Why did 17 million students go to college?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by iloveemoticons, Nov 2, 2010.

  1. iloveemoticons

    iloveemoticons Well-Known Member

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    http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/why-did-17-million-students-go-to-college/27634

    Interesting article. However, I don't buy the argument the article is trying to make...
  2. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Well it's really hard to say whether those degrees are wasteful right now. The economy is REALLY bad now - maybe in better economic period, these people would have been doing something else rather than attending to parking lots, but right now they'll take whatever they can get.

    And the turnaround time for graduate degrees is such that it's very difficult to predict the economic environment when it's graduation time. When my best friend went into law school, her mother was gleefully mentioning her future six-figure salary every chance she could get. She graduated right when every big law firm was shedding jobs, not hiring. She finally got a job a year after graduation, where a law degree is not required.

    I think if someone is truly interested in earning a postsecondary degree and has a way of avoiding six-figure debt, they should go for it. You never know when it might come in handy, especially while the economy is in flux.
  3. Prancer

    Prancer The "specialness" that is Staff Member

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    Well, he agrees with Murray :scream:. But what do you not buy?

    I found the followup comments much more interesting than the article itself, which is just one more round of a very common theme in academia right now.

    Some examples (with Murray himself!): http://chronicle.com/article/Are-Too-Many-Students-Going-to/49039/

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-08-20-murray-questions_N.htm (Murray again)

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/College-for-all-Experts-say-apf-3621490094.html?x=0

    http://collegeaffordability.blogspot.com/2010/10/underemployed-college-graduate.html

    http://www.american.com/archive/2008/september-october-magazine/are-too-many-people-going-to-college

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1967580,00.html

    I could post a lot more, but you get the idea.
  4. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

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    One thing I have learned, don't go to college unless you really know what you want to do. I wish I had taken that route. I wasted a lot of time and money goofing off, switching majors because I wasn't mature enough to pick a career that interested me. I am 28 and finally decided what I want to do. Unfortunately I have to have a degree so I am back in school and adding to my student debt but it is a necessary evil and for the time being, I am not worried about a job when I graduate. Things could always change but I feel confident, with the people I know, I can get a job using my degree.
  5. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

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    How many waiters and waitresses are in the US? Maybe all those educated waiters and waitresses are living in New York or Los Angeles, doing this before they land a guest spot on Gossip Girl.

    Anyways, I was working in a supermarket during law school, so I would be in those numbers too. Tom Cruise was waiting tables while in law school in The Firm. I didn't see the problem at the time, and I still don't.

    Well, I am pretty sure I would've been even more clueless about what I want to do in my life had I not gone to university--not that I actually know now. I think that's the whole point of university-figuring these things out.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2010
  6. Prancer

    Prancer The "specialness" that is Staff Member

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    Yes, and the study also assumes that these people are employable in their field. They may or may not be, for many reasons.

    But the unemployment rate for recent college grads is pretty alarming and that's something that's been developing for a while, not just something that occurred when the economy tanked; colleges are taking note.
  7. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    I was looking at Executive Assistant positions in NYC recently and there were quite a few of them that didn't want anything less than a Master's. I said well how about that, now you need a frigging Master's to be a secretary.
  8. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    In fact, it's been the topic of several FSU threads and posts!

    I am reminded of John Gardner's writings:

  9. Prancer

    Prancer The "specialness" that is Staff Member

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    Careful--SHARPIE will open a new forum.:lol:
  10. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    While I believe that the pedestal of higher education has been overextended--I refer not to knowledge, skills, or wisdom but rather formal degrees--I take issue with the article's insinuation that the purpose of college is to get a job that cannot be done without the knowledge and skills gained in college courses.

