Discussing higher education, jobs, and inequality with Tony Carnevale

Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce CEWThis past Thursday the Future Trends Forum hosted professor Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.  Our discussion explored higher education and its many connections to economics, from how to support first-generation college students to the role academia plays in exacerbating economic inequality.  That last point became the hour’s major theme.

The hour was so rich that I wanted to share it all here.  Plus I wanted to make available parts that not everybody got to experience.

First, here’s the full session recording:

Second, a huge number of questions came in – ultimately around 30, including one a Forum friend who couldn’t make it asked me to pose plus a couple hoisted from the chat. They were so productive that we couldn’t get to all of them in the single hour we had, so here are the unposed queries and comments, since you can hear the asked questions in the video above. I have anonymized each questioner and commentator.

Comments:

Dr. Carnevale’s idea in the Chronicle for ROI-based pricing might help bring higher ed costs down a bit, but the real culprit for the high costs is the four-year degree and its excessive seat time.

“Brutal efficiency” is why today’s higher education exacerbates inequality, whereas previous generations (from post-WW2 to 1980?) promoted social mobility.

Questions:

Why “good job” rather than developing agency to find one’s vocation?

Can you talk about the financial model of research institutes that publish on higher ed and the economy? How do these institutes make money while avoiding political pressures from granters?

How can we model inequality? Are we winning or losing?

To what extent do you believe that the problems are caused by “signalling” as described by Bryan Caplan – and thus very difficult to fix? Otherwise, what do you see as possible solutions?

Given recent consolidation in higher ed (mergers, closures, “queen sacrifices”), do you anticipate more “carve out of the middle” within the higher ed ecosystem?

Upward mobility? What about downward mobility?

Unfortunately, “tribalism” is well and alive in many hiring companies/institutions, and many times does not even give a chance to compatible candidates. How can we prevent such segregation?

You say we know how the system works economically, but we don’t tell the students. Can you please share what students should be told? And how does the message differ based on class?

What is the real value of a college education if the “ROI” when generationally Gen Z’ers are not forecasted to earn more than their parents, yet more students are “college-ready”?

Forum_Carnevale_Jordan question

One question we did get to.

Third, here is the chat transcript.  I have anonymized everyone except myself, one participant as named author of a relevant book, our guest (who was named, but didn’t post) and a few Forum community members others singled out for praise (which I’m happy to second and share).  I have also rearranged some exchanges to make them flow better, as well as to fit more closely together under topical headers.  Lastly, I took care of a few typos, contractions, making hyperlinks active, etc.

On higher ed preparing students for good jobs:

So are we preparing students for only the marketplace or prepare students to lead productive lives (nods to Dewey)?

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” – Dewey

in my well worn paper copy of Dewey’s 1938 page 18 tells me the purpose of education “is to prepare the young for future responsibilities and for success in life”. When did he say it is life itself? I would agree with that, btw.

You have to ask what “good” and “successful” (per Dewey’s definition) really mean.

Dewey was making the point “education” is not separate from the business of life. That we are always learning. But please don’t make me try to explain Dewey in a chat window.

Bryan N Alexander: We should do a Dewey reading.

So those without education are without life? Hmmm!

Higher ed is not a “pathway to the middle class”

Possibly a moot point. Who can afford either?

Right. Too expensive!

Wow, we’re loaded for bear today..

Define “good job.”

Good is a misused adjective in HE

Definition of good job from the report seems to be about income… no other aspects considered?

NO social institution is forever. What comes next?

Pierre Bourdieu on reproduction of social class

When did education stop being a public good (and financed as such) rather than a personal good financed by families

The problem is the path to “good jobs” requires four-year degrees, which are a huge obstacle in time and money, especially for the poor.

I’ve been an advocate for more career and education counseling for high school students and have read you comments on it. Can you elaborate more on your thoughts about that.

Adjunct faculty have, by that definition, lousy jobs.

Let’s say more like 5 or 6 years not 4

45k regardless of where you’re located?

$22 an hour??

Plus there will never be as many “good jobs” as we want there to be. We are churning out so many graduates that there is the “educated underclass” that Gary Roth writes about

We need career counseling through career lifespans, not just at the beginning.

lol, yes, adjunct is not a good job!

Any job can be good

and half of our classes are taught by adjuncts

It’s the perspective

Shows what we value.

