Posted by: crudbasher | July 12, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? – Groucho Marx

(cc) twm1340

One of the arguments made in favor of going to college is that college graduates will make more money over their lives than people without a college degree. While I am sure this a true statistic, has it been updated recently? More importantly, will it be effective in spurring enrollments?

I mention this because we live in an age of data. Not a day goes by where we don’t hear a new poll, or survey, or fact. If you look at the big picture, you will even see data that contradicts. I especially love the data and studies on food. You know, eat more of this, eat less of this, etc… Cholesterol is bad for you, but certain kinds are good, but not too much, but oh wait what is the good kind again? Who knows!

When dealing with statistics you are really dealing with probability. This is another area where people are pretty poor at judging things (based on how many people play the lottery).  If we say to the next generation that you are more likely to make more money over your life with a college degree, it’s not a guarantee is it? Students are beginning to realize this. Just look at these other statistics: (H/T Bloomberg)

The number of waiters and waitresses ages 18 to 30 with college degrees increased by 81 percent from 2000 to 2010 — to 159,645 –according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. The number of janitors with college degrees rose by 87 percent to 20,475. There were 1.9 million jobless people ages 20-24 who weren’t in school in June, a gain of 312,000 from May and the biggest increase since record-keeping began on the topic in 1985, according to nonseasonally adjusted statistics. 

In the age of Facebook, all college age students know people who can’t find work. I think that reality will have more of an effect than a bland statistic. I think at least some students will not want to take the risk and will just go into business for themselves. Even if only 15% of college age kids stay home, it will have huge implications for the colleges that are depending on the fresh tuition every year. Watch the headlines this fall and see what enrollments are, then we will know if students still have faith in college.


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