Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Master’s Degree Bubble Has Burst

By Professor Doom

      The student loan scam flooded our schools with students when it went into full swing over a decade ago—triggered by the 2008 crash/recession, when many “no degree required” jobs vanished, never to return. A half dozen or so years later, these students flooded the market with their shiny new degrees. 

       These students were told their degrees would be valuable, and before the degrees were awarded, they were, up to a point. Trouble is, much of the value of a degree comes from its scarcity. Most of the degrees, the common ones, were worth nothing in the job marketplace. 

     Many of those graduates floundered for a few years before deciding “hey, I need a graduate degree to get a good job.” The same vicious admissions officers who suckered people into getting worthless undergraduate degrees simply repeated the game, enrolling far too many people into Master’s degree programs.

      Whenever I look at people with unpayable college debt, invariably the largest numbers come from the poor souls to when back for graduate school, which can easily be twice as expensive as undergraduate, even for a 2 year degree like a Master’s degree.

       In any event, the cohort of students who got creamed by undergraduate loans starting in 2008 are now getting creamed by graduate loans. Word has gotten out that Master’s degrees (particularly in Fine Arts, but in many other fields as well) are basically worthless now, for many of the same reasons undergraduate degrees are of little value.

      In 2014, the 10 year projection for Master’s awarded was well over a million—our schools hugely expanded their graduate program, as the “leaders” running our system lack even rudimentary understanding of what they’re doing.

      In 2019, the 10 year projection is more like 840,000,  roughly a 20% drop. As this projection is from the same fools who estimated over a million in 2014, I suspect the drop will be much, much worse.

Analysis suggests projections of rapid growth in the master’s degree market were vastly overstated.


      The article I’m reading here phrases the bubble bursting as a question, but this is rubbish. With undergraduate enrollments falling, with widespread information of just how worthless most Master’s degrees are, this is only going to drop.

many colleges have overestimated the popularity of new degree programs. They may anticipate awarding hundreds of degrees per year, but the true number is often a single digit…

      The article doesn’t address it, but I would like to highlight the horrific mismanagement here. A college opens up a new program, say, a Master’s degree in Dog Breeding, and then uses adjunct, “temp” faculty to teach the dozen or so courses. The administration who came up with the idea gets a fat pay raise based on the ridiculously huge growth projections revolving around 10 year old data.

       And then perhaps half a dozen people sign up for the program. Huge money flows into administrative pockets for the loan money even when you have this disaster. But suppose 300 people ended up with a Master’s in Dog Breeding in a couple of years…what lunatic thinks there’s even a minute chance things will go well for more than a handful of the new graduates?

        Many Master’s degrees are based around very specialized topics. There are a few general degrees, and those have their own problems. 

      The Master’s in Education is the most common Master’s degree. Teachers have the loosest schedule, are most able to “take time off” from work to complete a degree program (more accurately, they’ll take most of their coursework over the summer). It’s all well and good, I suppose, but every examination (including my own) of these programs find them to be loaded down with ideology. Granted, “education theory” is such proven rubbish, repeatedly shown to harm students, that replacing that false knowledge with the false knowledge of ideology doesn’t sound all that horrible at first glance…but a look at our schools’ steady conversion into indoctrination camps for the ideology quickly reveals the massive extent of horror here. We really should just annihilate the Master’s in Education and instead insist on our teachers having actual degrees in the subjects they’re supposed to teach (instead of what we have now, where teachers all too often morph their subjects into ideological indoctrination).

Trace Urdan, managing director at Tyton Partners, agrees that the growth in the master’s degree market is a bubble fueled by the “basically unlimited funding” offered by Grad PLUS loans. But he doesn’t agree that the bubble has burst, at least not yet. Growth could easily pick up if the economy took a downward turn, he said.

      Seriously, the bubble has burst, despite what the guy above said. I used to never be asked by friends and family (most don’t know me as Professor Doom) about grad school, but now it’s a regular event. I do what I can to steer them away or guide them to what few programs remain which are viable…but years ago, everyone was always just so happy to see their kids go into grad school.

Thare still some good schools, some good plans…but far too many traps are laid out for the unsuspecting, and much like with undergraduate school, far too many were enrolled.

       Now, I concede that if we get the repeatedly predicted massive economic crash, then perhaps we’ll see massive growth in Master’s again…but I assure the gentle reader, this isn’t a good thing, as one reader reinforces:

We are conferring an astonishing amount of master's degrees in this country, to the extent that in cities like Boston and DC and San Francisco, they have become the de facto bachelor's degree.

     Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part that this bubble has burst, but the fact remains: it really should burst. We’re not doing any good churning out these degrees, any more than we were at the undergraduate level.


  1. I wince every time education degrees are mentioned; I've two well credentialed daughters in education (MA and PhD). I suspect that even in education there are areas of scarcity where a advanced degree can be valuable. Whether its value exceeds its cost is another question. Luckily, the PhD was largely scholarship paid and the MA is in parts of special education where few want to tread. (My MBA is 37 years old and exempt from the current discussion)

  2. The fact that the MA/MS is the new BA, yet they are still being churned out, makes me wince. These "enlightened" folks in the progressive-ideology-driven big cities clearly seem unable to grasp basic supply and demand principles.
    The worth of a degree at one time was the fact that not everybody has one (or "needed" one). Now, if everybody has one, then they are worthless. The next step visible down the slope...everybody needs a PhD for jobs that used to need a BA/BS.