US Census 2004 puts $45k in Quintile 3.

I had been one in the those positions

most of us have at some point.

Yes, It was as good as I thought it was

What do we pay “good” parents?

“Integrate” what? Why?

$$$ always means good?

#endstagecapitalism

And of course our most important jobs are rarely considered “good”

yes  – off the hook

I don’t believe that.

I have had historically “GOOD” jobs

Hence my question.

a “good” job includes healthcare benefits

I’ve had good jobs without healthcare

What does it mean to lead a happy life? You can be rich and unhappy but you’re more likely to be unhappy if you’re really poor and constantly scrambling.

Preparing students for college and college preparing students for work:

the connection between bachelor’s in humanities and high income is not inherently causal.

But you have to ask if it makes sense to drive adjuncts to overwork just to survive.

Winners in Game. Hmm.

That’s a fascinating finding, general versus specific degrees, and how general is a long earnings game while specific degrees are a short earnings game

Goldthorpe 2000 found that edu decisions seek to attain the SAME CLASS as parents. Motivation is misaligned here.

yes, interesting. I wonder if these were integrated with humanities contextualized within professional programs might affect ability to find “good jobs”.

I have grad students who are not “college ready”.

“There’s nothing in Algebra 2 that’s going to get you a job.” – depends on how it’s taught. A lot of skills in Algebra 2 can be applied to programming. THAT will get you a job.

Human capital theory not dead yet?

since when did University become the farm team for US corporations??

Better prepared! Obviously Carnevale has never adjuncted in a community college

The four-year degree is not the “best thing going” when it ruins lives with debt!!!

Educated underclass!

Not to mention the soft skills that can be gained through algebra – working through problems, maybe struggling to understand something new, general education things – of course depends on the teacher

For those interested how Algebra II is used on the job, check out this research from CEW.

thanks for sharing the Algebra II post from CEW

of course. Happy to share other references if it’s helpful!

my barista at Starbucks will take offense

Higher education, economic class, and social inequalities:

Brutal efficiency? You mean wealth distribution?

The best way to get rich is to be rich.

…and White.

Are we still brutally efficient?

Everyone should try it.

who would finance anything important with real estate tax’

Zip code determinism?

The biggest tax loophole is the mortgage tax credit.

“Underclass?” Have you ever had a Ph.D. fix your plumbing?

Wow, that’s depressing!

sort by poverty how cynical.

Self-fulfilling prophecy feedback structures?

yes

higher education really does reinforce social class

Higher Ed exacerbates inequality

Carnevale sounds like a social darwinist. Only the deserving get ahead.

guided by corporate philanthropirates

how much genius do we waste by not finding with a less racist strategy

Is higher ed a mechanism for change or a perpetuator of the status quo?

I don’t want a plumber as my Dr. Surgeon well maybe only if he has experience LOL

I want my surgeon not to have lost their last 100 patients. Education is secondary.

Ouch

why doesn’t a Jesuit college like Georgetown have more poor people

I hope not

We need to give people the education that they need, not the education that we think they need.

That was an excellent question

Gary Roth rocks.

Why does education have to be bounded by admission and graduation?

Too bad our ratings system does not reward graduates’ upward mobility rather than some of the class-reinforcing metrics, e.g., $ spent/student, #valedictorians, reputation, etc.

States used to finance systems that education the top 1- percent of seniors at high schools in every zip code

Title IV scorecard?

Colleges and universities having problems in the new environment:

Aren’t all the drop out rates/ completion rates etc. for the most part in HE less than 50%?

Lazy rivers at your campus are a great marker for future success in the workplace.

Maybe the AA will be more important?

These questions are so good, glad to be here with so many brilliant minds

Agreed!

Yet a large number of the most powerful in this economy are/where college dropouts.

Florida to let veterans teach without bachelor’s degree

I am impressed by the description of the environment as it is. What ever happened to college mission to consider the right, the just, the true, and the beautiful??

Ivan Illich started that assault on the BA in the 1960’s

Collins 1979 pt’d out Illich did not address the stratification engine that ed is

Maryland no longer requires BAs

and spouses of veterans – all they need is 12 hours of observations last I heard

NO a retraining prob — a hiring dilemma

when I taught GED, coming up with an honest why for both algebra and writing — and developing assignments accordingly — was a must

A lot of topics frantically wound together:

New America? (The stat/report)

I am not sure –

several polls came out this month.

