Education Bet Update
By Bryan Caplan
In 2011, my co-blogger David and I bet on the future of higher education. The terms:
I propose that we use the official numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Table 212.
2009 is the latest available year of data. 29.6% of 18-24 year-olds
were enrolled in 4-year institutions. I bet that in 2019, that percent
will be no more than 10% lower. Rounding in your favor, I win if the
number is 26.7% or more. If the number is lower, you win. If the data
series is discontinued, the bet is canceled. Stakes: $100 at even odds.
Three more years of data are now in. Education bubble pundits notwithstanding, nothing much has happened. In 2010, the enrollment rate fell to 28.2%. In 2011, it rebounded to an all-time high of 30.0%. In 2012, the rate fell back to 28.3%.
What if we’d bet on enrollment rates of recent high school completers rather 18-24 year-olds? 2009 was an all-time high of 70.1%. This fell back to 68.1% in 2010, stayed at 68.2% in 2011, and sharply dropped to 66.2% in 2012.
If current trends continue, I will lose this bet. I wouldn’t be surprised if I did; after all, I bet at even odds. But the point of the bet was never to deny that college enrollments may modestly decline, or that today’s start-ups will find their niche. The point, rather, was to scoff at the notion that any of today’s start-ups – our the industry as a whole – will be the Napster of education. Not gonna happen.
“There are seven more years to go!,” you protest? I’m still happy to bet on the original terms.