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Education The Almighty Buck United States

Too Many College Graduates? 1138

The AP reports on a growing sense among policy wonks that too many Americans are going to four-year colleges, to the detriment of society as a whole: "The more money states spend on higher education, the less the economy grows." "The notion that a four-year degree is essential for real success is being challenged by a growing number of economists, policy analysts, and academics. They say more Americans should consider other options, such as technical training or two-year schools, which have been embraced in Europe for decades. As evidence, experts cite rising student debt, stagnant graduation rates, and a struggling job market flooded with overqualified degree-holders. ... The average student debt load in 2008 was $23,200 — a nearly $5,000 increase over five years. Two-thirds of students graduating from four-year schools owe money on student loans. ... [A university economist said,] 'If people want to go out and get a master's degree in history and then cut down trees for a living, that's fine. But I don't think the public should be subsidizing it.'"
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Too Many College Graduates?

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  • by Firemouth ( 1360899 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:20PM (#32209242)
    Using his example, you don't need to know anything about math, science, literature, etc, to cut down trees.

    You need to know what they train you to do on the job. Therefore, an elementary student graduate could do the job, short of the physical requirements. So make him a dish washer until he's big enough to work a chain saw.

    Nope, this isn't a slippery slope...
    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:32PM (#32209492)


      And with limits on education, you get limits on job opportunities. Fine, as long as it it the person who chooses such.

      If it is someone else who is already making decent money at a decent job arguing that too many people are advancing their educations ... fuck you. With a chainsaw.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shakrai ( 717556 ) *

        And with limits on education, you get limits on job opportunities. Fine, as long as it it the person who chooses such.

        He didn't say there should be limits on education. He said that there should be limits on how much education the Government will subsidize.

        I have a friend who is a professional student. She has two masters degrees and is now entering law school. She's entered the "real world" a few times but can't decide what she wants to be when she grows up (she's 34....) and keeps going back for more degrees. When she finally does figure out what she wants to do she'll be buried so deeply in student loans that she'l

        • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:55PM (#32209986) Journal

          >>>He said that there should be limits on how much education the Government will subsidize.

          Precisely. Nobody funded my college degree. It was funded by my dad working long hours in the factory, and then I paid him back later. We did not receive one single penny from government.

          Neither should people go study History or Sports Science, only to become tree cutters or walmart employees. The government should not fund this waste, and if it does, it should be tied to the expectation of results (like the ROTC). If you don't use your Pointless degree, then you must repay the money spent.

        • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Friday May 14, 2010 @02:10PM (#32210282) Homepage Journal

          He didn't say there should be limits on education. He said that there should be limits on how much education the Government will subsidize.

          Lots of people say that kind of thing. Why did this guy's statement get reported? Probably because he's a professor of economics ... at a state-supported school, and who most likely got his own education with various types of government assistance. Yeah, I'd say "fuck you with a chainsaw" is pretty much an appropriate response. People who want to pull the ladder up after themselves are scum.

        • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @02:37PM (#32210740)

          He didn't say there should be limits on education. He said that there should be limits on how much education the Government will subsidize.

          Ok, x% of us should stop at highschool. You first!

          This story is long on how college is not paying off.. but conveniently neglects the fact that those without college are even worse off.

          Ours is increasingly a winner-takes-all society. By definition, that means most people will be losers. But getting on top is still the best chance you've got.

      • by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @03:38PM (#32211844)

        I think the point is that some people are not suited to a college education. The current system still encourages those people to go to college and pursue a degree even though the only thing they'll get from it is a mountain of debt after they eventually drop out. The real solution is to increase college admission standards so that the money can be focused on those who are most able to take advantage of a college education while those who are not suited to an academic career can be guided into vocational training that better suits their abilities.

        In an ideal world, all barriers to higher education will be based solely on your ability and not on how much money you (or your family) has.

      • by DrVomact ( 726065 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @06:37PM (#32214198) Journal

        And with limits on education, you get limits on job opportunities. Fine, as long as it it the person who chooses such.

        If it is someone else who is already making decent money at a decent job arguing that too many people are advancing their educations ... fuck you. With a chainsaw.

        It's clear from your diction and your lack of analytical ability that if you ever attended college, you derived little benefit from it. In that case, you would be evidence in favor of the position held by "some experts" in the article. If you were prevented from obtaining an education (and decent manners) by extreme poverty, or are a recent immigrant who has an incomplete acquaintance with English and civilized modes of argumentation, I do apologize.

        The argument (the one you attempted to address that is contained in the article that you evidently wouldn't—or couldn't—read) isn't that we should arbitrarily limit people's freedom to pursue academic learning, but that getting a four year college degree doesn't benefit everyone, and that some people would be happier and more productive if they were allowed and encouraged to attend a more practical course of studies. For example, a young person such as the Ms. Hodges mentioned at the start of the article, who ardently desires to attend welding school faces an uphill battle against the expectations of parents and of the prejudices of our educational system. Why shouldn't she be encouraged to become a welder if that's what she wants to do?

        In my experience, there is a disadvantage to not having a four year college degree. It has nothing to do with the actual capabilities of the people in question, and everything to do with the baseless but widespread prejudice that if you don't have a college degree, then you shouldn't be promoted or well-paid. I've known very capable people who didn't have that "sheepskin", and were denied promotion for that reason. Some of the most intelligent and informed people I've met had no formal education beyond high school, and some of them led very successful lives despite having to combat the stigma of not having a four year degree.

