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“Education Is The Key?” Assessing The Value Of A College Degree In A Tumultuous Economy
Townhall ^ | 01/07/2013 | Austin Hill

Posted on 01/07/2013 7:42:55 AM PST by SeekAndFind

Half of recent college graduates can’t find employment. Those who find a job often settle for something less than a “college level job.”

So what good is a college education, anyway, in our very unstable economy?

As 2013 launches with more federal government debt and American businesses guessing when the next punitive regulatory show will drop, most Americans are ignoring an area of societal upheaval that is poised to get more intense. Increasingly, Americans are wondering how essential it is for one to possess a college degree.

The upheaval transcends what you’ll read in the occasional “top paying” and “worst paying college degrees” articles. In fact, the presumption that a particular college degree will land one in to a particular job with a particular salary is actually part of our problem (such presumptions don’t adequately allow for the fact that our economy, and, thus, the relative value of skills and services, is always subject to change).

The most obvious manifestation of this problem is found in the pain of ever-rising tuition costs, and student loan debt. This isn’t anything new, but the recessionary conditions of the past five years have brought college degree price tags, and the debt they engender, under the microscope.

President Obama has spoken to this concern over the years, and-not surprisingly- he has proposed more “free” and reduced-rate student loans (all to be subsidized by taxpayers). His main challenger in last year’s presidential race, Mitt Romney, campaigned on policies to spur job creation as means of putting young graduates to work. Yet both candidates ignored the real problem: no matter how the economy performs or what the labor markets are doing, the price of a college education always moves in one direction-up.

So, why does this happen? Why, when the prices of other products and services either remain flat or decline, do tuition rates steadily rise? At least part of the answer is found in one very important fact. It is a consistent agenda within institutions of higher learning to offer as many low cost, and even “free” tuition programs as possible. Whether you’re examining state run colleges and universities, or private institutions, look in to the details of their budgets and the agenda becomes clear. It is a point of pride when, year after year, college and university leaders can report that they issued more “scholarship” programs that were doled-out according to ‘financial need.”

This is to say that colleges and universities are often set up to function like their own little economic re-distribution systems. And while the goal of getting lower income Americans enrolled into college is noble, the cost of it is usually balanced on the backs of middle class students and parents who are trying to earn their way through life. If a student isn’t “poor enough” to qualify for needs-based assistance, then the student will face ever-rising tuition rates.

The less obvious component to the college education dilemma directly involves changes in the nature of our American economy. Although it doesn’t fit conveniently in to the various narratives of our national political dialog, the fact is that our country may very well be – believe it or not – on the verge of a manufacturing renaissance (gasp!). And it may be happening without the permission and blessing of the AFL CIO (gasp again!).

For most of the past forty years, the U.S. has been a place where great things are invented and designed, but the actual building of those things has happened on other continents. Yet last year, the General Electric Corporation began once again to build refrigerators and dishwashers in the U.S., reversing a nearly two-decade long trend. Last fall, the Deloitte global consulting firm published a report suggesting that nearly three-quarters of a million jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector remain un-filled, because employers can’t find workers with the correct skills. And Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, even suggested that the U.S. is poised for a sizeable “in-sourcing” boom – the opposite of “out sourcing” – where manufacturing jobs that were once “sent overseas” return home.

This scenario also challenges the importance of a college degree. It suggests that we may be on a trajectory where people who know how to weld, operate a lathe, and run a drill press, could one day be in higher demand than those with accounting, engineering, and computer science degrees.

An “in sourcing” boom. A manufacturing renaissance. Some would call these things wishful thinking, yet the beginnings of such phenomena are here, right now. Americans should be preparing for it – and we should all be asking the leaders of colleges and universities why their prices only go up.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Education; Society
KEYWORDS: college; education

1 posted on 01/07/2013 7:43:00 AM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Financial aid awards need to more selective, with emphasis placed on the STEM disciplines.