Here’s the New America survey.

Yep, that’s the one

Why not focus on making all jobs “good jobs”

In the 1970s, arguably, education was still a leveler. That’s the world Illich was looking at.

Polling is picking up that HE is elite ideology that is NOT in the interest of workers

Yes 🙂

There are two separate issues here: 1) The cost of education and 2) The efficacy of education. They need to be considered separately.

I’d say Illich was looking at the latter.

Awesome question!

At least he is union savvy

Thanks, this private vs public response is getting at my follow-up!

read Collins on Illich 1979/2019

Adjunct Faculty in Washington DC qualify for labor representation, and most Adjunct Faculty at Georgetown University are members of a SIEU local, per terms of their employment.

The Finnish model is a good one to look at as far as a country prioritizing its public higher education system. Virtually no private colleges in Finland compared to the number and power of public colleges

Yes to mental health

On higher education as a supporter of democracy

Zuck wrote the Truman Comm

No, ZOOK

I knew Zuck was an android. He’s R. Daneel Olivaw

Truman Report was nothing than Ivy League self-promotion

My colleague Bill Tierney just published a brilliant book, Higher Education for Democracy

the original mission of education which is the minimum requirement to run a republic

Haven’t talked yet about lifelong learning – college s lifetime acquiring of learning and skills. And breaking into the degree-centric system to build an incremental system – recognize learning along the way…

talked about George Zook, the author of the Truman Report. Look him up

Most college professors have never HAD a ‘real’ job or know how to get one. They’ve succeeded in the alternative world of academia. This is why vocational education (taught by practitioners) is more likely to help “get jobs.”

Lifetime learning can be seen as job security for HE

Bryan N Alexander: Yes, the California policy is “cradle to career.”

God forbid we care about people

👍🏻

Cal State explicitly says “cradle to career” in a few places and it is not always received well

Cradle to Career Data System

We get to see a side of Carnevale that DOES NOT show up in his studies

?

Unionist, adjunct advocate

gasp!

Speak more to the university’s purpose beyond degrees/credentialing? Is there a “public good” purpose that is social, not just economic?

Yeah. I love this crap about the 60-year-curriculum.

I worked for 25 or so years before getting back to finish my BA

ask Edmund Brown about reforming the entire system California Master Plan was the finest reform ever

John Warner discussed “public good” in July 27 IHE.

Carnevale’s activist side

Ah yes.

Natl Student Clearinghouse’s report finding moved #from 36 to 39 m who left college w/o any credential. Did millions learn nothing of value that could be credentialed? The system is not working for more than half of Americans

What kind of education system would we create now given our current needs and technologies?

we’ve been off Clark Kerr’s California higher ed mission for a while with no clear new mission

K-12 has legal “standard of care” but HE does not

could it be think adequately, communicate in several mediums adequately, and improve one’s community adequately?

Good Q @TH

Tom does ask doozies

#devil

how many of those 39M some college no degree students do you think could earn some form of microcredential if they were to return to complete?

build credential as you go system, incremental credentialing system

+++

Carnevale seemed relieved to be able to talk OUTSIDE his box!

Covid broke a weakened trade regime.

Apprenticeship …

this is a stellar convo! Excellent work by the room here

“Training” = education without agency.

Anyone got a link on TAA?

TAA

Corporate capitalism? or socialist capitalism via Collins 2013

Cliff Adelman years ago looked at & concluded pretty large number of students were really close to degree and left w nothing. We need ways to fill the holes and recognize valuable learning

Cliff is dead

Cliff was brilliant. I suspect that this is an issue that you are spending a fair amount of time on at GW. What should be looking for?

Government and business power should cancel each other out. That’s where you get liberty.

That’s what we’ve missed in our balancing act – government needs to balance business needs to balance the populace. We’ve lost this balance. When business and government align, the people are in trouble.

My advice – Figure out what you’re good at and do all you can to be the best at it.

SCOTUS disagrees with me.

#dcunited

Cliff’s data is not dead

TH another point in your favor

Some research on ROI suggests “in state” standard college – and of course STEM.

Lots of good questions

GU CEW report on A First Try at ROI is a fantastic report. Sits on my bookshelf.

