I used to have those buttons on this site. But those harmless-looking cutesy-wootsy buttons are actually tracking code that would track all my readers across the internet long after they leave my site, and after I figured that out, I got rid of those buttons and the tracking code. Facebook’s Like button is the worst. But they’re all doing it.

      • Just Some Random Guy says:

        “I used to have those buttons on this site. But those harmless-looking cutesy-wootsy buttons are actually tracking code that would track all my readers across the internet long after they leave my site, and after I figured that out, I got rid of those buttons and the tracking code. Facebook’s Like button is the worst. But they’re all doing it.”

        Thank you for doing that Wolf.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        Wolf I cannot thank you enough for barring these damned social media buttons. I still run TCPView from time to time to see how many servers have stealth connections. It is pathetic and disturbing.

  44. Prof. Emeritus says:

    There’s a graduate/non-graduate equilibrium maintained by the job market, though it has quite a few years delay. A classic bad example is Russia, which – during the Soviet days – artificially pushed the number of graduates to the sky (Russia has the highest precentage of degree-holders) and college-attendance remained relatively high even lately, until Putin slashed the numbers a few years ago, since most graduates were unable to find graduate jobs and the market started prefering quality over quantity.
    Yet, I must oppose those who advocate against young people attending higher education. If one thing is great about the education system it’s the learning curve: it matches the human development fantastically. Early 20s is the best age to go to university – people who choose to delay it face a huge lost opportunity. Nobody will learn Riemann integrals or mechanics in the age of 40/50 – and certainly not through online courses. Those MOOC curriculums are great in providing a generic look at a specific field, but they do not provide scientific depth, which is key in understanding problems.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      BS. Some of the best software engineers (not coders) I have ever worked with were Russian women. Real lookers too.

      I self-taught myself Linux and BSD unix by downloading and installing them. With a phone modem. No on-line courses, just download and try again. i486 48MB machines (that’s Megabytes not Gigabytes). Linux 1.22 kernel. I was 47 years old and didn’t know Unix or BSD from squat. (I know – that dates me.) Why? I was disgusted with Micro$oft mendacity.

  45. cb says:

    BrianC – PDX says:

    “She did receive a 5k inheritance from the sale of her Grandfather’s farm in Kansas after his death. Which she took to D A Davidson and invested. Over time, with the miracle of compounding, this grew to allow:
    1) The payment of all of her medical bills over the last ~15 years of her life. About 1.6 to 1.7 million dollars.[1]
    2) The passing on of an estate valued at about 1 million to her three surviving children.”

    a reason to forego the expense of a degree, and instead invest that foregone expense …………………
    IF, you can find a D A Davidson
    AND, live in a time of terrific inflation and/or expansion

  46. Crush the Peasants! says:

    There is great opportunity in the USA, but I would say the bar is getting higher and higher for reasonable employment, and the worth of a degree lessening and lessening. In the industry within which I have been working since 1989, PhD’s and even MD’s are doing what a bachelor’s degree grad had done in the past.

    • Might I inquire what that industry is? If I’m to add this anecdote to my “opinion-pool” I’d like to know what the context is.

      Also, if this IS increasingly true across industries, that really compounds the rising costs of education. My dad’s Bachelor’s degree probably cost him $6k. One generation later, it’s 5x that. IF Master’s degrees are the new Bachelor’s, we’re pushing 10x the cost to achieve a similar career. Wow. On the flip side, programmers have gotten away with being self-taught for a while. Not so much anymore, but still possible.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      If I am upper corporate management do I spend $175,000 salary (plus benefits and resources) for a PhD or do I rent time on IBM’s Watson?

  47. Thomas says:

    The American experiment in widespread education to create an educated public capable of sustaining a democracy is ending. Education is once again becoming a privileged held only by the wealthy. This of course reinforces that only the sons and daughters of the rich can get into the few ‘good jobs’, as they now have Human Resources Watch Dogs making sure that they have the proper degrees and certificates to even apply for the job which in turn reinforces that only the sons and daughters of the rich can apply for such good jobs. The rest can fight on the garbage dump for scraps and try to survive as best they can.

    “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccesful rebellions indeed generally establish the incroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medecine necessary for the sound health of government.” – Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Paris, January 30, 17872

  48. Food for thought: College enrollment is down, but blood-donation is going gang-busters! US blood exports are worth more than our corn or soy! As Wolf likes to say, these are the GOOD times! And as I like to say, who are you going to trust, the official numbers or your lying eyes!

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