College: A Terrible Return-on-Investment for Nearly Half of Working Americans

Posted: Jan 28, 2013 2:00 PM

It's a simple fact that in 2013 more people are attending -- and graduating -- from college than ever before. This doesn't mean that students are necessarily better off, however. According to a new study conducted by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, about half of college graduates are overqualified in their line of work (via Red Alert Politics):

Nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are in jobs for which they're overqualified, a new study out Monday suggests.

The study, released by the non-profit Center for College Affordability and Productivity, says the trend is likely to continue for newly minted college graduates over the next decade.

"It is almost the new normal," says lead author Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist and founder of the center, based in Washington. …

Vedder, whose study is based on 2010 Labor Department data, says the problem is the stock of college graduates in the workforce (41.7 million) in 2010 was larger than the number of jobs requiring a college degree (28.6 million).

That, he says, helps explain why 15% of taxi drivers in 2010 had bachelor's degrees vs. 1% in 1970. Among retail sales clerks, 25% had a bachelor's degree in 2010. Less than 5% did in 1970.

"There are going to be an awful lot of disappointed people because a lot of them are going to end up as janitors," Vedder says. In 2010, 5% of janitors, 115,520 workers, had bachelor's degrees, his data show.

These statistics suggest that the singular reason why college graduates are taking jobs for which they are overqualified is because the economy simply isn’t growing fast enough -- and there’s a dearth of opportunity in the labor market. Meanwhile, higher payroll taxes and trillion dollar-plus deficits are contributing to America’s stagnant economy. As Paul Ryan articulated on the Meet the Press last weekend, challenging the status quo – and reducing the size and scope of government -- is perhaps the only way Republicans can begin ushering in a new era of opportunity and prosperity:

Incidentally, after a devastating presidential election in 2012, many on the right are debating ways the GOP can move forward as a party and widen their appeal. And one way to do that is for Republicans to become -- and to be recognized as -- the party of opportunity. Governor Bobby Jindal touched on this important point during his fiery speech at the Republican National Committee in Charlotte, North Carolina last week:

Instead of worrying about managing government, it’s time for us to address how we can lead America… to a place where she can once again become the land of opportunity, where she can once again become a place of growth and opportunity.

We should put all of our eggs in that basket.

Yes, we certainly do need folks in Washington who will devote themselves to the task of stopping this President from taking America so far off the ledge that we cannot get back.

We must do all we can to stop what is rapidly becoming the bankrupting of our federal government.

But we as conservatives must dedicate our energies and our efforts to growing America, to growing the American economy, to showing the younger generations how America can win the future.

Pandering to individual constituencies in order to win elections is a fruitless and costly endeavor. Instead, Republicans need to do a better job explaining why the free enterprise system -- not big government -- benefits everybody (not just “the rich”) and will inevitably lead to more jobs and prosperity.

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