Earlier this month, the world's favorite smiley-faced megastore announced that it will begin offering subsidized college education to many of its 1.4 million U.S. employees. Headline writers everywhere rejoiced at the "everyday low prices" jokes that await them.
Partnering with a for-profit online-only university, Wal-Mart is planning to drop $50 million over the next three years on the program. But employees will have to kick in their own cash as well: An associate's degree will cost a Wal-Mart employee $11,700, a four-year degree would be a little more than twice that.
Meanwhile, the phrase "higher education bubble" is popping up everywhere in recent months. This is thanks (in small part) to President Obama, who announced in his first State of the Union address that "every American will need to get more than a high school diploma." But Americans have been fetishizing college diplomas for a long time now--Obama just reinforced that message and brought even more cash to the table. College has become a minimum career requirement, a basic human right, and a minimum income guarantee in the eyes of the American public.
So if we're in the middle of a culture-created, government-subsidized higher education bubble, is Wal-Mart part of the problem? Or is it the solution?
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