The context of course is in the United States. The proponent is none other than Peter Thiel.

Thiel, more well-known as the founder of Paypal and a Tech venture capitalist, recently put forward the idea that there might be a bubble in higher education:

Instead, for Thiel, the bubble that has taken the place of housing is the higher education bubble. “A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”

Like the housing bubble, the education bubble is about security and insurance against the future. Both whisper a seductive promise into the ears of worried Americans: Do this and you will be safe. The excesses of both were always excused by a core national belief that no matter what happens in the world, these were the best investments you could make. Housing prices would always go up, and you will always make more money if you are college educated.

I made some views pretty much along the same lines in my earlier post on higher education in Singapore but the setting is Singapore in the not-so-near future. There’s a good chance we’ll turn out the same way given the current trajectory we’re on. Education has traditionally been seen, especially by the Chinese community, as a path to prosperity. Other South East Asian communities apparently also care a lot about education, seeing how many foreign students there are on our shores, sustaining a whole industry of private schools which are affiliated to Western-based universities.  Our only consolation is that we have much more people from emerging economies to attract and that will keep our universities going.

It’s interesting to see whether there indeed will be a bubble (and of course its bust) as that may prove instructive for this part of the world in time to come.

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