This Time Is Different: US Enrollment and Employment Divergence
Dec 11, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I don't agree with the proposition that "this time it's different." Here's what Phil Hill writes: "The conventional wisdom holds that enrollment jumps when employment drops, and the data does show some divergence followed a few years later by a correction. What is different this time is A) the magnitude of the divergence and B) the start of the divergence fully two years before the recession started in 2008." I think the apparent spike in enrollments is created by a lot of part-time and online learning, and that it is a bit illusory. It's also caused by echo-boom effects, as the population born between 1982-1995 is in post-secondary education between 2002-1015, give or take. If (and it's a big if) employment improves, I would expect a dramatic drop in (traditional) enrollment.


What's really different is that world population is reaching a breaking point, climate change is disrupting food supplies and other industry, resource depletion has become a significant problem, and (by contrast) worldwide prosperity, literacy and general awareness has led to an increasingly restive global population. There is moreover a chronic economic imbalance, with increasingly large quantities of wealth simply being hoarded instead of invested (it's an amount that if deployed would make money itself meaningless). U.S. demographic trends - which could be rendered obsolete with one major wave of immigration - are irrelevant in the face of these wider forcess.

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