Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2020/ Pop Goes the Bubble

Pop Goes the Bubble

So I am back at the university this term. The workload is grinding me into the ground. The job remains deeply unethical -- more so this year, because we have admitted almost double the number of students we usually do, so we have to whittle them down even more heavily to choose the 300 blessed ones who end up as CS majors.

I have long maintained that credentialism is a bubble. First you could get a good job without higher education. Then a high school diploma became necessary, then an undegraduate degree, then an undergrad degree + a followup college diploma "for practical skills", and now many utterly ordinary jobs require a Master's degree or higher. Universities have been making out like bandits because of this. The University of Waterloo charges at least $7000 per term for domestic students, and probably several times that for international ones. But the students flock to the university, because they know we have co-op, and they can use UW as a stepping stone to California. Then they can live in comfort writing the APIs that oppress the rest of us.

As with so many other things, the coronavirus has exposed the cracks in that system. Grinding the economy to a halt has consequences, and one consequence is that there are a whole lot fewer co-op jobs available for students now. Many co-op students will not get jobs, and who knows how long we will be in this depression? Without co-op, the University of Waterloo is a pretty unremarkable school, and once word spreads that most students don't get co-op positions and work experience, and thus don't get to move to California, I can only imagine how the demand will fall. You don't pay $14k per year tuition for an education (unless you are stinking rich, but even then there are opportunity costs). You pay that kind of money because it is an investment, and the gamble you are making is that you will get a good job and good prestige. Now that is falling apart.

We shall see whether the university can pull through this, or whether it will take a big reputational hit. I for one do not expect to be employed here for much longer.