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Re: <nettime> conjunctural analysis
Brian Holmes on Sat, 22 Feb 2014 23:24:17 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> conjunctural analysis

On 02/19/2014 10:38 PM, dan {AT} geer.org wrote:

> Tangentially related, this is a rundown of student economics as measured
> by lifetime ROI for the price of tuition (in the US):
>    http://www.payscale.com/education/average-cost-for-college-ROI-2011
> I loaded that up in Excel to get a picture of the data:
>    http://geer.tinho.net/college.costs.and.returns.xls

Well, the numbers are interesting, thanks Dan. The chart is nicely done too. Btw, is there an app for that? I would like to do some charts like that myself.

Geez, looking closer I realize my Berkeley degree should have already paid off a million! Damn!

At least somewhere along the line I did learn enough to realize that this table does NOT include the cost of interest on student loans, which for a lot of people must put a serious dent in the ROI (return on investment). Additionally, the claim (under the "methodology" link at the bottom) is that they fabricate their numbers through online surveys of people declaring their current income, workplace, degrees obtained, etc. Because the methodology section is extremely vague, one can only guess that there is quite a bit of self-selection in their pool of respondents: it's the people trying to get higher salaries who are gonna pay money to this site to find out average salaries for their educational level. As John points out, these numbers undoubtedly cover only those who are in the high-salary arena, not all those who, for many reasons, never got there.

I also learned (basically from Michel Foucault) that the name of the site, "Human Capital," is a synonym for the neoliberal world view. The theory of human capital was developed at the University of Chicago in the late Fifties/early Sixties, starting with a 1958 paper by Jacob Mincer called "Investment in Human Capital and Personal Income Distribution." The argument is that not innate abilities, but rather, investment in job training produces salary outcomes over the course of a lifetime. Via the work of people like Gary Becker, also at UofC, this argument became a comprehensive way of viewing and evaluating what a person is and can be: a person's life is a return on investment. One consequence of that, which really started to go into effect from the 1980s onward, was the idea that since people get a return on educational investment, they can borrow money to achieve that return: education does not need to be a public service. In the concluding part of my text "Silence=Debt," I tried to show how the entire US higher education system has gradually been reshaped by this notion of human capital. Just one of the results is the current intense competition between universities for places on various highly abstract and dubious rankings, maybe even including this one.

In the debt society, ROI=IOU.

I sure am glad I got out of Berkeley before they extracted the current sky-high tuition out of me.

best, Brian

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