By Kevin Gandhi

Edited by Nandita Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist

How valuable is your college degree, really?

Essentially, Academic Inflation refers to the continual process of inflation, of the minimum job requirement resulting in an excess supply of college graduates possessing even higher degrees, competing for jobs wherein a higher degree is not even required. In other words, jobs that would traditionally require just an associate’s degree, would now require a Bachelor’s or even a Master’s degree. This whole phenomenon has a twofold effect, especially for us college students:

  1. Academic Inflation results in the value slashing of degrees. In other words, a simple college degree for example, will not have the same value it did, say 10 years ago. Therefore, the time and depreciation of such degrees are directly proportional.
  2. Next, this process reduces the ability of those entering the corporate world to learn by experience. Instead, individuals are forced to spend more of their time in classrooms, learning and acquiring more and more degrees and certifications.

What exactly does ‘Academic Inflation’ imply though? Many things, and through the course of this feature, I hope to provide you with some clarity. The following are the few strings of thought that may come to mind:

First, it’s probably not worth it, but what choice do we have?

This condition is causing a more than intensified race for education and higher certifications in a world where the cost of literacy is increasing by the second. Let’s take the example of the United States. Studies have shown that for decades, college fees here have risen much more rapidly than an average American’s ability to pay them. This leaves a student with an abounding load of debt after graduation, which he/she spends years trying to pay off. What makes matters worse, is that because of this process of academic inflation, this same college degree is not even worth its cost anymore. If one analyses this situation on the cost-benefit scale, it will be evident that the cost of spending thousands of dollars on a college degree, is not worth the return, which the individuals receive.

Second, what about former graduates holding degrees from older universities?

Well, from the very definition, we derive that inflation occurs with passage of time, and with this passage of time, as explained above, the value of such degrees, depreciates. These former graduates are now facing the possible danger of their qualifications eroding out and becoming redundant. Employers have now become skeptical by the range of qualifications held by individuals hailing from a plethora of universities, both old and new. Seemingly, the value of a particular degree is not only exposed to depreciation, but its value has also apparently become unknown.

However, it is a known fact that to exist and enjoy in the corporate world, one needs to keep updating oneself. There is no particular time wherein your qualifications become redundant and before you know it, newcomers prey on the job you’re looking at. Therefore, updating and re-equipping oneself can definitely serve as a probable solution.

Third, is Grade Inflation a possible contributor to the process of Academic Inflation?

A parallel to the notion of Academic Inflation is Grade Inflation. It has become prevalent globally today, and it is becoming easier and easier for students to earn good grades and get into universities of their choice. Moreover, graduates too, are reporting higher GPAs on their résumés. This consequently makes it harder for employers to differentiate between candidates and hence they rely on higher certifications and overall qualifications, to judge an applicant’s potential.

Considering all of the above, the biggest question that arises for us business students, blatantly put, is – “Should I actually study so much or should I just join my father?”

We can come up with as many scenarios as we’d like, but the truth is that we do not really know what the future is going to look like. Perhaps a disruptive change in the global education system may help the cause. This, however, seems like an almost impossible task, for the near future at least. About the only thing we can do right now is study, focus on what we really want and hope for the best. The future is not in our hands, and who knows, if we’re lucky then this whole perception of “Academic Inflation” may just be a hoax gone viral!

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
― M. K. Gandhi.

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind