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上大学还有价值吗?

更新时间:2018-5-29 20:21:58 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

College May Not Be Worth It Anymore
上大学还有价值吗?

Last year, New York became the first state to offer all but its wealthiest residents tuition-free access to its public community colleges and four-year institutions. Though this Excelsior Scholarship didn’t make college completely free, it highlights the power of the pro-college movement in the United States.

去年,纽约州率先面向除去最富有群体外的所有民众提供免收学费的公立社区大学和四年制教育机构教育。尽管这个“精进奖学金”(Excelsior Scholarship)项目并没有让大学完全免费,但它突显了美国倡导大学教育运动的力量。

Recent decades have brought agreement that higher education is, if not a cure, then at least a protection against underemployment and the inequality it engenders. In 2012, President Barack Obama called a college degree an “economic imperative that every family in America has to be able to afford.”

近几十年来,人们一致认为,高等教育即使不能消除就业不足和由此产生的不平等,至少也是针对它们的一种保护措施。2012年,贝拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)总统称大学学位是“每一个美国家庭都必须能够负担得起的经济当务之急”。

Americans strove to rise to that challenge: A third of them ages 25 to 29 now hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and many paid heavily for the privilege. By last summer, Americans owed more than $1.3 trillion in student loans, more than two and a half times what they owed a decade earlier.

美国民众努力应对这个挑战:现在,25至29岁的人群中三分之一的人至少拥有学士学位,其中很多人为此付出了高昂的代价。到去年夏天,美国民众的学生贷款超过1.3万亿美元,是10年前的2.5倍多。

Young people and their families go into debt because they believe that college will help them in the job market. And on average it does. But this raises a question: Does higher education itself offer that benefit, or are the people who earn bachelor’s degrees already positioned to get higher-paying jobs?

年轻人和他们的家庭背上债务,因为他们认为,大学学位会帮助他们在就业市场上占据优势。总的来说的确是这样。但这也提出了一个问题:是高等教育本身带来了这种好处,还是那些获得学士学位的人本就能够获得高薪的工作?

If future income was determined mainly by how much education people received, then you would assume that some higher education would be better than none. But this is often not the case.

如果未来的收入主要取决于人们的受教育程度,那你会认为接受一些高等教育总比一点高等教育都没受过强。但情况往往并非如此。

People who have dropped out of college — about 40 percent of all who attend — earn only a bit more than do people with only a high school education: $38,376 a year versus $35,256. For many, that advantage is barely enough to cover their student loan debt.

从大学辍学的人——大约占所有学生的40%——收入仅略高于只接受过高中教育的人:前者年收入38376美元,后者35256美元。对很多人来说,这种优势还不够偿还他们的学生贷款。

And not all have even that advantage: African-American college dropouts on average earn less than do white Americans with only a high school degree. Meanwhile, low-income students of all races are far more likely to drop out of college than are wealthier students. Even with scholarships or free tuition, these students struggle with hefty fees and living costs, and they pay the opportunity cost of taking courses rather than getting a job.

并且不是所有人都享有这种优势:就平均而言,没读完大学的非裔美国人的收入低于只有高中学历的美国白人。与此同时,各个种族的低收入学生从大学辍学的可能性,远高于更富裕的学生。即使有奖学金或免学费,这些学生也难以承担高昂的其他费用和生活费。他们付出的是上课而不是找工作的机会成本。

The value of a college degree also varies depending on the institution bestowing it. The tiny minority of students who attend elite colleges do far better on average than those who attend nonselective ones. Disturbingly, black and Hispanic students are significantly less likely than are white and Asian students to attend elite colleges, even when family income is controlled for. That is, students from wealthy black and Hispanic families have a lower chance of attending an elite college than do students from middle-class white families.

大学学位的价值也因授予机构的差异而有所不同。平均来说,极少数上名校的学生的表现,远超上普通学校的学生。令人不安的是,即使考虑了家庭收入因素后,黑人和西语裔学生进入名校的可能性仍明显低于白人和亚裔学生。也就是说,来自富裕的黑人和西语裔家庭的学生上名校的可能性,低于来自中产阶级白人家庭的学生。

It’s a cruel irony that a college degree is worth less to people who most need a boost: those born poor. This revelation was made by the economists Tim Bartik and Brad Hershbein. Using a body of data, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, which includes 50 years of interviews with 18,000 Americans, they were able to follow the lives of children born into poor, middle-class and wealthy families.

大学学位对最需要帮助,即那些出生贫寒的人来说价值更低,这是一个残忍的讽刺。这个真相是经济学家蒂姆·巴蒂克(Tim Bartik)和布拉德·贺什本(Brad Hershbein)揭示出来的。利用国民收支动态长期追踪调查(Panel Study of Income Dynamics)的大量数据,他们得以追踪出生贫困、中产和富裕家庭的孩子的生活情况。国民收支动态长期追踪调查的数据包括在长达50年里对1.8万名美国人进行的访谈。

They found that for Americans born into middle-class families, a college degree does appear to be a wise investment. Those in this group who received one earned 162 percent more over their careers than those who didn’t.