        My own kids taught me a lot about the limitations of the U.S. educational system.

        One of my daughters hated high school. When we spoke to her about going to college, it was clear that she regarded this about as favorably as a proposal that she should spend four years in jail. She was getting poor grades in her academic high school courses, and had a low opinion of her own abilities and worth. She did like to mess around with make-up and we (her parental units) got her into a trade school program that taught her how to do whatever it is that professional beauticians do. In six months, her attitude and self-image improved by about a thousand percent. She now works happily in a top-flight shop, and makes scads of money. I'm proud of her—not because of the money, but because of the determination and intelligence she's shown in mastering her trade.

        Another daughter is (tomorrow) graduating from a good public university. She hopes to get a public school position teaching science. I think her education was suitable for her ambitions, and she'll do fine.

        Yet another daughter isn't doing as well as she'd like. She got a baccalaureate in psychology, and now works for the technical support group of a major telecom—a job she hates. I'm proud of her also, but I think she would be happier if she had found a more concrete interest, and pursued that instead of the essentially worthless degree in psychology. I think she was poorly served by the notion that a college degree—any college degree—is better than not having one. If she hadn't been put on those fixed academic rails, she might have discovered her own unique path.

    • by NervousWreck ( 1399445 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:32PM (#32209494)
      In answer to your title, because for over fifty years, the high school curricula in most states has been systematically gutted of anything that could possibly be useful to a graduate looking for a job of any sort. The trend of everyone going to college started during Vietnam when people needed student exemptions from the draft. There really isn't much use for a bachelors in many fields except to please hiring managers who think you must be pig ignorant and stupid if you don't have one.
      • by Beyond_GoodandEvil ( 769135 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:35PM (#32209560) Homepage
        The trend of everyone going to college started during Vietnam when people needed student exemptions from the draft. There really isn't much use for a bachelors in many fields except to please hiring managers who think you must be pig ignorant and stupid if you don't have one.
        Actually, the trend of everyone going to college started after the Second World War with the Montgomery GI bill and trying to reabsorb all those soldiers returning to a roaring economy. Also everybody and their brother has been crowing about how you need college to fill those 21 century jobs as knowledge workers.
      • by thepike ( 1781582 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:39PM (#32209646)

        There really isn't much use for a bachelors in many fields except to please hiring managers who think you must be pig ignorant and stupid if you don't have one.

        I think that's half the problem. People get passed over for jobs they are qualified for just because hr departments throw out all the applicants who don't have a degree, even in an unrelated field. It makes it so that these people do essentially 'have to' go to college to get jobs, even though they'll get all the training they need on the job.

        Personally (as a person working on a PhD in science) I don't think a lot of people need to be going to college. I grew up in a car town, and a lot of my friends knew they were going to be doing manufacturing, but they went to college anyway. A bunch of them (well some, manufacturing jobs aren't so plentiful these days) did just go on to work in the plants, but they racked up huge debt that is just stopping them from being able to do things like afford a nice place to live. And they didn't get much out of college except alcohol tolerance. No joke, I know one guy who took out an $8,000 student loan basically to spend at bars. Now he has a degree in something or another, but spends his days inserting tab a into slot b so that he can pay off that debt. If he had just gone to work in the first place, he'd be doing the same job and have more money. And he could still go to bars.

        The whole education system upsets me. I think we're failing in so many places it's hard to figure out where to start trying to fix it. I'm not saying you can't get anything out of it, but that comes much more from personal motivation than any basic qualities of the set up.

        • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:52PM (#32209928)

          No joke, I know one guy who took out an $8,000 student loan basically to spend at bars. Now he has a degree in something or another, but spends his days inserting tab a into slot b so that he can pay off that debt. If he had just gone to work in the first place, he'd be doing the same job and have more money. And he could still go to bars.

          Remember kids, don't risk YOUR present. Get down to Discount Time Machine Rentals TODAY so you'll know exactly how much effort to put into planning for your FUTURE.

          Discount Time Machine Rentals - where good people don't happen to bad decisions.

    • by gyrogeerloose ( 849181 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:35PM (#32209556) Journal

      Yep, he's missing the point. People don't get college degrees in order to go cut down trees, they get them in hopes of making a career in their chosen field. They end up cutting down trees (or, as in my case, driving a truck) only after they've failed to accomplish that goal. Perhaps they didn't make the wisest choice about what to study but sometimes it's kind of hard to know that in advance.

      In any case, an economist denigrating a history major is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black.

      • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @02:06PM (#32210192) Journal

        Not really. An economics degree is useful in virtually all businesses, if only to balance the sheets. Of what value is a history degree to Goldman Sachs or Microsoft or GM?

    • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:38PM (#32209624) Journal

      I think the problem lies in that more and more people are going to college, because getting a higher education usually means a better job, because people don't want to be working the minimum wage jobs, or they don't aspire to be a lumberjack, or they don't want to work on an oil rig, or they don't want to be a trucker.

      It's because the society has grown to glorify jobs that require an education, that now nobody wants the jobs that don't require an education. Go figure.

