Monday, 07 January 2013 08:44

How To Profit From The Impending Bursting Of The Education Bubble, pt 2 - "Knowledge How", Replicating Grecian Insolvency & Why Most Diplomas Are Depreciating Assets In Real Terms Featured

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This is part two of a multi-part series on how I plan to profit from the impending Burst of the Education Bubble in the US.  If you are easily offended, mired in academia, closed minded, or simply bad at simple math and critical thinking, this is not the article for you. There, I've proffered fair warning ahead of time. Thus far, we've covered the precursor to the series,  How Inferior American Education Caused The Credit/Real Estate/Sovereign Debt Bubbles and Why It's Preventing True Recovery, and part 1 - How To Profit From The Impending Bursting Of The Education Bubble, pt 1 - A Bubble Bigger Than Subprime & More Dangerous Than Sovereign Debt!
I urge all to review those articles for the verbose nature of this topic lends to rampant cross referencing. 

A Basic Illustration Of How The Blind Pursuit Of A Debt Funded Diploma Can Lead To Personal & Intellectual Insolvency

In the previous installment of this series, I walked through the math that basically invalidates the pursuit of a 4 year degree for nearly everyone that needed to finance it through school loans at 6% or higher. The basis of this invalidation was the poor quality of the asset backing the loan, the degree itself. This installment will walk through the logic that dictates the quality of said asset, but before I delve into said diatribe, I want to illustrate for the non-finance types the relationship between assets and liabilities and the path to insolvency that ensues when you use debt to purchase inferior and/or depreciating assets - basically the crux behind the Asset securitization (subprime mortgage) and Pan-European sovereign debt crises.
In the article How Greece Killed Its Own Banks!, I illustrated the danger and folly of Greece forcing its banks to use leverage to purchase rapidly depreciating assets with fictitious (allegedly "risk free") value. 


The same hypothetical leveraged positions expressed as a percentage gain or loss...


Many do not think of their education as an actual investment, but if you put time (opportunity costs) and capital (actual tuition) into the pursuit of a diploma, it is a pure investment, plain and simple. As you can see from the charts above, the losses taken on investments that use leverage to purchase assets that depreciate in price can be severe. Yes, the student loan/education crisis has many similarities to the current maladies facing Greece and the EU. It is not just balance sheet insolvency I'm referring too, either. Greece has a severely impaired ability to service its debt which is why this purveyor of cash "know how" insisted that Greece would default 3 years ago as the "know that" community openly declared other wise: Greek Crisis Is Over, Region Safe”, Prodi Says – I say Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! and The Ugly Truth About The Greek Situation That'sToo Difficult Broadcast Through Mainstream Media. As a matter of fact, I even went so far as to predict that Greece would default again before finishing defaulting the first time around, This Time Is Different As Icarus Blows Up & Burns The Birds Along The Way - Greece Is About To Default AGAIN! The reason why is the exact same malady that afflicts those who use leverage to pursue "knowledge that" (see term descriptions and definitions below).

Despite extensive, self-defeating, harsh and punitive austerity measures that have combined with a lack of true economic stimulus, Greece has (to date) failed to achieve Primary Balance. For the non-economists in the audience, primary balance is the elimination of a primary deficit, yet the absence of a primary surplus, ex. the midpoint between deficit and surplus before taking into consideration interest payments.


The primary balance looks at the structural issues a country may have. Government expenditures have outstripped revenues ever since 2007 and have gotten worse nearly every year since, despite 3 bailouts a restructuring, austerity and a default!


