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Don’t feed the bubble


A columnist wrote Monday in his piece “Ignorance threatens bond passage” in support of this year’s ballot question called the Building Our Future Bond Act — an act which, if it were to pass, would authorize “$750 million in bonds for the purpose of ‘capital construction’ [of non-revenue-generating buildings] at institution of higher education all over New Jersey.”

Who wouldn’t want to “build our future” by making college more enticing to more prospective students? Who wouldn’t want to create greater opportunity for current students with new facilities?

It’s almost as if there’s no such thing as too much investment in higher education. Could there be such a thing as too many people with college degrees?

There was a similar line of thinking about home ownership in recent years. Former President George W. Bush thought owning a home part of the American Dream, and sought to encourage as many people as possible — people who might not have otherwise been able to afford a home — to buy one. What could go wrong?

Home prices inflated artificially. The result was the “housing bubble,” which would eventually burst and affect the entire economy. People eventually realized that homes were not worth their inflated price, and prices started taking their inevitable plunge, leaving many homeowners holding the bag.

Today, there is a similar importance placed on a college degree. Students enter the workforce with tens or hundreds of thousands in debt, only to find that the job they find (if one can be found) has nothing to do with their liberal arts degree. In coming years, it will be clear that those with degrees of such nature are entering the workforce with the equivalent of a subprime mortgage.

I suspect the failure to acknowledge that not everyone needs a college degree will lead to this bond act’s passage. Majoring in sociology is different than majoring in engineering. The sooner you can identify a bubble in the economy — particularly very large ones, like in higher education today and the bubble lesser-known by college students in the bond market (this will be a particularly nasty burst) — the more suffering among the investors (students) can be averted.

A good way to prevent this bubble from growing — to prevent more from being sucked in — is cutting public support. That means ending public aid and grants and voting against the bond act. It will be ugly. If the bubble is further inflated, it will be even more ugly.

Eric Antisell is a School of Arts and science senior majoring in history and political science with a minor in organizational leadership.

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