Smart money in Massachusetts

Back in 1990, during his run for governor, John Silber made the somewhat controversial observation that not everyone is college material and those folks would be better off focusing on a vocation like plumbing or construction.

Apparently, that Silber Shocker from the well-educated college president didn’t do much to thwart the pursuit of higher education in the Bay State. According to a new report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, Massachusetts is the first state ever to have more than half of its workers holding bachelor’s degrees.

And, as one might expect, that comes with some rewards. The study shows workers with college degrees earn nearly twice as much as those without, giving support to the old adage that if you think education is costly, try ignorance.

The report is a glass overflowing/ glass losing water offering. Massachusetts’ thought-driven economy is requiring a more educated workforce and businesses seem willing to pay for it. The average college-educated worker earns $30.11 per hour compared to $15.12 for those without a higher education background. The study says there’s a premium regardless of how much time one spends in the hallowed halls, whether it’s a year or two, earning an Associate’s Degree, or getting the full four-year sheepskin.

Compared to the rest of the country, smart people make it in Massachusetts. Nationwide, the average for bachelor’s degrees is a little more than 35 percent of workers with the median hourly wage at $17.30 compared to $21.22 for Massachusetts residents, second only to New Jersey.

Using 1979 as its baseline, MassBudget pointed out that only about 20 percent of Bay State workers had bachelor’s degrees or higher at that time before the rush to degrees took off. The increase not only pushed the state over the 50 percent mark but raised the median hourly wage 32 percent over that period of time, compared to just 9 percent nationwide.

The state, and in turn companies who come here, benefit from the plethora of colleges and universities located here. A report from Georgetown University last year found that 10 Massachusetts colleges ranked in the top 70 for earnings by graduates, with MIT ranked 1st and Harvard 3rd. It wasn’t limited to private schools, with two UMass campuses in Amherst and Lowell ranking in the nation’s top 250 with Dartmouth and Boston ranking in the top 400. With more than 7,300 degree-granting schools in the country, that’s a pretty good representation.

But that educated workforce has come with some costs, the biggest of which is the expanding income inequality chasm. It also has triggered more student debt as the increase in student loans with the rising cost of tuition combined with stagnant government aid to both students and schools has left graduates unable to move out of their parents’ homes or contribute to the economy the way their parents did.

A report from MassBudget in December showed that the state’s contribution to higher education dropped by an average of $3,000 per student since 2001 when adjusted for inflation while the cost of tuition and fees increased an average of $4,000.

“Expanding access to higher education can benefit both individual students and the overall state economy, as workers with a college degree earn more than those without,” the new report states. “But the cost of attending college has been increasing steadily, and more students are taking on ever-increasing debt to pay those costs.”

There’s also a question about how sustainable the higher wages are. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when the state’s high tech sector was purring along, Massachusetts had a similar rise in wages for the educated workforce. But other states, such as Texas and North Carolina, lured many of the workers and businesses away, dealing a blow to the state’s economy at that time.

While Massachusetts officials have been successful in attracting companies such as GE, Amazon, and Google to set up shop here, it will only last as long as it benefits the bottom line. Smart people understand that.



Some sanctuary city police chiefs are backing Gov. Charlie Baker’s ICE detainer bill. (CommonWealth)

Rep. Susannah Whipps, a Republican from Athol, switches her party affiliation to independent. (State House News)

US Rep. Michael Capuano praises Gov. Charlie Baker and says he is doing a good job. (Boston Herald)

Advocates for the homeless are pushing state lawmakers to remove a requirement that someone spend at least one night on the street before qualifying for shelter. (Associated Press)


A woman who worked in his office has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination alleging that Felix Arroyo, the city of Boston’s chief of health and human services, committed repeated acts of sexual harassment. (Boston Globe) Joe Battenfeld wonders when — or if — the string of top city officials accused of wrongdoing will start to damage the standing of the man at the top, Mayor Marty Walsh. (Boston Herald) Mayoral challenger Tito Jackson is doing his best to get that ball rolling, saying the situation at City Hall “reeks of mismanagement.” (Boston Herald)

Jeff Jacoby says the city repressed free speech at Saturday’s so-called free speech rally, and he faulted Mayor Marty Walsh and city officials for falsely portraying it as a gathering of white supremacists. (Boston Globe) CommonWealth raised similar questions about the way the rally was portrayed. Harvey Silverglate says the counterprotest on Boston Common wasn’t a success from a First Amendment standpoint. (WGBH)

A Globe editorial praises a plan to expand the number of liquor licenses available in Boston.

