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Issue 55

19 November 2014

SMU Political-Economic Exchange


AN SMU ECONOMICS INTELLIGENCE CLUB PUBLICATION

This Issue in Brief:


Demagogues and Populists in Europe
The European political scene has seen an influx of demagogues and
populists in recent times. Who exactly are these demagogues and
populists, and what do they stand for? Teo Yi Heng gives a lowdown
on the phenomenon, and analyses their implications on the various
European political systems.

In collaboration with

E-Commerce in India: A Logistical Study


The e-commerce sector is gaining popularity around the globe, and
India is no exception. Ishita Parbat discusses the characteristics of
the e-retail industry in India, and how it is poised for further growth
in the future.

Have US College Degrees Lost Their Value?


More and more youths in the United States are entering the
workforce armed with a college degree: boon or bane? Join Brenda
Hong in her discussion where she highlights statistics regarding
higher education in the US, and how they may not bode well for
those in pursuit of a degree to better their future prospects.

Proudly supported by

Issue 55

November 2014

Demagogues and Populists in Europe


by Teo Yi Heng

Dema-who?
A demagogue, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a leader who uses popular prejudices and
false claims and promises in order to gain power1. The word itself is an amalgam of the Greek words
demos and ago (demos meaning people and ago meaning to manipulate, hence people
manipulator) and is a word that should have particular resonance in Europe, especially in places still
scarred by the ames of the Second World War when rampant anti-Semitism, nationalism and
expansionism, fanned and led by demagogues and populists, culminated in one of historys most
infamous acts of ethnic cleansing.
The word demagogue should be a warning to voters. It should cause them to scrutinise the claims and
promises made and it should tell them that this particular politician is treading on dangerous ground.
The key word here is should.

The Popular Populists


A populist on the other hand, again according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, simply refers to a
member of a political party claiming to represent the common people2. Many would agree that this is
indeed admirable.
However, in modern parlance, the word has become almost derogatory in its use. It is often used to refer
to a politician who panders to the general electorate through emotional rhetoric or economically
unfeasible policies (or more commonly both) and is thus almost interchangeable in use with the term
demagogue.

The Rise of the Demagogues


If one were to look at the current state of European politics, it would not be amiss to describe the wave of
support for populists and demagogues as disconcerting. Indeed, the electoral fortunes of parties such as
the Front National (FN) in France and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the United
Kingdom in the recent 2014 European Parliament elections show that rampant populism with a hint of
anti- immigration demagogy seems to be the electoral strategy of choice. Indeed, UKIP has been so
successful in exerting electoral pressure on the mainstream parties in the UK that the current
government has hardened its stance considerably on many issues, especially with regard to immigration 3
and European Union integration to the point of promising a national referendum on EU membership4,5.

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November 2014

Even in (Supposedly) Liberal Northern Europe


During the Dutch national elections in 2010, Geert Wilders, a man (in)famous for antics such as comparing
the Koran to Hitlers Mein Kampf, romped into the position of political kingmaker after his party, the Party
for Freedom, garnered 15% of the vote and came in third in the elections (he later lost the position after
electoral losses in the 2012 elections). And his party, which like its founder takes on a virulent antiimmigration and anti-Islam stance, was not the only one of its kind making headway in supposedly liberal
Northern Europe. Up north in Sweden and Finland, the Sweden Democrats and Finns Party both increased
their standings on the back of a populist anti-immigration platform.

And its Even Worse Down South


But even Geert Wilders pales in comparison to the thuggishness of the demagogues in Southern Europe.
The Golden Dawn party, a Neo-Nazi outt that spouts virulent anti- immigrant rhetoric, has been
connected to numerous hate crimes, anti-Semitism and even the murder of the rapper Pavlos Fyssas. It
resulted in the arrests of many of the partys top leaders.
In Hungary, Jobbik holds the dubious honour of being one of the highest polling parties in national
elections among far-right populist parties in Europe. More worryingly, it is also a party of rampant antiSemitism, homophobia and racism. That such a party can rise to its current position as one of the
strongest performing single parties in the Hungarian Parliament says much about how extremist politics
have become increasingly mainstream in Hungarian politics in recent years.

