So if 30% of college graduates under age 25 (not including the unemployed) are working in a field that doesn’t require a degree, what does that do to the rest of the labor market? It requires a degree by default. In other words, part of the reason why the unemployment rate is higher for those without a degree is not because of training or learned skills in college. It’s because there are so many people flooding the job market with degrees not in demand that an employer might as well choose them over someone without. But that’s not good for anyone. A perfectly qualified person can’t get the job that would sustain their living and the college grad is saddled with debt (over $25,000 as of 2010 for the national average). It gets worse. Now, someone with a bachelor’s degree needs an even more expensive point of differentiation to earn a job. Take marketing for instance. A quick scroll on monster.com or CareerBuilder will show most available marketing positions requiring an MBA. The positions pay an average of around $40,000, yet the average MBA program is over $60,000. Graduate school costs can range well into the six figures, and this doesn’t take into account room, board, fees, and lost income. The person that is overwhelmed with undergraduate debt has to incur even more debt to get his or her master’s degree because a bachelor’s is unremarkable—and they still won’t be able to earn the income that justifies such expense. The point of differentiation continues to rise in cost, so the pundits continue to make unsubstantiated claims like this one: people with college degrees make 83% more than those with just a high school diploma, so more people should go to college. Lamb Chop could sing a song about it.
Next: Why people go to college. What was your chief reason for going to or not going to college?
Let’s dig into this a little deeper. The Princeton Review reports on the Top Ten most popular majors in the country. They even preface their list by warning that these jobs are not necessarily the most in demand in the work force. RED FLAG. How is every top 10 major not included in the top 10 most in demand for the work force? People are going to college to get a job. Period. They’re being mislead. More on that later. Of the top 10 majors, I will leave Education and Business alone. Although they both prepare students for disappearing jobs, and not how to create them for themselves, they are the least of the culprits. Coming in at #9, Political Science: Going to law school? No? Yikes. #8. Communications. This illustrious degree afforded me the opportunity of working in a field for five years where no degree is needed or even helpful, and I’m among the luckiest of my peers. #6 English. The public library is free. 20 to 40,000 dollars a year at private university is not. #2, my personal favorite, Psychology. How many people do you know have a B.A. in Psychology? How many of them are Psychologists? These four (really six) degrees are among the most popular fields of study yet they have virtually no demand in the work force. Of college graduates under age 25 with a college degree in humanities more than a quarter are unemployed. Less than half are working in a position that requires a college degree, and of them, there median annual income is less than $21,000 per year. I loved debating Kant and Mill in my college philosophy class. I see the value in the humanities and the social sciences. But value is trumped by cost against $8,244 (average annual 2011 public university tuition) or (wait for it) $28,500 (average annual 2012 private university tuition) per year. Neither of these figures include room, board, fees or books. In my next post I will discuss what this trend does to the labor market and to the greater economy. At this point, anecdotal insight is very helpful. Please comment on what you studied in college and your luck with employment after graduation.
Cartoon from St. Louis Post Dispatch/http://www.caglecartoons.com/
In the last decade we’ve seen a number of different business categories peak and quickly decelerate, housing, the stock market, auto. The recession that began in 2007/2008 turned those categories on their heads but ironically it compounded a different bubble that has been growing for some time; Higher Education. The Department of Education estimates the total number of undergraduates in the United States at over 15 million. That’s a bubble. And just like housing it is going to burst. The parallels are not so subtle. To begin with, it is built on a notion fair or unfair of the American dream. Every American should be able to own their own home. Every American should be able to send their child to college. That brings us to the second parallel, it’s completely unsustainable. 15 million undergraduates are going to college this year. It’s likely because everyone from their parents to the President of the United States is telling them they need to go. President Obama says for instance “Today, the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average. Their incomes are about twice as high as those who only have a high school diploma”. Like the other categories before it, the student loan debt crisis is perpetuated by the same formula: try to sustain the unsustainable. I believe whole-heartedly in public and continued education. I believe in spending money on it more than almost any other public investment. But over the next several posts, I will explore why and how as a country, we’re cementing a system of indentured servitude, and how our attempts to remedy it will inevitable make it worse.
