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Monday, February 4, 2013

The Money You're Spending On College Tuition?

Posted by on Mon, Feb 4, 2013 at 9:25 AM

You might want to do something else with it—like, oh, invest in a marijuana grow-op. Something that'll make you money, not leave you bankrupt:

The American system of higher education is increasingly becoming a fiscal disaster for ever-larger numbers of students who move through it. That disaster is being caused by a combination of terrible incentives, institutional greed—and the pervasive myth that more education is the cure for economic inequality.

The extent of this myth is highlighted by a new report from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity which indicates that nearly half of all employed college graduates have jobs that require less than a four-year college education. Despite such sobering statistics, the higher-education complex remains remarkably successful at ensuring that American taxpayers fund the acquisition of educational credentials that, in many cases, leave the people who obtain them worse off than they were before they enrolled.

Far from being “priceless,” as the promoters of ever-more spending on higher education would have Americans believe, both undergraduate and post-graduate education is turning out to be a catastrophic investment for many young and not-so-young adults.

Go read the whole thing—unless you're in your last year of law school, in which case 1. it's way too depressing a read and 2. there's not a lot you can do about it now anyway.

 

Comments (78) RSS

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wilbur@work 78
If you bust your ass, go to the most reasonably priced college you can get into, and study (actually study) something that leads to employability, you will benefit long-term. Even starting now.

If you happen to luck into going to your "dream school", go into infinite debt to study some bullshit you can get a 2 year degree to do, then fuck around for 10 years after school while finding yourself, then yea, you'll grow up to be a whiny little fuck.

Choices, make 'em early
Posted by wilbur@work on February 7, 2013 at 11:11 PM · Report this
77
I get where you're coming from, 68, but the truth is that we have more young people with college degrees now than we ever have, yet they're not as well-educated or -trained as previous generations. And we're thoroughly shafting the 70%+ of the population that *doesn't* complete 4-year college by providing them with an inadequate primary and secondary education and little-to-no career training.

I think your main complaint lies with the constrained resources of basic education. Testing is a part of that, but only a small part. I passed my "graduation exams" (proficiency tests that must be passed before graduating high school) in *8th* grade. My younger brother, who was never a stellar student until he went to college as an adult (on his own dime), passed them all early in *9th* grade (more than half of them in 8th grade, and the last less than half on his second attempt early in 9th grade). So, clearly, even our not-very-good school district could prepare kids, even unmotivated ones, to pass the basic tests early on. But there was little beyond that. Sure, because I was a motivated student, I learned a fair bit. But I could have just coasted by, learning nothing beyond the basics. Given the right resources, our district could have provided excellent courses that made me think as well as technical training that would have engaged my brother (he got a little through a grant program, and enjoyed and excelled in those few courses, but, now having a degree in engineering, would have really shined if he were challenged in applied courses, and not have had to shell out so much to make up the boring classes he didn't understand the purpose of at 15, 16, and 17).

The study cited is a bit short-sighted, but, if you think about it critically and beyond the authors' conclusions, we could really do some creative things to get people the education that will help them excel at a lower cost than shoving more and more kids into a traditional liberal arts college environment. Not everyone is going to excel in that environment, and we're doing a piss-poor job of preparing most students who need that degree for it. A liberal arts education has a lot of value, but, if we did things right, we could provide a lot of that earlier on and then get people the education and training they need to get a JOB at a lower cost. I LIKE people who can think. I agree that critical thinking is sorely lacking in our educational system. But slighting primary and secondary education and career training in favor of funding post-secondary liberal arts educations for underprepared students en masse is not the solution.
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Posted by Ms. D on February 7, 2013 at 7:41 PM · Report this
76
@69, you have a point for a lot of people, and self-taught programmers are somewhat in demand, with the caveat that they want some kind of professional accomplishment. I am good at math and have the credentials to prove it, but the best thing I ever did for my career was learn SAS on my own time and then convince my employer I was worth formal training because I had a knack for it. I have another friend, who used to work with me, who was also good at math, who made himself a millionaire by teaching himself a number of programming languages and turning those into projects he could use to market himself, when taken in combination with his education and experience. I guess I view it as a combo of education, experience, skills (which can often be self-taught), and self-promotion. For some people, just knowing programming is enough, they can design something fabulous and market themselves. For others, like me, my friend, and many others I know, we used the education to get the foot in the door, took advantage of training opportunities (or even just access to EXPENSIVE programs) where possible, spent personal time learning things that could help us, and shamelessly promoted ourselves until we got what we wanted. BUT, people who have a knack for computers would often be better-served by career-oriented, intensive, technology-based vocational education. We could TOTALLY make vocational education jive with the 21st century in this way. Vocational education doesn't have to mean the '50's standard of typing, cosmetology, wood-working, and car maintenance, it can ALSO be technology-focused. Just because it's different today doesn't mean that it isn't a good idea.
Posted by Ms. D on February 7, 2013 at 6:59 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 75
@25- Ask an MBA if what they learned in school was worth the time they'll tell you "No."

The degree is a credential you need to get an interview. It's several thousand dollars skimmed off the top of a business persons career earnings.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings http://www.reddit.com/r/spaceclop on February 6, 2013 at 11:33 AM · Report this
74
@4:

Actually, I suspect that starting a war with China will bring a lot of manufacturing jobs back to America.
Posted by gromm on February 5, 2013 at 11:36 PM · Report this
GhostDog 73
The problem I see with a lot of education is that the stuff that you would need to know to actually get a job are things that universities don't teach.

