Freakonomics Radio took a look at the value of education and the dark-side of educational credentials (fake diplomas!) in their latest podcast week. Stephen Dubner, the host, pointed out where we stand today:
You can be whatever you want to be. We say that a lot—parents to kids especially. But what we really mean is: You can be whatever you want to be, but first you need a college degree. Now, degree mills exploit our collective college anxiety, and they tell people: don’t worry about the education, it’s the piece of paper that gets you the job. Plus, a real degree is expensive, not only the money itself, but four years of your life. And, especially when the economy is crummy, it’s unclear if that investment is paying off.
Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who co-authored the book Degree Mills: The Billion-dollar Industry That Has Sold over a Million Fake Diplomas, estimates that about 1% of all degrees awarded each year in the U.S. are from diploma mills. Percentage-wise it sounds small, but there are more than a million degrees granted annually. Each fake degree, devalues the real degrees so many students spend years and hard earned money to earn.
Steven Levitt, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and co-author of the Freakonomics books noted the economist’s perspective – and the good news for anyone who has invested years and money in education:
The best way I think an economist thinks about the value of education is tries to figure out how the market rewards it and what other benefits come with it. And one thing is clear is that the market puts a tremendous reward on education. So the best estimates that the economists have are that each extra year of education that you get is worth about maybe an eight percent increment to your earnings each year for the rest of your life. So it turns out for most people buying a lot of education, or at least for the average person let me say, buying a lot of education is a really good deal.
I highly recommend listening to their podcast – and the second part coming out this week!