I recently finished the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship at Columbia. It’s a one-year program that lets business journalists take classes across the university to “enhance their understanding and knowledge of business, economics and finance.” One of the program’s perks, and there are many (including dinners with the likes of Paul Volcker, Jamie Dimon, and Joseph Stiglitz), is that you can get an M.S. degree from Columbia’s journalism school by taking just six additional credits. Considering it usually takes 30 credits, and about $53,000, to get one of those, it’s a pretty good deal.
Back in 2006 I got my M.S. from the J-school, the old-fashioned way. So during my Bagehot tenure, I didn’t take a single additional class there. And yet, come graduation day, they gave me a second diploma. Expecting just the certificate in economics and business journalism that comes with the fellowship, I was too stunned to say anything as they handed it to me up on stage, and I certainly wasn’t going to give it back. But what the heck am I going to do with two degrees from the same school?
Normally, if you have two of the same thing — a pair of shoes, a blender — you can sell one, or trade it for something else. The point is, there’s a secondary market for most things; they have value to other people. Not so with diplomas, which represent knowledge and earned experience — human capital that can’t really be transferred.
There are a lot of unemployed people out there, presumably some of them with college degrees they don’t feel they’re getting proper value for, and would like to sell. Hypothetically speaking, is there any way to glean value from a degree you’re not using, or to create some kind of secondary market for a diploma? Would love to hear your ideas.