      It's not that there's too many college graduates, its that some college graduates won't end up in the job markets they trained for. So don't be surprised if your CS degree lands you in construction for a year till a job opens up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jythie ( 914043 )
      Then why shouldn't everyone get at least 2 or 3 PhDs? Education is a continuum, and all this guy is saying is that we might have slid a little too far in one direction and would benefit from pulling back. This is not the same as going ALL the way the other direction.
    • by yttrstein ( 891553 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:45PM (#32209768) Homepage
      I have a high school diploma from over 20 years ago. I have never had any other degrees, certifications, or any other form of expensive piece of paper that promises for me that I'm not incompetent.

      So I've had to rely on you know... actually working in order to show my competency.

      I make now a comparatively enormous amount of money doing a job that's also done by two collegues; both of whom have PhDs. The qualifications for the job are a graduate degree in the field or a closely related one, OR equivalent experience.

      I've got the equivalent experience, evidently.

      So yes, it is indeed possible to do pretty much what you want without any sort of degree at all (the usual academic exceptions apply here), but the caveat is that you have to actually do a lot of work. And that's the trick, see? The WORK part is the part that a lot of people tend to shy away from. That, and the patience part.

      It works in my favor though, and in the favor of anyone willing to do their ten-thousand-hours-to-expert bit. Enough people are unwilling to put in any kind of meaningful work in order to get any sort of meaningful result that I seem to have become a commodity. So don't everyone suddenly get motivated, I'm not retiring for another 20 years at least.
      • by arose ( 644256 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:54PM (#32209962)

        I have a high school diploma from over 20 years ago.

        That voids the rest of your post. To show competency by working you have to a actually be able to get into a job that lets you do that. You could do it 20 years ago, these days its a crapshot. Few, if any, places will hire you for a job that lets you demonstrate any competence without experience or a degree and since the only way to get that experience is to get the job in the first place...

    • We don't need any lumberjacks, sanitation workers, or construction workers. In our new post-productive society, everybody gets to be whatever they want! There are no crappy jobs that need to be done. Everyone is qualified to be a surgeon. Everyone gets to be president. We don't need our garbage picked up.

      Look, we tell our children and ourselves that in America, anyone can be whatever they want to be. What did we expect would happen? Some jobs get no respect and shitty pay, despite the fact that they absolutely need to get done. Because, you know, once you've figured out that there isn't really a career in art history, you still need to pay off those college loans. Looks like the DOT is hiring road crews!

      Why can't we admit that not everyone gets to be a fashion model, a football star, or a CEO? Why do we emphasize the importance of some jobs, like advertising executive or investment banker, that add nothing of real value to humanity, while denigrating those who pick up our trash? I mean, is my day going to suck if I don't get to see any catchy ads? Probably not, but I've been around a garbage workers strike, and that shit ain't pretty.

      We overvalue positions of leadership and expertise, while lying that everyone could do those jobs. And tons of unqualified people rush to fill those jobs, because they were told they could, and that those jobs were more important than hauling garbage. But let's face it: most people don't have what it takes to become a surgeon or a CEO. Does that mean they are worthless? No. It takes all kinds of work to make a complex society run. We should not overvalue certain jobs and undervalue others, because that creates societal inefficiencies where we have too many people trying for the fun, high paying, well respected jobs. And meanwhile, the people actually doing the crucial dirty work get shit on by society.

      No marketing drone is worth hundreds or thousands of times what a sewer worker is worth. Yet our society says they are. If we have too many people going to university, maybe the answer isn't to say, "Hey, realistically most of you are fucking plebes who will never work in whatever you majored in. You should practice your table-waiting and ditch digging instead." Maybe we should instead strive for a more egalitarian society where everyone's contribution is respected. I respect a dishwasher who works hard and does a good job more than I respect a CEO who golfs all the time and takes credit for his underlings hard work. But society says this privileged douchebag is worth thousands of times more than the guy who washes dishes. So what do we expect people to do? Everyone wants to be that pampered and privileged CEO, nobody wants to build bridges and roads. And so we have Wall Street profiting while the economy crumbles, and meanwhile, most of our infrastructure is falling apart.

      • I wasn't going to comment in this thread - I really wasn't, but I couldn't ignore this.

        I've studied enough economics that, well, my college education can debunk this right away. ;)

        Supply and demand. Let's say "no one wants to pick up garbage". What you're saying is that "no one wants to pick up garbage at such a low pay rate and no respect". (Actually, the truth is, *really* - no one wants to pick up garbage, not even the guys that do it, but that's besides the point...)

        Trash company suddenly can't find anyone to pick up trash at the rate they're asking. What do they do? Well - they could go out recruiting (unlikely), or they could up the pay rate. Cycle continues until either the trash company goes out of business, or they find someone willing to work at that pay rate. If enough people are working at the higher pay rate, if the trash company can't turn a profit, they will raise the rate of what they charge their customers. If customers switch trash companies as a result, that one might go out of business, but someone else will step in - the cycle continues. Actually, we're describing rudimentary inflation to an end - but the basic point is this: society won't collapse from too many well-educated people. Sure, I like to work in my field of choice, but at the end of the day I kind of like to eat, have clothes on my back, and a roof over my head. Push comes to shove, even I would go pick up trash if I had to in order to make ends meet. Would I be happy with it? Heck no! Society WILL find a way to adapt. That's the beauty of unmitigated capitalism. The ugliness of it however is that it breeds monopolies over time. That's why we have anti-trust laws, which are clearly socialistic. We have grown into an amalgamatic socialistic/capitalistic state.

