Cam has setup a panel that includes Alex, Haley, Manny, and Luke. His original goal was to showcase alternative options beyond college for the high school. It turns out the principal isn’t a fan of that idea, but only because he’s more interested in winning the “Golden Apple” award, which is for schools that have 60% of their class going on to college. His self-interest may push some students into a path that they aren’t meant to be on.
At the start of the scene, we learn that Cam’s not sure he believes everyone should go to college, but he isn’t sure how to proceed once he finds out that his principal is encouraging him to only talk about the benefits of college. Midway through the show, Mitch convinces Cam that if he can make it wear the principal doesn’t get the Golden Apple award, Cam may be promoted to Head Principal which comes with more perks. Cam goes along with it, and switches the theme of the panel to focus on non-college options.
See more: college, education, human capital, human capital investments, incentives, self interest, signaling, signals, skill building
While Alex is freaking out about her junior year grades, Haley doesn’t need to study because her community college asks her to bring glue sticks. Education may serve as a signal of ability instead of actual skill building, which would be shown by entry requirements or competitiveness in the application process. Haley, on the other hand, may be completing drawn out tasks that don’t improve her productivity after completion. If Haley isn’t really learning skills at community college, but Phil and Claire are paying for her to go there to learn skills, are they really investing in Haley’s education?
See more: college, education, human capital, human capital investments, signaling, signals, skill building
Luke thinks he’s ready for college and meets with a community college admissions officer. He asks all the important questions like “how hard is it?” and gets some tough but realistic answers. The admissions officers tells him that after years of hard work, he’ll graduate and be qualified for an entry level job and steadily get promoted until, around age 45, he can expect a 3 bedroom house. Luke compares his current situation with this potential future and decides that maybe college isn’t right for him. But that may not be the correct counterfactual for his decision. The items that he considers free (meals, cable, and laundry) are just being paid for by his parents.
See more: college, cost benefit analysis, counterfactual, human capital, human capital investments, psychic costs, skill building
The Dunphy girls both have new boyfriends, but they are opposite of their traditional matches, and Phil and Claire would like to get to know them better. Haley’s dating an astrophysics professors and Alex is dating a firefighter. Astrophysics professors require years of high level education, while firefighters don’t require a college degree, but are skilled and well trained in their speciality.
The debate at dinner (and even among economists) is who has the most human capital? Human capital is the intangible assets that each member has, but since each work in different fields, their assets are not directly comparable. In the middle of lunch, Claire and Phil are also trying to determine who’s the smarter one between the two of them, and Arvin (Haley’s boyfriend) is upset because his theory has been debunked. Luke stirs up the drama with trivia questions, even referencing another popular clip to teach economics.
See more: education, externalities, human capital, innovation, negative externalities, private benefits, skill building, social costs, training
Lily has the tough teacher but Cam and Mitch just learned of an opening in the “nice” teacher’s class. In this scene, the two approach Ms. Plank about transferring their daughter into Ms. Sparrow’s classroom. Education is one market where consumers have little choice. Some critics argue that this creates inefficiencies in the market while others argue that education consumers may not have enough information to make optimal decisions. Critics insist that giving consumers more choice would not necessarily lead to an improvement in efficiency. This sort of problem is discussed at many levels in education – from school choice to book choice. In this scene, it was clear that the Cam and Mitch were ill-informed of even their daughter’s preferences, but assume that Lily would have done better in the other teacher’s class despite not actually knowing Ms. Plank’s ability.
See more: education, human capital, human capital investments, information economics, market failure, preferences, school choice, signaling, skill building, textbook choice, tradeoffs
Alex is graduating from high school soon so Phil, Claire and the kids are visiting Cal Tech. Claire thinks Cal Tech is the perfect place for Alex but she’ll find out soon that she and Alex have different preferences. College is one of the ways that we build human capital. As we learn more things, we become more productive and our labor is more valuable. Alex is already really bright and loves academics so college is a good fit to set her up for doing impressive things in the future.
Claire wants a great school that’s close. Alex wants a great school that’s far away. We also learn that Cal Tech has 5 Nobel Laureates on staff, suggesting that Cal Tech itself has a lot of human capital, making it a highly productive college.
Alex learns why Cal Tech might be a better choice for her than an East Coast school. What is more important: the quality of the program or proximity to home? Choices are tough and everything has a cost. Here’s Alex’s current dilemma: stay close to home and attend the best program in the country OR go to a college on the east coast with a weaker program.
See more: cost benefit analysis, incentives, human capital, nonpecuniary benefits, opportunity cost, preferences, self interest, school choice, signaling, skill building, tradeoffs, utility