    Why did 17 million students go to college? For a good number of them, they went to college to ease the transition from childhood to adulthood, to learn responsibilities and independence gradually, to gain self-knowledge, and to be able to make mistakes in a more forgiving environment. That is the most valuable part of college.
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  11. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

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    I honestly don't think a lot of kids put much into applying and going to college, actually. When cuts are made, I hear/see a lot of stories from ambitious kids who have goals, and even if they don't know exactly what careers they want, they know they want further education. But I think the majority of college kids wind up there because it's the most obvious, automatic thing to do after high school. Maybe I'm out of touch though - it just seems that way to me.
  12. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    I do think that the number of graduate programs has excessively proliferated, and that the production of PhDs from relatively weak institutions has led to many students with that degree who have no reasonable hope of ever landing college-level academic positions that they would like. Add to that the number of students getting PhDs (from any institution) in many of the humanities and social sciences vs. the number of faculty openings in those areas and you have another huge misfit. (You also have the ridiculousness of extended time now required to get a PhD in subjects like English, where the median time is now over 9 years of grad school.)

    It is one thing if people pursued these degrees because of some inner drive for personal satisfaction, but an awful lot of them seemed to think that they would actually be able to get faculty appointments, and they must be rather sorely disappointed.
  13. wickedwitch

    wickedwitch Well-Known Member

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    I agree in principle, but I'm not sure how valuable the 17 million student statistic is. My guess is that a decent proportion of those people want to be doing something else and may still have a decent chance of doing so.

    Plus, there are many jobs that don't need a bachelor degree level of education but still require or prefer a degree from their applicants.
  14. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure the statistic is completely accurate either. I know people who got degrees for something to do for four years or for the dating scene (or the MRS degree) or something and never had career aspirations. I also spent a lot of time hanging out with music performance majors in college--almost all of whom are doing nothing remotely related to their degree and many are doing something that would not require one. So it is sometimes a result of having pursued a useless degree.

    Your second point is a huge problem. It is a mindset that business needs to give up. My husband has an associate's degree and was automatically not in contention for a number of jobs he was more than qualified for and capable of doing when he was unemployed a couple of years ago.
  15. Stefanie

    Stefanie Well-Known Member

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    This may seem far-fetched, but perhaps there's a small percentage of those waiters and waitresses who actually like the job (even if they never intended on making a career out of it) and can make a decent enough living to do so and don't feel the need to put their degree "to use." Aren't there such people who could be considered "professional" waiters/waitresses?
  16. PRlady

    PRlady aspiring tri-national

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    If the argument is that there should be career tracks to middle-class jobs requiring specialized knowledge that do not require a BA, I agree. Many people profit from being exposed to Dante or Kant or Margaret Mead in college, even though they do not become professors or intellectuals. Others could skip that happily, learn how to be a good actuary or software programmer or EMT or whatever, though a certification program that accredits people for that specialty.

    The question is, how do you know for sure which is which. There are kids who achieve in high school and make the good grades just because they're docile and that's what their parents and environments expect. They go to college and take courses without a real need or interest in them and eventually find a field to work in. (or not.) There are kids who are hell-raisers in high school who just need some maturity time, and by their early twenties are devouring knowledge as fast as it is handed to them. That's how my ex-husband, a historian, was. He dropped out of Duke at 19, joined the Marines, and only three years later was ready for his extended and cerebral career.

    So if we separate the sheep from the goats at age 16, we're precluding growth and changes later. All other things being equal, I'd rather more people who didn't really need a liberal arts education receive one than denying it, by cost or social barriers, to a lot of people for whom it would be wonderful.
  17. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    I think that is probably true, too. And I know a few people who went to college for an MRS degree and got it, had some kids, and now that they are in school full time are working retail or food service jobs part time for a bit of extra money and they are perfectly happy with that.
  18. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Well-Known Member

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    You and me both. I'm 26 and in the same boat. I finished my degree but I have no intention of pursuing a career related to my undergrad major. I suppose with the graduate degree I want to pursue, it ultimately doesn't matter since I would need a Master's degree to pursue that career I want anyway but it still sucks that I am having hard time getting a job that doesn't even require a Bachelor's. If I was more focused and seriously thought about what I wanted to do when I was younger, perhaps I would have attended graduate school sooner and actually have a career by now. However, I guess there is no point in crying over spilled milk.