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European Parliament Election Results

National Parliament Election Results

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Differences among the Dissidents


The graphs above show the electoral results of a collection of populist and far-right parties ranging from the
thoroughly unpalatable Jobbik and Golden Dawn, to the comparatively moderate UKIP. These parties have
many similarities, but also a few key dierences.
One key dierence would be their attitude towards Zionism and Israel in general. As mentioned, Jobbik is
extremely anti-Semitic and the Front National also has historical anti-Semitic roots. However, Geert
Wilders Party for Freedom is strongly pro-Israel and has frequently voiced support for the nation. This
particular dierence between the Front National and the Party for Freedom contributed greatly to the
diculties in their alliance and may have also contributed to the drop in electoral support in the
Netherlands for the Party for Freedom. Most of the other parties have no determined anti-Semitic
tendencies and as such, fears of a Europe-wide surge of anti-Semitic parties are largely unfounded,
although a large increase in domestic anti- Semitism in certain countries is indeed a problem.
Another dierence would be their historical origins. For example, the Front National in France and the
Freedom Party in Austria have long historical roots that far predate their peers. Most of the populist
parties formed in the 1990s and a few, such as the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and Jobbik
in Hungary formed in the 2000s.Thus, it would not be accurate to term this populist wave as an
isolated phenomena stemming from the 2008 economic crisis. Most of the parties predate the crisis and
indeed, the Freedom Party in Austria enjoyed great electoral success in the 1990s.

The Fourth Reich?


However, a unifying thread that ties these parties together would be the streak of populism and
demagogy that they employ in their electoral strategies. These parties often prescribe simplistic and
economically illogical salves to deep-seated and multi- faceted problems and often (wrongly) attribute
blame for national hardship on a small sub-set of the population. For the case of immigration, it is
conveniently a sub-set that has little to no electoral presence.
When phrased this way, the current wave of demagogy inevitably raises the specter of the Third Reich,
specically in the way Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party blamed the Jews for Germanys misfortunes after the
First World War. However, there are, once again, key dierences.
The rst obvious dierence is that there is no coherent bloc or alliance among these parties (although
attempts have been made, such as the above example between the Front National and the Party for
Freedom). Although the strategies they employ to gain electoral support may be similar, the targets for
their rhetoric are often dierent and indeed sometimes conicting. Some target Islam, some target Jews

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and while most target immigrants, there is no standard set of immigrants that they target. Immigrant is
not a real social group. It is a mishmash of various nationalities and cultures and is simply dened as being
non-native which would be dierent for each country (African asylum seekers for the Nordic countries
and Eastern Europeans for the UK and France). Besides, most of the more moderate populist parties
would hesitate before allying with the likes of the Golden Dawn and Jobbik.
Another dierence would be that the parties do not have any expansionist tendencies. Indeed, most of the
parties advocate a much more insular path for their respective countries and have no desire to repeat the
follies of the Second World War. Much of their political rhetoric is directed at domestic targets and not at
those outside the country, and most of the issues raised are also domestic in nature.
Indeed, even the tsunami of demagogy is sometimes an exaggeration of the situation. If one were to look
back at the graphs above, one would notice that most of the parties in question poll considerably lower in
national elections as compared to the European Parliament elections. As the Washington Post noted, the
European Parliament election results were magnied by the low turnout for a low-stakes campaign. This
made it far more benecial for extremist parties who are able to instil more fervour in their followers.
As such, fears of a return to the Third Reich are misplaced at best. The fact remains that there are
numerous key dierences and mitigating factors that almost ensure that there will be no coherent
coalition of demagogues in the near future.

