Universal Basic Income.
Clinton's just proposed free state college tuition. Which, great. If that goes through, maybe there will be some Federal dollars to make up for the decreases in state funding. But how much can free college really accomplish when a substantial number of matriculants arrive unprepared? When student characteristics account for as much as 87% of the variance in graduation rate, there's only so much an institution can do. Even the best-designed program, one that doubles the graduation rate, only gets you up to around 50%. Besides, most institutions aren't in a position to pony up an additional $4700 per student per year, even if such a program ultimately reduces the cost per graduate.
And even if we knock down every possible obstacle (?!) in order to get university diplomas into the hands of as many people as possible, what happens at the other end?
According to the folks at the New York Fed, "perhaps a quarter of those who earn a bachelor's degree pay the costs to attend school but reap little, if any, economic benefit." That's now, with 34% of American adults holding bachelor's degrees. Does anyone think that increasing the number of college graduates will make this better?
In the words of the NYT: The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job. It's necessary but not sufficient; graduates find that they've bought themselves a hunting license, not a golden ticket.
Middle-class jobs are disappearing "as industries with low average pay grow significantly and mid-range industries wither." Low-paying jobs are replacing midlevel ones.
Obviously (it's obvious to me, anyway) this is an issue that higher ed can't solve by itself. And credential inflation isn't going to fix this.
Universal Basic Income. It sounds intriguing to me, but I don't know enough about it. What do you think? What's the answer?