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An analysis of the current state of the college market and why demand for a degree will decrease

By Matthew Bracci

In terms of economics, the college market’s current set up is yielding an influx of supply. But in the near future, the college market will soon see a decrease in demand.

Decades ago, going to college was far less common than it is nowadays. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percent of individuals 25 and older whom have obtained a bachelor’s degree relative to the overall U.S. population has more than doubled since 1970. As times are changing, and more and more people are obtaining college degrees, the value of the degree decreases.

The price of college has risen dramatically over the last several decades. According to, the average price of school for in state students at public four-year institutions has increased by 225 percent since 1984. This trend can be explained in terms of simple economics.

Historically, the demand for college increased as people with college degrees obtained higher paying jobs. In essence, a higher number of people were “purchasing” college, and therefore driving up its price. As economic principles tell us, supply follows demand.  Thus, we saw an increase in the amount of colleges across the country, including a very new, yet substantial, increase in online degrees.

As supply and demand increase, the price increases. Yet, as more and more people obtain college degrees, the degrees become less valuable in the job market. Specific skillsets are what most employers are after. If you do not have the proper major, certifications, or skillsets, then you will not get a job in the modern market. Furthermore, higher-level positions require a graduate degree or many years of experience, if not both.

Due to the high price of school and the greater demand for a more specific skillset in the job market, individuals want to take fewer classes that don’t directly pertain to their major or area of interest.

I have heard a lot of people talking about how they wish they didn’t have to take any “Discovery Courses.” Often times, people will be in their senior year, well developed into their major, yet they still have to take discovery courses in order to graduate. Some argue that this is unfair and that they shouldn’t have to take a class that has nothing to do with their established focus, especially due to the credit hours they must pay for each class they take.

However, there is the history and premise of taking classes to achieve an overall educational experience. After all, colleges traditionally have been focused on liberal arts and have encouraged study across a multitude of disciplines. Not to mention, the standard of having a certain amount of credits in order to obtain a degree should go under very legitimate consideration of being important to the actual accreditation of the degree.

While it is possible that this change in demand for classes could lead to less discovery requirements for any given institution, I do not think that this trend will continue long enough in order for that to happen.

The fact of the matter is, college prices are going to drop soon because individuals are going to start seeking out different options. If the price of college remains as high as it is, we will start to see an influx of people simply learning specific skillsets and not necessarily obtaining a college degree. My guess is many private institutions will close their doors in the coming decades. 

We are in somewhat of an odd period, and the price of college relative to its value on the job market is detrimental to our generation.

Matthew Bracci is a junior majoring in economics.

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