One set of gloomy news a month is common in education. But one day, April 28, saw three major reports that predict a bad future for America—all based on failure in U.S. education.
According to the International Monetary Fund, China's economy will surpass that of America in 2016. The IMF analysis uses "purchasing power parity" to compare what people earn and spend in their domestic economy. According to an April 28 report, "under PPP, the Chinese economy will expand from $11.2 trillion this year to $19 trillion in 2016. Meanwhile the size of the U.S. economy will rise from $15.2 trillion to $18.8 trillion. That would take America's share of the world output down to 17.7%, the lowest in modern times. China's would reach 18%, and rising. Just 10 years ago, the U.S. economy was three times the size of China’s." Prof. Ralph Gomory of NYU's Stern Business School states the IMF report shows "a massive shift in capability from the U.S. to China. What we have done is traded jobs for profit. The jobs have moved to China. The capability erodes in the U.S. and grows in China."
In "Why ever fewer low-skilled American men have jobs," also released April 28, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the OECD show the dramatic decline in employment for U.S. males. In that report: "America has a smaller share of prime-age men in the workforce than any other G7 economy... Around 35% of 25- to 54-year-old men with no high-school diploma have no job, up from around 10% in the 1960s. Of those who finished high school but did not go to college, the fraction without work has climbed from below 5% in the 1960s to almost 25%."
Education is a major factor. The report notes that in America for the first time in U.S. history: "Those aged between 25 and 34 are less likely to have a degree than 45- to 54-year-olds." MIT’s David Autor calculates that U.S. men "...are also less likely to have completed college than their contemporaries in Britain, Denmark, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Spain. In recent years America’s university graduation rates have slipped from near the top of the world league to the middle. Men are far likelier than women to drop out." Recent chief economic advisor Larry Summers estimates that even if the U.S. eventually returns to full employment, "...20% of men who have not been to college, 35% of those who did not finish high school and more than 60% of black male high-school dropouts will probably not be working."
Finally, if we are looking to our university system to save the day by producing quality graduates, Times Higher Education reporter Betty Hearn summarizes a report by Betty Huff, president of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, presented at a conference in Nottingham, England. Ms. Huff described the ruthless for-profit institutions that have invaded U.S. higher education. Huff provided examples of the devastating effect of this new for-profit sector as a warning to the U.K.: "They are businesses and they are only (in it) for profit." She detailed the many abuses: nursing programs lacking any actual hospital experience, aggressive recruitment of students who are not college-able, students who account for 42 percent of the federal loan default rate that will bankrupt our student aid system, and exorbitant salaries for their for-profit presidents.
If the reports had come out on April 1, we could hope they were joking.
However, they came out on April 28. And the threat to American education and the economy is no joke.