The evidence is pretty clear that the college-for-all model has missed enough intelligent, capable people that we keep taking stabs at modular educational models, oriented around sitting for exams and completing x number to demonstrate competency. This has the benefit of matching up more with actual white-collar, highly paid work these days, which is frequently project-bound but open-ended as to how you complete it and it also has the benefit of not costing average or below intelligence people buckets of money if they can’t hack it, which will be at least as frequent as it is now. But there’d be tiers they could hack and still get decent pay.
It’s also an approach that works well with unionizing/guild-izing at even very high pay levels.
It wasn’t that bad a model for IT, although rampant fraud combined with unrestricted immigration broke it, but then rampant fraud combined with unrestricted immigration is a major part of why college is no longer much of a filter for what college-educated parents believe it to be a filter for. That model is returning in IT with the bootcamp approach, where depending on the subfield, anywhere from 1/100 to 1/20 workers is coming out of 6-18 month bootcamp straight into employment full-time, usually at wages above 50k/yr. And that is a large percentage given how little time the model itself has had to form up. But companies are already arranging their hiring around pulling in some bootcamp people and having a special process for that. In contrast it took decades to see the same for the “diversity and inclusion” industry, which is more reliant on racking up degrees for that pipeline.
We now live in a world where an 18 or 19yo can already have a bachelor’s degree if they are really set on doing so without having to leave home and sometimes without even spending money.
We have something like 75,000 18 and 19yos a year graduating with BAs, MAs or PhDs/JDs (mostly BAs). We have 125k or so with AAs.
The AA by 19 pool is 60% male, the BA+ by 19 pool is probably (estimates are pretty spiky) 80% male. The AA numbers are almost 10% of the total (~1.5-1.7million) for age 20-24 AAs and the BA+ numbers are around 2-3% of the total (around 3.4 million) for 20-24 BA+. And even among 20-24yos, we are up to roughly a quarter million with an MA or higher.
Given how rapidly the early college thing is increasing, it may be that we start seeing 300, 400, 500k such people annually over the next decade. This would be in line with the trend that began, as far as NCES recording of it, in the early 1990s, when about 1 in 5 people over age 25 had BAs or higher (all races) and the younger set finishing college young was a few thousand which over 20 years increased by an order of magnitude.
College completion has flattened in recent years (what marginal increases are happening, interestingly, are putting male completion of BAs ahead of female completion in the latest data after years of the opposite) and at this point the mix of *how* it’s completed is changing, so we’re no longer getting more and more people across the line, but instead having more and more “weird” ways of finishing increase.