Part 1 of this series illustrated exactly how those who pursue levered "know that" can and likely will fall into the exact same structural insolvency by having their fixed expenses born from the pursuit of the diploma on a leveraged basis outstrip their income. Reference this excerpt from How To Profit From The Impending Bursting Of The Education Bubble, pt 1:

...assume a $40k per year tuition for a 4 year business management degree, purchased with money borrowed at 6% (from our dear government guaranteed lenders (SLM, et. al.), deferred for and average of 2 years. An oversimplified straight calculation puts you roughly $178,000 in debt upon graduation for a piece of paper that would fetch you roughly $43,000 per year. Reference

In July 2009, people who hold a bachelor's of science (BS) in business management averaged $39,551 during their first year of employment and $43,022 for the first one to four years. A professional with a BS in business management typically averaged $78,669 once they reached 20 years of employment.
Read more: Average Salaries for a Bachelor's Business Degree |

Real wages have likely dropped since then, but even using the nominal assumptions above you would have been driven into the hole when factoring in real life expenses of:

  • Taxes: Yes, you'd have to subtract local, state and federal taxes from said monies... At roughly 35% (bound to go up after we finish this cliff nonsense), we're now talking $27,964 average over four years. That puts you in the hole to the tune of roughly $12,035 per year you spent on that degree.
  • Living expenses: Food, shelter (rent), clothing, transportation. In a NYC, even assuming the much less expensive outer boroughs,

Combined, we're talking roughly $3,000 per month or so, assuming you won't take in roommates. If you do, you can drop that figure to about $2,500 per month. Using the lower bound of this assumption, you are underwater (structural deficit) to the tune of about $2,000 per year. Please keep in mind that primary balance calculations and structural deficits don't take into consideration interest payments (for the sake of comparison). The underwater comment does not take into consideration the actual paying back of your loan yet, either. 

So, on the fifth year following your freshman orientation, assuming you studied well, you would have laid out $176,000 facing annual debt service of about $12,000 or so - offset by a net income stream of roughly $28,000 to cover roughly $30,000 of living expenses. The negative $2,000 per year cash flow would result in a chart that is very, very similar to the Greek charts featured above.

So, why do these numbers look so bad? Well, the answer to that question lies in the value of the asset that knowledge seekers encumber themselves to acquire. The levered purchase of depreciating assets or assets with fictitiously high values is bound to lead to insolvency. Enter... 

The Topic Of Knowledge

Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something. That familiarity can include facts, information, descriptions, or skills acquired through education, which also includes experience. Knowledge refers to both the theoretical and practical understanding of a subject. Knowledge can be implicit (as with practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject). I am here to sell implicit knowledge, better known to the old school as know how, or more formerly known as "Knowledge How"....

Knowledge that vs Knowledge How

In academia, the kind of knowledge usually proffered is propositional knowledge, more colloquially described as "knowledge that." "Knowledge that" or "know that" is distinct and should be discerned from "knowledge how" (know how). The best way to describe this concept is to use simple real life examples. In mathematics, it is commonly known that (hence knowledge that, or know that) 1 +1 = 2, but there is also knowing how to add the numbers one plus one together and understanding what their sum (two) is. 
In physics, we can take this concept even farther. It has been argued to by college age students of knowledge that (who are currently mired in academia) that a physics engineer cannot approach know how without being first well versed in know that. This is a mindset that is the result of today's modern academic group think.
This concept is also easily enough disproved by using a common example known to most of us, and that is riding a bicycle. The theoretical knowledge of the physics involved in maintaining a state of balance on a bicycle (knowledge that, or know that) cannot substitute for the practical knowledge of how to ride (knowledge how, or know how). The importance of understanding how to ride a bike is obvious, established and grounded - at least to those interested in bike riding. There is absolutely no prerequisite of having the theoretical knowledge of the physics involved in maintaining the state of balance of the bicycle to learn to ride the bicycle, nor to ride it proficiently, nor to pass this knowledge on to others. Thus, it is obvious and clear that an engineer does not need to be versed in "know that" to move on to "know how". Any failure to acknowledge the distinction between knowledge that and knowledge how can lead to vicious regresses.
In philosophy, an infinite regress in a series of propositions arises if the truth of proposition P1 requires the support of proposition P2, the truth of proposition P2 requires the support of proposition P3, ... , and the truth of proposition Pn-1 requires the support of proposition Pn and n approaches infinity. This is more commonly known as the circular argument, as explained in Greece Reports: "Circular Reasoning Works Because Circular Reasoning Works" - Or - Here Comes That Default!!!
A distinction must be made between infinite regresses that are truly "vicious" and those that are comparatively benign. A truly vicious regress is an attempt to solve a problem that by and large re-introduced the initial problem in the (or as the) proposed solution. Examples of this can be found in today's global Ponzi scheme of using more debt to solve the debt dilemma of Greece, thus the ease of my predicting serial re-default. This is not truly a practical (or doable) solution, and as one continues along these lines, the initial problem will recur infinitely and will never be solved. Not all regresses are vicious, however the truly circular argument is. This is the crux behind the article, "How Inferior American Education Caused The Credit/Real Estate/Sovereign Debt Bubbles and Why It's Preventing True Recovery" and the reason why the Pan-European sovereign debt crisis is nowhere near being solved (again reference  Greece Reports: "Circular Reasoning Works Because Circular Reasoning Works" - Or - Here Comes That Default!!!). Remember, failure to acknowledge the distinction between "know that" and "know how" leads to vicious regresses. With academia being a bastion of "know that" rooted in the rote memorization of facts and information bits, those well versed in know how can literally run circles around those immersed in said schools of thought once it comes to problems solving, value creation and getting things done (or undone) in the real world. 
It is the reason why the legion's of ivy league academics failed to foresee following while I clearly articulated the risks and consequences well beforehand: 
I have a rich history in seeing and benefiting from the things that the "know that" crowd cannot perceive. Reference Who is Reggie Middleton? for more about me.

What Is This Really About?

There is a very important and distinct difference between "knowing that" and "knowing how," with the crux of the distinction being the difference between this initiative and that vast swath of modern academia. "Know that" is a function of rote memorization of static information, passed down from the Prussian method of education implemented over 200 years ago and still common use today and "know how" is basically understanding of how to get things done...
"Know how" is what has separated the labor intensive low margin industries of the far east from the Intellectual Property rich industries found in the US, at least until now. After decades of toiling in an antiquated teaching system producing a legions of leveraged "know that" recipients who then seek "know how" in the work force (basically asking employers to pay to learn on the job what they should have learned from school) to pay off or compensate for hundreds of thousands of dollars of tuition bills and debt, the US is finally paying the piper for its lackadaisical approach to real education. Asian companies such as Samsung are actually outperforming their sterling US counterparts such as Apple in both product capability, product quality and even market share. In order to stem this tide, true "know[ledge] how" must become - once again - the aim, goal and accomplishment of the education system, similar to the apprenticeships of old.
The basis of doing things and solving real world problems by thinking through them and value creation (making things) by applying a real, true skill. Academia is primarily interested in the first, Reggie Middleton is deeply ensconced in the latter.
The next installment will focus on a sampling of individual schools that peddle and push leveraged "know that" to the masses, ranging from the gleaming ivy league towers to the workshop tutoring courses down the street. This pandering of leveraged "know that" is to the dismay of all who relied on the so-called scholars from said schools to actually know what they were talking about in predicting crises, managing assets and conducting policy through said crises, and coming up with solutions for the same. I have already laid my "know[ledge] how" track record for all to see (reference Who is Reggie Middleton?) and it would be interesting to perform an apples to apples comparison to those purveyors of "leveraged know that" to see if this blogger cum entrepreneurial investor is on to something or not. I don't possess a masters degree, not to mention one from the ivy league, yet I feel I have run circles around many, if not the vast majority of those that have. You can view the data and judge for yourself - Did Reggie Middleton, a Blogger at BoomBustBlog, Best Wall Streets Best of the Best? It's not necessarily the raw intelligence, that has enabled this, but the ensconced approach to learning. 
I currently have my analysts working on explicit ROIs for degrees (both cash and levered) from the following schools: Harvard, Yale, Wharton, Princeton, NYU, Capella, University of Pheonix, DeVry, CUNY, SUNY with explicit comparisons to investing borrowed funds in the NASADAQ and S&P 500 over the same time period(s) and interning for free at various institutions who hire from said schools. This installment will also review the business models of said schools and the following installment will illustrate my answer to this mess.

In the mean time and in between time, subscribers can glean my view of one of the big private post secondary educators who is  having a problem with volatile earnings that are probably going to get worse.

file iconEducation Co. 1-3-2013

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