Gonna share this (esp. 2nd half) with my students this fall! And with my career office.

stop making it about degree completion for starters.

The good news is learning doesn’t have to happen in a formal classroom

it never did.

precisely

Most learning happens outside the classroom if we’re honest about it.

as you know, convos about grad rates tend NOT to talk about learning. How to fix that…?

a provocative economist who knew. Thanks

That’s the $64,000 question

64k is not a lot these days.

We have significant dropping out all along system, undergrad and grad but meaningful learning not recognized

The business model in higher ed is about selling degrees. Any learning that occurs is often incidental to the process.

HE is dependent on the perceived worth of its credential.

loads of colleges understand intimately about the business model inefficiencies

Agreed!

+1

We’ve trained students that the degree is what matters, not learning.

be careful using the word power too

I ask that as an “original intent” affirmative action recipient

Looking ahead:

What outlook does Dr C see for online higher ed?

What can we do in higher education to break this cycle?

@Bryan based on this bring Dr. Carnevale back after the SCOTUS decision on affirmative action

The end:

hurray

And kudos @Bryan for herding these cats

who is asking these questions?????

Visit cew.georgetown.edu! @GeorgetownCEW on Twitter

Thank you 🙂

thanks!

Thank you.

Thanks

Thanks. I’m going to cry in the corner now. 🙂

Thanks again, Bryan for keeping the conversation going!

One nice note on Twitter:

Thanks to all who participated in this very intense and powerful conversation.

Please add your questions in comments. We’re also eager to hear suggestions for future guests on this topic.

 

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13 Responses to Discussing higher education, jobs, and inequality with Tony Carnevale

  1. Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

    Yes! This was fantastic!
    “We need to give people the education that they need, not the education that we think they need.” *** [[Or the education that marketers and advertising executives are telling them they need … for vague reasons… like ‘don’t be a loser’]]

  2. Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

    What was the comment about “I knew Zuck was an android. He’s R. Daneel Olivaw” in connection with George Zook, the author of the Truman Report.
    Anyone interested in the history of accreditation should read about how in the shadow of the Great Depression, the North Central Association eased standards, moving from the dreaded “blank” system to the “total map” assessment, which was a bar chart of sorts, very visual. Point is, they watered down accreditation standards (BTW and introduced the concept of “mission”!!!!) to accommodate struggling schools.
    I had to laugh when I saw this at wiki:
    “His specialty was modern European history. During World War I he worked in propaganda. In 1920 he began a 5-year stint as chief of the Division of Higher Education in the U. S. Bureau of Education.”
    But here is my point:
    “In 1946 President Harry Truman appointed Zook to chair a 28-member Presidential Commission on Higher Education that was given the charge of reexamining the U.S. system of higher education “in terms of its objectives, methods, and facilities; and in the light of the social role it has to play.” In 1947 the commission produced a six-volume report entitled Higher Education for American Democracy that recommended changes to expand opportunities for postsecondary education.”
    No wonder the Truman Report was higher ed self-promotion!

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Good critique and history, Glen.

      R. Daneel Olivaw is an robot character in an Isaac Asimov series.

      • Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

        No, George Zook was not a 19,000 year old robot — he died a year before I was born; he died in 1951. Nice try!

  3. Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

    What was the comment about “I knew Zuck was an android. He’s R. Daneel Olivaw” in connection with George Zook, the author of the Truman Report.
    Anyone interested in the history of accreditation should read about how in the shadow of the Great Depression, the North Central Association eased standards, moving from the dreaded “blank” system to the “total map” assessment, which was a bar chart of sorts, very visual. Point is, they watered down accreditation standards (BTW and introduced the concept of “mission”!!!!) to accommodate struggling schools.
    I had to laugh when I saw this at wiki:
    “His specialty was modern European history. During World War I he worked in propaganda. In 1920 he began a 5-year stint as chief of the Division of Higher Education in the U. S. Bureau of Education.”
    But here is my point:
    “In 1946 President Harry Truman appointed Zook to chair a 28-member Presidential Commission on Higher Education that was given the charge of reexamining the U.S. system of higher education “in terms of its objectives, methods, and facilities; and in the light of the social role it has to play.” In 1947 the commission produced a six-volume report entitled Higher Education for American Democracy that recommended changes to expand opportunities for postsecondary education.”
    No wonder the Truman Report was higher ed self-promotion!
    Here’s what he looked like
    https://web.archive.org/web/20091124070839/http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19330918,00.html

  4. Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

    The question came up “since when did University become the farm team for US corporations??” and Cristina Groeger, The Education Trap, presents the history of commerce and education in Boston 1880-1940 — especially relevant are the personal portraits and how Harvard college students broke up the telephone strike, unsuccessfully. But since Harvard college students considered themselves management in training, this is not surprising. Asking that question, I think, suggests the need for more historical reading.