        Anyway - your point is moot. :P Our infrastructure may crumble - for a time. Pride will eventually give way to necessity. Always does.

        • You assume that labor actually operates under the laws of supply and demand. First off, you learned some economics, so you know the paper about lemons? As in, bad cars? It talks about the effects of information imbalance on the market. Well, the labor market is a prime example of this effect. Workers know more about their true value than bosses do, therefore, bosses must assume that all workers are overstating their value and therefore, all bosses systematically undervalue labor.

          Capitalism values capital more than labor. It's systemic. And the owning class see each other as valuable, while the working class are replaceable. Thus systematically devaluing labor again. Your theory also assumes people are rational actors, this has been disproven by many, many recent experiments. The owning class do not make decisions based on their rational self interest. Many of them, for instance, would bankrupt themselves rather than give in to worker demands because giving in puts them lower down on the old totem pole, and being high in the social hierarchy is the real reason they became rich in the first place. They would rather go bankrupt and be able to say "Fuck you!" to the workers than pay a fair wage and be seen as an equal. That is culturally systemic to the owning class, and they make the rules because they have the capital.

      • by Howitzer86 ( 964585 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @07:26PM (#32214796)
        I'd like to think there were enough people who lacked ambition (enough Hank Hills), that these jobs can and will be filled, and that my trash will continue to be picked up.

        "Maybe we should instead strive for a more egalitarian society where everyone's contribution is respected."
        My opinion is that people can think what they want, and it is not up to the government to tell us to be comrades. I don't think about the dishwasher. If someone were to ask me about the job a dishwasher does, I'd ask them if that was a trick question.

        "We overvalue positions of leadership and expertise, while lying that everyone could do those jobs. And tons of unqualified people rush to fill those jobs, because they were told they could, and that those jobs were more important than hauling garbage"
        It's not up to you to say who can, and cannot, do something. How would you feel if your advisor told you, "No, you can't do this very well - I can tell by just looking at you. You shouldn't go to college either. You should work in the coal mines instead."
        That's not the government's job - that's the job of the hiring manager. They are responsible for filtering unqualified people out. If a person wants to waste their lives trying to do stuff they aren't good at, fine, let them be.

        I think it is important that we should pursue what want. We live not to serve the state, but our own interests. It's not up to the government to decide what we should do with our lives.

        Although this isn't a career: I want to strap a pulsejet to a bicycle. Not everyone wants to do that. Not everyone should do that. But this is a free country. (And that's just for a hobby. For a living I want to animate- I am teaching myself because the schools that teach animation are prohibitively expensive. My success in this field are completely dependent on my ambition and willingness to work harder than everybody else. -- In the meantime I attend a local college for a degree in Graphic Design.)

        They say freedom isn't free. You pay in other ways. If that means my degree isn't worth much, so be it. At least I'll have one. I'll let my brains (provided its not splattered on asphalt) push me the rest of the way through in life - as it should be.

        There are 300 million people in the country. They don't need protection from disappointment. If they can't do something, they will find out - and they will look for other work. That's perfectly fine.
  • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:20PM (#32209252) Homepage

    This guy is forgetting that we live in a (sort of) democracy. How would a democracy where the people aren't educated work?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:24PM (#32209310)

      You think that more than 20% of the people who finish college courses come out educated? Must be nice to be an optimist.

      • by ravenspear ( 756059 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:34PM (#32209536)
        Well, I can't speak for anyone else but myself, but it definitely worked for me.

        My parents are hardcore religious nutcases. They believe that God created the world 6,000 years ago, that Jesus will return within their lifetimes (which fosters a lack of work ethic, since they think God is coming to take away their problems soon), and that Sarah Palin should be president. That is how I was raised.

        After 6 years of college at a somewhat respected research focused school, I no longer believe any of that nonsense and I have successful employment in a good paying job.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

          They believe that ..., and that Sarah Palin should be president. That is how I was raised.

          In their defence, Sarah Palin probably would have made a much better President back then. It takes time to grow that stupid.

        • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @02:14PM (#32210364)

          that Jesus will return within their lifetimes (which fosters a lack of work ethic, since they think God is coming to take away their problems soon)

          That certainly sounds familiar. Growing up in the Bible Belt (and before anyone accuses me of not being familiar with religion - I went to church nearly every Sunday from birth to the age of 18. In that span I may have missed a dozen services tops), I heard "I choose to store my treasures in Heaven rather than on Earth." until I was sick. It fostered an attitude that they shouldn't even bother worrying about life now because this is just a blip.

          And our preacher was absolutely convinced that rather than being about research, NASA's space program was REALLY them trying to find an alternate way into Heaven so that they could avoid "serving da Lord".

          Overall though, yes, my story largely mimics your own.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ryanleary ( 805532 )

      This guy is forgetting that we live in a (sort of) democracy. How would a democracy where the people aren't educated work?

      Most likely remarkably similar to how it works today with the largely (under)educated populace.

    • by cabjf ( 710106 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:27PM (#32209374)
      If twelve years doesn't cut it, I doubt four to eight more will.
    • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:27PM (#32209386)
      Going to college doesn't make one smart.