So Everything is Peachy?
No. The rise of demagogues and populists in the political fringe is still able to exert electoral pressure on
the incumbents as evidenced by the hardening of policy by the current government of the UK, as well as
Geert Wilders brief role as kingmaker in the Netherlands. This eect is multiplied by the fragile coalition
politics practiced by most European countries which makes it easier for minority partners in governing
coalitions to dictate terms even if they received a small fraction of the national vote.
The rise of demagogues and populists in European politics has also corresponded to an increase in the
incidence of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and hate crime in general and it does not take much to
see that it is part of a vicious cycle that will only get worse if the cycle is not broken. Fiery rhetoric against
minority groups by populist demagogues cast the blame for a countrys misfortune on a minority group.
That in turn leads to hate crimes and the isolation of the group in question which in turn increases
misunderstanding and thus the possibility of further are ups. The fact that many minority groups in
European cities already live in racial ghettos only serves to increase isolation and thus compound the
problem.

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The Return of the Moderates


While it is true that the current rise of populists and demagogues will not coalesce into some unitary force
any time soon (if ever), moderates should still refrain from simply treating this as just some transient
phase of the electoral cycle. There remains a deep pool of dissatisfaction within the electorate which will
not dissipate any time soon, especially with much of Europe stuck in a socio-economic rut. Just because
said dissatisfaction is channeled in an illegitimate way does not make the dissatisfaction illegitimate in
itself.
Moderates and centrists, especially those already in government, need to band together to solve the core
problems causing voter dissatisfaction such as unemployment, wages and social mobility. Economic
hardship, while not the only reason for the rise in support for populism, remains an important core driver
for their support. As such, by alleviating, or at least mitigating the economic hardship faced by the
electorate, moderates can diminish a portion of the support for demagogues that pander to the
economic uncertainty of the electorate with populist, short term policies that may seem good on the
surface but may actually compound the problem in the long term. Therefore, policies to boost long term
employment (especially youth unemployment for countries which have overly rigid labour markets),
productivity-led wage growth and holistic social mobility are crucial in combating the spread of
demagogy.
Moderates should also speak out strongly against populism and demagogy, especially when they target
the minority and other vulnerable groups, and refrain from jumping onto the bandwagon so to speak.
While some have spoken out about the rise in populism and demagogy, many have remained silent, or
instead elected to actually lean towards the populists in an attempt to reclaim the votes lost. This
indirectly legitimises the actions of the demagogues and should be avoided.
And lastly, moderates should directly debunk the short-term populist policies advocated by most
demagogues and expose the long term implications of their plans. By directly attacking the policies of
the demagogues, moderates will be able to expose the false claims and promises of the demagogues and
thus help to neutralise the eect of their rhetoric.
The rise of demagogues and populists in the European electoral scene is a symptom, and moderates
need to recognise this threat, as well as the underlying causes of political malaise and socio-economic
drudgery.
They ignore it at their own peril.
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References
1.
2.
3.

4.
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15.

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Demagogue. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ demagogue