For example, most universities don't teach the "Software Flavor of the Week" that most positions absolutely require experience in. Some examples I can think of are Ruby on Rails, Documentum DB2, Tivoli, Crystal Reports, ServiceNow, etc. If you are looking to get into a lot of the corporate jobs you will need at least one(or hopefully more than one) of those programs under your belt.

There are also certifications that are really helpful that most companies really like to see that you don't get at most universities that if you can't get a company to pay for them tend to range in the $400-$3000 range.

Of course, some people would say that a lot of this is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic because we still have the problem that most of our technological advancements since around the 80's or so are skewed towards the people who have lots of money to invest at the direct cost to the people who actually need to have a job that they get paid at. The result, of course, is that people who can invest are making money hand over fist and for the people who need jobs the only real growth industries make an average of $12 an hour.
Posted by GhostDog on February 5, 2013 at 6:09 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 72
@70: Community college night classes started me down the path to grad school.
Posted by aureolaborealis on February 5, 2013 at 2:56 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 71
I took out loans to get an Ivy-league undergrad degree that didn't feel particularly life-changing. (Although it was in the liberal arts, so can I really complain?) I was not someone who took advantage of the Ivy network for my career.
For various reasons, I needed to take out loans to go to grad school in a couple of STEM fields, and so far it has been well worth the debt. It has every indication of being more and more worth the debt as time passes.
Posted by aureolaborealis on February 5, 2013 at 2:52 PM · Report this
aardvark 70
Community college career-oriented programs are awesome.

In general with education a distinction needs to be made between school for a traditional education / middle class right of passage from that of shit that will teach you how to be useful and make a living.

Liberal arts are great for their own sake but doesn't mean anyone will want to hire you.
Posted by aardvark on February 5, 2013 at 2:31 PM · Report this
watchout5 69
Anything that would force as much, "study, test, study, test, study, test" as I got in school isn't worth my time. Calculus? Really? I loved programming. I loved other students. I loved most of my teachers. I can't take a class that is study, test exclusively, it's not how information works in the 21st century. I can write programs to do my calculus problems better and faster than I ever could. Had I given more fucks, or maybe if the state didn't consider me (at 30k a year) too rich for any school help, I probably could have applied myself. I lost interest, and continuing on would just be a money sink until I can pull myself together to pass Calc. I don't need to though. I have a job. Programming would likely suit me better as a hobby than career. I'm glad it didn't take going into debt to find that out, and I'm really glad I don't have to explain math equations that I can easily type into wolfram alpha and spit out hundreds of right answers. In this century, I see very little need for so much of the classes at school. I'm not trying to discredit math entirely, but the old way cannot be the new way if we want successful people in our future.
Posted by watchout5 http://www.overclockeddrama.com on February 5, 2013 at 7:54 AM · Report this
lauramae 68
Going to college and getting a bachelor's degree absolutely opened doors during that era of the American past when we valued education. Naturally during that time, not everyone could afford the time or the money, even if it cost less. College has always been a huge financial investment. In terms of family finance, there has never been a large surplus of cash to set aside money for college for most families.

The emergence of the liberal arts college came about very early in the history of this country based on the concept that an educated populace was good for everyone. Education was one of many concepts of public investment for the common good. Unfortunately the capacity to attend college became more rare because of the Great Depression, war after war, lack of middle class status, etc. After WWII the capacity to attend became more common because of the GI Bill. And we as a country became more interested in really making access to higher ed democratic because of the whole Soviet threat.

When we became successful and people had low tuition, access to some low interest rate loans and tons of grant aid----we pulled the rug out. Public investment in higher education came to a grinding halt under Reagan and we've steadily chipped away from that ever since. The elites could absolutely not bear the fact that more and more people understood that the scales of power were tipped in the elite favor. There weren't enough poor people to be battle fodder for wars. There weren't enough poor people to do the bidding of the elites and just be thankful for having a shitty toil heavy job. People actually expected something from their lives!

Thus the campaign to convince you that college is unnecessary. After all if you have no critical thinking skills, no concept of your role in the historical time line, or the way history of oligarchy comes and goes, you have no way of recognizing them when they appear again and no interest or ability to fighting it.
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Posted by lauramae on February 4, 2013 at 8:39 PM · Report this
67
@64, I did state school on loans, some meager scholarships (my school was not especially generous with merit-based aid, I got some, but not a lot), and some working because my parents didn't plan and I couldn't afford the better schools I got into. For me, I had a plan, I executed it, and I have managed to do well such that the loans and the state-school education are not holding me back.

Actually, I think that's something telling about Dr. Vedder...he chose to spend his teaching career at a state school, and always treated us as competent, capable students (I took an introductory couse and several mid-level courses from him, beyond him being my adviser). When I did actually run into him at a luncheon about a year ago (one of my (more conservative) friends said I would be interested in it, and I rolled my eyes, and then she said she wanted to speak with Dr. Vedder, and I said "I have a way to make that happen," and introduced her to him, since he still remembered me when I approached him), he noted that he knew I would do well, since I was a serious student and had a plan to succeed. It's not necessarily about where you go to school or how you do it, but what you want to get out of it. I'm sure he knows that I and many of my classmates were kids on loans, and in all my conversations with him, I know he doesn't think that loans, grants, and other aid are the crux of the problem, it's the availability of them to any and everyone who can get an "average" test score or GPA, coupled with the lack of alternatives. Student loans have been available for forever and a month...my dad used them back in the 60's. It's the general availability and the push to use them that are problematic. When my dad used them, he was an excellent student of modest means who could excel with a college education, while other students took advantage of vocational education or at least graduated high school having a firm grasp on the "three R's" (heck, my grandparents only completed 8th grade and could read, write, and do arithmetic better than half of today's high school students). And, as I've said, my mom took advantage of vocational education and career/community college to make a life. It's not that people shouldn't be educated, it's that we're pushing people into one type of education, and that isn't ideal for everyone, or even for the economy (on both the cost and the demand for employees sides).
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Posted by Ms. D on February 4, 2013 at 7:09 PM · Report this
66
The article is really about the cost of law school more than anything else... and the way in which law school has become a racket has been the subject of a fair amount of media attention over the last several years (basically since right after I graduated from law school...). Law schools sell the idea of big money jobs to encourage student to borrow 100% of the money to pay for it. People think: "why worry about borrowing $120k when I'll be making at least that when I graduate."