      It still drives me up the wall how much cash I blew for my undergraduate CS degree. Looking at what I "learned" from my classes and what I taught myself in that period of time, I would have been much better off to have saved the $80K I spent on schooling and self taught. Professors even mocked me for the C# books I was reading when it was still in beta, years later *THAT* pays my bills, in dividends. (We can discuss how bad of a language it is in another thread, just the fact the professors couldn't see through the trees).

      While college was a great experience, it is far from something everyone should go to. The fact that many businesses require degrees anymore is just plain stupid.
      • by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:30PM (#32209448) Homepage

        This isn't really related to the argument -- knowing how to program probably doesn't help you vote, most of the time.

        College isn't a trade school, you're supposed to get a well-rounded education.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          College isn't a trade school, you're supposed to get a well-rounded education.

          In that case, I'd have to question the social utility of colleges in a capitalist economy. The number of English and Philosophy majors capitalism can profitably use is vanishingly small, where the number of Engineers and actual professionals capitalism can use is comparatively huge.

          Still more needed, though, is UNSKILLED LABOR, apparently, given the eternal quest by our crony-corporate controlled federal government for i

          • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <> on Friday May 14, 2010 @02:02PM (#32210110) Homepage

            In that case, I'd have to question the social utility of colleges in a capitalist economy.

            It's pretty low. That demonstrates one of the problems with capitalism -- and indeed, every other form of hierarchical organization. So long as you have a class of rulers (owner, investors, whatever) and a class of workers, it will be in the interests of the rulers to have the workers educated only to the point of being trained to do their jobs, and no farther.

      • by EggyToast ( 858951 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:34PM (#32209540) Homepage
        Well, ignoring the cost of the (apparently private) school you went to, since many public universities offer CS programs, should a CS program teach you the details of a language? Or should it teach you overall concepts about computer science? I mean, truly, you went for a Computer Science degree, not a Computer Programming degree (arguably that would be a cert, not a degree, and be cheaper and shorter as well).
        I think the best programmers are those who are motivated to self-teach, because it shows that they really love programming. But I also think there is important stuff taught in computer science classes. It might not be for everyone, but I think it can turn people who just write code without thinking about what actually happens with what they write into better programmers.
      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:34PM (#32209544)

        College is supposed to teach you how to learn on your own, how to get information and how to digest it.

        Everything on top of that is flavor.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dave562 ( 969951 )

        What do you think about your potential for advancement due to your degree? I'm in the unenviable position of doing what you wish you had done. Other than a couple Novell CNA classes I took in high school, and a couple of MCP/MCSE classes that I have taken since, I'm completely self taught. Despite fifteen years of experience in IT and a resume filled with major accomplishments, I've had a really hard time getting adequate compensation and advance opportunities.

      • by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:50PM (#32209862)

        College, I think, is partly about learning your major and partly about learning everything else. It's the environment, the exposure to other cultures and ideas that really make college better than a trade school. When you leave college you should be more open-minded, more theoretically-minded, than when you entered. You should be an idea generator, not only an idea applier. The world needs both and you can be both. You may not be a better coder because of college, but you're probably a better designer.

      • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:55PM (#32209980) Journal
        Yeah, if you think C# was better than anything you learned in college, I'm going to have to agree with you and say you didn't learn anything either. In most decent CS programs, they don't teach programming languages (except maybe in the entry level class) because they are simple to learn compared to the more complex stuff they teach in a CS degree. If you didn't learn all that stuff, you were wasting your money.

        Businesses require it because it establishes a minimum level of competency. It shows that at least one time in your life you were capable of finishing something without quitting, even though it wasn't always fun. It shows you have a basic level of reading and writing capability. That is worth something.

        Just a quick anecdote: we once hired a programmer who didn't have a degree, because he seemed really smart. And he was, he got a lot done. But then we had a big project (not too big, four months or so), and crunch time came along, and he couldn't handle it. He said he felt miserable, so he quit. Had he gone through college, he would have had a lot of experience dealing with crunch time, managing projects that got out of control etc. So college is definitely worth something.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:22PM (#32209268)

    The problem isn't that there are too many college graduates. The problem is that too much manufacturing that was formerly done in America is now done elsewhere, in third-world nations like China, Mexico and India.

    In the past, domestic manufacturing provided the solid foundation upon which the strong American economy was built. People made good wages working in these factories, engineers made good wages designing these factories and the equipment within them, builders made good wages constructing the factories, skilled-trades made good wages making the equipment within these factories, and all of these people provided jobs to many others in the community.

    Thanks mainly to Nixon in the 1970s and NAFTA in the 1990s, those jobs are gone. The foundation they provided is gone. They probably won't come back unless the federal government does the right thing and impose trade barriers against nations that have an oversupply of labor, and unsafe working conditions, and unsuitable wages.

  • by spribyl ( 175893 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:23PM (#32209290)

    Not everything needs a 4 year degree.

    If you are going into a science based field you will need a degree.
    Entrepreneur business school might help but it is not necessary.
    Blue Collar, tech school can give you a head start.
    CS/IT I have see excellent folks with nothing and really crappy folks with a PHD.

    Ultimately it is what you make of your life experience.

  • by Firemouth ( 1360899 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:26PM (#32209350)
    ... more uneducated people. Because this country is just too damn smart. We need to dumb it down a little...
  • by SoVeryTired ( 967875 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:26PM (#32209354)

    Most of the issues addressed in the summary actually result from the fact that top US universities are insanely expensive. Harvard is about thirty thousand dollars for an undergraduate degree whereas Cambridge is about three thousand Stirling.

