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Are You a ‘Turkey’ Investing in University Cities?

Matt Elder identifies the changing landscape so you don’t get behind the curve

Imagine you are a turkey. Every day you get an ample supply of food and are having a good life. You have no reason to believe this will change and every new day more food arrives, reinforcing your belief that everything is good in the world. Your world then takes a dramatic turn for the worst on Thanksgiving Day! Universities are turkeys and we are currently in the run up to Thanksgiving.

People are paying more and more for degrees that are becoming less and less valuable. People spend 3+ years of their life studying, racking up tens of thousands in debt, to compete in a shrinking job pool. Yet people will argue this is a good ‘investment’ because their bias is informed by what has worked in the past, particularly for their parents and the economy. Get a good college education so you can get a good job, or at least something to “fall back” on.

How did we get here?
Universities worked in a world where “credentialism” mattered, as argued by Taylor Pearson in “The End of Jobs”. That world ended around 2000. It took hundreds of years to graduate 90m university graduates by the year 2000. In the 10 years from 2000-2010, another 40m graduated. Our environment is accelerating exponentially but we are biological creatures that only evolve and understand at a linear rate.

Software is eating the world
“Software is eating the world” is a quote attributed to Marc Andreessen. The notion is that it is the code/systems/algorithms where the real value lies. Airbnb is worth billions yet has no property. Uber is worth billions yet has no cars. Google’s core is an effective algorithm to present search results along with most relevant advertisers’ ads.

Facebook data mines users’ content and sells off the back of it. Blockbuster, with 60,000 staff, was wiped out by 2,000 staff at Netflix. Apple has a system where it gets 30% from any 3rd party transaction in its ecosystem, making it the most valuable company on earth. All of this scales exponentially with little additional resources.

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