If a college degree is the key to a well-paying job, then how to explain the results of the latest study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York? It found nearly 43 percent of recent graduates are working in positions that do not require a degree (“Settling for subpar job right out of college can hurt your career for years ” Los Angeles Times, Jun. 13).
Making matters worse, the longer grads stay in these jobs, the worse their career prospects become. Let’s not forget that this situation is exacerbated by heavy student loan debt. Despite this bleak picture, we persist in the fiction that college is still for everyone. I’ve not seen a study that compares lifetime incomes of vocationally-educated students with academically-educated students. By the time student debt is paid off, I wonder if the premium attached to a four-year degree would be nearly so high.
Better yet, how about a study of students who went to community college and earned a certificate in a trade with students who went to a four-year college and received a degree in the humanities. Instead, we have generalizations about the marketable value of a bachelor’s degree. I’m not saying that college should be evaluated solely by what graduates earn over a lifetime. There are clearly other benefits. But the cost of a four-year degree today is unprecedented. Try telling graduates who are struggling to pay their bills that they made the right decision.
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