If a college-bound student wants to major in transgendered Aleutian folk music, OK—But taxpayers should not have to underwrite a worthless degree with no market demand.


2 posted on 01/07/2013 7:49:01 AM PST by Arm_Bears (Ted Kennedy's Oldsmobile has killed more people than my guns.)
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To: SeekAndFind
A college degree was, financially at least, the biggest mistake of my life. I got a degree in Business Administration and Accounting and graduated owing a ton in student loans. Today I'm in middle management and making around $50k a year. However, my two best friends from high school skipped college, one took night classes in Heating/AC Repair at the local Vo-Tech center, and another got a pipe-fitter apprenticeship. Today the Heating/AC Repair guy owns his own business and brings in about $80K a year. The Pipe-fitter friend made over $100K last year...
3 posted on 01/07/2013 7:50:01 AM PST by apillar
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To: SeekAndFind

College has turned into a racket where parents pay a fortune and their kids come out with useless degrees. Its a bubble that should have popped by now but it won’t as long as government is pumping so much money into education.


4 posted on 01/07/2013 7:50:36 AM PST by Opinionated Blowhard ("When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.")
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To: SeekAndFind

Education is a great thing, but it does not prove intelligence.

Of Course people willhire College graduates if that sheepskin has something to do with their business.

Too many go to college and study Bullsh*t 101.
At tremendous cost.

If colleges want to stay in business they need to train kids about business and stay away from Socialist crap.

No one is going to hire Proffessor Karenga’s students. or students of Bill Ayres. There is simply no profit in hiring anarchists and white guilt college educated students.


5 posted on 01/07/2013 7:51:17 AM PST by Venturer
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To: SeekAndFind

The question is which college degrees provide employable skills...... and which do not.
Generally speaking, business degrees are of nominal (albeit not critical) value to employers.
Engineering and computer science degrees are usually useful.
Sociology of the Working Class, Lesbian Studies, Cannibal Anthropology, Mongolian Yert Design, Chaucerian English, Mau Mau History, The French Revolution, and (yuck!) “Community Organizing,” are of little value to most real employers in the real world. Very little indeed.
Students who do not plan to seek employment can take many very interesting courses of study that may provide them considerable insight into life in general (Literature, Philosophy, Theology, even some of the above non-employment majors maybe too). You may wind up a “better rounded person,” something very nice in its own right.

Just don’t plan on getting high-paid jobs with your BA in Fingerpainting, Trans-gender Liberation, or The Sociobiology of Class Warfare. WHICH MEANS IT IS NOT PRUDENT TO BORROW THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO GET DEGREES IN SUCH THINGS ... and THIS IS OBVIOUS to anybody with two or more brain cells! (So, don’t you dare come to the American people for a “bail out” of your student loan debt, dammit!)


6 posted on 01/07/2013 8:01:48 AM PST by faithhopecharity
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To: SeekAndFind
Do want a well paying job when you get out of college? Get a technical degree so you will develop skills that are valued by the job market. No skill, no pay. It isn't Rocket Science although that pays pretty well.

Study psychology, history, art, women's studies and such and cruise through college but it is going to be a dry job market when you graduate. Do the hard work for 4 years and it will repay you for a lifetime.

Look at the top and bottom of THIS LIST and you will see what I mean.

7 posted on 01/07/2013 8:08:35 AM PST by InterceptPoint
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To: SeekAndFind

Check-out my alma mater, UMass. Half of the bachelors’ degrees are in Womyns Studies, Afro-American Studies, Victims Studies (I s*it you not), Sociology of Oppression, Bachelors’ Degrees with “Individual Concentration” (i.e. bullshit subjects), Feminist Anthropology, Applied Marxism, etc. BIG fields from which to get a well-paying job in the real marketplace.


