The Higher Education Bubble - Part 1

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Dallas, TX

Higher education has always been linked with conventional degrees and diplomas from accredited colleges – and promises a lifetime’s worth of experience and stellar career opportunities. Job sites, higher education institutions, and regulatory bodies have pushed such opinions.

That hardly comes as a surprise. These places have millions of dollars to gain from continued learner interest in conventional educational channels.

IT giants such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, consider learnability a career potential indicator, which helps in maximizing  ROI. Yet, specific gnawing questions exist, such as “Is there any actual learning happening in colleges?”, “Does higher education lead to higher income?” and “Is higher education from conventional sources even worth it?”

Let’s discuss why these concerns are more relevant than ever in today’s scenario.

The Current Higher Education Scenario

Getting into an accredited college for a professional degree was a launchpad for a successful career. At a time, a college degree was a guaranteed ticket to a high-paying job. Parents were willing to take on massive debt or let their kids compete for lucrative scholarships as long as their children got into the best schools. 

But that’s hardly the case anymore.

The current higher education scenario seems bleak. Pitched against the ongoing skilled labor shortage, things are expected to become even more troubling. Colleges and universities saw a historic decline in enrollments for the academic year 2021–22 when nearly 500,000 fewer undergraduate students opted for formal degrees and diplomas. 

To make matters worse, the gap between industry expectations and the academic output of higher education institutions is widening with each passing year. Although there is a high demand for professionals in highly skilled and strategic roles, the current crop of graduates cannot even fill entry-level jobs. Students with enviable degrees are labeled ‘educated’ but remain unskilled.

All in all, the situation can rightly be called nightmarish. 

What Is Missing in the Current Higher Education?

Higher education is supposed to prepare students for rewarding careers and rewarding life. But the unemployment rate in US increases as the education level rises.

The 2020–21 period saw the most unemployed candidates with a postgraduate degree or above. This is because three crucial things are missing from the current higher education system:

Low Emphasis on Skill Development

As the industry moves towards progressive AI adoption and systematic digital transformation, the demand for Technical skills, even at entry-level jobs, is increasing. But alas, conventional academia cannot keep pace with the changing needs of the industry.

Standard degree programs are designed to develop knowledge and understanding of technical concepts. However, this remains limited to theory, and real-life, transferable skills are not developed. Consequently, even after obtaining degrees from top-tier colleges, students find themselves with no concrete skills and remain unemployed.

Missing Network and Opportunities

Great career opportunities don’t just come knocking on your door once you complete your degree. Similarly, a high CGPA doesn’t guarantee a high-paying job. For a future in such a job market, you need access to a network of companies seeking skilled talent and exposure to relevant job opportunities. 

Unfortunately, we’ve found that other degree colleges do not provide this support except for a few top higher education institutions. This leaves young graduates clueless when they start their careers and facing the risk of unemployment. 

Crippling Debt

The cost of higher education has touched the skies. Students pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from prestigious institutions often find themselves under a mountain of debt ($35,000 on average). This forces them to take on any available job instead of pursuing careers befitting their skills.

Outstanding ofstudent loans also make fresh graduates expect much higher salary packages than the industry is willing to pay for insufficiently skilled talent. This, in turn, is causing frustration and frequent attrition in the young workforce.

How Is Learning Evolving?

The industry and students have become increasingly disillusioned in recent years by the broken higher education system. The present opportunities do not justify the time and money spent on higher education. The number of opportunities is relatively low compared to the growing demand, financial aid, insufficient funding, exorbitant administrator costs, and higher costs asked for student amenities.

As conventional methods fail to provide sustainable career paths, students are considering alternative learning modes. Young professionals and high school graduates are opting for internships and entry-level job opportunities to gain relevant knowledge, experience, and skills.

Hence, in such a scenario, online training programs, coaching and learning centers, skill development courses, and boot camps are gaining relevance and acceptance amongst young learners. If this trend continues, higher education institutions may undergo a major overhaul to stay relevant and retain students’ interest.

Hence, this is what Gen Z learners and young professionals are asking themselves today: is the value of a four-year degree from an accredited institution more than almost every other source of education? Do degrees even matter anymore, or are the industry and society finally considering skills as the prime consideration for employability?

And if skills are most important, is organized higher education a bubble ready to burst?

To learn more about alternative modes of higher education, visit the Cogent University website.


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