Populist. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/populist
Hennessy, Mark. Camerons Tough Talk on Immigration Sparked by Ukip Electoral Threat ; PMs Remarks May Be Seen as Nasty,
European Commission Warns. The Irish Times. The Irish Times. 2013. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from HighBeam Research:
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-35418174.html
Cameron Pledges EU Referendum. (2013, January 23). Kuwait News Agency. Retrieved October 19, 2014, from
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-316153421.html?
Settle, Michael. Boost for UKIP as PM Struggles with EU Referendum. The Herald. Herald & Times Group. 2012. Retrieved October 19,
2014 from HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/ 1P2-34019680.html
A ONE MAN WAR ON ISLAM ; - Freedom of Expression? Geert Wilders. Daily Mail (London). McClatchy- Tribune Information Services.
2008. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from HighBeam Research: http:// www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-177344277.html
A false prophet; Charlemagne.(Living with the far right)(Geert Wilders). The Economist (US). Economist Newspaper Ltd. 2010. Retrieved
October 19, 2014 from HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/ doc/1G1-238880375.html
Dutch Surprise; Elections in the Netherlands. The Economist (US). Economist Newspaper Ltd. 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from
HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-302273952.html
Damian Mac Con Uladh. Killing of Rap Artist Sparks Street Protests ; Hip-Hop Musician Pavlos Fyssas Stabbed to Death by Member of
Golden Dawn Party. The Irish Times. The Irish Times. 2013. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from HighBeam Research:
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-35141973.html
SAM SOKOL ; Reuters contributed to this report. Jobbiks third-place finish worries Hungarys Jews. Becoming a major political player
raises level of hate in society. Jerusalem Post. The Jerusalem Post. 2014. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from HighBeam Research:
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-225173133.html
Rep. Crowley Leads 50 House Members in Call for the Rejection of Shocking Anti-Semitism and Homophobia Advocated by Right Wing
Hungarian Political Party. US Fed News Service, Including US State News. The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. 2012. Retrieved
October 19, 2014 from HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-2694536431.html
United against Jobbik; Anti-Semitism in Hungary. The Economist (US). Economist Newspaper Ltd. 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from
HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-311144518.html
Valls-Russell, Janice. From skinheads to the national front: facets of French anti-semitism. The New Leader. American Labor Conference
on International Affairs. 1990. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-8732442.html
Marquand, Robert. Quran-banning advocate Geert Wilders heads to ground zero.(World). The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian
Science Publishing Society. 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1236857088.html
Cluskey, Peter. Wilders Isolated as Dutch Shrink from le Pens Toxic Baggage ; Freedom Party Leaders Ties with Front National Have Hurt
Him Politically. The Irish Times. The Irish Times. 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from HighBeam Research:
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-36117751.html
CONSTANT BRAND, Associated Press Writer. EU report: anti-Semitism sees noticeable increase across Europe. AP Worldstream. Press
Association, Inc. 2004. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-92964543.html
Editorial, B. (5). Rise of the demagogues. Washington Post, The.
CONSTANT BRAND, Associated Press Writer. "EU report: anti-Semitism sees noticeable increase across Europe." AP Worldstream. Press
Association, Inc. 2004. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-92964543.html
Hockenos, P. (2011). Europe's Rising Islamophobia. Nation, 292(19), 22-26

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PAUL AMES, Associated Press Writer. "For Europe, a warning on rising racism." AP Worldstream. Press Association, Inc. 2004. Retrieved
October 20, 2014 from HighBeam Research: http://www.highbeam.com/ doc/1P1-98960631.html
21. "Le Ghetto; Paris's Suburbs Are Ablaze.but France's Ruling Elite Still Don't Comprehend the Racial Tinderbox They've Created." Daily Mail
(London). McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. 2005. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from HighBeam Research:
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-138372834.html
22. "Scotland's Cities Could Soon Be Migrant Ghettos Say Police Chiefs; INFLUX: Eastern European Gipsies Have Flooded into Scotland
Recently." The Mail on Sunday (London, England). Solo Syndication Limited. 2008. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from HighBeam
Research: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-176966494.html

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November 2014

E-Commerce in India: A Logistical Study


by Ishita Parbat
India is at the cusp of a digital revolution. With the Internet becoming an increasingly crucial part of urban
India, the drop in broadband subscription prices and the availability of 3G are further aiding this trend. All
this coupled with the convenience of online shopping have made E-commerce the next big thing.
Although it has been around for 15 years, Indian e-commerce has witnessed about 50% of its growth only in
the past 5 years. This marvelous growth can be attributed to factors such as an appreciable increase in the
number of Internet users, an increase in acceptability of online payments, as well as the tremendous
increase in Internet enabled devices.
Online travel dominates the e-commerce industry with an estimated 70% of the overall market share.
However, e-retail in both its forms; online retail and market place, has become the fastest-growing
segment, increasing its share from 10% in 2009 to an estimated 18% in 2013. Cash-on-delivery has been one
of the key growth drivers and is lauded to have accounted for 50% to 80% of online retail sales. If this robust
growth continues over the next few years, the size of the e-retail industry is set to be 10 to 20 billion USD by
2017-2020.
The growth in e-commerce is a huge burden on the supporting logistical functions. Retailers have been
offering infinite choices spread over a massive geographical area because the domain of competition is not
based on simple volume anymore and has moved to fulfilling ever-shortening delivery timelines with
uniformity in consistency and predictability.