  • public university (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:27PM (#32209376) Homepage

    Public university is flooded with students who don't care at all about the subjects they are studying; they are in school either because it is expected of them by society or because they want to socialize with people their age for years.

    From an economic standpoint, it is absolutely wasteful for these kids to fudge their way through to a BA in Communication or whatever. I've known too many of them. It makes a mockery of academia.

    • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:38PM (#32209616)

      And why don't they care about the subject? Because for 9 out of 10 jobs it does not matter. Read the classifieds lately? "College education required" is what they read. So you have a shitload of philosophy masters who can't write a cheque without breaking the pencil or are unable to do anything closely related to anything resembling work, but hey, they got a masters degree!

      THAT is making a mockery out of the academia.

    • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:52PM (#32209914) Homepage Journal

      Like you state, too many don't care about what they are studying, they are there because that is "what" they are supposed to do.

      However, far too many colleges are there to make money, and scads of it. Hence the push for new lending programs because this allows the to inflate their fees. Whether to build new facilities named after people they like or too keep themselves fat and happy in retirement. I would go so far to say that many colleges don't care what the students study either, just as long as they are there paying the fees. Hell, look at the racket that is course books.

      Too many degrees cost more than they can reasonably pay off in short order, by short I mean, less than five years. Sure medical professions if take to their furthest points pay off, but its not like TV, go to school four to six years and be the hero. Marketing drives more to college than need.

    • Re:public university (Score:4, Informative)

      by godrik ( 1287354 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @02:07PM (#32210224)

      The same thing happens in France. Public university is flooded. I think the main difference is that a lot of students will fail. There is no quota but the required level is high in practice 50% of the student fail each of the first two years. If the student are bad one year, none will graduate.

      I am working in a (not prestigious) US university. The grades are a joke. Some student I talk with did not get ANYTHING from some classes and still got B+. Fairly understanding is usually graded A.

  • Baselines (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Looce ( 1062620 ) * on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:27PM (#32209390) Journal

    Education and money are very much alike in one aspect: if everyone has at least the same amount, then that amount becomes the baseline, below which it is worthless.

    College degrees being required for plumbing jobs and the like are only the symptom of this problem.

    Whereas before education was made mandatory in most countries of the world, the baseline was no education at all, now the United States have college as a baseline. And it's rather difficult to get out of this, because you ask someone in college why they're in college and they'll say, "I must, because I can't afford to not keep up with my peers." So people go to college because people go to college, and it's a recursive clusterfuck.

  • Technical schools? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:28PM (#32209424)

    Where are these technical schools that the economists refer to?

    The simple fact of the matter is that after decades of short sighted budget cuts, the US education system is geared for college prep, whether you want to go or not. The vocational classes have been slowly cut out of the system, usually perceived as expendable programs. School administrators realized long ago that they can't improve the ranking of their school by having the best automotive class - the only thing that counts is English & Math scores, so why bother fund anything else?

    In other countries, you make a choice on whether you choose to learn a trade or go to college, and then spend your high school years towards that goal. The repercussion for the US system is that students who are interested in a trade aren't being educated towards their dreams, and spend their time in school either frustrated or years behind.

    The whole concept of "No Child Left Behind" only works when there is an unlimited budget, and it presses everyone to a standardized education that may not actually help serve them towards what they really want to do in life. Instead of trying to get every child the same cookie cutter education, we'd be far better off giving more specialized education (whether it's vocational or college prep) by the high school level, help them take advantage of the skills they have, remove the blue collar stigma of trade work, and stop trying to make every kid be a perfect college graduate that the state wants them to be.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by QuantumRiff ( 120817 )

      Where are these technical schools that the economists refer to?

      They are often called Community Colleges, or Junior colleges. Most of them have Excellent programs doing just what you are lamenting is lost.

      Problems is, in many states, these colleges fall under the same umbrella as Primary education, and not under higher education for funding. Also, there are perception problems. They are often in the community, so people drive to campus, take their classes (they usually also have an excellent selection of w

    • by flattop100 ( 624647 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:56PM (#32209996)

      There are all kinds of technical and vocational schools - realize that fundementally, this is a discussion about education vs. training. I don't know about where you're located, but in the Minneapolis area, some training/vocational schools include:

      Minnesota State Colleges & Universities (MNSCU - NOT part of the University of Minnesota system)
      Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute
      MN School of Business
      Normandale Community College
      Anoka-Ramsey Community College
      Metropolitan State University
      North Hennepin Community College
      Hennepin Technical College
      Inver Hills Community College
      Dakota County Technical College ...and I know I'm leaving several out.

      If it's EDUCATION you want (to be well-rounded, in other words), there's:
      St. Thomas
      University of Minnesota
      Hamline ...and so on.

      These schools exist. They're not hard to find.

  • by AthleteMusicianNerd ( 1633805 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:30PM (#32209470)
    Are these the same economists that didn't see the tech or housing bubble? The same ones who thought sub-primes were contained and wouldn't spread to the rest of the economy. Perhaps they are the ones that have America's debt rated AAA.

    What happened to the new deal from shit for brains?
  • by Bicx ( 1042846 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:32PM (#32209500)
    I got a job as a software developer at a large Fortune 500 company about a year ago. It's more or less a financial institution, but the need for software developers is high. In this company, developers are treated more like business partners rather than IT grunts, and that's mostly due to the fact that we are so influential in determining how the business is run. Even though we primarily develop software, we have to know the business in and out in order to function.

