Why do parents want their kids to go to college? Because advanced education pays off.

The cost of a public college education in Georgia has risen dramatically, according to a new state audit.

State Sen. Fran Millar of DeKalb once noted many Georgia parents applaud the effort to get more kids to consider technical colleges. However, those parents often saw technical college as an option for other kids, not their own. For their children, parents still wanted a four-year college degree.

Commenters on the blog frequently remark we’ve oversold the importance of a college degree to parents and, as a result, send too many Georgia teens off to campuses where they flounder.

Here is a column by Peter Morici, an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, that helps explain why parents believe their kids need a degree to compete. (Morici tweets @pmorici1.)

A key point in his essay on jobs and wages: “Too many Americans simply don’t qualify for the jobs that pay high wages in a globalized, technologically advanced economy. Consequently, average family incomes continue to cycle down, even as the upper middle class—the top 20 percent or so—gets richer.”

Over the long weekend, I saw old friends and learned what their grown children were doing. Across the board, young adults with STEM degrees were thriving, especially those in the IT field. The young adults struggling economically or relying on their parents to pay the rent were those who did not finish college or chose to work in the arts.

To underscore the role education plays in earnings, I’ve included a new salary chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.



By Peter Morici

The U.S. economy is growing again—about 2.5 percent annually in the second quarter and going forward—but good jobs remain scarce and wage gains lackluster. New technologies are reducing the demand for workers but poor government policies are making matters worse.

Friday, the Labor Department is expected to report the economy added 180,000 jobs in June, but this is partially catch up after a strike hammered down the May figure. The monthly average was about 113,000 from April to June, and that’s about half the pace from 2013 to 2015.

The robotics and artificial intelligence revolution is all around us—even if we don’t yet have an android doing our housework.

Uber brings patrons cars without the dispatchers that once took calls at the local car services.  At Amazon Prime, customers point and click without the aid of sales clerks and packages are increasingly assembled by robots at fulfillment centers.

Tasks requiring complex manual dexterity have proven tougher to replace but automated checkouts are spreading, and robots are at the cusp of not just taking orders at McDonald’s but also grasping and handing you hamburgers, fries and soft drinks.

Globalization accelerates these trends by forcing more aggressive substitution of machines for high-wage Americans in factories.

The next generation of Boeing jetliners will be assembled with more robots—moving and fixing components into place. What few people are left will be greatly assisted, for example, by Google Glass and software that aid in assembling the complex wiring and programming of cockpits.

Sweeping labor saving innovations have confronted us since the spear and the wheel but in the past, we moved redundant workers who often did repetitive manual tasks into emerging industries. As agriculture mechanized, workers moved to repetitive tasks in manufacturing and as factories automated, workers moved into services—for example, at convenience restaurants, shopping malls and dry cleaners.

As those jobs disappear, the economy has too few new uses for workers that can’t perform complex, intellectually demanding work.

Major institutional failures make these challenges more wrenching.

Bad trade agreements permit other nations to boost exports into U.S. markets without accepting comparable amounts of American made goods and services. Subsidies, currency manipulation and non-tariff barriers to U.S. exports accentuate pressures on companies like Boeing and Ford to automate or outsource more.

The Obama administration promised thousands of new jobs from the 2012 Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, but it boosted the trade deficit by $16 billion and unemployment by 130,000.

The Affordable Care Actmandatory overtime and higher minimum wages imposed by many states and cities raise the cost of employing Americans, compelling businesses to purchase labor saving devices more quickly or close.

Our high schools and colleges are better at preaching social justice than producing enough graduates who can do the complex cognitive work that machines still leave to human beings. Skilled technicians with a year or two training and graduate engineers and systems analysts remain too scarce.

Too many Americans simply don’t qualify for the jobs that pay high wages in a globalized, technologically advanced economy. Consequently, average family incomes continue to cycle down, even as the upper middle class—the top 20 percent or so—gets richer.

Passing laws—taxing the upper middle class to subsidize child care or by forcing them to pay more for hamburgers to support a higher minimum wage—do not address those fundamental policy failures and leave America vulnerable to more aggressive societies in Asia.

Policymakers more effectively manage globalization by negotiating better trade deals, stop pandering to voters with giveaway programs and force schools and universities to shift from proselytizing about the evils of American capitalism to equipping young people with the skills they need to compete

Reader Comments 0


Morici doesn't seem to acknowledge the reality that a student cannot will a talent for/interest in the STEM fields. Either you've got it or you don't. And if you don't, you'll never make it out of a STEM major with marketable grades or skills.



Morici never advocated "shutting down" the community college system.That's just false.He (rightfully) pointed out that making it "free" for all means that it will water down the quality of student that attends even more than at present. Then those students will be even less prepared for more academic rigor at the university level.

CC is an academic treasure,but some students there would benefit more from vocational/technical training.


@redweather @Astropig @Peter_Smagorinsky

Of course he's biased. He stated an opinion,just as you do,I do,etc. Don't want to get too far into the weeds here,but  no responsible person would ever consider shutting down our community college system.That's just crazy talk. Morici certainly doesn't swim with the tide academically,but he makes some perfectly valid points above and in his community college piece.He's saying some things above that are not comfortable for some to hear (or,see,if you will),but do need to be aired.He seems to be taking a 30,000 foot view of the problem while you are down inside the problem and can't bring the same perspective.Practice a little tolerance and diversity and don't fall for demonizing him.


@Astropig @Peter_Smagorinsky Morici points out that the three year graduation rate at public two-year institutions is only 21%. One reason that percentage is so low is that CC students typically must work full-time jobs in order to support themselves and pay for school, but he doesn't say anything about that.

He also notes that CC students often have "deficient high school records and preparation." What he doesn't say is that's often through no fault of their own.


@Astropig @Peter_Smagorinsky 

Morici wrote:  "...pushing more dysfunctional students into community college won’t help. Starved for funds, those institutions will simply game the system —enroll more students in programs aimed at transferring to four-year colleges and award more B’s and C’s in watered down courses"

He may not have advocated shutting down CCs, but he strongly implied it by suggesting that most of these institutions "game the system."  Same thing can be said of the for-profit universities now under federal investigation that are being shut down.


Morici is right. If you travel much overseas,you already have seen that service businesses in high wage/expensive-to-do-business-in countries have automated as many functions as they can to keep a lid on costs.But it's not because they are greedy,it's because their potential customers can't afford their products and services.We're going down that road also with mandated health coverage and a minimum wage seemingly pulled out of some bureaucrats hat.And get ready for paid family leave when the quadrennial vote buying auction concludes in November.

It's not surprising that STEM people are knocking it out of the park,career wise.Globalization has made those skills portable to the point of being (nearly) universal. Astrowife just spent 5 weeks on a road trip to 3 different countries,and Astropig (jr.) frequently does work for people remotely on other continents in IT. We now compete in a world market and wise parents will realize that whe they talk careers with their kids.

Annette Laing
Annette Laing

Offensive garbage. All the snide remarks directed against the arts and "social justice" (I presume he means the humanities) ignores the fact that the best colleges and universities offer a strong education in arts, humanities, and pure sciences. Don't believe me? Go look. Oh, and even the top tech schools (like MIT) require a strong humanities component. This sort of article is an effort to con you into agreeing to turn public universities into glorified trade schools.