But the reality is that the big money jobs are not as abundant as they once were, and jobs period are fairly scarce due to how many people are graduating from law school every year. The number of people from my law school who are either not working at attorneys or started their own firms (self job-creation, and rarely big money jobs) speaks to this. I took me 5 years before I was able to work up to a job/firm that paid me well (and I'm still talking less than $100k). Now I make a good salary that is nothing to sneeze at but I'm still staring down 30 years of loan payments and a principal balance that has not seemed to change at all.

That was kind of a bitch session. I think college is worthwhile for many people, but a law degree is over hyped and the whole profession could deal with a little down sizing.
Posted by lawyer on February 4, 2013 at 6:11 PM · Report this
65
If you're majoring in a STEM field, a 4 year degree and even grad school pays off.

English majors with four year degrees earn, on average, significantly less than many people with technical education at a community college.

The lesson: if you wanna smoke pot and bullshit about books, don't go a couple hundred thousand in debt going to a liberal art college to smoke pot and bullshit about books.

If you want to earn a good living, learn a fucking skill. Nursing and accounting are reasonable choices for those scared of, or incapable of doing, Calculus.
Posted by Functional Atheist on February 4, 2013 at 5:49 PM · Report this
64
@58, you said that really well and I agree with you. Not everyone is cut out for college--a lot of kids would benefit more from vocational training.

Also, college and grad school does not have to be obscenely expensive. It's nice to study full time at a private university but it is really not a must. For me, I went to a state school, had merit scholarship that covered most of my tuition and worked to cover for living expenses (mom and dad paid remaining tuition which was very fortunate and helped a lot). After graduation, my jobs in college set me up with enough experience to find a job that paid jack but was with a great company. I worked full time and took advantage of their tuition reimbursement to pick up a MA which took 4 years going p/t but cost me only time and effort. Got a better job with another good co, got a second MA, another 4 years of p/t school which honestly kinda sucked--but again, it didn't cost me a dime.

Please don't think I'm doing a humble brag or some such--I really just want to point out that it is possible to get a great education without drowning in debt. It's not super fun but it's definitely doable.
Posted by jujubee80 on February 4, 2013 at 5:29 PM · Report this
63
There's nothing wrong with student loans, BTW, so long as you have a plan beyond "get a degree." I know, it's hard to get kids to think about what that plan might be, but they need to. I have a BOATLOAD of student loans, and I only struggled with them for the first 6 months of my career (when I settled for something that paid a little less than I was qualified for - though still in my field - to put SOME kind of experience on my resume...in order to land a good job and then a better one and then a MUCH better one and now working on a MUCH MUCH better one by taking the initiative to learn a new skill that will net me better pay (for a lot of time sacrifice and about $3K in formal training) and more opportunity). I suppose I'm sacrificing a little because of those loans. I could have a bigger/better home or travel more without those payments (I already save more than sufficiently and have plenty of "fun" money), but, for me, it was a good investment. I make enough to own a comfortable home, have a good time, and save for the future. I don't think that my life as I know it would have been possible without taking out those loans. I can think of things I would do with that money if I didn't have the loans, but if I didn't have the loans I would be making SO much less that I wouldn't be able to afford those things anyway, so I chalk it up to an investment and deal. Overall, I'm only worse off than my super-smart friends who went to school on full rides and my super-rich friends whose parents paid the bill (or not-so-super-rich whose parents planned). I'm MUCH better off than the friends who chose to forgo an education, even when it was in their best interest and they had the aptitude for it and NOT for something well-paying and more blue-collar.

BUT, I also went to school at a time when I saw my costs nearly double over undergrad and grad school. There's no reason that should have happened, and future generations will be better off than me if we can rein in the cost increases. Had my tuition increased at only the rate of inflation, I'd have as much as $200/month more in disposable income. The increases in cost need to be checked, and sending more kids through 4-year programs that don't meet their needs is not the way to do that.
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Posted by Ms. D on February 4, 2013 at 5:08 PM · Report this
Bauhaus I 62
@61 - I agree with what you say except for the Ivy League part. I think most Ivy League students are set. Part of the celebration of getting into Harvard (if you didn't get in via legacy) is that your future is assured. Doors will open up for you that won't open up for anyone else. Of course, you can spazz-out and not take advantage of that incredible gift - like the Uni-bomber, to name one, but under normal circumstances, I think if you graduate from an Ivy League school (particularly Harvard and Yale), you'll have the future you want.
Posted by Bauhaus I on February 4, 2013 at 4:39 PM · Report this
61
College doesn't have to be expensive. I did the first two years at a community college, with a 4.0/4.0, then when I transferred to a four-year I got scholarships. Grad school (a master's in math) was paid for with a teaching assistantship. Long story short, I graduated debt-free.

