Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not all education is created equal.

The Great College Degree Scam

How many have degrees in subjects that are of no use to anyone?

A degree in early childhood development MAY be of use to someone raising a child, depending upon whether or not the knowledge they gained from their studies is accurate and honest, as opposed to political radicalism couched in academic terms. But it will not prepare them for an intellectually challenging career in a field requiring mastery of difficult concepts. They are only marginally more employable than someone with only a high school diploma, as this study has found.

When someone goes off to college and pursues what might best be called a recreational degree, they are doing themselves a greater disservice than they would by simply not going to college at all.

They are wasting time pursuing education that will not benefit them. The opportunity cost is considerable.

They are wasting money, often a great deal of money, borrowed at interest that they will have a hard time repaying in the menial position their "education" will guarantee them.

They are reducing the likelihood that they will ever actually attain a degree that will be of use to them. Whereas someone who went into the workforce out of high school might return to school in their twenties and get a real degree, someone who has earned a worthless degree will likely spend the rest of their life trying to get a return on that unwise investment.

There was a news story a few months ago about a woman who could not understand how her degree in women's studies, obtained at a cost of $100,000 in student loans, resulted in her working at Starbucks with no hope for anything better. I honestly don't know what she thought was going to happen, but somewhere along the line she got the idea in her head that there would be a meaningful career in her future. If she were a fluke that would be one thing, but cases like hers are all too common. Academic departments are flat out lying to their students about the value of the education they are receiving, especially departments whose justifications for even existing are sketchy at best.

I have a friend who pursued at Ph.D in Political Science because he had been assured that there were jobs to be had. In truth a Poli-Sci professor in a tenure track position will be lucky to earn 50k a year. Full professors don't make much more than that. Because the field is dying, placements are hard to come by in the first place. Meanwhile the starting salary for most Business professors is about 120k a year, with full professors in many disciplines clearing over 200k. Business schools are flourishing. What did he do when he discovered all that? He switched to marketing and is now at UGA making over 140k a year as an assistant professor.

A college education isn't a college education. It has no value except to the degree to which it prepares someone for what comes after: life, and especially a career. There is no magic pixie dust that gets rubbed on someone just because they came to campus and took a series of general studies courses that ultimately resulted in a degree of some sort. There is no "experience" to be had from this that would make a person better somehow. The days when someone could just "go to college" and somehow wind up with a good job are long gone. No one is impressed by a bachelor's degree in sociology. That and a hair-cut will get you a job as a bank teller.

Meanwhile there are degree programs that are worth pursuing, and virtually everyone knows what they are. Business, engineering, hard sciences, medicine, law. Fields that, even if you don't find a job doing what you studied directly, require a mastery of difficult concepts and the ability to apply them. Something an art history degree simply doesn't provide.

No comments: