One of the luxuries Americans have given up in these hard economic times is gourmet cupcakes.

Forbes contributor Maura Pennington likens the “cupcake bubble” to the “higher education bubble” in a recent article.

It is with great satisfaction that I direct your attention to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal about the end of gourmet cupcake mania.  Crumbs Bake Shop is in decline.  It may only be a matter of time before the illogically long line outside Georgetown Cupcake dissipates for good.  Cupcakes are delicious, but who couldn’t have guessed that the market for them would saturate, tastes would change, and a $4 bite-sized dessert would prove too decadent?  Who couldn’t have warned these bakeries not to get too big for their britches?  Yet people are often blind to bubbles.

…As the cupcake bubble shows, though, some enterprises naturally fail.  Cupcakes are a fanciful luxury and people are finally waking up to the reality that a business dealing exclusively in faddish treats can’t last forever.  In many ways, college today is as substantial as a cupcake.   With an undergraduate major in the humanities, it is a $200,000 piece of paper that proves a person has slightly more initiative than someone else.  …

It is not the be-all and end-all and it is certainly not for everyone.  For people who prefer pie, what’s the point of a cupcake?  For people who are not academically motivated, what’s the point of higher education?  According to the American Dream 2.0 report, 46% of those who enter a U.S. college fail to graduate in six years.  As the Washington Post reported in September, 57% of high school students who take the SATs do not score well enough to be able to handle college.  In other words, half of the people who might want to try college, should not.  There is a serious breakdown occurring between the wishful mandate of universal higher education and the preparedness of the population being told to pursue it.  This doesn’t have to be a devastating social dilemma.

By taking a step back, college can still be an option.  There are other things to do before taking on debt for a diploma that makes no guarantees.  If college graduates are going to end up as unpaid interns anyway, young people can avoid stuffing envelopes at the age of 22 and do it instead at 18.  After experiencing the working world, they can sign up for classes when they have more focus.   There are colleges that offer programs specifically tailored to older students.  They can skip the campus-wide campaigns spearheaded by useless university bureaucrats and over-eager undergrads and just go to school.  They will end up with a piece of paper, the same as everyone else, but miss out on the sad nightmare of near-constant alcohol and sexual assault awareness projects.  It’s not such a bad thing to pursue higher education as a more evolved adult.