But if your main criteria include 'a school with a good football team' or 'an ivy league school', then you're probably not going to get your money's worth.
Posted by Chakolate on February 4, 2013 at 2:43 PM · Report this
60
@57 Ok, I get it. The punishing burden of student loans means that no person or family should take on significant debt to finance education. But college education is not a waste of money. The question is whether you can get out from under the debt enough to reap the benefit.
Posted by cracked on February 4, 2013 at 2:29 PM · Report this
59
The College/High school situation is a little bit more interesting then some are making it out to be. HS no longer provides you the skills it should be so people have stopped assuming that it does give you those skills. In order to get into a decent college you have to already have the skills HS is supposed to be giving you. So college degrees are used to show that someone has proficiency in something that they had to already have in order to get into college.

It is a very odd situation.
Posted by wachow on February 4, 2013 at 2:12 PM · Report this
58
I'll be the oddball here. I actually know Dr. Vedder. He was my adviser in undergrad. I disagree with him on many things, and it's actually possible to have a respectful disagreement with him. But he cares about students and the quality of education. Do I agree with him that student loans are driving up the cost and down the quality of a college education? Actually, yes (though, I exercise caution on grants...more on that in a second). People who have no business being in a traditional, 4-year college are there. Now, that's not to say that blanket cutting support is the right solution, and where I would, if I happened to run into Dr. Vedder on the street today, actually call him out. Scalpel, moving money around to different accounts...not slash and burn cuts.

SELECTIVELY cutting financial support for 4-year college training, or at least channeling more of that money to students who demonstrate competency and goals-driven studies is necessary. So, if you're a middle-class kid who would do it all on loans, you need to be a bit brighter to qualify for the 4-year or pay for it yourself. Or, if you're poor enough for grants, you need to demonstrate competency and progress toward graduation throughout your college career to continue receiving the grants. Of course we could combine these with creative options like...his other suggestions, to increase the types of education available to our kiddos. Let's get kids of out high school with a marketable skill (vocational education) and/or FULLY prepared for college. I'd add, let's get more kids going to community colleges where appropriate (many AA and certificate programs could land people pretty decent jobs, and at a far lower cost to both them and us than having someone with a BA working as a paralegal; community college is also far cheaper for those who aspire to a 4-year degree but need some remedial work, and we could limit loans to CC if you don't make the cut to jump right into 4-year, and then, once competent for 4-year, unleash the flood gates with some of the coursework done cheap!), and (as suggested, although not clearly) re-balance resources so that kids who do need a 4-year degree don't need remedial training of any sort to dive right in, which can shorten their college career and ALSO provides a quality level of education to all the kids...even those who don't go on to college.

So, overall...he says "too much supported spending." I agree that this is part of the problem of education cost inflation. "Unprepared students"...unless you've been living under a rock, yes, true (not all, but some). "Lack of investment in primary and secondary education as well as career education"...I've been yelling about this for years (why could my mom graduate from high school qualified to be both a secretary and a cosmetologist, but kids today have to pay their own way for that training or go to college hoping for more and then settle; why could she later pay just $2200 to get a certificate that secured her a $18/hour job (that's actually pretty good for where she lives), but my friend's husband has $10K in debt for his HVAC cert?). "Cut government support"...REFORM government support so that all kids are getting a solid education that gets them a job at the minimum cost to them and society. With minor tweaks to the conclusions, it's pretty reasonable.
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Posted by Ms. D on February 4, 2013 at 2:01 PM · Report this
57
Dan,

Come back to me in a few more years when you and Terry have told D.J. not to go to college, that it's a waste of time and money. In fact, he's old enough now that you and Terry must be having discussions about it. Have you told DJ it is a waste of time and you aren't going to help him pay for it, that he should just go to J.C.?

Oh, and for those who say that college is the new high school, doesn't that mean you will be treated the same way high school drop outs were treated 35 years ago? I mean, it either serves that social function or it doesn't.
Posted by cracked on February 4, 2013 at 1:57 PM · Report this
56
*community, *two
Posted by Go Engineering! on February 4, 2013 at 12:54 PM · Report this
James6 55
There are problems with the job market, yes, and not everyone whose education trajectory is aimed at an academic job will get one. But nevertheless, on average, high school grads earn more than non-graduates; BA holders earn more than high school graduates; people with MAs earn more than people who with BAs; and PhDs earn more than MAs. And if you're in your last year of law school, and you graduate and pass the bar and start working, you're probably going to be doing just fine.
Posted by James6 on February 4, 2013 at 12:51 PM · Report this
54
My money was well spent. Two years community college. Three years University and Two years for Masters. For cummunity college and University I paid about $40K. I lived at home like a loser :- ( . Grad school was free. Four years after graduating I'm making $100K with benefits. You guessed right, I am not an Art History major.
Posted by Go Engineering! on February 4, 2013 at 12:50 PM · Report this
53
@50 is right, too.
Posted by seeker6079 on February 4, 2013 at 12:48 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 52
@46 is also correct. As, sadly, is @51.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on February 4, 2013 at 12:31 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 51
Hey, the Chinese can afford a good American education, so fuck off.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on February 4, 2013 at 12:18 PM · Report this
50
@30, I worked for a "Top 10" research institution, and it's kind of a racket. On the one hand, you have the hand wringing about costs and fiscal responsibility when it comes time to raise tuition, reduce faculty hours/salaries, reduce class offerings, raise fees, and provide raises to rank and file employees, but let no expense be spared in moving up as a research institution (patents =$$$$), getting that shiny new building (usually on these types of campuses there are 2-3 buildings being built all the time, and others in the wings, even in times of economic downturn), and tons of mid-level managers who, despite no one who reports to them being able to name five useful functions they serve, and despite seeing them for less than 25 hours a week, somehow magically make six figure salaries, and can never ever be fired. If they get a little too bold in their flaunting of their gravy train job, they're simply transferred to another department. Meanwhile, you've got students in lecture halls 400-1000 deep, learning the bare minimum content because the professor can't be bothered to teach, because the real money is in publishing. You'll get far more bang for your buck at the local community college.
Posted by MinnySota on February 4, 2013 at 12:10 PM · Report this
49
@39 Yep, and ten years later that obnoxious undergrad becomes the much abused adjunct professor who has to scrimp and save to make his car payment.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 4, 2013 at 12:03 PM · Report this
48
@40 Have you looked into joining the army as an enlisted man? I know a lot of guys who paid off their student loans by doing convoy duty in Baghdad. These days most of them don't sleep to good on account of their PTSD but at least their personal finances are in order.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 4, 2013 at 11:43 AM · Report this
Original Andrew 47
@ 25,

