College doesn’t always equate to better pay

Based upon reliable news reports and every other speech made by our new president, most American families are having a difficult time scraping together enough money to send their children to college. And even after the kids have saved all they can from part-time work, the parents have contributed the last of their retirement funds and every possible financial aid and scholarship has been exhausted, many college grads stumble away from their alma mater so far in debt it’ll take the next 20 years to pay it off, especially in today’s tanked economy. Indeed, a surprising number of modern grads won’t be able to find jobs in their chosen field and will, consequently, decide to continue their education into graduate school, as if this will necessarily increase their marketability – when, in fact, it may simply be throwing more money down the drain.

  • Tuesday, May 12, 2009 1:11am
  • Opinion

Wally’s World

Based upon reliable news reports and every other speech made by our new president, most American families are having a difficult time scraping together enough money to send their children to college. And even after the kids have saved all they can from part-time work, the parents have contributed the last of their retirement funds and every possible financial aid and scholarship has been exhausted, many college grads stumble away from their alma mater so far in debt it’ll take the next 20 years to pay it off, especially in today’s tanked economy. Indeed, a surprising number of modern grads won’t be able to find jobs in their chosen field and will, consequently, decide to continue their education into graduate school, as if this will necessarily increase their marketability – when, in fact, it may simply be throwing more money down the drain.

My friends, what’s going on here? If you’re attending college to increase your monetary potential, and that appears to be the main reason parents want their offspring to go, then it may be time to rethink certain traditional assumptions, or at least be a bit more selective about your major. If you’re majoring in anyone of the social sciences, social work, education, art, any of the humanities, sports, computer programing, business, chug-a-lug contests, or half the other fields available, you better plan on working an additional job, marrying someone who’s working or inheriting a sizable fortune because that’s probably the only way you’re going to live the solidly upper-class lifestyle college has promised in the past.

It never used to be like this. Thirty or 40 years ago when I was casting away my years in grad school, I wasn’t that intent upon finishing or majoring in anything in particular. I simply enjoyed the university life and environment. When the administration would no longer accept me and I had to go out into the real world, I was only $400 in debt. And furthermore, back then a college degree still made you rather unique so, even if the degree was in underwater basket weaving or late-night skydiving, you could get a respectable job. (I suppose life as a “professional student” is still possible, but it surely isn’t very practical and today it can get damned expensive.)

In years past, people often felt college students were more intelligent and innovative than working kids. Even high school teachers seemed biased in this way. Of course, that was so much bovine excrement even back then and it’s blatantly so today. In fact, a significant number of college freshmen are only in school because someone is paying the bill and they’re too lazy to go to work.

Of course, there’s much to be said for the college experience. The professors who might inspire you, the knowledge might enthrall you, and the camaraderie that might delight you. But if you think college will necessarily enhance your earning potential in the future, you better be skilled in mathematics, hard science, or a handful of other professions that computers haven’t yet replaced. Otherwise, you’ll probably be better off operating heavy equipment on a construction site.

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