Characteristics of the Indian E-Commerce Market:

Cash-on-Delivery: The consumer purchasing behavior in India comprises of a thorough inspection


of the product and subsequent payment. Moreover, Indian consumers impart little trust to the product
delivery system. Hence, cash-on -delivery becomes the natural choice of consumers.

Return Policies: Indian consumers demand the return process to be smooth and hassle free. This has
compelled retailers to take full responsibility of returns so as to develop trust and confidence among
consumers, which leads to subsequent purchases and positive word-of-mouth publicity.

Free and Quick Home Delivery: is offered by retailers within a pledged timeline. This model might be
unsustainable in the long haul, but it definitely has to be made available by retailers currently to be able to
compete in the market.

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Major players in Indian E-Commerce


Flipkart (inventory-led model)

Amazon India (market-place led model)

Starting off as a sheer price comparison


portal, Flipkart has converted into an eretailing giant that recently hit 1 billion
USD in gross merchandise volume.
It has four established warehouses in
Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata.
Multiple warehouses allow Flipkart to
maintain a balance between inventory
and cost of delivering goods.
It also has a dedicated logistics arm
called E-Kart that provides robust back
end support to Flipkart and ensures
timely deliveries.
E-Kart has also extended back end
support to other retailers in recent times
to achieve economies of scale.
Flipkarts recent acquisitions include
Letsbuy.com, Myntra.com and
Chapak.com to name a few.

Amazon India started off in the electronic


goods market in early 2013 and closed
2013 with almost 15 million products to
offer.
Amazon India has two fulfillment centers
in Mumbai and Bangalore with plans to
start five new centers across the country.
It also has a dedicated logistics arm that
(Amazon Logistics) that offers same-day
delivery.

As we can see, the most critical aspects of distinction among providers today are almost negligible, with
examples including no delivery fees, doorstep delivery, traceability solutions and convenient reverse
logistics. E-commerce retailers are well aware of these challenges and the impending need for investment
of capital and operational assets to meet them. These factors will compel retailers to bolster their existing
logistics infrastructure to meet market requirements.
In the coming years, infrastructure will demand a large proportion of investment in e-commerce. An
estimated addition of 7.5 to 15 million sq ft in fulfillment centers alone can be expected in the next three to
four years (6 to 12% of total warehousing space in India). The total spend on warehouse and additional
sortation centers is estimated to be as high as 3 to 6% of top-line revenues. As for employment, an
estimated 25,000 people make a living in e-retailing warehousing and logistics. After considering
efficiency improvements in individual performance and productivity (IPPs) in the delivery networks, an
additional increase in employment of close to 75,000 people is expected by 2017-2020. This represents an
increase in employment by almost three times.

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Upcoming Trends:

The evolution of logistics in the country shall determine the future course of the e-retailing industry
In spite of tremendous potential, major e-retailers have yet to report profits thanks to wafer-thin
margins and high delivery costs
FDI in inventory-led retail may be a game changer by allowing global giants like Alibaba and
Rakuten to make an entry. Amazon has recently announced a 2 billion USD investment operating
on a marketplace model. Allowing FDI could be an imperative factor in attracting significant
investments, resulting in better infrastructure and a more robust supply chain

The e-commerce industry in India is poised for a dramatic period of exponential growth in the next three to
five years. This growth is expected to draw generous investments in both supporting infrastructure as well
as innovative and game changing business models.

