Historically there has always been a need for intelligent people, but the correlation between cognitive ability and compensation was never as strong as it is today. One could have been an astute lawyer, financial planner, or mathematician at the turn of the 20th century, but the economy just didn’t reward those people at the levels that can be done today. We’ve created a much more complex economy requiring well-informed, inventive, and knowledgeable people who can navigate and derive value from what is for many of us a puzzling network of esoteric information in so many areas. The employment appeal for smart people is high and growing.
For years we have heard about high unemployment rates and at the same time we’ve heard there is not enough talent to hire for hard to fill positions. The jobs that are vacant seek individuals with know-how in management, engineering, data analysis, and many other areas where information processing, creativity, and workforce resourcefulness is called for. Professionalism is deepening across fields that include medicine / healthcare, the law, higher education, the sciences, the military, advanced manufacturing, and finance. Routine and relatively low-skilled operations will not bring competitive advantages to these career categories. Only accelerated thinking will.
As a result we are seeing the growth of an educated class. According to the U.S. Census Bureau only 4.6% of the U.S. population had attained bachelor degrees or higher in 1940. Today it is 32%. As this educated class continues to earn at relatively robust rates it appears to create an impression of inequality and disenfranchisement, such as we see being exploited in our current presidential election. However meeting the cognitive demands of a more intricate and perplexing economy requires educated people. Blaming the successful is not enough to improve the lot of us all. Directing one’s individual energies to where the expertise is most needed will.
The number of us prepared to meet the demands of the globalized cognitive economy is not enough if we are to continue being among the world’s leaders in innovation, business, and social transformation. Without relatively easy access to higher education for those with the potential to take the most advantage of this opportunity we all lose. Let’s agree that lifelong learning is essential for each and every one of us and entry into a college experience that challenges and pushes us to maximize our cerebral capacity benefits us personally and collectively.
However the expense of college is too high and makes going prohibitive for too many Americans. The cost of college has risen too much and too fast. To put this cost hike into perspective the New York Times Economix blog shows that since 1985 the cost of general consumer items has jumped 200+%, gasoline prices have risen approximately 300%, and medical care 350%. But college tuition and fees-575%! Are you kidding me? How is this in our best interests? This destructive level of inflation needs to be controlled. Our long term economic development relies on it.