A proposal for the Falmouth Town Meeting would ban all manner of ball playing, lawn darts, kite-flying, most games, the use of tents and tarps, among a myriad of other activities on town beaches. (Cape Cod Times)

Lowell officials say no veterans are homeless in the city. (Lowell Sun)

Hanover has received a federal grant that will allow the town to hire four more firefighters. (Patriot Ledger)


President Trump goes back on the attack in a Phoenix speech. (Time)

Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are locked in a cold war of sorts. (New York Times)

Hillary Clinton plugs her new book, describing an incredibly uncomfortable moment in her second debate with Trump when he hovered right behind her and made her skin crawl. She wonders whether she should have told the “creep” to back off. (Morning Joe)


A Herald editorial pans Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim’s idea for a home rule petition allowing Boston to institute same-day voter registration since a court decision means the Legislature will be taking up the issue at the state level.


The unemployment rate in Springfield keeps rising, hitting 8.7 percent in July, its highest point since December 2015. (MassLive)

Boston may be booming, but a pricey commercial stretch of Boylston Street in the Back Bay is not. (Boston Globe)


John Keenan, the new president of Salem State University, is looking to build some new campus buildings, including a $60 million science center. (Gloucester Times)

Jill Dixon of the Taly Foundation in Framingham says major investments in pre-kindergarten education will pay big dividends. (CommonWealth)


The state recorded a small, 5 percent decrease in the estimated number of opioid deaths in the first half of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016. (Boston Globe)

The would-be operator of a Newbury Street medical marijuana shop in Boston, who is facing stiff blowback from neighbors, vows that he won’t try to convert his store to a full retail marijuana operation if approved. (Boston Globe)

A new study says that as many as one-third of patients whose claims are denied by an insurance company forego treatment because they can’t afford to pay out of pocket. (U.S. News & World Report)


Gov. Charlie Baker defended the hiring of Luis Ramirez as the new general manager of the MBTA despite questions about financial problems and reporting irregularities at the Dallas-based energy company he helmed from 2012 to 2015. (Boston Globe)

A Salem News editorial backs the North-South Rail Link.

The FAA backs a $6.6 million Pittsfield Municipal Airport runway project. (Berkshire Eagle)


Hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage flowed into Lake Quinsigamond after a computer glitch shut down a Worcester pumping station. (Telegram & Gazette)

Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty says it’s time to go on the offensive against great white sharks, hooking them and killing them. (Boston Herald) The Cape Cod Times gives a full account of the great white shark attack on a seal near to shore at Nauset Beach.

The Standard-Times gives a look at a first-of-its kind ship being built in the US specifically for offshore wind turbine installation designed to pass through New Bedford’s hurricane barrier.

The federal government set up a protected area for Atlantic sturgeon along much of the East Coast, including the Merrimack River. (Eagle Tribune)

The state has put on hold all reviews of a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, dealing another blow to the controversial facility strongly opposed by residents. (Patriot Ledger)


Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and seven other governors are participating in a program where they sit down with inmates and prison officials to learn first-hand about the consequences of their criminal justice policies. (Governing)


This is not a story from The Onion: ESPN has removed its announcer from a college football game at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on September 2 because his name is Robert Lee. The Worldwide Leader in Sports says it is concerned for his safety because some may confuse the Asian broadcaster with the Confederate general of the same name. (New York Times)

The Village Voice is going online only, shutting down its print edition. (Poynter)