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Have We Reached a level of Graduate Degree Saturation --> Making Society Worse Off?


GradSchoolGrad
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Lately, I have been hearing about this argument that our hyper-partisan + divisive society is attributed to how we have too many people with graduate degrees given the marketplace demand. Article in the economist is here:

https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2020/10/24/can-too-many-brainy-people-be-a-dangerous-thing

Just curious about what people think about this? 

Anecdotally, I have noticed an expectations frustration gap. This is whereby people get admitted to a graduate program and think the brand of the degree + school should carry them through, but then get really frustrated when they realize the potential outcomes mismatch their expectations. 

As someone with two graduate degrees (and having contemplated a 3rd), I realize this is ironic for the question coming from me. However, I'm all about listening to all perspectives, even if is critical of my own choices.

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For the marketplace, this is likely to be dependent on the degree.  MBAs, most likely.  Ph.D. in marine biology, not so much. 

I am a bit older (much older, perhaps?) and saw this tendency towards graduate school hit full-force around 2010 as a consequence of the recession during that time.  This was the first time in my life when I saw people older than myself going back to school for MS degrees and the occasional Ph.D. in large numbers.  The reason, it seemed, was a combination of the desire to earn more money and achieve the type of job security it was believed could only come from a higher degree.  This time also saw undergrads deciding to stay in school by pursuing graduate degrees to either stave of repayment of loans and/or to put some distance between their graduation date and an improved economy. 

Certainly there are those out there who believe that the degree combined with the name of the school is the path to a comfy life,  but some also believed the same with undergraduate institutions during the 2000s.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree with @Crucial BBQ regarding MBAs vs. PhDs. I don't believe we have reached saturation because the graduate school environment is shifting quite rapidly. From DEI initiatives to advocacy for alternate career paths, individual programs are beginning to transform what graduate school means and offers. Similarly, programs are becoming interdisciplinary and/or increasingly collaborative, which complement the diversification of job opportunities within the marketplace. The main issue regarding the impact of degree saturation on society is the intent/reasoning behind applying. For example, there may be societal impact if many people view PhD training (4-6 year commitment with low pay and intense work hours) as a means to an end (e.g. for job security).

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I'm going to need to stop and read the article. it's an interesting thought for me beforehand as someone with a MSW (normally looked at as a terminal degree) and getting the often looked at as unnecessary doctorate, where there are relatively few PhD's the DSW's are becoming far more abundant and I could see the market becoming flooded by people thinking that all they need is to be called Dr and life will go smoothly. 

 

I'll follow up with more thoughts post my reading the article, thank you for posting this!

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  • 1 month later...

Really interesting topic. I don't have much to contribute but it did make me think of this article I read the other day about the "threat" American ideals (embedded through the US higher ed system) are posing to French society: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/09/world/europe/france-threat-american-universities.html

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4 hours ago, chai time said:

Really interesting topic. I don't have much to contribute but it did make me think of this article I read the other day about the "threat" American ideals (embedded through the US higher ed system) are posing to French society: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/09/world/europe/france-threat-american-universities.html

Funny. As much idealism there is in American Universities, I actually find them to be relatively focused on career opportunities, especially compared to European counter parts. American schools spend so much time and effort on career services programs and experiential learning that ex-North America schools don't do to the same scale. 

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21 minutes ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

Funny. As much idealism there is in American Universities, I actually find them to be relatively focused on career opportunities, especially compared to European counter parts. American schools spend so much time and effort on career services programs and experiential learning that ex-North America schools don't do to the same scale. 

I agree with that. I'd argue social media has had a larger influence on activism both in the US and abroad, perhaps the erudite nature of France makes them view it from that perspective rather than seeing the truth? But it's true that the US has far more social justice-y programs available like women and gender studies, African American studies, etc. That the French view it as a threat is something they need to work on.

Anecdotally, I do think differing education levels can cause divides. I'm a first-generation college grad, and a liberal in a Southern conservative family, so I can see how my ideals differ from theirs and how those ideals were strengthened by my humanities education. I think they get defensive when I try to discuss politics too-- especially if I try to cite historical evidence or a case study or something. They think I'm trying to lord it over them, when really I'm just trying to incorporate other views into my argument. In my experience, people with less formal education are informed by their lived experiences and those of the people near to them, which can lead to a narrower viewpoint. I don't really know what could be done about this other than representation and trying to bring back the library. Not sure if these thoughts answer your question but just something I was thinking about.

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On 2/10/2021 at 10:57 AM, chai time said:

Anecdotally, I do think differing education levels can cause divides. I'm a first-generation college grad, and a liberal in a Southern conservative family, so I can see how my ideals differ from theirs and how those ideals were strengthened by my humanities education. I think they get defensive when I try to discuss politics too-- especially if I try to cite historical evidence or a case study or something. They think I'm trying to lord it over them, when really I'm just trying to incorporate other views into my argument. In my experience, people with less formal education are informed by their lived experiences and those of the people near to them, which can lead to a narrower viewpoint. I don't really know what could be done about this other than representation and trying to bring back the library. Not sure if these thoughts answer your question but just something I was thinking about.

Anti-Intellectualism is unfortunately a big presence within conservatism, evangelism, and right wing ideology. I agree that public libraries and access to information & higher education have a big part to play in combatting this. 

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