    I really think that high schools and colleges should do career counseling with students when they're high school seniors and college freshmen. Have students take tests and self assessments so that they can get an idea of what track to take in college (and beyond) instead of wasting time trying to figure it all out along the way.
  19. lise

    lise New Member

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    I have a degree and 10 years experience working in admin and when job searching, most places here wanted me to get an Administrative Assistant diploma. It's crazy how competitive it's gotten for what used to be entry-level jobs.
  20. bardtoob

    bardtoob Well-Known Member

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    Crowd control.
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  21. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Well-Known Member

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    Tell me about it. I have experience as an Administrative Assistant and am still having a tough time getting another job in that field. I think when most students enter college, they really have no idea how competitive to get just entry level positions.
  22. mmscfdcsu

    mmscfdcsu Skating Pairs with Drew

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    College is not simply a trade school. Some people actually go to get an education. There are others who go because it is expected of them, or to kill time looking productive while they figure out what they want to do when they grow up.
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  23. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    Although this is a serious question, when I saw the thread title, the answer that popped into my mind was "To get to the other side" (a la the chicken and the road).
  24. skaternum

    skaternum Grooving!

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    :respec: Yeah, why is "becoming educated" never mentioned in these kinds of debates. Some of us intentionally chose a liberal arts education because we wanted to learn more about the world around us, not a narrow little field. Nor did we go to school to be trained monkeys.

    Every time I've graduated (undergrad & grad), it's been in the throes of a recession. And yet, my liberal arts degree and I have managed to do just fine in the long run because I'm smart, articulate, and good at thinking.
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  25. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    Education for its own sake is not valued much in this society anymore. It is frustrating to watch. It was frustrating as a teacher. Parents didn't care if their kids learned; they just cared about the bottom line which was that they get high grades, get scholarships so college cost less, and someday get a high paying job. If something was perceived as too hard or challenging for kids, parents at the small college prep school I worked at would all but throw rallies to get it out of the curriculum. There was a huge backlash against honors English courses (they wanted to keep the "honors" tag but decimate the curriculum), sophomore communications (speech) class (too hard--ditch it), and all chemistry courses (if required, make them much easier so everyone gets an A) the last year I was there. I often heard the phrase "I'm paying for you to give him/her good grades" at conferences. These parents did not at all perceive their tuition payment as paying for an education.
  26. bardtoob

    bardtoob Well-Known Member

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    I think there are some that do go for education sake. I could have done the same work without a degree because of my experience, so I suppose I would be one of those people. I have been half time, if not full time, when not even pursuing anything other than "that sounds interesting", but I do not think it is normal. I usually just want more information than offered by Discovery Channel or PBS.

    Most people I know can't wait to be out of school and think I am a freak for being willing to do homework when I already get paid for work.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2010
  27. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Well-Known Member

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    There are some of us who go for a variety of reasons. Why is it always assumed that people go to college for one reason only? I love education and that is one of the reasons I went. I love thinking critically. But as someone who comes from a working class background, I also went to college so that I could rise out of my class into the middle class. Right now, that's not happening. So yes, I have an education but I also have massive debt that frankly the majority of my family doesn't have because most people in my family decided to work or go into skilled trades. People who get liberal arts degrees have the same debt as their engineering, nursing, pre-med and other science based cohorts but the job market for us is crap. Often, the jobs liberal arts grads can get are not enough to pay down their loans. Can you really pay down $25,000, $30,000, $40,000 in debt while working as a waitress!? I'm sorry but that is an issue that needs to be addressed.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2010
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  28. wickedwitch

    wickedwitch Well-Known Member

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    And there are plenty of people who are like that and are still unemployed.
  29. Prancer

    Prancer The "specialness" that is Staff Member

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    Because a liberal arts education comes with a very high price tag for a lot of people, and somehow that price has to be paid.