8 posted on 01/07/2013 8:09:37 AM PST by pabianice (washington, dc ..)
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To: pabianice
Check-out my alma mater, UMass. Half of the bachelors’ degrees are in Womyns Studies, Afro-American Studies, Victims Studies (I s*it you not), Sociology of Oppression, Bachelors’ Degrees with “Individual Concentration” (i.e. bullshit subjects), Feminist Anthropology, Applied Marxism, etc. BIG fields from which to get a well-paying job in the real marketplace.

While no private businessman in his right mind would hire anyone from these fields, the ONE growth industry in America covets these graduates.

Be careful, those womyns studies majors may have the last laugh.

9 posted on 01/07/2013 8:31:26 AM PST by jtal (Runnin' a World in Need with White Folks' Greed - since 1492)
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To: apillar

You are quite right IMHO.

A majority of those getting college degrees now would be better served if they went to a (legitimate) trade school.

Sadly, trade schools themselves have become part if the federal education racket.


10 posted on 01/07/2013 8:37:53 AM PST by jtal (Runnin' a World in Need with White Folks' Greed - since 1492)
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To: InterceptPoint
Did you see the comments at the bottom? Here lies a big problem with today's younger generation, from someone lamenting they would be unsuccessful at a (more challenging) field:

"Meanwhile, I have off-the-charts verbal skills that no one will pay more than about $10 an hour for (if they pay at all), and artistic ability that I can't afford to develop. It all seems like a giant catch-22."

This is a disconnect. If she actually tried to get a little technical background, she could excel at communicating user requirements, drafting technical journals or publications, or a myriad of other "more technical" fields that require effective communications.

She sounds more like the type that wants to go work for Hallmark, writing their new line of "Creative Expressions" greeting cards. Sorry young lady--the world doesn't need many of those jobs.

11 posted on 01/07/2013 8:46:26 AM PST by Lou L (Health "insurance" is NOT the same as health "care")
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To: faithhopecharity
...little value to most real employers in the real world

I've been in thousands (10's of thousands?) of business meetings, over my (cough)20+ year career.

Many times, I've heard the words: "If only we had one more engineer/technician/accountant/nurse/person who knows How To Do Stuff ... we'd be all set".

I've never heard that said about "Community Organizers" or any major that has "Studies" in it. There's a lesson there, unfortunately it would be utterly lost on youth.

12 posted on 01/07/2013 9:09:33 AM PST by wbill
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To: Lou L
Meanwhile, I have off-the-charts verbal skills

The number one desire that I've always seen in business is An Ability to Communicate. Period. If this person has Off-the-Charts verbal skills, and even a modicum of another talent, then they will have no difficulty finding work.

Yes, they may start at $10/hour (I started at much less than that, professionally)....but they won't stay there for long.

I interview a lot of people, and the #1 thing that gets them DQ'd is "Poor Communications", or some variant thereof.

Nope, as far as the poster that you singled out is concerned, the telltale comment is the "Artistic Ability I can't afford to Develop". A, it doesn't take much in the way of funding to develop an art-related hobby and B, the comment says that they've got an overblown sense of their own self-worth.

13 posted on 01/07/2013 9:19:38 AM PST by wbill
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To: SeekAndFind

I’ve taken the equivalent of a year or more of practical college work by watching Youtube. The old paradigm is seriously broken.


14 posted on 01/07/2013 9:19:38 AM PST by DaxtonBrown (http://www.futurnamics.com/reid.php)
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To: DaxtonBrown
My dad got his engineering degree back in the 60s. He's retaking (auditing, I suppose) Physics and Calc Classes (and others) online from MIT.

Nothing for credit, obviously, but the learning is still there. He's loving it. I can't imagine re-living DiffEq's. To each their own, I suppose.

There is very little information that cannot be gleaned from the internet. :-) It just takes time and discipline.

15 posted on 01/07/2013 9:24:03 AM PST by wbill
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To: SeekAndFind

If a man pushes shopping carts at Walmart at a rate of five miles an hour for eight hours a day, why did he bother graduating college?


