Inequality in College Education

Feb 4th 2015



As Professor Miles briefly mention in the class today, the relationship between the education and its benefits (in other words, wealth or wages) is one of the most important issues in educational economics field. On February 3rd, Wall Street Journal talks about the gap in college graduation rates for the rich and the poor, generating another big social problem. According to a report from the University of Pennsylvania and the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher education, 77% of adults from the top income quartile earned at least bachelor’s degrees in 2013. It is a huge increase because there were only 40% people who got degrees in 1970. However, only 9% of people were from the lowest income bracket in 2013, being increased by 3% from the 1970.

Many people are worried about the situation because they think that “education” can be a solution for mitigating inequalities in wealth and society. “Education is one of the levers that we have in place to address income inequality. It offers the promise of achieving the American dream,” said Laura Perna, executive director of the Penn program. However, Melissa Korn, the writer of the article in Wall Street Journal, questions the fundamental reason of education. In other words, she wonders that education really improves the income inequality. “While the report focuses on college access and completion, one thing it doesn’t cover is whether there would be jobs for those students if everyone actually got a bachelor’s degree” said Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Neal McCluskey’s idea is, at least, true in Korea. Most Koreans agree with the statement that Korea has small territory with scarce resources, which mean we only have “human resources.” Clearly, many Korean parents take care about children’s education and wish their kids get at least bachelor’s degrees. As a result, there are a lot of college graduates who cannot find their jobs, and this becomes a serious social problem in the Korean society nowadays. Increase of unemployment rate in college degree holders is a more severe problem than other unemployment rates because bachelor’s degrees usually take a lot of costs. Many young Koreans waste their time, efforts and money to take bachelor’s degree although some jobs don’t need higher educations.

I believe social pressure in Korea should be eliminated because the society should take costs a lot. Many Koreans argue that we need to change the social structure and recognition which only college graduates can get jobs. In reality, the amount of those high quality jobs is limited and other simpler jobs have hard time to be filled because many graduates avoid applying on them (they want to get “better rewards” as they get through harsh college education). The whole situation is messy and really inefficient. Of course, as Wall Street Journal mentions, no opportunities or less opportunities of education for the poor, young people make the ladder smaller, which goes up to upper class. But, I want to emphasize that too much recognition for college-level education is inefficient as well as unnecessary.

One thought on “Inequality in College Education

  1. KT Lee

    One efficient solution this problem is to reduce a number of colleges in the U.S and South Korea. There are too many colleges and universities that do not deserve to be called ‘colleges and universities’. Look at Germany. Only 50% of high school graduates go to college, but there is hardly a social conflict caused by a low rate of college entrance; rather Germany has succeeded in allocating human resources efficiently and maintain a tile ‘The strongest one in Europe’. Just eliminate those disqualified colleges. That is the answer.

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