The Declining Bachelor’s Degree Value Proposition

I was initially displeased with Michael Mandel’s chart on falling real wages for young college graduates because absent context, I’m not sure it really supports his point. But I looked at the data a couple of different ways and decided he’s right. Here’s a chart showing the earnings of those with BAs (but no further degrees) as a percentage of average earnings:

This doesn’t show that college isn’t valuable. But it undercuts the notion that America’s college are providing increased value over the course of the past decade. And yet both tuition and borrowing to cover tuition are increasing substantially faster than overall prices. That means that however we resolve the issue of outstanding debt, the underlying business proposition isn’t going to work. American colleges have been enjoying very large annual revenue increases for reasons that seem inexplicable on the cost side and lacking rational basis on the demand side.