The janitor with a Ph.D.

There are 5,057 janitors with a doctorate or professional degree, according to Richard Vedder, who writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Personally, I’m suspicious that the number inflated, though I agree with Vedder’ larger point, which is that we have a mismatch between public needs and our public approach to higher education.

“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.” These jobs include parking lot attendant, wait staff, and bartenders.

For more fun, take a look at this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Vedder concedes that the experience of going to college has value, but then asks whether that justifies the public investment. Good question.

By the way, be sure to read the comments attached to the article. Some make valuable points. Some, like the one below, border on parody:

Just imagine what our democracy might be like if truck drivers read Sartre, or if restaurant servers studied astronomy, or if garbage collectors debated the newest trends in evolutionary biology, or if housewives and machine operators read and discussed New Historicist literary theory.

I’m as interested in New Historicist literary theory (whatever that is) as the next person, and there’s no problem with mechanics holding advanced degrees in philosophy–as long as said people have paid for the costs of their education. But higher education involves a variety of subsidies, meaning that it’s entirely valid to question how tax dollars are being spent.

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