I wish that were true, but no. The job market implosion has caught up with MBAs big-time: We're now applying for jobs that used to require only a bachelor's. The problem is political (our current Kamikaze KKKongriss and their insane fiscal policy) and structural, as a result of economic and corporate mismanagement, which have decimated the number of living-wage jobs available in our country and created an economy that produces mostly low-wage, unskilled positions.
Posted by Original Andrew on February 4, 2013 at 11:41 AM · Report this
46
Student debt is an enormous problem. But the answer isn't less education, it is free college tuition. At the very least, we should be pushing for our states to restore support for HE, which has done nothing but drop and drop and drop in most states since the millennium.
Posted by noneolib on February 4, 2013 at 11:41 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 45
@44 is correct.

Quite a lot of coverage in various business news about this, and the lack of employers willing to change now that times are different.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on February 4, 2013 at 11:40 AM · Report this
44
nearly half of all employed college graduates have jobs that require less than a four-year college education
Yeah, and that's where wording is fun. The jobs might require less than a four year college education .... But that doesn't mean that employers aren't demanding that level of education, and it sure as hell doesn't mean that they aren't fucking hiring anybody who isn't absurdly overqualified because they can and, I'd wager, because the HR johnnies are starting to make it mandatory even though it's unconnected to that is necessary for the job because, hey, accreditation inflation is what they do.
Posted by seeker6079 on February 4, 2013 at 11:19 AM · Report this
43
These statistics are being skewed by for-profit colleges, online programs, and lower-tier universities. Not all programs are created equally. If you can get into a well-regarded university, including quality state schools like UW, the investment in a bachelors degree more than pays for itself over the course of a lifetime. More importantly, a good education benefits you in many ways that are harder to measure economically. The cost of college definitely needs to come down and for-profit institutions should be more heavily regulated, but I hope these (increasingly frequent) articles bashing college & student loans don’t scare away bright young high school kids from going to that top 100 university they were just accepted into.
Posted by Keenan C on February 4, 2013 at 11:17 AM · Report this
42
College has been the new high school for quite a number of years now. This has three connected causes:

1) the idea that EVERYONE should go to college, because it represents economic opportunity and everyone has an equal right to that;
2) the consumerist idea that a shitty student who has paid for a class deserves to pass it; and
3) the resultant massive dumbing-down of college classes.

I have taught undergrads at a state university and a private urban community college. Frankly, few of the state-school students had any business possessing a high-school diploma, and almost none of the community-college students did. College for them was a catch-up on high school.

So if a college degree doesn't get you a great entry-level job these days, it's because such a degree has become next to meaningless. The distinction it used to make between applicants still gets made, but now it has to come out in the actual workplace.
Posted by Alec on February 4, 2013 at 11:13 AM · Report this
41
@32 With all due respect, I think you're also missing the point. College is not about sitting in a chair and listening to another person order you to read books. Likewise, education is not solely about reading five books on a subject and discussing them with family and friends—though good on you if you are fortunate enough to have family and friends to discuss philosophy or any other subject with. The college experience includes myriad things: honing critical thinking and learning to intelligently communicating your thoughts, creating an argument or analysis and backing it up, developing a strong work ethic, social and professional skills, etc.

I agree that the cost of college is outrageous. The situation is discouraging. But professors are sacrificing a great deal to do their best for very little. That dedication to student development is what still makes higher education a worthwhile investment. High school students are arguably less prepared for the working world upon graduation than ever before. College students who put their all into their education will reap the benefits down the road.
Posted by mitten on February 4, 2013 at 11:08 AM · Report this
40
I am a 30 year old with a Master's degree who has been unemployed since July. The closest I've come to a job in that time is an invitation to take a test to see if I'm qualified to be a public transit bus driver.

I am accepting now that I will never own a house, start a family, take vacations, or retire. I'll be lucky if I ever pay off my student loans.

If I had known that my best option at 30 was going to be bus driver, I probably would have skipped the years and tens of thousands of dollars I spent to be simultaneously over- and underqualified for every other job in the world.
Posted by Lauchlin on February 4, 2013 at 11:01 AM · Report this
39
@17--Consumer driven education = "I am paying your salary. I paid for my A, now give it to me--or else I will see that you lose your job, you pathetic little adjunct/untenured faculty member who obviously must not be very smart, or else you would be out in the business world raking in the cash--like I am going to be!"
Posted by LML on February 4, 2013 at 11:00 AM · Report this
sheiler 38
wait, I can invest in a MJ co-op? Do tell.
Posted by sheiler http://sheilerama.com on February 4, 2013 at 10:57 AM · Report this
37
It's a relief that our high schools are turning out such smart, capable citizens now that college is no longer necessary!
Posted by CharlesUFarley on February 4, 2013 at 10:56 AM · Report this
36
If you exclude jobs where the degree is specific (law, engineering, medicine etc...), doesn't university simply show future employers that you know how to stick at something for 3-4 years?
Posted by Hmassese on February 4, 2013 at 10:54 AM · Report this
35
I didn't go to college and have always done well for myself. BUT, i'm also white, straight, male, cis, etc.

