In response to Welcome to the Obama Economy, College Grads:
I think about the forlorn American university grad, toting a nearly useless degree and carrying a hundred grand in student loan debt on his back, every time I read about the urgent need to increase immigration, particularly the drive to award more visas to highly educated foreign students. In that more narrow example of “immigration reform,” the number of people involved is relatively small, and the odds of them securing comfortable employment is high – they’re a good investment, as the saying goes.
But why do we need to make that investment, when we have an incredibly expensive university system packed full of students who take out huge easy-money loans to pay for tuition? No one seems comfortable talking about the only three logical answers: (1) the graduates aren’t motivated enough to win those demanding high-skill jobs; (2) the graduates demand too much in entry wages, making immigrants a better bargain for even big-ticket professional employment; and/or (3) too many American students graduate with educations that aren’t worth that much to high-level employers. That third possibility might be broken down into a combination of inadequate education, and poor curriculum choices by the students – i.e. they’re not going after the kind of degrees and training that employers want.
None of those possibilities is comforting. Meanwhile, the near-universal quest to secure these diplomas leaves important blue-collar jobs – good jobs that make solid careers – unfilled, as TV host Mike Rowe constantly reminds us. It seems as if a lot of young people are taking out student loans as expensive lottery tickets to win high-end jobs, instead of devoting themselves to more realistic career paths. Not only would they save themselves the loans by following Rowe’s advice, but they’d begin career development earlier. The years spent in fruitless university chases have a serious dollar value attached to them, beyond the cost of tuition.
I had these thoughts in mind when reading of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to repopulate the husk of Detroit with massive immigration. The idea, stated with brutal frankness, is that the promise of citizenship might be enough to lure skilled foreign workers and investors to live in a city existing American citizens have abandoned. Is it really that difficult to find a set of incentives, civic improvements, and regulatory reforms that would persuade Americans in a high-unemployment moribund economy to take a chance on Detroit? I’m afraid I don’t ask that question with a trace of sarcasm, any more than I feel sarcastic when asking if it’s really necessary to import highly skilled labor into an economy where college graduates can’t find a job.