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College Degree Ain't What it Used to Be
Old 11-24-2011, 11:50 AM   #1
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College Degree Ain't What it Used to Be

Makes one wonder if it is really worth it to run up all of those college loan bills. Sure am glad that I paid for my education the old fashioned way, work and scholarships.

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One of the greatest changes is that a college degree is no longer the guarantor of a middle-class existence. Until the early 1970s, less than 11 percent of the adult population graduated from college, and most of them could get a decent job. Today nearly a third have college degrees, and a higher percentage of them graduated from nonelite schools. A bachelor's degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability. To get a good job, you have to have some special skill charm, by the way, counts that employers value. But there's also a pretty good chance that by some point in the next few years, your boss will find that some new technology or some worker overseas can replace you.
Though it's no guarantee, a B.A. or some kind of technical training is at least a prerequisite for a decent salary. It's hard to see any great future for high-school dropouts or high-school graduates with no technical skills. They most often get jobs that require little judgment and minimal training, like stocking shelves, cooking burgers and cleaning offices. Employers generally see these unskilled workers as commodities one is as good as any other and thus each worker has very little bargaining power, especially now that unions are weaker. There are about 40 million of these low-skilled people in our work force. They're vying for jobs that are likely to earn near the minimum wage with few or no benefits, and they have a high chance of being laid off many times in a career.
The Dwindling Power of a College Degree : Planet Money : NPR
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Old 11-24-2011, 01:45 PM   #2
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IMHO the degree was devalued a long time ago. Far to many are in college who's prime subjects are taking up space.

When I went to college I actually told a prof, that I am dropping out of class at the completion of the very first day of that class. IIRC said to her, I have never in my life have seen so many disinterested unmotivated people. A disadvantage for me, I was well past age 30 at the time, with zero patience for drivel and bull$hit.

She had a meeting with the academic dean, they devised an individual study course for me. And blessed by some other faculty. For them it was a new experience. It turned out to be real tough, but the learning was immensely satisfying. Got a B in that course.

Mind you I was working full time, completed a BS in 5 yrs. part time schooling.
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Old 11-26-2011, 10:11 AM   #3
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In general, a college degree is still needed to get a "decent" job. Many articles about college being unnecessary are a bit overblown, according to this article: Bad Job Market: Why Media Is Wrong About Value Of College Degree | The New Republic

This may be on a slightly different topic, but as a recent college graduate (I'm 25, got my master's at 23), I saw many of my fellow students go through college aimlessly: They never went through it with a purpose, trying to get a job. Many never worked regularly, or just worked at the coffee shop/food court all 4 years. Didn't take an active role in student orgs, talk to professors, or get internships. Then they got their paper, learn few life skills outside of navigating the bars, holding their liquor, and paying rent on time. Now, they're on Facebook complaining that nobody wants to hire them. Well, your degree does mean nothing because you spent no time making yourself a worthwhile job candidate.

I'm just speaking in the general case, as there are exceptions, but it's something I've noticed.
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Old 11-26-2011, 10:20 AM   #4
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I liked this story from the WSJ

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j...OhaXo0qbX0JTig

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A recruiter for Union Pacific Corp., she has openings to fill, the kind that sometimes seem to have all but vanished: secure, well-paying jobs with good benefits that don't require a college degree.

There are some decent middle class jobs that don't require a college degree. Even in this economy.
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Old 11-26-2011, 10:52 AM   #5
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The Union Pacific j*b thing reminds me. While at the MTA Light rail, we had tours for high school kids from various Baltimore schools. It was to show what type of work is done, for recruiting purposes. For entry level know nothings the pay was around $14/hr. Seven or so years ago.

This was summer, inevitably after 20 minutes or so in the main shop, most would say, yo, can't wait to go over to Westinghouse, they got air conditioning.
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Old 11-26-2011, 11:21 AM   #6
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Let's face it - back when most of us were in college folks with college degrees were in the minority. I was definitely in the minority when I got my Master's. These days a college degree is almost in line with a high school degree - almost everyone has one. There's nothing to set a person apart except for their degree choice (and even that may be saturated).