On top of that I've managed not to father any offspring and to find a partner that is with me on that. On top of that I've been fortunate enough to avoid any major medical complications.

So without taking any of that into account "I never went to college and I did fine."

But I couldn't really say that for anyone without my combination of luck and life choices.
Posted by cpt. tim on February 4, 2013 at 10:53 AM · Report this
34
@30

And to take the law school thing one step further, we are absolutley seeing demand plummet in response to the increase in price and the lack of jobs. I think this last year reflected the largest drop at 20%, with decline in the proceeding years as well. Interestingly, some schools are still raising tuition prices.

Despite what Dan thinks, as a last year law student (I go to a decent but cheap school and have no where near the 70k a year debt levels) this is great news. Employers may well find it more and more difficult to find and hire competent lawyers and will increase salaries. Salary increases will entice another generation into law school, and we'll all play the game again.

Yes that assumes that some amazing algorthim isn't written that makes 95% of the legal profession obsolete (possible!) and that the economy continues to recover (likely).

In short: some people lose out along the way, but the market actually seems to be working pretty well.
Posted by somebodycallthelaw on February 4, 2013 at 10:51 AM · Report this
33
Well, it's a good thing our high schools are turning out such smart, capable people that college isn't really necessary anymore.
Posted by CharlesUFarley on February 4, 2013 at 10:50 AM · Report this
Indighost 32
@29, @26, @10: You guys are completely missing the point.

Nobody is "attacking" the value of education. Of course it is valuable to be educated. No conservative jerk can disprove that. What they are saying is that college tuition is becoming no longer worth the dollar cost.

For example: You want to learn about famous philosophers. Go and buy five books for <$100 and read them. Then, discuss them with friends and family. Now, you have educated yourself. But if you are paying $75,000 to a college in order to sit in a chair and have another person order you to read those books, you have also educated yourself, and perhaps this way is easier and more convenient and requires less self-discipline, but that still may not be a better deal.

The same goes for subjects such as computer programming, art, writing, and corporate finance. I believe that's some element of what people such as the article writer are trying to say.

The catch, obviously, is if you have a certificate that says something like 'harvard' at the top, other people will be more impressed by it. But I do not believe that the actual education is any different.
Posted by Indighost on February 4, 2013 at 10:49 AM · Report this
31
@17 - You nailed it. Kids come out of high school knowing that they need/want to go to college but with no financial literacy to make that decision. I see those graduates in the story photo with "Debt: $74K" on their caps and the only thing I'm thinking is... you went to a school you couldn't afford and are the cause of the bubble. But, by all means, let's continue to diminish any role personal responsibility plays and figure out to change government so we're all taken care of and these kids can get the education they deserve.
Posted by cliche on February 4, 2013 at 10:41 AM · Report this
30
First, this specific article is about lawyers, a group for whom tuition is outrageously high. Second, what's happening to lawyers is indicative of a paradigm shift in the public's attitude toward higher education: college students are increasingly consumers, that is, folks looking to purchase a college degree in as a ticket to employment options; simultaneously, certain programs have become essentially speculative, with tuition prices made up out of thin air. Lawyers fall right into that niche. And the rise of for-profit education is indicative of the consumerization of higher ed.

Meanwhile, the real crises threatening higher ed make up a real shit sandwich: retracting state support of public institutions has forced universities to hike tuition and even to get in bed with private investors, who add fuel to the notion that college is about jobs. Rising healthcare costs for institutions that traditionally took good care of their professors throws another log on that fire. A huge building boom swept across the nation prior to the busting of the real-estate bubble, and the bonds are largely on the shoulders of current-day college students through tuition and fees - these students are paying for condo-like residence halls, luxurious student union buildings with endless food courts, and so on. (Aside: this is coupled to the diminished state funding, in that many public schools have seen revenue opportunities through leasing spaces in their SUBs, and many residence halls are actually administered by private companies like American Campus Communities, who have long-term leases with their universities).

The last decade has also seen an almost cancerous growth of highly-paid administrators across the nation. Not only are there more middle-level administrators, but their pay often dwarfs that of even senior faculty.

This is to say little of athletics programs, the huge proportion of which are net losers for colleges. Even after accounting for the halo effect of alumni donations that they tend to generate.

The whole grim picture is underwritten by the availability of cheap student loans and a growing acceptance of debt by consumers.

Meanwhile, if college increasingly means forfeiting a future downpayment on a house, putting off a family and essentially extending one's adolescence into one's mid-to-late twenties, why are students going to college? Because there is the perception - however real or false - that there are few options for employment after high school aside from white collar jobs.

TL;DR:, you have a viable system that has been kneecapped by state fear of increasing revenue, greedy administrators, a terrible labor market, the deep consumerization of 21st century society, and a willingness by consumers to borrow heavily, even if that thing is essentially speculative.

"For-profit" / "Online-only" / MOOCs / related developments are nothing more than the cries of pain uttered by a system that is on the ground, writhing.
More...
Posted by courner on February 4, 2013 at 10:35 AM · Report this
29
Oh jeez, Dan, not you too. Higher ed is the hobgoblin of conservative minds, and the "liberal college professor" is one of their easiest-target scapegoats for a failing economy. True, higher ed is not a panacea - we should have far more apprenticeship opportunities for those who would prefer to learn a trade, for example. But the idea that the learning achieved in the effort of attaining a degree is "worthless" because too many recent grads can't find a job? Give me a break.

I could go on about several other aspects of this "story," and write eloquently about the value of post-secondary education - to the individual and to society - but then I'd just be showing off my worthless college education.
Posted by mtb on February 4, 2013 at 10:32 AM · Report this
28
@24 In a lot of 'civilized' countries in which college education is 'free' young people looking for work are having an even harder time than their counterparts in the US. You can read more about that here:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/0…
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 4, 2013 at 10:28 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 27
The real question everyone should be asking, regardless of the merits of this study, is, Is higher education worth the exponential tuition increases they ask? And by "worth," I am speaking of monetary value. Is today's education, double what it cost just a few years ago, actually any more valuable than it was just a few years ago?

@ 10, I generally do not accept hard right think tank products at face value either, but does that mean that the whole study is wrong? Can you refute any of its conclusions?

@ 19, that's the key. Yes, the study may look at recent grads, but in an era of stagnant real wages and low-paying jobs requiring degrees, what does the future look like for tomorrow's grads? It's looking pretty bleak from this perspective.
Posted by Matt from Denver on February 4, 2013 at 10:23 AM · Report this
26
@10, thank you - the institute is founded by Richard Vedder, arch-dick, whose aim is to reduce government spending on EVERYTHING but especially education - privatizing state schools is his big thing. He's a deficit hawk, a Wal-Mart apologist par excellence, and doesn't care how much twist his people have to apply to the facts.

Be very, very suspicious of anything these people do. Their work is far from academically rigorous.
Posted by gloomy gus on February 4, 2013 at 10:23 AM · Report this
Helix 25
Because people only care about money and no one could ever possibly want to do something that they enjoy, but requires a ton of education, right Dan?

Also maybe you should ask the MBAs how useless their degree is. Hint: they're raking it in.
Posted by Helix on February 4, 2013 at 10:22 AM · Report this
Simply Me 24
In more civilized parts of the world, like much of Europe, people can go to college for FREE. We could do that if we were not spending trillions on wars based on false information.
Posted by Simply Me on February 4, 2013 at 10:21 AM · Report this
singing cynic 23
@5 how right you are! A college degree is required to be a receptionist, a retail slave, or a telemarketer. A friend of mine living in NYC needed to provide his college transcript to apply to be a dog walker.

Meanwhile, my dad has a BA in poli sci (the degree that he managed to scrape together after four years of taking whatever classes he felt like at a state university) and, as an executive, can only hire people who have MBAs. It's insane.
Posted by singing cynic on February 4, 2013 at 10:21 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 22
#18

Yet, I look at all the creative written and visual activity on the web and I think..they real problem is our content labor is being exploited for free.

It is like the famous letter that Bill Gates wrote about programmers needing to be paid.

We all seem to know what is really valuable in society, but our monetary and rewards systems have not yet caught up...
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on February 4, 2013 at 10:14 AM · Report this
21
Also caused by all too easy to get student loans....
Posted by Education Bubble on February 4, 2013 at 10:12 AM · Report this
20
One problem is that as a society what we say about education (everyone should go to college right out of high school and study whatever they want to become better people) and how we fund it (it is a personal investment that must be paid back based on job skills) don't match.

If we want universal education, for the sake of education, we have to fund it as such. If it is an investment, kids should be told that up front and given options and tools to make better decisions. It can be a great investment, but not for everyone under the current system.
Posted by SantiagoFan on February 4, 2013 at 10:11 AM · Report this
19
Dan... you do know that this study specifically looks at recent college graduates right? Its always been true that a lot of people who graduate from college end up slumming it for a couple of years before they can get into a real career. It was that way when I was in college and it was was that way when my parents were in college.

The trick is that if you look over the persons entire lifespan you see that college graduates make 38% more in their lifetime (including the years you spend working at the Outback Steakhouse) then their high-school graduate peers. And this number has been trending up, not down.

Don't buy into this weird anti education cult that is going around. It is B.S.

Also anybody who is getting a Law degree is going to have the chance to make a crap-ton of money, they are good. Law is one of those degrees that directly funnels to a job. Law students don't need your pity.
Posted by wachow on February 4, 2013 at 10:10 AM · Report this
18
When I was in fifth grade my teacher told me "Of course you'll be overeducated for your first job. Your degree won't pay off until a couple of years down the road." So does "working college grads" mean working 23-year-olds or working 23–33-year-olds?

But more education IS the answer to inequality. It's just that "more education" means more quality in K-12. A BA or BS is proof that someone can sit still, delay gratification, do boring work, and get said boring work done on time. Back when those degrees were rarer, it didn't matter if the major was English; it was still proof that someone could be a good worker. Higher education is still good, but we need to train people for the jobs that society actually needs. We shouldn't scrap English, art and poetry programs, but they should only take the top students so that the number of graduates is closer to the number of jobs. It's not a perfect solution. I deliberately majored in something that had job relevance (with a minor equiv. in one of the arts; gotta balance!) and I still had a lot of trouble landing a position.

