Macroeconomics, Inequality & Study Abroad
How do these come together? I’ve been thinking about this due to the surprising popularity of a new book by Thomas Pinketty called “Capital in the Twenty-first Century.” While I have not read it, I’ve heard him speak about it and read reviews —bottom line, we are a nation of growing economic inequality and it’s not going away. It’s a structural problem. We also know about the increasing concern about massive student debt – upwards of 1 trillion dollars; and the struggles of institutions to stem the upward turn of tuition (you gotta pay for fancy dorms and new eating spaces somehow…).
What’s this got to do with study abroad and the cyclical effort to increase numbers of students (e.g.: the new IIE Generation Abroad initiative). I fear that the economic realities we face will exacerbate the “employability gap” between those who go to college and have the opportunity to participate in an international experience (which as I’ve written, provides a strategic advantage to students who know how to optimize its value in their job searches), and students who are neither in college nor able to benefit from any form of international educational experience. It’s already a huge gap when you consider that only 300,000 students, of an annual population of over 20 million undergrads, study abroad (the numbers do go up if you do count international work/service-learning and internships).
So we have growing economic inequality — a widening gap in educational opportunity — an increasing gap in access to international educational experiences — an inevitable gap in skills and competencies between those with and without international experience –and finally, the resulting inequality in employability for students who do not have the benefits of either a college education or international educational experience.
Quite a puzzle for us to sort out. Do you agree?