  5. Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

    “Florida to let veterans teach without bachelor’s degree” applies to those able to pass the subject area competency exams — but, for districts unable to place teachers in classrooms, it is not unusual to hire someone without a BA or BS to teach.
    The situation at the community colleges is not dissimilar. In the past, colleges would hire someone off the street without graduate credits in the teaching discipline — for decades, the approach was, if they had a masters, they could teach anything except maybe the sciences/math. To understand this, you must realize SACS faculty standards “are the responsibility of the institution” in order to provide “flexibility” for the school, which means stds are delegated to the members themselves for compliance. During reaffirmation, faculty rosters are *sampled* for compliance by off-site teams in a hotel in Atlanta until they cannot see straight. None of this is in the interest of students.

  6. Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

    The question came up at 45:55: “What happens when the economic model that
    supports this system [of] (higher ed) no longer makes sense? What’s next
    when the people say the emperor has no clothes?”

    I did not ask it, but this question is very close to my heart and has been for a number of years. No one — not even science fiction writers! — can suggest something plausible and give their reasons for it.
    I say this as someone reading “School and Society Through Science Fiction” (1974), a collection of 21 stories from Philip K. Dick in 1954, Jerry Farber, Harry Harrison, Thomas Disch, Asimov, R. A. Lafferty, Poul Anderson, Howard Fast, and those that I am not familiar with — so far, all the stories (except one) are deeply dystopian and disturbingly pessimistic. Some are even painful to read. But no one says anything remotely plausible concerning the future of higher ed. Any ideas why?

    • Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

      Listening to Carnevale’s response to the question at 45:55, I was disappointed. Carnevale side-stepped the question by talking about economic systems, not the loss of legitimacy for the higher ed sector, or its collapse.
      Apprenticeship — indentured apprenticeship — is a good reminder that no social institution lasts forever — apprenticeship survived as a means of labor distribution and training for centuries in Europe, but by 1840 in the USA, it was destroyed by the industrial revolution, wage labor, and other changes in the work place. Gone!
      Clearly, higher ed trend lines are not sustainable — student loan debt will reach $2 trillion shortly, but what happens when it reaches $5 or $10 trillion? What happens when it reaches 50% or the GDP, or even 100%, as Randall Collins asks. Right now ROI is positive for the top 20% — what about the other 80%?
      As one sage has noted, when something can’t go on forever, it won’t.
      This is why the unanswered question is so important. The emperor already has no clothes, and sooner than later, people will know it. What happens then?

      • Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

        It seems that this particular question fell into Carnevale’s blind spot — but the question ‘What Comes Next’ IS a sector wide blind spot because it requires deflating the ideology that surrounds HE.
        Thinking out of the box means remembering learning is not limited to the classroom; it should be happening in families, communities, social networks of disciplines, and other social institutions. Sadly, as education expansion has increased and differentiated, it has by-passed the individual in terms of scale (a problem across society and now apparent in contemporary mass-level bureaucracies).
        Covid-19 has revealed cognitive deficits and institutional blind spots the size of a lost continent. This shouldn’t have happened; we need explore the lost continent for clues about why it did, starting with our social institutions.

      • Glen McGhee, FHEAP says:

        It seems that this particular question fell into Carnevale’s blind spot — but the question ‘What Comes Next’ IS a sector wide blind spot because it requires deflating the ideology that surrounds HE.
        Thinking out of the box means remembering learning is not limited to the classroom; it should be happening in families, communities, social networks of disciplines, and other social institutions. Sadly, as education expansion has increased and differentiated, it has by-passed the individual in terms of scale (a problem across society and now apparent in contemporary mass-level bureaucracies).
        Covid-19 has revealed cognitive deficits and institutional blind spots the size of a lost continent. This shouldn’t have happened; we need explore the lost continent for clues about why it did, starting with our social institutions.

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