I hear enough stories from frustrated graduates about the current job market to make me wonder about the efficacy of what I do for a living. However, the risks associated with an undergraduate degree and the rewards commensurate with it aren’t like graduate school in the humanities. It’s more like an investment in yourself than a lottery ticket, which makes this article seem patently irresponsible to me:
Being “upside-down” means owing more on your house or car than it’s worth. Right now, Patricia Summers is upside-down on her college degree.
She owes $18,000 on loans taken to get her degree in advertising from the University of Missouri. Her college time will end up costing more than $50,000, not counting what she could have earned from a full-time job had she not gone to college.
But that job probably would have been a dead-end, low-paying service job, advocates of higher education contend. Which is exactly what Summers is doing now: serving burgers at a Sonic drive-in.
“I learned a lot of skills I couldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t gone to college,” she said. But she added that if a decent job doesn’t come along soon, her feelings about the value of her degree could change.
Notice how they don’t tell you when she graduated? The recession isn’t going to last forever. If she’s still working in Sonic in ten years, then maybe the degree wasn’t such a hot idea. There’s a reason that all those studies about the value of a college degree project the earnings difference over a lifetime.
“Whether college is worth it depends on how much you pay for it,” said Kevin Carey, policy director at the Education Sector, a Washington-based education think tank. “It’s not worth much if you pay too much for a degree that has no value in the market, or one that pays too little to pay back what you borrowed.”
Again, no timeline. And this is particularly frustrating:
Yet college is still the only way to go, right? Don’t ask Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs of Apple, Michael Dell of Dell, Larry Ellison of Oracle or Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. They all dropped out.
Clearly college is not for everyone, but statistics and studies still show a college degree usually translates to a higher income.
That’s right, a few people with computer skills and no college degree hit the big time so people should weigh that against a representative sample of everyone when deciding whether to go to college.
I’ve come to think of it this way. College is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. It also might not make a difference in your life once it’s over. However, don’t go to college and you’re closing off lots of opportunities for making an interesting living.
Even in a recession like this one I’d still take my chances with college than take my chances by not going at all.