To be clear, Jen Olney doesn’t agree with anything that I said she said. Don’t worry, I still do…
Jen Olney of Ginger Consulting (@gingerconsult) and I got into this a couple of months ago regarding the bullying incident involving bus monitor Karen Klein. I don’t need to give you any more background than that. You’ve heard everything. This is partly the result of many parents allowing (and often preferring) their kids to be adults. I don’t expect Jen to agree with me that 11-14 year olds are the worst group of people on planet Earth, regardless of culture, sex, or background. Too harsh? Now give this group of people the rights and privileges of adults. Clothing, electronics, freedom of choice, anything a parent can give them to let them hyper-individualize themselves. Jen asked me what’s wrong with being an individual. Nothing. Except, at that age, there are no individuals. So really, it creates an in-group with the cons of group-think, (exclusion, superiority, impunity) without the benefits (civic responsibility, self sacrifice). I can easily picture kids from my grammar school doing the things those boys from the bus were caught doing. My father said the same thing. But increasingly, so many kids are entitled to whatever they can be afforded (by their parent) without prior character building or achievement. Jen believes this isn’t the overwhelming norm, and is distorted by the media. I’m not so sure. I see it all the time. I saw it growing up. So many Generation Y children were the center of the universe, individually. Now we’re the parents. Yikes.
I’m not a parent. I’m an observer. How do you observe parents today?
Feel free to disagree. I have this conversation a lot. Sometimes with people older than myself, sometimes with people my age. I want to live in the city forever. They of course comment, “but it’s so dangerous. What about the crime? I like it here in [insert township]. It’s safe. It’s quiet. I don’t have to pay for parking,” I get it. That’s where I grew up after all. It was nice. I LIKED it too. I LOVE living in the city. And I don’t even live in a big cosmopolitan city. I love riding my bike everywhere in the nice weather months. I love supporting local businesses. I love not drinking and driving. I love walking my dog in the park and seeing hundreds of people playing basketball, Frisbee, soccer, reading, tanning, jamming in hippie drum circles, and walking their own dogs. You know why? Because they love it too. Ask them. They’re smiling and laughing for the same reasons I am. We’re all part of that energy. They’re not all young urban professionals. But most of them are young souls. I understand, larger yards and three car garages make the suburbs a very convenient place to live. I like convenience. I like security. I love vivacity. I love enthusiasm. I love the living, breathing, animal that is urban living. I’m willing to accept a very small, but nonetheless higher risk to my physical safety. I’m willing to sacrifice slightly superior municipal services for slightly poorer ones. The return is well worth it. For every unnecessary traffic light that puts me in a bad mood, there are a thousand souls, full of life, to pull me out of it. If you agree, please tell me why in the comments section. Be only positive about the city, if that’s your opinion. Don’t put down the suburbs. If you disagree, please respectfully tell me why. You may be able to turn my mind a little, but I’ll wager that most of the people who genuinely disagree with me are those that live in larger villages with a town center that resembles a smaller version of the city community. Life’s too short to just like.
Photo courtesy of patriciarossi.com
After 9/11, nearly every house on every block in America had the Stars and Stripes hanging next to their door. Today, there seem to be more about than usual as we’ve just concluded the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, but why do some Americans let others monopolize the USA image? Why can’t I love my country and be a stalwart environmentalist? Why can’t I fly the Stars and Stripes and be vehemently opposed to the Patriot Act? I say I can. That’s part of what it means to be an American after all. The flag makes a statement. It doesn’t have to be one of global imperialism. It could be a pledge of civic responsibility. I don’t care to give a louder voice to a few Americans I don’t agree with (from whichever position). After all, I’m still implicated by them. I’m still accountable. I want an equal share of voice. That’s the example I take from my good friends to the North. Holy smokes, do those people love their flag. Canadian flag beach chairs, Canadian flag backboards, red maple leaf pins everywhere. Have you ever been abroad? You might not know where everyone else is from, but you can spot a Canadian with their Canadian flag patch on their backpack from a mile away. Are they ethnocentric? Are they imperialists? Or do dissenters have a louder voice than do ours because they own their citizenship as much as their opposition, regardless of the hot topic issue or the party in power? I sing the Star Spangled Banner every time it’s played (and often when it’s not), I say the Pledge of Allegiance, and I have a little American flag in my living room. There are parts of the American legacy of which I am very ashamed, and parts of which I’m extremely proud. But it wouldn’t matter if it was all one or the other because I am still an American.