The education bubble

The Class The Loans Fell On reports that the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School MBA graduating class is graduating with over $100 million in debt.

Can you say education bubble?

The article starts with:

Dubbed “The Class The Dollars Fell On” by Fortune magazine, the 1949 graduates of the Harvard Business School were undoubtedly the most celebrated group of MBAs in history. Though the 700 or so members of the class graduated with modest expectations, more than a third would become CEOs and well over half would end up as multi-millionaires.

As author Laurence Shames would write in The Big Time, one of two books that documented the group’s unprecedented success, “the class would become emblematic of the mysterious potency of the MBA degree back when it was still exotic, a rare golden ticket to action.”

Fast forward to this year’s incoming class at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. The 845 students who start their first classes on Sept. 7 are among their generation’s best and brightest. Unlike the men of 1949—there were no women–the Wharton group is as diverse as any in history: A record 45 percent are women and 36 percent hail from outside the U.S. To come to the Philadelphia campus, they left some of the most prestigious organizations in the world where they already were on the fast track to success. Some 36 students founded or co-founded businesses.

But there’s one other very big difference between this year’s incoming Wharton class and the most renowned: debt and lots of it. Largely funded by the GI Bill, few members of Harvard’s class graduated with any debt. If the Class of 1949 had been the most wildly successful of all the MBA classes ever, it can be said with certainty that Wharton’s Class of 2013 will be the most heavily in hock.