  3. I had no idea what to do after getting my BA, so I went to graduate school to study library science. Now, I'm in a retail job that only requires a high school degree. I got my graduate degree just after the Great Recession. Libraries were not doing well and I was competing with recently laid-off librarians and new librarians coming out of school. It took me years just to get an interview at a library and, by then, it was stale.

    1. If communists understood supply and demand they wouldn't be communists

  4. Back in the early 90's Prof. Henry Mintzberg, who taught business at both McGill and the European University, criticized the new MBA trend. He framed it as the wrong people, at the wrong time, for the wrong reason. In his view, the "traditional" masters degrees were gained after someone with a baccalaureate had worked for a few years in their field, in order to understand how theory met reality. That meant context when returning to obtain the master's degree.
    He noted that the universities wanted to create a new "class" of people entering the workforce, and "inflate" what was needed to do the job. In the business context, he opined that a minimum of 5 years in the field was needed before returning for a master's, and 10-15 would be even better. For him, a 25 year old with a master's degree, entering the work force in the business field, would be a disaster. I can attest to that, having worked in labor relations for 35 years, the last 20 of which were dealing with the endless stream of clueless "young lions" with MBAs lecturing 20 year employees about their workplace.
    After thinking a great deal about it, my observation was that the trend wasn't restricted to MBAs.

  5. Looking at supply and demand, trades are what are needed now, and you can earn while apprenticing.
    Requires less 'education', you get more practical learning. Less time in college, therefor less debt, and a much better guarantee of getting a job upon certification.

  6. You wrote "the leaders running our system seen to lack a rudimentary understanding..." By your own statements in your many blogs you
    indicate the educational leaders aka college administrators are largely predatory, mercenary parasites who exist only to enrich themselves while destroying the lives of their victims.
    Most bloggers endlessly condemn the degeneration and extermination of
    most Americans but amazingly are clueless as to who the culprits are.
    Why? Our rulers are those we may not criticize.

  7. I know of very few who have degrees in engineering, chemistry, biology that are out of work. I know of many who have degrees in Library Science, Geography, Women's Studies, Basket Weaving, Black Studies, etc. who are working in the service industry outside of their major. Why do you think high schools are counseling these kids to major in fields where the only jobs available are in teaching and are fairly scarce? I've made a good living in engineering but during college I had no time for partying, fraternities, and such. Kids now days want the easy way out. You get what you work for if the goal makes sense. How much sense does it make to major in ... fill in the blanks.

  8. Academia has betrayed humanity on every level, degrees are for fools and idiots.

  9. The simple fact is that America doesn't need so many clerical employees. Have you ever gone to the Dentist? He's got five girls working behind the counter. The manufacturing trades; such tool and die maker, CNC operator, and machinist are nearly dead because all of our manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to China and Mexico. But those jobs won't return, because of excess legal liability, the unions, and E.P.A. regulations which can result in criminal charges for even a small infraction of the rules. Washington destroyed the economy through reckless deindustrialization, and then created the myth of the "White Collar Worker" which is great for them. All government employees are white collar workers: People who get paid a high salary to produce nothing. It's just like the Pentagon. The college loan scam was just part of an effort to make it appear as if a "credential" in itself warrants a high salary. What is a PHD in education really worth? In a Catholic Parochial School, about thirty thousand a year. But in a Public School, eighty thousand a year. It's a PHD! What is a Captain in the military worth? Also, about thirty thousand a year. But he's a Captain! Those stripes should pay at least seventy thousand a year. The whole deal is rigged to base everyone's salary on political considerations, rather than actual output. That's straight communism. Girls in particular love the system, because they don't like to work in factories. They like to answer the phone, and send e-mails. But they still want the big money, so they steal it by claiming that output is not what matters; credentials are what matter! So now we have millions of girls drawing huge salaries for answering the phone; and millions of men who get paid very little for heavy industrial labor. Everything is backwards.
    Putting things back in order will first require that salaries are based on the value of a person's output. Not on the value of a piece of paper. And then by eliminating payroll taxes, so that men don't get their paycheck stolen after it's been earned. And then by abandoning the entire "College Degree" formula. There's no value in a degree, and it proves nothing. If a company wants to hire a salesperson, or a manager, it makes no difference is that person is "credentialed". Attitude and experience are the only things which matter. So no more four year drug-parties. After high school, the kids should go to work. (If there's work to be found.) And finally, no more huge standing army. The framer's of our constitution made a big effort to stop this from happening. A standing army is the biggest waste of money imaginable. We are paying millions of people to watch T.V. and do nothing. So let's get rid of 80% of all military staff, and let the National Guard take-up the slack. Half the Pentagon can easily be shut down. When it's all done, we'll have free High Schools, run by parents. And lots of factories, which pay thirty dollars an hour. And a strong National Guard, staffed by unpaid volunteers. And low taxes, since Washington jobs won't pay more than twelve dollars an hour. And to finish the job, we'll make the practice of law and medicine open to anyone. No licensing. That way, paralegals can handle almost every situation. And herbal healers can treat sick people for a low price. In my opinion, every dime of loan money given to America's students was a trick. Washington knew perfectly well that the jobs wouldn't be there. So I would forgive all student loans, and I would end the credentialing process which puts a stamp of approval on hundreds of useless degrees. So if a person wants to obtain a Phd in Data Science, that's fine. But he has to pay for it with his own money, and the degree won't be recognized by any official body. It will just be a piece of paper. Pieces of paper aren't worth anything.