The bubble in education

NYTimes has it:

The 1.7 million members of the Class of 2011 witnessed, within the four-year span of their college careers, one of the greatest bull markets in United States history and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Last spring, they shed their caps and gowns and joined a kind of B.A. bread line. Unemployment among recent liberal-arts graduates, at 9.4 percent, was higher than the national average, and student-loan debt, at an average of nearly $25,000, had reached record levels. Worse still, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was reporting that only 5 of the 20 jobs projected to grow fastest over the coming decade would require a bachelor’s degree. Though the statistics still show that a college degree correlates with both higher income and lower unemployment in the long run, diplomas didn’t seem very valuable when they were handed out last May.

Its readers have it:

Ms. Susan ChardonDenver CO

The article states that "Drew ranks 94th among 178 private liberal-arts colleges on U.S. News & World Report’s annual list."

You and all of the other legitimate news media are well aware that U.S. News's rankings are nothing but voodoo pseudo-science and that, in addition to exploiting college intenders and their families, they have exerted on demonstrably pernicious impact on the behavior of the colleges whose "quality" they purport to measure. (I am referring here to the many institutions who have admitted to submitting 'distorted' data to the publication in the hope of increasing their rankings.)

Why do you legitimize the U.S. News flim-flam by referencing their bogus rankings in your article? It strikes me as lazy - if not irresponsible - journalism.


Both of my children are graduating from college this year in the Class of 2012, one from Berkeley as a history major and one from Seattle Pacific as an English major. Our daughter plans to continue to work as a nanny for two families after graduation. Our son will keep his waiting and bartending job at a Berkeley restaurant. They are fourth-generation college students. They hope to make their way into the top 80% doing meaningful work that requires higher-level thinking skills, which they have spent the last 17 years developing.

My husband and I, who worked three jobs between us and saved our entire marriage for their education, spent more than $200,000 on their four-year degrees. As much as we believe in the intrinsic rewards of university and as proud of our kids as we are, it's hard not to imagine that our son and daughter would be better off if we had given them $100,000 each and sent them to an investment class at the community college.

I really feel for their generation, especially those kids who have played by the rules, "done everything right" and worked hard. Hopefully, this is just a temporary setback for young, highly educated people and not the beginning stages of collapse of a higher education Ponzi scheme.

S.P.Saint Louis

The dreamer in me wants to tell these recent grads, stay positive and keep trying. But the pragmatist in me says, welcome to the new America - second world oligarchy, which is rapidly becoming third world tyranny (unless we stop the insanity of allowing corporations, banks, and insurance companies to buy our politicians).

Dave NullClaremont, California

Sadly, I seems that the most successful graduate ("I opened my own practice offering colonics-based nutritional treatments.") is one that is engaged in a medically useless swindle.


I hope this does not sound harsh. But if it does, tough.

I am a hiring manager in the aerospace industry, and a graduate professor of space operations.

If you just got a BA, you invested $200,000 in a degree that is, by itself, worthless. Unless you are a scientist or engineer, the demand for you is essentially zero. And scientists and engineers are not doing all that great.

What to do?

First take a job. Any job. If your resume shows a multi-year gap after college, it goes in the discard pile. We understand times are tough. Work at something. This demonstrates you can get out of bed, get dressed, and show up. Many of your fellows can't. It's a discriminator.

Get some skills. If you want to be a bank VP, get a job as a teller. If you have anything on the ball, you will be noticed and you will rise in the organization. But beware of looking better than your boss. He or she probably feels his or her job is on the line every day.

Nobody cares what you know. Nobody cares what school you attended. All we care about is what you can do.


We all have gone through this. I didn't have a "real job" out of college for years. And please stop with this absurd notion that people shouldn't have to be burdened with their loans. If you borrow $128K to get an English degree with no further plans for grad school... you're not very smart, sorry. I'm proud of my liberal arts education, but I didn't pay $50K for it. Go to a public university instead of insisting that on private schools that cost too much and usually aren't very good. Also, the POINT of an education is to BE EDUCATED - to get an education. It's not a guarantee for anything. No one is going to give you anything. And YES - it IS about who you know. It's called Networking - and it's the only way to get a job whether you're 22 or 52.

