Unrest in Tunisia, Symptom of an Education Bubble

What happens when a nation invest heavily into higher education while the economy can not support enough appropriate jobs. The overall economy in that part of the world isn’t so bad when compared to other nations run by similar dictatorship but, Tunisia has offered free education and creating well educated students with high expectations who can’t find a job.

Tunisia’s big problem is said to be unemployment. But unemployment there is running at somewhere between 13 percent and 14 percent, which isn’t really so bad. The real problem is that Tunisia cannot create suitable employment for the huge numbers of college graduates it creates every year.

That’s right: the education bubble popped in Tunisia.

Tunisia has a gigantic education apparatus that has earned it plaudits for years. Free university education is guaranteed to anyone who passes the government’s exams at the end of high school. As a result, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 university graduates enter the job market every year. Fifty-seven percent of young Tunisians entering the labor market are college educated.

It turns out that creating a large class of college-educated workers is not necessarily a recipe for prosperity. Tunisia has discovered it can be a recipe for political unrest and mass unemployment. For Tunisia’s recent college graduates, the unemployment level reaches to at least 30 percent. If you count in various forms of under-employment, it’s safe to say that as many as half of Tunisia’s recent college graduates are losing out in the jobs market.

Here in the America we may be following the same path.

The notion that the laws of supply and demand apply to education has not been well-understood in much of the world, including the United States. Very often, politicians and educational experts act as if the solution to problems of unemployment or income inequality is more education. Recently, Barack Obama announced a new policy aimed at producing an additional 8 million college graduates by the year 2020.

But the United States already produces too many college graduates. As we pointed out in October, over 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees. Over 8,000 of them have doctoral or professional degrees.

“All told, some 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree” Richard Vedder has written.

Here in Texas our Legislature must deal with huge budget shortfalls, Higher education is one of the items that stand to get some of the harshest budget cuts.  On a macro scale this is probably a good thing. Although when new a high school grad finds out that he/she won’t be able to afford college they aren’t going to believe these cuts are such a wonderful thing.



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