    If you graduate from college right now with a degree and student loans, you need to be able to pay those student loans back. The AVERAGE student now graduates after working during college and still has student loans to pay back--and that's people who get a four-year degree. Those who go through graudate and professional programs usually end up with even higher bills.

    Most people go to college to attain a middle-class lifestyle; that's what they are there for--the job prospects and the resulting lifestyle. People can think that's the wrong approach, but for most people, the cost of college has to be a consideration. It's nice if your parents can foot the bill, but there are fewer and fewer parents who can do that, and there are fewer scholarships to go around, and grants are harder to get.

    Absolutely. There are a whole lot of people with degrees and even experience right now who can't find jobs, and it's not because they aren't smart, articulate and know how to think.
  30. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    I have been a corporate recruiter, worked in corporate HR, and been a hiring manager in several companies, in many fields, both during recession and during good times. Unless you plan to go into a field where a specific degree is needed (nursing, architecture, engineering, etc.) it doesn't matter what you major in. Most employers don't care what you majored in. They care that you got a degree and have the skills they're looking for.

    Of course there are some employers that do care what you majored in. And there are some fields, as I mentioned, where a specific degree is necessary. But for most fields, for most employers, it doesn't matter.

    The important thing is that you gain career-related work experience while you study. So no, it's not good enough to just graduate with a liberal arts degree; but a liberal arts degree plus marketing and PR experience for clubs and organizations on campus, plus a marketing internship, can get you a job in marketing, whether your major is marketing or art history.

    Finding a job in a recession is never going to be easy, but there are jobs available, and if you arm yourself well re: career related experience, you'll stand just as good a shot as anyone else of landing that job, liberal arts degree or no.

    I'd also like to add that student loan debt is something to be extremely cautious of. It is not necessary to graduate with excessive (or perhaps any) student loans. I know people do that, but it is not what I advise. And I *know* that sounds anti-American or something; but I mean it - student loan debt is insidious, and it can constrain your future choices, and should be avoided or, at worst, minimized. And the private student loans should *absolutely* be avoided - those things are evil.

    In other words, if the only way you can afford to go to a college is by taking out massive student loans, that school is too expensive for you, and you need to go someplace else. If you choose to go to that school anyway, then that's your choice, but you need to know what you're doing to yourself. You need to understand the financial reality of what you're getting yourself and your family into - and too many students/families do not.

    I always recommend that the students I am advising apply to at least one public university in their home state. The only exception to this is for the few students whose families are so well off that paying for college is not an issue for them - they'd face no financial burden. Otherwise, one of your schools needs to be a public college in your home state. It's your financial backup, for use in case the financial aid package at the other schools doesn't turn out as you need it to.
  31. skatingfan5

    skatingfan5 Well-Known Member

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    So glad that I went to college long before student loans became seemingly mandatory. I went to a state university (with a very good academic reputation) when in-state tuition was a real bargain (barely 1/100 what tuition was for a good private school). It probably would have been better had I had some real career goals when I was an undergrad, but for the most part I enjoyed my courses, which ranged widely across the liberal arts curriculum (the only two courses I detested were statistics and quantitative analysis :scream:). I likely would be more financially advantaged if I had been more "career focussed" back then, but then again, I could have made a lot more money and lost much of it through bad investments, like some I know. I'm probably just rationalizing because I liked being a student. :shuffle:
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2010
  32. SceneIt

    SceneIt DoneIt

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    My niece just graduated from college with a $130,000 student loan (for a bachelor's) degree - and she is without a job! I hear so many people are now defaulting on their student loans because they don't have jobs to pay them back, and its gonna be tougher for future students to get loans at all.
  33. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    I feel so bad for my students at this one private college. They are taking on significant debt to pay for their education, and I'm just like, "Pssst... You know I teach this same class over there at that SUNY and it'd cost you, like, $300, right?"

