During periods of unemployment, colleges generally see a surge of people who are either going back to school in order to retool for a different career, or who are attempting to wisely spend their time in gaining more education in order to better themselves. What has changed over the years, however, is the nature of the education that is being afforded these return students. We are required by the rise of on-line degree mills disguised as universities to ask questions about higher education—no longer are all bachelor’s degrees equal, and even a master’s degree is meaningless if it isn’t earned through graduate level work.
Perhaps we could chalk degrees from these institutions up to a kind of educational con game making students think that the MBA they’ve earned in less than a year will earn them entrance into a high paying profession. In reality, however, the damage done by these degree mills amounts to more than just a personal tragedy for the student who believes they’ve received an education, it is a national problem. Because much of the motivation to return to school during periods of economic downturn is related to federal grants, these return students are going back to school on the taxpayer dime. While we may endorse paying for the retraining of someone’s obsolete or substandard skills in order to help them better fit the nation’s workforce, if, instead, we are paying for these students to receive substandard education or training for careers in an already flooded market, then we, as a nation, are quite simply throwing our money away.