generation limbo: 20-somethings today, debt, unemployment, the questionable value of a college education

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
Not all messages are displayed: show all messages (2201 of them)

I was going to say mortgage but the original nytimes thread reminded me real estate is way more expensive than $100-200k in a lot of places

unwarranted display names of ilx (mh), Saturday, 3 September 2011 01:14 (2 years ago) Permalink

whereas college degrees - many of which cost as much as expensive cars - *are* generally considered financial investments. I buy degree X because it will increase my earnings potential in the long-run. (also cause it's fun to go to college, I want to meet girls, whatever, but if the investment factor wasn't there it'd be hard to justify the price. whereas expensive cars are veblen goods - people want them because of what they represent, not because a 100k car is gonna get you to work better than a 20k car)

― iatee, Friday, September 2, 2011 8:13 PM (1 minute ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

i think id argue ppl go to college for similar reasons as buying a car -- what a degree represents, the status it confers, etc

D-40, Saturday, 3 September 2011 01:15 (2 years ago) Permalink

(in addition to the investment)

D-40, Saturday, 3 September 2011 01:15 (2 years ago) Permalink

I think that's true, but removing that factor from the 'financial investment' factor is difficult because they're related - do you want to go to college to fit in w/ the educated / upper middle class, or because it's historically the way people end up educated and upper middle class?

I mean, how much does a dartmouth degree impress people if you're 40 and you make minimum wage?

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 01:23 (2 years ago) Permalink

posts that hit a little too close to home

horseshoe, Saturday, 3 September 2011 01:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

:( sorry I was trying to pick someplace nobody here went

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 01:26 (2 years ago) Permalink

haha i didn't go there also this thread is otm

horseshoe, Saturday, 3 September 2011 01:26 (2 years ago) Permalink

I went to a tier 9 public school and I have a good job and all this shit about my generation being broke and unemployed/underemployed makes me feel guilty in one part, and in three parts just incredibly incredibly fortunate

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 01:56 (2 years ago) Permalink

I say good job in the sense that I make a living and I love what I do, I'm not pulling engineer or Goldman sax money by any means

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 01:56 (2 years ago) Permalink

fyi i am a college dropout livin the dream of a stable, reasonably paid (i live fine in brooklyn) job in retail.

one dis leads to another (ian), Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:23 (2 years ago) Permalink

also imo college was the biggest waste of time/money ever.

one dis leads to another (ian), Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:23 (2 years ago) Permalink

and i learned way more abt myself & how to interface with the world thru day-to-day living in nyc than i did in the classroom.

one dis leads to another (ian), Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

(i learned very little in terms of 'knowledge' at school outside of a few classes--one on science & ethics and another on middle eastern music.)

one dis leads to another (ian), Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

people should get a degree just for surviving in nyc imo

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:25 (2 years ago) Permalink

also otm in that i do feel incredibly fortunate that i have a job i don't hate in a field that interests me, when tons of the folks i went to school with remain unemployed or employed in positions they loathe. xpppppp

one dis leads to another (ian), Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:26 (2 years ago) Permalink

(i learned very little in terms of 'knowledge' at school outside of a few classes--one on science & ethics and another on middle eastern music.)

I learned a lot in college, in terms of knowledge. but i learn most by talking/discussing, and i was blindly fortunate to choose a school that made chatter the dominant form of instruction. But ... I learned a lot more from the social experience than the academic, and a lot of it was kind of ugly growing up and making mistakes. And I got very bad grades, mostly. But I don't regret it. I wouldn't have survived in a city, not at 18, not at 19...

remy bean, Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

I guess I'm saying 'different strokes' with a lot more words.

remy bean, Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:29 (2 years ago) Permalink

I posted this in the other thread but I think it's good so everyone shoudl read it cause it dispels the myth of 'you get a BA to learn valuable knowledge and skills': http://www.quickanded.com/2011/05/is-higher-education-a-bubble-fraud-conspiracy-ponzi-scheme-part-ii.html

it's all signals man. well, not all, and not for everyone. but mostly.

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:33 (2 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, another flavor to all of this is that since, what, world war II, stating the obvious truth that "college isn't for everybody" has had a sort of reactionary and anti-democratic flavor; untold effort has been expended by K-12 educators to get kids from underrepresented backgrounds into college. None of those folks are going to talk to you about why college might turn out to be a waste of time and money.

Do not go gentle into that good frogbs (silby), Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:33 (2 years ago) Permalink

well sure. i think a lot of my college experience was impacted by my fairly negative attitude & overall disappointment with the way things actually were--mandatory critical writing classes at a 10th grade level, professors more interested in teaching you ~how to approach things~ than the specifics of those things, etc. idk, weird time in my life.xp 2 remy re: diff strokes

one dis leads to another (ian), Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:34 (2 years ago) Permalink

Finance interns make an average of about $13,000 for their ~10 week summer program. And they still complain about having to sometimes file.