    With that said, I have a 4-year degree in Computer Science. Having the degree was definitely key to getting a job in my case, since I was a raw graduate when they hired me. However, I've learned that experience in the field is by far the preferred rating factor. There are guys on my team working along side me who have 4-year degrees in Business Management and even English, but they happened to gain some (5+ years) programming experience somewhere along the way. There's also a new guy who got his 2-year degree from a local community college. That's okay, but his real selling point was the amount of experience he had, which he gained while I was finishing up the other half of my education.

    In a way, this annoys me, because I'd really like to think that my degree choice sets me apart from people who made different choices. I guess if I chose to work for an actual software business or found a job that utilized more advanced CS techniques, I might have the upper hand. However, in the real world where software usually plays a support role, I have to come to terms with my place in the business world. In another respect, the possibility of gaining experience in another field and being able to potentially change career paths without getting a new degree (within reason) is a rather freeing thought.
  • by mini me ( 132455 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:32PM (#32209508)

    The vast majority of college attending individuals are there because they have been told that the only way to successful employment is to become a college graduate. The fatal flaw in the logic is that when everyone has a degree, the degree no longer holds any prestige over any other job candidates. You are, again, competing against everyone else.

    People need to stop equating education with employment. If you are honestly interested in a subject and feel academia is the only route to fulfil your desires, by all means, please do peruse further education in that area of study. If getting a great job is your goal, however, college is not the place to achieve that. The time would be better spent learning what it takes to get the job you desire.

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:38PM (#32209626)
    College is the new high school. So much so that colleges are bending over backwards to allow entry to the dumbest among us. My University's Math department had a Math 001 course for preparation to take Algebra courses (001 taught basic math like fractions). But apparently 001 was too hard for some high school graduates; a Math010 course was developed to teach things like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. In &$#%#%*ing college!

    Combine that with some HR mandates that college degrees are required for anything above minimum wage, and you've got a perfect storm for devaluing a B.S. or B.A. An Associates degree is already worthless; it says "I went to college, but dropped out after it got too hard."
  • by ciggieposeur ( 715798 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:40PM (#32209664)

    Employers started raising the bar on a living wage a long time ago. From "high school diploma" to "some college" and now "four year degree" are bare minimums just to get the resume past HR into the manager's hands. Hell, we just hired people with four year degrees into operator apprentice slots. I know a professional welder working on a BA on the side just so that he can't be fired for NOT having a degree.

    And all that debt, gee employers really LOVE them some college debt. They know their new hires won't be striking out on their own to compete with them anytime soon. Same logic for why Silicon Valley corps love them their H1-Bs.

    You want two-year schools to come back, find some freaking employers willing to hire the graduates.

  • by godrik ( 1287354 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:43PM (#32209736)

    I always felt that education was the goal of a society, not a mean to achieve a good economy. I always felt Universities should teach you what a field is, not train you to get a job. Optimizing the economy IS NOT what a society wants. If it was the primary goal, we would never have abolish slavery.

  • Absolutely! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:48PM (#32209830)

    I'm a big proponent of not forcing people through college. The problem is the lack of economic diversity now.

    Think about this from a historical perspective:

    • 100 years ago, only the wealthy and very intelligent went to college, and it was considered a life experience. The intelligent went on to become academics, and the wealthy would inherit their parents' business or land, so an immediate employment payoff wasn't really necessary. Everyone else went into a skilled or unskilled trade. Either they farmed, or started an apprenticeship as a carpenter, plumber, etc.
    • 50 years ago, college was still pretty much reserved for the smartest of the bunch. Thanks to union labor, and a very large manufacturing base, there was no problem if you weren't college material. If you worked your butt off, you would get paid a living wage in a factory and have a career progression that ensured your earnings kept up with your life-stage. If you were college material, a huge number of white-collar jobs opened up in large companies, and those tended to be very stable too. So, whether you were college material or you weren't, you were still covered. Academic life, or vocational school, you still came out OK.
    • 20-25 years ago, the bottom fell out of manufacturing, and with it went all the reasonably comfortable factory jobs. Suddenly, you couldn't get a decent job that paid a living wage. Because of this and an idea that "I dont' want my kid working in a factory forever," people started getting forced through college. At the same time, a lot of those white collar jobs went away too. There was a time where middle managers were required just to route reports around to people, and typing/secretarial work was way more important than it is now. With the advent of the PC and email, who needs hundreds of staff to process paper? So around the late 80s/early 90s, the downsizing began. Edna from the typing pool who worked at IBM for 20 years was suddenly out of a job. Because of both the blue and white collar job loss, people went back to school for retraining or higher degrees.
    • Today, there are even fewer low-skilled jobs out there, and almost none in the private sector offer union protection. So, when a mediocre high school student gets to 12th grade, he has 2 choices:
      • Work in a very unstable service job for not much more than minimum wage. Hope that you can string enough of these jobs together to fill a 45 year career.
      • Struggle through college, have a mountain of debt, and maybe you'll find work in some company.

      And oh yeah, every job above service-level requires a bachelors' degree now. So the office receptionist needs a degree in communications, and the HVAC guy needs a degree in engineering.

