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四六级考研

“学历军备竞赛”可以休矣

文字:[大][中][小] 2018-12-12    浏览次数:466    


大学学位

学历军备竞赛可以休矣

高等教育规模逐步扩大,回报却不断下降。中学毕业生需要其他选择

University degrees

Time to end the academic arms race

As higher education expands, returns are falling. School-leavers need other options

THERE are plenty of good reasons for a young person to choose to go to university: intellectual growth, career opportunities, having fun. Around half of school-leavers in the rich world now do so, and the share is rising in poorer countries, too.

Governments are keen on higher education, seeing it as a means to boost social mobility and economic growth. Almost all subsidize tuition—in America, to the tune of $200bn a year. But they tend to overestimate the benefits and ignore the costs of expanding university education. Often, public money just feeds the arms race for qualifications.

As more young people seek degrees, the returns both to them and to governments are lower. Employers demand degrees for jobs that never required them in the past and have not become more demanding since. In a desperate attempt to stand out, students are studying even longer, and delaying work, to obtain master’s degrees. In South Korea, a country where about 70% of young workers have degrees, half of the unemployed are graduates. Many students are wasting their own money and that of the taxpayers who subsidize them.

Spending on universities is usually justified by the “graduate premium”—the increase in earnings that graduates enjoy over non-graduates. These individual gains, the thinking goes, add up to an economic boost for society as a whole. But the graduate premium is a flawed unit of reckoning. Part of the usefulness of a degree is that it gives a graduate jobseeker an advantage at the expense of non-graduates. It is also a signal to employers of general qualities, such as intelligence and diligence, that someone already has in order to get into a university. Some professions require qualifications. But a degree is not always the best measure of the skills and knowledge needed for a job. With degrees so common, recruiters are using them as a crude way to screen applicants. Non-graduates are thus increasingly locked out of decent work.

In any case, the premium counts only the winners and not the losers. Across the rich world, a third of university entrants never graduate. It is the weakest students who are drawn in as higher education expands and who are most likely to drop out. They pay fees and sacrifice earnings to study, but see little boost in their future incomes. When dropouts are included, the expected financial return to starting a degree for the weakest students dwindles to almost nothing. Many school-leavers are being misled about the probable value of university.

Governments need to offer the young a wider range of options after school. They should start by rethinking their own hiring practices. Most insist on degrees for public-sector jobs that used to be done by non-graduates, including nursing, primary-school teaching and many civil-service posts. Instead they should seek other ways for non-graduates to prove they have the right skills and to get more on-the-job training.

School-leavers should be given a wider variety of ways to gain vocational skills and to demonstrate their employability in the private sector. If school qualifications were made more rigorous, recruiters would be more likely to trust them as signals of ability, and less insistent on degrees. “Micro-credentials”—short, work-focused courses approved by big employers in fast-growing fields, such as IT—show promise. Universities should grant credits to dropouts for the parts of courses they have completed. They could also open their exams to anyone who wants to take them, and award degrees to those who succeed.

Mutually assured instruction

Such measures would be more efficient at developing the skills that boost productivity and should save public money. To promote social mobility, governments would do better to direct funds to early-school education and to helping students who would benefit from university but cannot afford it. Young people, both rich and poor, are ill-served by the arms race in academic qualifications, in which each must study longer because that is what all the rest are doing. It is time to disarm.

年轻人选择上大学有很多好理由:增长才智、就业机会、寻找乐趣。现在富裕国家大约一半的中学毕业生会进入大学,在贫困国家这一比例也在上升。

 

政府热衷于高等教育,视之为提高社会流动性和促进经济增长的手段。几乎所有的国家都提供学费补贴,在美国,这一补贴每年高达2000亿美元。但它们往往高估了扩大高等教育的益处,而忽视了其成本。很多时候,公共资金不过是在支持一种学历军备竞赛。

 

追求学位的年轻人越来越多,学位的回报便随之降低,对他们自己和政府来说都是如此。对于那些过去并没有学位要求的工作职位,雇主现在提出了要求,而这些工作并没有变得更难。为了能脱颖而出,学生们拼尽全力,进一步延长求学时间,延后工作来获得硕士学位。在韩国,大约70%的年轻劳动力有大学学位,而失业者中有一半是大学毕业生。许多学生在浪费自己的钱,也在浪费资助他们的纳税人的钱。

 

在大学教育上花钱通常受到一个理由的支撑——“毕业生溢价”,即大学毕业生比非大学毕业生赚得多。人们认为,这些个人所得累积起来对整个社会是一种经济推动。但毕业生溢价是一个有问题的计算指标。学位的一部分用处是给了大学毕业生求职上的优势,而这是以非大学毕业生的相对劣势为代价的。学位也向雇主传达了一个信号,表明求职者具备聪明和勤奋等综合素质——他们能考上大学就少不了这些。有些职业对资质有要求。但学位并不总是衡量工作所需技能和知识的最佳尺度。学位如此常见,结果成了招聘人员筛选求职者的一种简单粗暴的方法。结果,非大学毕业生越来越多地被那些体面的工作拒之门外。

 

无论如何,毕业生溢价只计算了赢家,而未包括输家。在发达国家,有三分之一的大学生未能毕业。因高等教育扩张而得以入学的是那些能力最弱的学生,最有可能退学的也是他们。这些学生支付学费并牺牲工作机会来学习,但这对他们未来的收入鲜有帮助。如果把退学者也计算在内,能力最弱的学生攻读一个学位的预期财务回报几乎趋近于零。在大学可能带来的价值上,许多中学毕业生都被误导了。

 

政府需要向中学毕业的年轻人提供更广泛的选择。它们应该从反思自己部门的雇佣方式入手。大多数政府坚持要求申请公共部门职位的人有大学学历,而在过去,护理、小学教师和许多公务员等职位都是由非大学毕业生担任的。政府应该寻求其他途径,让非毕业生证明他们拥有合适的技能,并让他们接受更多在职培训。

 

社会应提供更多途径,让中学毕业生在私营部门获得职业技能、展示就业能力。如果学校在颁发资质证书时变得更细致严谨,招聘人员就更有可能相信它们是能力的信号,也就不再那么执着于学位。在这方面,“微证书”带来了希望——这些就业导向的短课程已经获得IT等快速成长领域里的大雇主认可。大学应该给予退学者他们已经完成课程的学分。高校还可以将自己的考试向任何想参加的人开放,并向通过考试者颁发学位。

相互逼迫上书山

 

这些措施将更高效地让人们发展那些能提高生产率的技能,应该还可以节省公共资金。为了促进社会流动,政府最好将资金投入早期学校教育,并帮助那些能从大学获益但又负担不起开支的学生。在这场学历军备竞赛中,青年人无论贫富都深受其扰,每个人都必须花更多的时间求学,因为其他人都在这么做。是时候裁减军备了。


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