While the piece of paper and the glow-in-the-dark ring helped me get a job, the things I learned in college helped me keep the job. One of my first economic courses was "Money and Banking". We played a board game similar to Monopoly that taught us how the Fed worked (or didn't), the relationship it had to the banks, how the flow of money influenced the economy, etc. It was a real eye-opener to a young kid who thought the local Dairy Queen was the hub of all financial existance.

I learned the time value of money in my first finance course. That began my long trek to understanding how valuable basic financial knowledge can be the key to one's financial peace. I don't know if the Rule of 72 is taught is even taught these days. I can do a PV by hand (takes me awhile) and could probably do an IRR manually (would take weeks). My college education was heavy on finance and economics with just enough liberal arts courses to make me more rounded. I have a 30 year old BA35 calculator and if the house burns down and I can only get one thing - that's the one thing. Well, I'd have to get two things because I'd need to get my spouse and the calcultor. Hopefully in that order.

While I understand the frustation most of the new college graduates have with the economy and their debt load, they had lots of choices to put themselves in a good position after graduation. The problem with student debt is people think it's "good" debt. You can't really fault these kids, their parents probably don't have a handle on inflow and outflow of their own money. The unfortunate lure of student debt is it really doesn't exist until six months after graduation. After all, who really looks at the statements?

This is probably where I'm unsupportive not sensitive of the Occupy movement. There are lots of jobs available in my area. People just don't want to work in the chicken houses, farms, or oil and gas / heavy machinery work. Blaming their woes on my ability to earn a living (that's basically it - I'm taking away their opportunity to get money albeit that may involve not working for it) just doesn't sit well with me. Not that I always agree with Newt, I do on this subject. Nor do I understand why anyone thinks they should be guaranteed a job after college graduation.
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Old 11-26-2011, 11:26 AM   #7
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This is probably where I'm unsupportive not sensitive of the Occupy movement. There are lots of jobs available in my area. People just don't want to work in the chicken houses, farms, or oil and gas / heavy machinery work. Blaming their woes on my ability to earn a living (that's basically it - I'm taking away their opportunity to get money albeit that may involve not working for it) just doesn't sit well with me. Not that I always agree with Newt, I do on this subject. Nor do I understand why anyone thinks they should be guaranteed a job after college graduation.
++++++1 (just my simple POV)...
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Old 11-26-2011, 11:27 AM   #8
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This is an interesting thread, I just hope it's not going to become political.
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This is probably where I'm unsupportive not sensitive of the Occupy movement.
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Old 11-26-2011, 11:36 AM   #9
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Normally I'd agree that given the cost and relatively low added earning potential for college grads, we should rethink college for some folks -- the problem, though, is that as unemployed folks with college degrees become a dime a dozen, you'll need a college degree to get an apprenticeship soon, and the white collar "information age" jobs will require a graduate degree. The hypercompetitive "educational arms race" rages on...
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Old 11-26-2011, 11:37 AM   #10
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There are some decent middle class jobs that don't require a college degree. Even in this economy.
Increasingly these jobs will demand a college degree just because they *can*. Count on it.
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Old 11-26-2011, 11:49 AM   #11
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Non 'technical' positions:

Often employers use a college degree as a screening device as it represents the ability to learn and to complete a project (obtain the degree). They aren't selecting for the knowledge acquired.

That does shrink the number of individuals recruiters need to evaluate. Not fair but that is the way life is.

Note that many SV founders did not finish college.. but then they started companies, not applied to work there.
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:11 PM   #12
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This is an interesting thread, I just hope it's not going to become political.
It's all about making yourself employable instead of whining about not having the 'perfect' job (single quotes intended). I laugh every time I hear a college graduate say they're too good to work in the chicken processing plant (with great benefits) so they'll just stay home with Mom and Dad and do nothing until something "right" comes their way.

If I ever whined about not having a perfect job my grandmother would have taken a switch to me. I started working in the fields when I was 14. The reality of it was field work was a whole lot easier than my grandmother giving me a rag and telling me to clean the house. And she meant top to bottom, side to side, and everything in between. At least field work gave me a weekly paycheck. Having a college education didn't mean I was too good to scrub out the oven or pick up the dog poop in the yard.