JPMcCluskeyHampton NJ

I would love to see a New York Times article on just how many companies, including the "Fortune 500" use free labor by giving internships. Yes, they may give the students experience in the job but aren't they also getting free hours of work. And how many of those interns get jobs in those companies after their free labor. Getting experience is very important for not only college students but also high school students. Yet, I can't help but wonder about the "Child Labor Laws?" Or doesn't that matter anymore? It would be nice if they at least go travel and lunch money or some kind of help to pay off their college loans.
So any reporter out there looking for a story to investigate, get data, and report on-well I would love to read what you find out.

mcNashville, TN

When I graduated with a BA at the end of the 70s, the economy was terrible, the state of the world was terrible, we were lucky to get jobs waiting tables, We all felt cheated. But eventually, after years of minimum wage labor, most of us got "good" jobs. Some of us got great jobs. I went to a state school and did not graduate with lots of debt.

What helped was having work experience, any kind. Do some kind of work while you're in school--skip the party, get a job. Another trick I learned is that you can volunteer to do things you don't know how to do yet, work hard and learn and do OK, and they'll give you a reference even if you didn't get a salary. I hate unpaid internships too, but you can learn skills, meet people and get referrals. In 2012, I'll bet there will be political campaigns that need willing hands...

Liberal arts majors: don't lose heart. At first, you'll look foolish compared to the accounting majors. But eventually, people who have good writing skills and can actually analyze and think will do pretty well. (All my liberal arts pals are doing just fine, thanks, and not just the ones that graduated long ago. Be creative and open-minded about what you'll do. Writing financial reports can pay the bills too.)

Nobody will ever hire a C- engineer or programmer. It is better to be an excellent, though underpaid, writer than an unemployable programmer or an accountant who can't really do the work. Just be ready to work harder to establish yourself.

MaximWashington DC

I, too, am a recent grad, but a non-traditional student. I'm 53 and just graduated with my second masters degree from a top university. But it has led nowhere.

I lost my job in public policy a year ago. Funny thing is that my first college degree in music is what puts bread and butter on the table because I teach a few piano students.

I empathize with young grads, but they should realize it's also tough for older people like myself because of ageism - age discrimination. I've had many interviews with interviewers who are half my age with only half my work experience in policy.

I look ahead to the elections and worry about the future considering what the legislators and Wall Street have already done to hurt the hard-working American public.


Dear grads: my class also graduated into a recession. It was the early 1990s. At that time, most "career resources" were tattered folders in the so-called "guidance" office. Since we did not belong to the cossetted cohorts of Baby Boomers offspring, society at large seemed not to give a hoot about our lousy job prospects and told we despised Gen X younglings to "take anything" (which seems to be what many of you have done as well.)

This is not a "I walked through a snowstorm to get to school at your age" speech; it's a note of support. The first few years were rough, but the Internet was on the rise, Prague and Japan were wide open, and today we're on average doing pretty well. Don't let your parents' anxiety or your (understandable) depression get the best of you. If you need to move for a few years to China to teach English, that's a great way to be independent, build up savings, pay off your loans, meet interesting people, see new things and develop new skills.

If travel isn't possible, fair enough.. Take the temp job or the Wawa stint if you can, and go to lots of professional Meetups and other evening talks/events in your area. Print up cards with your name and contact information. If someone asks you about yourself, say honestly that you are a recent college grad who want to learn more about opportunities in that field. Networking can feel frustrating and it is a learned skill like anything else. It will not work until it does.

Good luck.

Tim BalBelle Mead, NJ

Pay no attention to graduation speeches. Join the revolution. Change will not come until you force it. The 99 percent need to wake up.

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