Lambert at Corrente linked to BIDER several weeks ago (thank you, Lambert and BDBlue!) along with a Yahoo/BusinessWeek article questioning whether college is still worth the
The third comment, however, came from a professor named “Historiann” who believes that higher education is worth the (insanely high) tuition cost because it enriches their inner lives. Teehee:
Um…that’s all well and good, but does inner enrichment pay off six-figure student loan debt and the feelings of absolute failure when you have to move back in with your parents, or you’re stuck in a dead-end job that can barely pay off those student loan bills and put food on the table for your family? One can argue that the massive amount of loans students have to take out to go to college and graduate school cause more long term unhappiness and mental anguish than whatever enrichment they get in the classroom.
The article shows that college grads still on average make $400,000 more over 30 years than high school grads. Would you like an extra $13,000/year this year? I sure would. That's still real money to most people.
In any case: is a college education really only about the acquisition of money? (Pretend we're not living in the United States of Amnesia for a few minutes.) All things considered, universities have made the U.S. a better place, on balance. Not all students who enter leave it a better place, and there surely is a lot of wastage that the system encourages. But we shouldn't see the value of education as purely vocational.
I like to think that teaching at a university and introducing them to interesting, new ideas and writers helps young people develop rich and complex inner lives in adulthood. Even if we leave aside the value of those inner lives for artistic and creative thought and work, think of the savings in mental health services!
As a starting point for any new readers joining us, I recommend reading Jobless Juris Doctor’s post about a day in the life of an unemployed graduate working a $10/hour part-time job with loans to pay back. Many of the comments are just a small window into the large numbers of young people who are depressed and on the verge of suicide because of student debt, especially in this new jobless era that could last for decades.
Please also read Cryn at Education Matters and put her under your blogroll even if your blog has nothing to do with education issues. Cryn is one of the few education advocates trying to change the system and fight for student loan victims. She regularly posts absolutely heart wrenching stories of educated American families being destroyed by student debt compounded by unemployment and our country not having a national health care system. Cryn herself attended an Ivy League and is now working in South Korea to pay off her student loan debt. Yes, many of us are being forced to flee the country to find anything resembling a respectable and decent paying job to pay off our student loans. This is the reality of higher education in America today and it doesn’t look like the situation will improve considering that many white-collar jobs along with manufacturing jobs are being outsourced, never to come back to the States. Below are links to reader stories Cryn has recently featured on her blog.
We should also be wary of the college versus high school statistics and some statistics that say the unemployment rate among college graduates is only 4 percent. Many of these studies offer an expansive range of numbers from $400,000 over 30 years to as much as a million dollars more than a high school graduate over the course of a lifetime. Personally, these numbers sound as fraudulent as law school employment statistics.
Some tenured professors and university administrators will want to believe that they are getting paid as much as $388,000 to make the world a better place while turning a blind eye to the adjunct professors who are suffering, the unemployed PhD graduates who are suffering, and the thousands of their very own students who are suffering. Other professors have fessed up to random luck to getting a good job in academia. A few have admitted to being okay with scamming students out of hundreds of thousands of dollars as long as they get their six-figure salary and funds to go off to some exotic place for vacation under the guise of an academic conference.
I decided to head over to Historiann’s blog and found that she had linked to Lambert in a post of her own accusing people who write articles questioning the value of a college education as possibly harboring racist or sexist beliefs:
Huh? If this was an attempt to discredit anyone who challenges the higher education industrial complex, it was a pretty weak one. Many of our friends and truth-tellers under our blogroll do in fact think that more education was a big mistake for them because it has caused them unimaginable pain, suffering, and financial ruin. These people should be lauded rather than accused of being racists or sexists. Angel and I are women and have posted many stories on the plight of women, minorities, and the poor during this recession and as victims of the higher education scam. Nando at Third Tier Reality is Hispanic. Cryn and Jobless Juris Doctor are women. A Law School Victim at Life’s Mockery is African-American. Educated people of all backgrounds are beginning to see the inequality and unfairness of the U.S. higher education system and it has nothing to do with seeing women and minorities as social inferiors or dissuading them from trying to have a better life. It is naïve to believe that a college education somehow magically breaks down all the barriers of privilege, rank, and connections – all those things that are most important to finding a good job in our new economy.
Is anyone else skeptical of this current rash (h/t Corrente) of “is college really worth it?” (h/t RealClearPolitics) articles, now that women are the majority of college students, and black, brown, and first-generation college students are gaining more of a purchase in post-secondary education? It sure seems like an interesting coincidence to me.
These always appear in a recession, and it’s true that unemployed people with college degrees are just as unemployed as people who never made it to college, or even out of high school. But, seriously? My bet is that the authors and publishers of these articles all have college educations. Do they really think that more education was a big mistake for them, or do they just want to argue that it’s a mistake for their social inferiors?
I have never questioned education as a valuable way of becoming a better-rounded, enriched, well-informed, and enlightened individual. However, it is possible to become educated and worldly through self-education and travel without having to pay a business (and that is exactly what universities and for-profit colleges have become – a billion dollar making business) up to $200,000 for a degree as some sort of proof that you are superior to those who don’t have a $100,000 - $200,000 piece of paper. Anyone paying $50,000+ per semester should feel entitled to a good paying job – and they should get an education that not only makes them more creative or analytical, but also provides them with job training skills to do something practical once they leave the protective bubble of the ivory tower.
There are other countries that put their money where their mouth is and make education accessible to more people by offering free or low-cost tuition. If their graduates can’t find a good job in a depression, at least they won’t have up to half of their wages garnished to pay off banks and loan companies breathing down their necks with threats and obscene phone calls to friends and family. Wanna bet that most university administrators, if asked whether they would rather work under the current system that keeps out many poor and minority students from getting a top tier education or take a salary cut so that more students can afford college/grad school, would be perfectly fine keeping out the poor and forcing their students into lifetime debt as long as their coffers are filled? Who’s the racist now?
I do not regret going to college because I attended a top tier institution that covered most of my tuition with financial aid and scholarships. I was one of the lucky ones. I do, however, regret being fooled into spending thousands of dollars for a degree that hinders me from getting any job outside of the legal industry due to the fraudulent employment statistics released by the ABA and law schools.
We are not against education. We are against a system that devalues the importance of education by turning it into a money making scheme. To swindle millions of dollars from hard-working Americans using fraudulent data and myths in order to convince parents and their children that taking out hundreds of thousands in private loans is worth it to become more self-enlightened is despicable and should be stopped. Tax attorney said in a comment last week:
Low-income, minority, and single parent (usually women) students bear the brunt of the higher education scam. Too many of them end up in for-profit schools or low ranked, third tier schools that offer a crappy education and few job opportunities at the same tuition rates as the Ivy League. Many must gamble with the possibility of absolute financial ruin for life by taking out huge loans to attend college. So when someone asks whether or not college (or graduate school) is worth it, they are asking a very serious question that no one in higher education is willing to answer directly. Is taking out $50k, $100k, $150k, $200k – even $300k (I know an Ivy League and T14 graduate who owes more than $300k) in loans worth the risk? Is anything that doesn’t offer a money back guarantee or an absolute guarantee of a good paying job worth taking such a huge financial risk?
Anyone who can justify not questioning these exorbitant costs is either rich, clueless, or profits in some way shape or form from the system currently in place.