    This really is the dirty little secret of globalization. Some people just are NOT built for further study. There is a normal distribution of IQ. These people can often do a great job as a general contractor, skilled tradesman, etc. Instead, we force-feed everyone into the white collar world. It makes no sense. And for those who really do want the life experience, and are built for further study, they either have to deal with lower-skilled peers holding up college classes, or go to a private school and rack up mountains of debt for no guaranteed payoff.

    I really think our leaders need to take a step back and see that a country that can do nothing but manage projects and do other white collar tasks isn't healthy. I'm in the IT field, and I'm decent at what I do. But I also realized as I was getting my degree that I wasn't sailing through the material like my peers. Every grade I got, I worked hard for. Maybe 50 years ago, I would have been better off taking on an electrician's apprenticeship or something similar. Bottom line is that the lopsided economy we have is not good for society, and everyone's addicted to cheap labor, so there's not much to do about it.

  • by hessian ( 467078 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @01:57PM (#32210030) Homepage Journal

    Things that are making college degrees less valuable, and therefore necessary for an even wider range of jobs:

    1. High school degrees are now worthless. "Bill showed up for four years."
    2. Affirmative action. "Even though Jake got a 950 on his SAT, he can go to Harvard."
    3. Grade inflation. "We wanted Suzy to feel on par with her classmates, so the lowest anyone can get is a B."
    4. Politicization. "If you want an A in English Literature with Dr. Rosenberg, you'd better write about feminist theories of hermeneutics."
    5. Dumbing down. "The staff decided it's too hard to code up a parser on a 64k Apple II, so we're going to start you off on Logo for Windows 7."

    Thanks to the feelgood policies of the 1970s, every precious snowflake feels entitled for just showing up. Schools have responded by making sure everyone has a place. The result: college degrees are no longer worth much, since they're easy to get.

    Rarity of college degree = value of college degree

    It's like having $100. If you give everyone in America an extra $100, the value of your $100 declines because there's more money floating around.

    • Counterpoint (Score:4, Insightful)

      by orthancstone ( 665890 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @02:27PM (#32210604)

      4. Politicization. "If you want an A in English Literature with Dr. Rosenberg, you'd better write about feminist theories of hermeneutics."

      Actually, there's a valuable lesson to be learned from that situation. Specifically, at some point in your life you're going to have a boss who gives you a task you don't like and tells you to do it in a way you don't want to. Suck it up and do it well anyway.

  • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @02:05PM (#32210168) Homepage Journal

    I think it's a great idea to take a year off after high school and work as a welder if you feel like it.

    But I also think college is a great mind-expanding experience, and that everyone should have the opportunity to go to a 4-year college if (and when) they feel like it too. How good a welder can you be if you don't understand basic physics and chemistry? What happens when the welding jobs disappear (as they did in Germany)? What happens when she gets tired of welding?

    And everybody should go to a 4-year college without going into debt. Talk about the road to serfdom. $20,000 in debt that you can never discharge in bankruptcy, and that will accumulate exhorbitant interest for years, sounds like serfdom to me.

    Up to the 1970s, America used to be a land of opportunity. Free access to college education was a big part of that. Now America is turning into a two-class society. [] People in the middle will move up or down, and most of them will move down.

    Traditionally, a college degree has been the way out of poverty, and the great equalizer. If these economists have data that it doesn't work that way any more, I'll look at it carefully. That's what I learned how to do in my 4-year college. But I wouldn't accept a major reversal of a long-established social goal based on a couple of associational studies.

    We just spent $3 trillion on the war in Iraq (according to Nobel-prize winning economist Joe Stiglitz). That's about $10,000 for every American. So we can certainly afford to spend $20,000 or so for a college education for anybody who is capable of it. And the rich are doing extremely well. We can tax the rich to pay for the poor. There's more of us than there are of them. All we have to do is vote.

    If you're middle-class in America today, you're taking a crap shoot, according to The Economist. You might move up. And you might move down. In the European social democracies, you don't have that risk of moving down.

    In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy committed us to the goals of sending a man to the moon and eliminating poverty. We sent a man to the moon but we didn't eliminate poverty. There's no excuse for that. The Scandinavian countries have basically eliminated poverty. We have whole cities where people can't get out of poverty. If you don't want to just transfer a lot of money from the rich to the poor, the other way to eliminate poverty is to give everyone a good education, and a free college education is a centerpiece of that.

    These economists are trying to talk us into giving up on the goal of eliminating poverty and educating our population the way the wealthy European nations do. I don't buy it.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday May 14, 2010 @03:44PM (#32211968) Homepage

    That article is worth a read. The elephant in the room is that real income per hour worked in the US peaked in 1973. Real income per capita doubled from 1947 to 1973; it's only gone up 20% since then, and that gain is only because there are more two-income families and longer hours.

    Think about that. All the progress since 1973, and there's no payoff. Nobody talks about that much. Until the 1970s, annual improvements in per-capital real median income were trumpeted in the press. Today, it's tough to find those numbers in Department of Labor tables.

    Until the 1980s, the US had very few homeless people. Now that's accepted as normal.

    There's an illusion that things are getting better, because one of the classic measures is whether income is increasing for an individual. Income increases with age, but today's thirtysomething makes less than the thirtysomething of twenty years ago.

    So doing better with your life requires getting ahead of someone else. That's where a college education comes in. It's not so much the useful skills; it's a product differentiator for people.

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