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References
1. PWC Publications (2014) Evolution of e-commerce in India - Creating the bricks behind the clicks.
Retrieved from: http://www.pwc.in/assets/pdfs/publications/2014/evolution-of-e-commerce-in-india.pdf
2. EY (2013) Re-birth of e-Commerce in India. Retrieved from:
http://www.ey.com/IN/en/Industries/Technology/Re-birth-of-e-Commerce-in-India

3. Business Monitor Online (2014) BMI Industry View India Q4 2014. Retrieved from: https://bmobusinessmonitor.com.libproxy.smu.edu.sg/sar/reports/view?productid=2363&issue=20141001&iso=IN

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Have US College Degrees Lost Their Value?


by Brenda Hong
Attaining a college degree has always been seen as an important educational milestone for US students as
it is regarded as a significant achievement in higher education. Part of the American Dream includes
obtaining a college degree and getting a well-paying job to kick-start an individuals career.
A college degree has always been viewed by employers as a reflection of the skills, perseverance, networks
and knowledge which a candidate possesses. This has long been an accepted mode of assessment for
hiring employees in the workplace and generally, it has been found graduates often land better jobs and
enjoy better job benefits since employers feel that they are of a higher ability. This is not to say that there
are no non-college degree holders that are able to get good jobs, but the chances are lower and these
individuals have less credentials to fall back upon if they lose their job.
The importance of college degrees is recognized among all students, parents and the general community
alike and this has led to more and more people to go after a college degree. As shown in the graph below,
the percentage of young American adults with a college degree has risen from 21.9% in 1975 to 33.5% in
2012.

Percentage of Americans aged 25-29 with College Degrees


from 1975-2012
34.0%

32.0%
Percentage

30.0%
28.0%
26.0%
24.0%
22.0%
20.0%
1975

1995
Year

13

2012

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While the American population is getting more sophisticated and knowledgeable, there are several
repercussions on the value of a college degree stemming from this increase as well. When more people
have a degree, it loses its prestige as a tool which can be used by employees to show their ability to their
potential employers. The degree certificate becomes a basic requirement rather than an edge over others,
and employers look to other means when making hiring decisions.
Research has shown that employers are placing more focus on the college from which the degree
originates (Ruiz, 2011), as there is a general sentiment that many colleges place more emphasis on scoring
highly in institutional rankings rather than training students and equipping them with skills needed in the
workplace. For example, there has been a lack of ethics education for college students, especially in
professional degrees and this has been cited as a one of the reasons for an increase in white-collar crimes
in the US (Staton, 2014). Based on the Manpower Outlook Survey, some employers even thought of
college degrees to be misleading as the college graduates lacked the skills but still demanded high salaries
since they were holding a degree (Manpower Group, 2013).
Moreover, employers are also looking beyond the college degree as they feel that the degree is
insufficient. Some employers are looking into grades from external specialized tests such as the
Bloomberg Aptitude Test, while others are looking for further higher education attainments such as
Masters degrees.
All these factors lead on to the question of whether a college degree is still worth the pursuit. The
opportunity cost is high, as not only do these graduates start work later than their peers who do not go to
college, they have to also fork out a huge sum of money for their college fees. The cost of going to a
private college has gone up significantly over the years, with tuition fees alone rising from $10783 in 1973
to $30094 in 2013 (CollegeBoard, 2014).
Often, a lack of liquidity forces students to take up loans and they end up being burdened with hefty
student loans upon graduation. Many college students are unable to afford the full cost of their education
and hence take up student loans, with the hope of getting a good job after graduating and being able to
comfortably pay the loan back in installments. Unfortunately, the second part of the causation does not
seem to hold as many students find that their degree now does little to help them secure a good job.
Student loan delinquencies have hit a high of 41% in the recent years, showing the struggles graduates are
facing to pay back their student loans. Since 2007, while the number of hopeful students taking up loans
has increased over the years, the default rates have increased as shown in the diagrams below.