I'm not sure the degree itself - let me clarify - the education one receives in order to get the degree has been devalued. As with anything, one can take shortcuts to get to the end instead of making the "means" meaningful. I'm pretty darn sure the expectation to live like one's parents is a major influence on attitudes and entitlements. And that includes thinking there's nothing wrong with having debt. Until you have to pay it back.
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:18 PM   #13
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It's all about making yourself employable instead of whining about not having the 'perfect' job (single quotes intended). I laugh every time I hear a college graduate say they're too good to work in the chicken processing plant (with great benefits) so they'll just stay home with Mom and Dad and do nothing until something "right" comes their way.
I would suspect you haven't walked in the shoes of many recent college grads if you think their unemployment is due to being a bunch of whiners who won't accept less than the "perfect" job.

You and I may have grown up and graduated at a time when decent, entry level career-track jobs were plentiful (late 1980s in my case). I hope I don't have to tell you that these aren't those times.
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:35 PM   #14
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Is it possible that bachelor's degrees are the new high school diplomas? That makes me think bachelor's degrees are becoming a pre-requisite to *possibility* of getting a decent job. Without it, you have a much slimmer chance to get a job than say 30 years ago.

There are times in the past that getting a job was difficult with or without a degree, and I get the feeling we are experiecning one of those "difficult" times right now. The corporate environment has changed a bit in the last 10 years too from what I can see. We used to have college interns, but we now need people who can wear multiple hats and are ready to run.

I definitely feel bad for kids who accumulated a huge debt believing a college degree is a ticket to a good paying job. (They were misled.)
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:41 PM   #15
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As someone who worked in a "chicken processing" environment, I fully appreciate why not many want to work there.
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:44 PM   #16
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Non 'technical' positions:

Often employers use a college degree as a screening device as it represents the ability to learn and to complete a project (obtain the degree). They aren't selecting for the knowledge acquired.

That does shrink the number of individuals recruiters need to evaluate. Not fair but that is the way life is.
I have a feeling online recruiting tools like hotjobs, monster, dice, etc has that screening capabilities too (although I am not a recruiter, but it only makes sense.)
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:49 PM   #17
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I would suspect you haven't walked in the shoes of many recent college grads if you think their unemployment is due to being a bunch of whiners who won't accept less than the "perfect" job.

You and I may have grown up and graduated at a time when decent, entry level career-track jobs were plentiful (late 1980s in my case). I hope I don't have to tell you that these aren't those times.
I'm not an expert, but I am a recent college grad (2.5 years out of school), and it's my peers that are "whining". While they are not all whiners, most don't have jobs for a good reason: they aren't good candidates.

Sure, the environment may be different, but these kids could be preparing themselves to be attractive candidates, but they spent more time having fun and trying to "get that piece of paper" than actually becoming legitimately employable in their desired fields. I think my generation has also been raised to be more picky and specialized.

I firmly believe college is great for all the growth and networking opportunities it provides students and for the knowledge and perspective they can gain. However, the traditional view of college that the degree signifies that you are ready to move onto the workplace is outdated and mostly wrong. Employers care more about the "Activities" part of your resume than the GPA/Major part it seems.
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:55 PM   #18
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I have a feeling online recruiting tools like hotjobs, monster, dice, etc has that screening capabilities too (although I am not a recruiter, but it only makes sense.)
Yes they do and many employers have screening software in HR, back in the day it was Resumix. The software looks for key words, the recruiter can narrow the search (blind, only the # passing the screen available) until the universe is manageable.
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Old 11-26-2011, 01:19 PM   #19
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A college degree may be worth less, but certainly isn't worthless. If you get a solid degree from a state school right after high school while working part time and living from home, odds are your ROI will be very high. Major in Music of the Andes at a small, private liberal arts college out of state while living in their 100+ year old brick and ivy covered student housing, your ROI may vary....

I saw an article that pointed out unemployment for college degree (4 year) holders had fallen to 4.3%, down from a high of 5%. These are good numbers. If we believe in capitalism, it's almost as if the market is adjusting and raising the price of a degree to it's present day value. We just have to help our kids shop well.
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Old 11-26-2011, 02:02 PM   #20
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I think it's become a skill-mismatch issue. I wonder if the electrical / mechanical / civil / aerospace engineering degrees have as much trouble finding work as the liberal arts degrees?

The blue collar jobs - plumbers, electricians, welders - seem to be in demand in this area.
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