16 posted on 01/07/2013 9:24:03 AM PST by conservativeimage.com (I don't blame Obama. I blame voters.)
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To: Lou L

She sounds a lot like me only I took business law and accounting as electives and started my own business (using my artistic and verbal skills to reel in customers).

The real problem with these brats is they want it handed to them on a golden platter without serious effort on their part.

My actual degree? Social work... it was not totally useless, because I did learn how to read and write bull shit and how navigate bureaucracy and manipulate bureaucrats.

These are useful skills for the self employed, especially since the current atmosphere of crony capitalism is designed to cull out competitors.


17 posted on 01/07/2013 9:47:54 AM PST by Valpal1
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To: Arm_Bears

There’s a model for what you advocate...it’s called the ROTC scholarship program. The armed forces discovered a long time ago that it’s almost pointless to fund cadets majoring in art history or women’s studies. Consequently, scholarship applicants in those disciplines stand virtually no chance of getting the military to fund their college education. On the other hand, if you want to major in engineering, physics, computer science or math (and your grades/test scores are good enough), there’s a much better chance of winning a scholarship.

Here’s how the model would work for the college population as a whole: interest rates for student loans and eligibility for Pell Grants would be linked to the demand for those degrees. Students majoring in difficult, in-demand disciplines would receive loans at no interest and have first crack at grant money. At the other end, students pursuing low-demand degrees would have loan interest rates in the double digits and virtually no shot at grant money. Individuals would still be free to pursue worthless degrees—but they’d do it on their own dime, or through private scholarships.


18 posted on 01/07/2013 9:51:47 AM PST by ExNewsExSpook
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To: SeekAndFind

This says a lot:

No. 14 - Government - Start: $42,000 - MidCareer: $95,600


19 posted on 01/07/2013 10:10:48 AM PST by Oatka (This is America. Assimilate or evaporate.)
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To: Valpal1
Keep in mind, "a "normal" lifestyle for many of these kids "young adults," is filled with paying for a few hundred-dollar per month smartphone plans, iPads, tablet PCs, hundreds of channels available on wide-screened TVs, $100-dollar athletic shoes, Starbucks' fixes, routine spring break, summer break, and fall break vacations, and other creature comforts given to them by a medium-to-high middle class income bracket; i.e., their parents'.

When they're starting out in the real world...those things are not going to be readily available on a starting salary.

But you're absolutely right: one can parlay a non-technical degree into a technical or scientific industry. But these "artsy" types who have no desire to venture outside their "creative" side, create artificial boundaries for themselves. Thus, they limit their opportunities.

20 posted on 01/07/2013 10:26:33 AM PST by Lou L (Health "insurance" is NOT the same as health "care")
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To: SeekAndFind

As Obama unwinds the economy more and more, even some formerly “good career path” college majors are proving less and less useful in the job market. Just from today’s Journal, these 2 articles leap out at us:

BUSINESS degrees:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324296604578175764143141622.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsForth

LAW degrees:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323689604578221891691032424.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsFifth

and of course, the millions and millions of sociology and LesboStudies and “Community Organizer” degree graduates can’t all drive cabs...(especially since illegal immigrants have already taken most of those jobs)


21 posted on 01/07/2013 10:36:26 AM PST by faithhopecharity
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To: Lou L

I never admit what my actual degree is in unless I am asked point blank. And I just got my first smartphone so I can attach a card reader to it to accept on the spot payment. I admit, I am now in love with it. Every time an online payment is made it emits a cash register ring. So motivational!

As for “artsy” types that don’t want to venture outside their “creative” side... that sounds like a polite way of saying they want to be paid to play instead of work.

Many “creatives” aren’t as creative as they think they are because they can’t figure out how to effectively monetize their creativity, which is actually where most of the hard work is required.

Sometimes they aren’t actually very skilled or productive at what they want to do, or they are wholly derivative and not original in what they create. Copycats forever following the trend wave instead of riding it.


22 posted on 01/07/2013 11:57:40 AM PST by Valpal1
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