The title to Nathan Marks’ Strib op-ed is “That college degree paid off, for the schools, not for me.” It could’ve just as easily been titled “Overeducated, Underemployed.” Here’s the part that should bother every parent and student:
After meeting with more than one counselor at that junior college and making clear that I would not make a good high school teacher, I was sold on the idea that I could do anything with a degree in the liberal arts.
“Corporations need good writers and thinkers,” I was told. “Just get a degree … in anything.”
I transferred to the University of Minnesota after meeting the Minnesota woman of my dreams and studied history and Latin for three years. I did well enough at the U to gain entry to the University of Chicago’s Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences.
On my visit to Chicago to learn more about this seemingly pointless degree, the director made a comment that has stuck with me. He said that the master’s is the new bachelor’s.
With this in mind, and with the assurance that a master’s from one of the best universities in the world would make me more competitive than the average college graduate, I bit the bullet and filled out another aid application.
The idea that a “new bachelor’s” would make me more attractive to those corporations looking for good writers and thinkers was important, as it was by then the depths of the so-called Great Recession.
Now, here I sit, two years after graduating from the University of Chicago and the University of Minnesota, working a menial job in the service industry (luckily, I had contacts, otherwise I fear I would have been seen as an overqualified, underexperienced risk to most human-resources departments).
While I am grateful every day for my job, about half of what I bring in per month goes out in student loan remittance alone.
These chilling words should scare the awareness into parents and students alike: just get a degree in anything. In the Sixties and Seventies, the vast majority of people who went to college got degrees in engineering, other hard sciences and business. In short, universities prepared them for a great career with almost-guaranteed financial success.
These days, colleges offer Masters degrees in Social Responsibility (St. Cloud State), Queer Musicology (UCLA) and Star Trek (George Washington University). That’s before talking about the Ecotourism degree offered by Central Lakes Community College, Learning from YouTube offered by California’s Pitzer College and The Science of Harry Potter, which is offered by Maryland’s Frostburg University.
These apparently worthless degrees are bad enough but it gets worse when factoring in student loan debt on these degrees. Earlier this year, student loan debt topped $1,000,000,000,000. Yes, 1 trillion dollars.
Luckily, that Minnesotan I moved to Minnesota for makes up the difference. The irony of her making as much as me, working a white-collar job with more immediate potential for advancement, and without a college diploma to hang on the wall, is not lost on me.
However, I don’t think that the irony of my screening calls to avoid not creditors but my two former universities’ continual fundraising efforts registers with those on the other end of the line.
This Saturday, Dr. Richard Vedder will make a presentation titled the Twelve Inconvenient Truths About Higher Education at the Restoring Excellence in Education Forum in St. Cloud. (Follow this link for more information on the event.) Dr. Vedder’s presentation is a must see presentation for parents of students preparing to attend college and the students themselves.
Those attending this presentation should read this study before attending. According to CCAP’s report, the number of administrators is projected to grow from less than 700,000 in 2007 to almost 1,400,000 in 2022. During the same time period, the number of instructors is projected to grow from approximately 775,000 to 1,200,000.
Mr. Marks can attest to the fact that Higher Education isn’t the great value it once was thanks to rising tuitions and the increase in marginal degree programs.
Comments welcome at Let Freedom Ring.