他们发现,对出生中产阶级家庭的美国人来说,大学学位似乎的确是一项明智的投资。在这个组别中,有大学学位的人在职业生涯中的收入比没有的人多162%。

But for those born into poverty, the results were far less impressive. College graduates born poor earned on average only slightly more than did high school graduates born middle class. And over time, even this small “degree bonus” ebbed away, at least for men: By middle age, male college graduates raised in poverty were earning less than nondegree holders born into the middle class. The scholars conclude, “Individuals from poorer backgrounds may be encountering a glass ceiling that even a bachelor’s degree does not break.”

但对于那些出身贫寒的人来说,结果远不如此。出身贫寒的大学毕业生的平均收入只是略高于出身中产阶级的高中毕业生。随着时间推移,甚至连这点微小的“学位红利”也会逐渐消失,至少对男性来说是这样的:到了中年,出身贫寒的男性大学毕业生的收入要低于出身中产阶级的非大学学位持有者。学者们得出的结论是:“出身贫寒的人可能会遇到一个连学位都无法打破的玻璃天花板。”

The authors don’t speculate as to why this is the case, but it seems that students from poor backgrounds have less access to very high-income jobs in technology, finance and other fields. Class and race surely play a role.

作者们没有猜测为什么会出现这种情况,但出身贫寒的学生似乎更难在科技和金融等领域获得高收入工作机会。阶层和种族当然在起作用。

We appear to be approaching a time when, even for middle-class students, the economic benefit of a college degree will begin to dim. Since 2000, the growth in the wage gap between high school and college graduates has slowed to a halt; 25 percent of college graduates now earn no more than does the average high school graduate.

我们似乎正在走向一个时代,到那时,甚至对出身中产阶级的学生来说,大学学位的经济效益也将开始下降。自2000年以来,高中毕业生和大学毕业生之间的工资差距增长已经放缓、停滞,25%的大学毕业生现在挣的钱不比普通高中毕业生多。

Part of the reason is oversupply. Technology increased the demand for educated workers, but that demand has been consistently outpaced by the number of people — urged on by everyone from teachers to presidents — prepared to meet it.

一个原因是过量供应。技术增加了对受过教育的工人的需求,但这种需求一直被准备好满足它的人的数量超越,因为从教师到总统的所有人都在敦促学生做好准备满足这种需求。

No other nation punishes the “uneducated” as harshly as the United States. Nearly 30 percent of Americans without a high school diploma live in poverty, compared to 5 percent with a college degree, and we infer that this comes from a lack of education. But in 28 other wealthy developed countries, a lack of a high school diploma increases the probability of poverty by less than 5 percent. In these nations, a dearth of education does not predestine citizens for poverty.

没有哪个国家像美国这样严厉惩罚“未受过教育”的人。近30%没有高中文凭的美国人生活贫困,而只有5%没有大学文凭的人生活贫困,我们推断这是由于缺乏教育。但在其他28个富裕的发达国家中,没有高中文凭仅仅增加了5%的贫困几率。在这些国家中,缺乏教育并不会让公民注定贫穷。

It shouldn’t here, either: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than 20 percent of American jobs actually require a bachelor’s degree. By 2026, the bureau estimates that this proportion will rise, but only to 25 percent.

在美国,缺乏教育也不应该注定贫穷:根据美国劳工统计局(Bureau of Labor Statistics)的数据,只有不到20%的美国工作要求学士学位。据该统计局估计,到2026年,这个比例会上升,但也只会上升至25%。

Why do employers demand a degree for jobs that don’t require them? Because they can.

为什么雇主会对本来不需要学位的工作提出学位要求呢?因为他们可以这样做。

What all this suggests is that the college-degree premium may really be a no-college-degree penalty. It’s not necessarily college that gives people the leverage to build a better working life, it’s that not having a degree decreases whatever leverage they might otherwise have.

这一切表明,大学学位的益处其实可能只是免于承受没有大学学位的惩罚。大学不一定给予人们获得更好工作的筹码,而没有学位会减少他们本来可能拥有的筹码。

This distinction is more than semantic. It is key to understanding the growing chasm between educational attainment and life prospects. For most of us, it’s not our education that determines our employment trajectory but rather where that education positions us in relation to others.

这种区别不仅是语义上的。这是理解教育成就与生活前景之间日益加深的鸿沟的关键。对我们大多数人来说,决定就业轨迹的不是教育,而是教育将我们置于与他人关系的什么位置。

None of this is to suggest that higher education is not desirable: I’ve encouraged my own children to take that path. But while we celebrate the most recent crop of college graduates, we should also acknowledge the many more Americans who will never don a cap and gown. They, too, deserve the chance to prove themselves worthy of good work, and a good life.

这并不是说,高等教育是不可取的:我就鼓励自己的孩子上大学。但是,在我们祝贺最近一批大学毕业生之时,我们也应该意识到,很多美国人永远没机会戴上学士帽,穿上学士服。他们也应该有机会证明自己值得拥有美好的工作和生活。

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