Wednesday, November 6, 2013

College is a Waste of Time and Money

I am always surprised to hear about the enrollment statistics at local colleges. As college is deemed worthless by employers, why do so many people still enroll, incurring debt in the process? It is as though they and their parents assume that nothing has changed since 1940, and a college degree remains the stepladder into the middle class. The reality is quite different now. There are a lot of people with Bachelor's and even Master's degrees that cannot find anything other than minimum-wage jobs. In reality, there is more to be gained by working at McDonalds for four years than incurring debt for four years. At least at McDonalds, no debt will be incurred, and some amount of money will be earned. There is always the possibility of becoming a store manager as well. I think the real reason kids still go to college is that an expectation has been to baked into their minds by our culture. There remains this almost religious awe of getting a college degree. After all, that may be how their parents moved up the ladder, back in the day when the economy was working. Graduation into the world of highly educated unemployment or under-employment or menial labor will come as a rude shock.

15 comments:

Iain L said...

Is it possible that getting a college degree is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for a "good job" (however defined) viz that having a degree does not guarantee you such a job but that you have no (or very little) chance of getting one without a degree?

igor said...

For some fields, such as education, science, and law, this may be so. In technology and business, I seldom see any emphasis on degrees. I was speaking to a gentleman in his fifties not long ago that was working on an Associate's Degree (2 year) in Business Management, and I asked him whether he thought that would help him get a job. He thought it would. I wonder if he has a job now.

Iain L said...

That would be interesting to know but would neither prove nor disprove your general statement. But I can see that in more structured, or more professionalized, fields a degree is more important. You probably don't care if the guy who designs your website went to college but are more likely to be keen that your cardiologist went to med school, but whether you want that for anything beyond conventional grounds is unclear.

igor said...

I know a lot of people, young and old, fresh out of college and out for a long time, who are not in the career of their choice, and making low wages with no benefits. Good jobs are extremely scarce whether one has a bachelor's degree or not, and whether one has experience or not. I know an MBA making $8.50 an hour and no benefits.

Iain L said...

I am sure you are right - good jobs are hard to find. In many situations experience or contacts are more important than an educational qualification. I would be interested to know, all the same, whether people with a college degree are more likely to end up in better jobs - either proportionally, or in relation to their mean incomes. I'm sure there are stats available on that (not that I can be bothered to search them out). Of course, even if college graduates are better paid there is the issue of whether the (lifetime) benefits offset the time and expense of getting the qualification, as the title of your original post suggested.

igor said...

In the U.S., the best job option for an average young person without connections would be the military, Peace Corps, teaching English overseas, or something similar. For an older person, those options aren't available, and there really aren't many other options except working at Wal-Mart, McDonalds or something like that. You get your Bachelor's Degree, then your MBA, and you're ready to say, "Would you like fries with that?"

Iain L said...

I'm sure I already replied to this but the comment doesn't appear to be here. What I commented on was the difference between getting a qualification that has a clear career focus - like nursing or social work or law - and getting one focused on a topic some might regard as a social or cultural good - English literature or fine arts, for example. The first route might be more likely to lead to a "good" job than the latter. I don't have an MBA but my understanding is that it's something that helps you build on and develop your existing experience and that it wouldn't be good as a standalone. Maybe your older folks would be better off getting nursing degrees than MBAs.

igor said...

I don't know which comment you are referring to.

Nursing school looks good on paper, but the reality is that nursing is a calling. Some are called, many more are not. I think most people have no idea what is involved in clinical. They look at job prospects, pay, education requirements, etc. and think it is the answer to unemployment. Try getting into nursing at 50 after a lifetime working with computers and see how it works out.

Iain L said...

I am not a nurse so I can't comment on people's understanding of it or whether its a calling or not. I have known people who have successfully gone into nursing later in life (after age 50), though admittedly not after a career working with computers. In any case, your argument is now different from your original one - "college is worthless" - and now seems to be "college is mostly worthless and though there are options, you might not like them".

Eric said...

In the UK, and I imagine in the USA aswell, a large proportion of teenagers attend university for no reason other than the fun experience of living away from their parents and getting drunk every evening.

That they acquire a degree after sitting a few easy exams is regarded as a bonus.

Eric said...

These days, getting an academic degree, such as History, Politics or Psychology, is pretty much useless for anyone who doesn't intend to become a teacher.

Vocational qualifications, on the other hand, such as Dentistry, Law or Plumbing, are essential in order to work in the corresponding field. Vocational qualifications the only worthwhile kind now.

igor said...

I've read that law grads are having a difficult time these days. There is a glut of them in the U.S. right now. I really wish I had learned a trade like dentistry or plumbing. I think I could get about 0.00001 by recycling the paper content of my two college degrees. That might be a good bargain, better than 0.0 which is what it is worth otherwise. I graduated summa cum laude, but can't getta dam jobbe.

igor said...

Those exams weren't easy. I don't think college is easy, although it is easy in the same sense that hard work is easy if you like what you are doing. I loved college and loved learning and enjoyed studying, so I thought it was easy, but there was a lot of hard work involved in achieving straight A's all the way through college. I just wish that there were some payoff at the end rather than the recycling bin.

Eric said...

In my experience, (academic subject) college exams are very easy. I studied Psychology and my brother studied Politics, and some of the questions were riduculous - much easier than A Levels (APs in America). This makes sense though. Colleges obviously want as many of their students as possible to pass.

igor said...

Yes, colleges are a business. Perhaps that is why degrees are worthless, because so many people have them.

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