Rantings and tirades of a frustrated economist.
This guy's from Abbott...of course he wants more science majors. A law firm would want more law majors. Fox News would want more journalism majors. An increase in supply would allow them to depress wages.One reason engineering jobs pay well is that few people can do the job. There's not that many with engineering talent going into sociology anyway. The supply of engineering talent is inelastic.I'm in the computer biz. Most of my colleagues were lured into the field by promises of good pay, but are mentally unsuited for the job, and the result is mediocre performance. Recruiting more people into the computer biz will improve the size but not the quality of the recruitment pool. This helps employers because they don't have to pay as much, to the detriment of the talented employees. It's also great for managers, who can cover their own incompetence by blaming their failures on the low quality of their employees.
If tuition were charged and loans granted based on the expected average income of college majors, we'd have a much better allocation of majors.There have been times with a glut of engineers, but those engineers found meaningful work in the meantime and many found their way back into engineering. If they didn't, it's because they found more lucrative uses for their skills. Highly skilled people are always in demand, somewhere.It's fallacious to say that if we get more engineers, mathematicians, or computer scientists it will lower their wages. That is taking labor demand for their skills as fixed. As the supply of highly skilled labor increases, new companies and ventures will be formed. Wages might be lower in the beginning, but wages will expand across the field later. There will be more competition, more research and development, and more technological innovation. Rather than thinking of the comparative statics model of the supply and demand for computer scientists, think about the Production Possibilities Model. An increase in highly-skilled labor expands production possibilities. We can have more computer programming and more of everything else too!Lower wages are not necessarily a problem either. They might be for YOU, but not for the ECONOMY. In an efficient economy, everyone is paid according to their marginal revenue product and not a dollar more. Lower wages means higher profits, higher production, and lower costs.What the Captain is getting at, though, is that many majors are not productive in ANY industry outside of academia, non-profits, and government. Conferring degrees on these people DOES NOT expand our production possibilities very much.In academia, they have Sociology majors only for the sake of keeping Sociology professors employed. Many universities make these courses REQUIRED only to keep these worthless departments alive. They brainwash students with their leftist agendas, but their value-added to our society is minimal. These people working in non-profits are nothing but political advocates masquerading as do-gooders. People who run non-profits make TONS of money and usually treat their minions poorly. If they are effective at all, they merely treat symptoms of social distress. Worse is when they are not effective or counterproductive to society. Such is the case with ACORN.These majors, employed in government, become the petty bureaucrats who waste taxpayer dollars. Otherwise, they'd be incapable of earning a living.Not everyone can be a good engineer, mathematician, or computer scientist even if they complete a degree. A degree is the MINIMAL demonstration of ability. Some have argued (and I think they're correct) that education is more of a weeding-out mechanism for high and low ability people. Most of the earning-power you will develop comes on the job.If we take the Obama path, we'll end up with lots more people with worthless degrees. They are low ability people masquerading with the same degrees as high ability people. Employers will have to find new ways to distinguish high from low ability. We'll also end up with millions more people with mountains of student loan debt, subsidized and guaranteed by Uncle Sugar.I'm not saying that Sociology, Anthropology, English, Library Science, Philosophy, History, Art and Theater have NO productive, societal, or pedagogical value. I'm saying that their value is distorted by preferential government incentives which creates more of them than the market will bear. Unfortunately, academia and government have a way of bearing quite a bit more than they should.The original "liberal arts" tradition was education for education's sake, not for the pursuit of a career. Those people were mostly the sons of wealthy men and studied in their fathers' libraries with the finest tutors. Liberal Arts was the luxury of the wealthy. It's obvious that, today, people pursue these courses of study, examination, and research as a means to employment.
I'm sorry Mr. Anonymous, the supply of people who can obtain science and engineering degrees is not inelastic. I hold two University degrees (one in Computer Science and the other in Pure Mathematics) in spite of having a learning disability. What is inelastic is the supply of people in North America who are willing to put in the work to get a degree that offers value.The reason why there are so many bad software developers (and IT Support people) is not because they’re graduating people who were unsuited for the position; they’re bad because when universities, colleges and tech schools increased admittance they lowered standards because the new students were unwilling to put in the same level of effort to get their degrees as people who graduated before hand. I spent a couple of years at a college before transferring to my University, and at my college they had the philosophy that they would provide (basically) unlimited help to students to get through courses but they wouldn’t lower standards (regardless of how many students were accepted). Talking to professors at the college taught me that the number of students seeking help did not increase even though their attendance more than doubled except the day before mid-terms or final exams; they tended to have 5 to 10 people in the math help room (that had a professor and TA in it at all times) regardless of attendance except at exam time where it was constantly packed. The University I went to did not have the same philosophy, and all of us who transferred found the workload trivial while 1/3 of the class complained about it being too much work or the work being too hard. I remember one assignment for a third year course where we were given a 1000 line application with one empty function (which was clearly commented) that we had to write, while previous years had to write the entire application, and the whiny members of the class ended up getting the assignment delayed twice and then marked on a curve until I had a 150% mark on the assignment. Liberal Arts degrees are popular because they're easy, they don't provide well paying jobs because they don't offer much value in private industry and there are too many graduates with these degrees.Basically, every school I know of has a standard workload that is expected of their students for credit classes and most of them are in the range of 1 to 2 hours in preparation and 1 to 2 hours of review for each hour of lecture; this is why 3 courses (9 hours of lectures) are considered to be a full time student and 5 courses (15 hours of lectures) is a maximum workload. When I see a student who consistently puts in 60 hours of work a week outside of lectures and still can not pass all their courses in Engineering or Science I will believe that there are some people who just aren't suited for these career paths.
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