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Number of Loans

Number of College Loans Taken Up from 2007 - 2011


5000000
4500000
4000000
3500000
3000000
2500000
2000000
1500000
1000000
500000
0
2007

2008

2009
Year

2010

2011

Percentage of Default

Percentage of Default of US College Loans from 2007 - 2011


16.0%
15.5%
15.0%
14.5%
14.0%
13.5%
13.0%
12.5%
12.0%
11.5%
2007

2008

2009
Year

2010

2011

It is easy to see that degrees do not come cheap, and US students should reconsider if a degree is really
worth obtaining. Some students have opted for alternative routes after high school, going into specialized
courses such as culinary training programs which provide training for specific vocational skills. These
courses typically have a shorter duration than college education, and are able to meet employer demands
more effectively than college degrees in certain industries.
The changes in attitudes towards college degrees in society have altered the way in which degrees are
recognized, and while the degree probably still keeps its value as an educational attainment, it has lost its
value of being a unique selling point which an employee can depend on to show his ability. A degree is only
as valuable as how society views it to be, and it seems like a college degree in the US is no longer simply
taken at face value as it used to be.
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References
1. CollegeBoard. (2014) Tuition Fee Charges Over Time 1973-74 Through 2013-14, Selected Years.
Retrieved from: http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/published-pricesnational#Tuition and Fee and Room and Board Charges over Time
2. Lee, L. (17 June 2012) Bachelors Degree: Has it Lost its Edge and Value?. The Christian Science Monitor.
Retrieved from: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/2012/0617/Bachelor-s-degree-Has-itlost-its-edge-and-its-value
3. Lofnheider. (24 October 2011) Todays College Degrees Lose Their Values Faster Than New Cars.
PoliticusUSAs Archives. Retrieved from:
http://archives.politicususa.com/2011/10/24/college-degree-value-car.html
4. Manpower Group. (2013) Manpower Employment Outlook Survey. Retrieved from:
http://www.manpowergroup.com/wps/wcm/ connect/manpowergroup-en/home/thoughtleadership/meos/#.VDdah9SUeFc
5. Rampbell, C. (12 June 2013) Data Reveal a Sharp Rise in Americans with College Degrees. The New York
Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/13/education/a-sharp-rise-in-americans-withcollege-degrees.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
6. Ruiz, R. (19 October 2011) Are Too Many Americans Earning Four Year Degrees?. The New York Times.
Retrieved from: http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/ 10/19/degree-debate/
7. Staton, M. (8 January 2014) The Degree is Doomed. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:
http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/the-degree-is-doomed/
8. The White House, USA. (2013) Cohort Default Rates for Federal Student Loans. Federal Student Aid
Office of US Department of Education. Retrieved from: https://studentaid.ed.gov/about/datacenter/student/defaul
9. The White House, USA. (2013) Official Student Default Rates for Schools. Federal Student Aid Office of
US Department of Education. Retrieved from:
http://www2.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/defaultmanagement/cdr.html

16

Issue 55

November 2014

SEIC Correspondents for Issue 55:


Wong Shi Jun Aaron (Vice President, SPEX)

Zhou Li (Creative Director)

Undergraduate
Lee Kong Chian School of Business
Singapore Management University
aaron.wong.2012@business.smu.edu.sg

Undergraduate
School of Economics
Singapore Management University
li.zhou.2012@economics.smu.edu.sg

Teo Yi Heng (Writer)

Ishita Parbat (Writer)

Undergraduate
School of Economics
Singapore Management University
yiheng.teo.2013@economics.smu.edu.sg

Undergraduate
School of Information Systems
Singapore Management University
ishitap.2012@sis.smu.edu.sg

Brenda Hong (Writer)


Undergraduate
School of Economics
Singapore Management University
brenda.hong.2012@economics.smu.edu.sg