    This issue isn't unique to liberal arts. I remember talking to one kid who was an engineering student at Drexel. He told me he'd have $100k in student loans by the time he graduated. Even as an engineer, there is no way he could comfortably pay off that amount of debt. Even if he was in one of the highest paid engineering fields out there - petroleum - he couldn't comfortably pay off that debt. He's at very high risk of defaulting on those loans. He wasn't quite ready to hear my advice (transfer to a public uni in his home state.)
  34. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    She is at high risk of default, even if she gets a job. I'm guestimating that her monthly loan payment could be $1,500. That won't leave her much money for things like food and housing.

    She needs to take control of this now. She may need to contact the loan companies and see if she can put them in forbearance. She may need to see if she can consolidate the loans and extend their terms, to bring the monthly payment down to a level she can handle. If she extends the term to 30 years, her monthly payment might be (guestimate) $650, and... she'd still be paying her student loans when her kids are in college. Ouch.

    At that level of loans, she's got some private loans involved, and those have special issues that she'll need to gain a full understanding of, and I mean *now*. I don't know, for example, if those can be consolidated. She needs to get her co-signers (likely her parents) involved, because if she defaults, they're on the hook.

    If she defaults, it's really serious. That debt will escalate as interest and fees come into play. It'll bury her (as if she's not buried already). If she defaults, they'll take her tax refunds, garnish her future paychecks, and they can even go after her social security benefits. This is a lifetime debt, and it needs to be a priority for her.

    This is seriously going to constrain her future. I'm sorry, that sucks.
  35. taf2002

    taf2002 Well-Known Member

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    I went to college with a 1/2 loan & 1/2 grant scholarship. When I graduated, I could have taught at public school or county college for 5 yrs & my debt would have been forgiven without me paying a cent. Is something like that now available for students?

    The scholarship I had is now not offered because so many people defaulted. I paid mine off although it wasn't near the amt students incur now.
  36. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    There is a scholarship available to people who plan to be teachers - maybe just math and science? - who are willing to spend five years teaching in an under served school system. If they don't end up working in such a system, the scholarship turns into a loan.

    When you agree to take the scholarship, they give you the list of schools in your region, so you know and can make a somewhat informed decision. The scholarship, I think it was for $8000 per year, which is not a bad amount if you're going to a public college. It really helps.
  37. Auntie

    Auntie New Member

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    Reading about all this student load debt reminded me of something that happened years ago. My husband and I had been out of college a few years and he decided to go to grad school in Massachusetts. I think it was 1988 or so. We got a small student loan (probably 5k?) and then moved, so he never finished his degree.

    After paying about 1/2 the loan, we got a letter from the loan program that basically said "the state is so well off that we are going to forgive all loans of this type". :confused: :cheer: I'm sure I still have the letter somewhere because I was convinced that it was a mistake and someone was going to come after us for the money. Can you imagine that happening nowadays?
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2010
  38. bardtoob

    bardtoob Well-Known Member

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    YES, YES, YES.
  39. Hannahclear

    Hannahclear Well-Known Member

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    Yup. Underemployment is part of the past, present and future around here. Whatever, we're not going to let it ruin our lives.
  40. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

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    I think a lot of parents reasonably thought that the check list was the way to go because that worked for a few decades. Just check the items off the list, get a college degree, get a job, buy a house, etc. The environment has changed on everyone though. It is like we are in a hustle economy where street smarts are worth a lot in figuring out how to get that job or find income. A friend who is an attorney got laid off and she is making a go of it with her own business - a combination of her own legal clients and public speaking. It really didn't come down to credentials or degrees as much as she just hustled to get something done for herself.

    ETA: I think those with hustle skills with or without a degree will be the best off in terms of income for near term.