Most of this article is about the loan system and a possible upcoming collapse. I agree that reform, such as requiring schools to disclose how many students actually get jobs, would be a good thing.
Posted by DRF on February 4, 2013 at 10:09 AM · Report this
17
@6 Consumer driven education would be fine if students would let go the the silly idea that a diploma or professional credential guarantees them a good job. If we're going to have a consumer driven system of higher education, students need to learn to be more savvy consumers. College students should be encouraged to critically evaluate the utility of what they are learning and weigh it's value against what they are paying for it.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 4, 2013 at 10:08 AM · Report this
16
I am nearing 60. In 1971 I dropped out of high school, studied on my own for a few years, did lots of menial and manual labor jobs, and then worked my way through a series of "trade" jobs, learning along the way. By 1979 I had a master electrician's license. I've never had trouble getting work (have had my own business for about 20 years), and have never been more than a few thousand dollars in debt ... which includes getting a paralegal degree at the age of 45 that I have never used. "Education" is easy and relatively inexpensive. The "college degree" myth is just that and can suck you dry if you're not very careful. It's like that editorial cartoon where the guy says: "Who says this restaurant has no class? I just hired a PhD to wash dishes."
Posted by JeanV on February 4, 2013 at 10:05 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 15
In a true Meritocracy any 4 year degree given by an accredited college and verified with standardized testing should entitle the bearer to a stipend.

For example, the current GS-4 earns about $24,000. That is the base salary that should be given to a BS or BA holder on graduation...even if the degree is in literature or music or biology.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on February 4, 2013 at 10:02 AM · Report this
Bauhaus I 14
I don't disagree at all with the article, but I still see jobs listed requiring Master's degrees. The problem is that most of those jobs want to pay you $12 or $14 an hour. You'll never pay back a student loan on that salary. So is it college that's the problem or employers or both?
Posted by Bauhaus I on February 4, 2013 at 9:59 AM · Report this
13
We've lost a lot of the living-wage jobs that a person could enter out of high school, learn on the job, and have a skill that could last them. These were lost by corporations sending factories to third world countries, and never considering the value of a skilled labor force. And we've made college increasingly expensive by not investing in it, using usurious loans to take up the gap created by stifled Pell grants and subsidized tuition.
Posted by LMcGuff http://holyoutlaw.livejournal.com/ on February 4, 2013 at 9:58 AM · Report this
Original Andrew 12
It really says something about our country that even graduate degrees in anything other than computers or medicine are basically worthless.

Like it or not, those of us without the captial or resources to start our own businesses are now in an academic arms race fighting over the ever-shrinking number of jobs that have benefits and pay living wages.
Posted by Original Andrew on February 4, 2013 at 9:56 AM · Report this
11
@10: The fact that Dan will take any and every opportunity to be a talking head on various news channels should have been your first red flag.
Posted by WenWino on February 4, 2013 at 9:55 AM · Report this
10
I'm disappointed Dan posted this study without vetting it. The article is based on a report produced by an institute that is led by a faculty member at the American Enterprise Institute - a notorious conservative/libertarian think tank. Sure higher ed has its problems, but the elites would be pushing so hard to undermine it if they didn't think that ultimately their positions of control would be undermined if more people achieved a college education. The article is just part of and parcel of the continuing attack on higher ed, so often bemoaned by Goldy and others here.
Posted by Peri427 on February 4, 2013 at 9:51 AM · Report this
9
After getting a masters degree, being in about $90K in debt, and burning out on my degreed profession, I really wish I had discovered community college much earlier. I've had so much joy taking classes at community college. It's harder, because you're really in classes taught to the lowest common denominator, but if you have initiative, and apply yourself, taking full advantage of the resources and teachers, you can come out with a great foundation with much less cost.
Posted by Laura Q. http://www.quasilaur.net on February 4, 2013 at 9:51 AM · Report this
8
what?

you no likey Gommorah?

too bad.....
Posted by you can check out.anytime you like.but you can never leave. on February 4, 2013 at 9:50 AM · Report this
emor 7
is think @5 is on to something. My job does not explicitly require a degree, but I feel that certain intangible benefits of my education -- the ability to communicate well, the ability to a lot of work I have to do but don't want to do -- help me immensely. The stuff I actually studied though: not so much.

Posted by emor on February 4, 2013 at 9:49 AM · Report this
6
As a former professor, I need to point out that you have to consider how higher education has changed in recent decades. It has become more consumer-driven, so that instructors--many of them poor with no job security--are forced to give the students the A that they so clearly deserve--despite being unable or unwilling to do the work for even a C. You get what you want out of college. If you want a high GPA, you can bully your way into graduating with honors without learning anything (beyond how to bully.) If you want to learns something, you will put in the work and learn something.
Posted by LML on February 4, 2013 at 9:43 AM · Report this
5
On the other hand, the lack of a college degree is a barrier to getting even menial jobs now. The half of all employed college graduates with jobs that require less than a four-year college education might have no job or a worse job without the degree. (Which does not necessarily mean that it is a good investment.)
Posted by randoma on February 4, 2013 at 9:40 AM · Report this
Former Lurker 4
That's the price we pay for freedom... and foreign wars.
Posted by Former Lurker on February 4, 2013 at 9:39 AM · Report this
3
So college is only for the well off now?
Posted by Seattle14 on February 4, 2013 at 9:38 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 2
Glad to know that future generations will be less educated than their parents and grand-parents.

China is still sending their kids off to college though right? Yeah...that'll keep America being #1! LOL!!!
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on February 4, 2013 at 9:35 AM · Report this
1
The sweet irony of having SNU advertising it's MBA healthcare program at the top of this page (mobile app). "100% online or on campus"

(4 Semesters) Total Program Cost
40

$26,640.00**

Sounds like a steal!
Posted by give me pom on February 4, 2013 at 9:33 AM · Report this

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