Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where Are You Headed With That Medieval French Literature Degree?

This is something I’ve been saying for years. It seems you can go to just about any Borders (okay, bad example now) or Starbucks and see people with college degrees in soft fields. You can go to school for 4+ years, rack up perhaps $200,000+ in student loans on a functiuonally useless degree, and still have trouble finding a job.
College Degrees (1940-2009), I wonder how the quality of a BA in 2009 compares to one in 1950? ]
For too many people, choosing a college major is given the same importance as choosing a project for the junior-high science fair. It should be looked at as a very expensive investment, which it is. I am baffled when I meet people whining about not being able to pay off their high student loan debt on degrees such as Medieval French Literature. What on earth did you think that degree would do for you once you completed school? It might be interesting and intellectually stimulating, but it’s unlikely to feed you. Are there any decent guidance counselors left? For most people, you would be better off with a hard skill like HVAC.
The problem is exacerbated by govt. subsidies (direct and via loans) that promote this educational bubble. In 1880, the average U.S. family couldn’t afford to send each kid away to four+ years of college and have them come home with a ton of debt and negligible marketable/useful skills, it was a frivolity. For some reason now we think we can afford it much more often than we can.
College Has Been Oversold – Latest Headlines – Investors.com: “Education is the key to the future: You’ve heard it a million times, and it’s not wrong. Educated people have higher wages and lower unemployment rates, and better educated countries grow faster and innovate more than other countries. But going to college is not enough. You also have to study the right subjects. And American students are not studying the fields with the greatest economic potential.

If students aren’t studying science, technology, engineering and math, what are they studying? In 2009 the U.S. graduated 89,140 students in the visual and performing arts, more than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined and more than double the number of visual and performing arts graduates in 1985. The story is the same in psychology, which graduates about 95,000 students a year, more than double the number of 25 years ago and far in excess of the number of available jobs.

There is nothing wrong with the arts, psychology and journalism, but graduates in these fields have lower wages and are less likely to find work in their fields than graduates in science and math. As a result, more than half of all humanities graduates end up in jobs that don’t require college degrees. Baggage porters and bellhops don’t need college degrees, but in 2008 17.4% of them had at least a bachelor’s degree and 45% had some college education. Mail carriers don’t need a college education, but in 2008 14% had at least a bachelor’s degree and 61% had some college education.”

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