Yerac, Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:36 (2 years ago) Permalink

I think what we're getting at here is that college can be good for signaling and can also even be good for the idealistic hippie academic reasons that some of us still like to believe in, but a lot of 18 year olds don't know what they want out of the process and aren't provided with information that might help them make the most of their time and their or their parents' money.

Do not go gentle into that good frogbs (silby), Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:41 (2 years ago) Permalink

I'm an example--I've dropped (or been thrown) out of higher ed four times starting when I was 19.

Christine Green Leafy Dragon Indigo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 02:49 (2 years ago) Permalink

harvard vs. umich is easy - howbout, idk, rutgers vs. bard? for someone 100% intent on going into certain fields, grad school, med school, the private school is generally a safer decision, even if it means massive debt. for someone who just wants to work an office job, the marginal gain might not be worth it. but most people don't know what they want to do w/ the rest of their lives at 18, and these calculations can get pretty complex.

― iatee, Friday, September 2, 2011 8:57 PM Bookmark

I'm pretty sure this is just not true, i.e. you would probably stand just as good a chance for law school/MBA/med school/PhD programs and most fields coming out of Rutgers as Bard. I could see Bard maybe giving you an edge in some field like media or the arts, where cultural capital is highly valued, but those fields pay jack anyway.

Helping 3 (Hurting 2), Saturday, 3 September 2011 04:16 (2 years ago) Permalink

bard was a bad example, I was just trying to think of a regional 'decent' liberal arts school

anything on bottom half of this list would be better: http://www.wsjclassroomedition.com/pdfs/wsj_college_092503.pdf

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 04:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

anyway talking to one of my friends who (after months of desperation) just yesterday got a pretty good gov't job. was the peace corps job fair and not her elite university that got her a job, in the end.

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 04:33 (2 years ago) Permalink

btw something worth considering is that people with BAs or higher have an unemployment rate of 4.3

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:18 (2 years ago) Permalink

not that i dont agree that theres something "wrong" with the system, but unemployment rises precipitously the less education you have. which makes college seem like a not-horrible investment. depending on how much youre paying for it!

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

for reference: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t04.htm

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

also cards on the table i am a liberal weenie type who would like everyone to go to college for the sake of going to college, what is the point of living in the richest and most technologically complex society on the planet if were not at least making the effort to give everyone the tools to talk about good books

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:21 (2 years ago) Permalink

I borrowed $160000 so I could learn how to talk about what I talk about when I talk about running

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:29 (2 years ago) Permalink

actually that wasn't a very good book sorry

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:30 (2 years ago) Permalink

but at least "you" have a job!

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:31 (2 years ago) Permalink

I borrowed 160000 so I could work in a cafe and listen to other people talk about how to talk about what I talk about when I talk about running

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:37 (2 years ago) Permalink

DAYO!!!!! my dear boy

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:38 (2 years ago) Permalink

if I were the president
I would wave a magic student loan forgiveness wand

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:42 (2 years ago) Permalink

then everybody could join an indie rock band

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:43 (2 years ago) Permalink

they don't have to,they could be rappers, or noise bands, or musical theater dudes, I mean the world is your oyster without student loans

ima.tumblr.com (@imsothin) (m bison), Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:45 (2 years ago) Permalink

you could become a dockworker!

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 12:45 (2 years ago) Permalink

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/09/can-the-middle-class-be-saved/8600/?single_page=true

still making my way through this article, not exclusively about college grads but does contain this

The return on education has risen in recent decades, producing more-severe income stratification. But even among the meritocratic elite, the economy’s evolution has produced a startling divergence. Since 1993, more than half of the nation’s income growth has been captured by the top 1 percent of earners, and the gains have grown larger over time: from 2002 to 2007, out of every three dollars of national income growth, the top 1 percent of earners captured two. Nearly 2 million people started college in 2002—1,630 of them at Harvard—but among them only Mark Zuckerberg is worth more than $10 billion today; the rise of the super-elite is not a product of educational differences. In part, it is a natural outcome of widening markets and technological revolution, which are creating much bigger winners much faster than ever before—a result that’s not even close to being fully played out, and one reinforced strongly by the political influence that great wealth brings.

Recently, as technology has improved and emerging-market countries have sent more people to college, economic pressures have been moving up the educational ladder in the United States. “It’s useful to make a distinction between college and post-college,” Autor told me. “Among people with professional and even doctoral (degrees), in general the job market has been very good for a very long time, including recently. The group of highly educated individuals who have not done so well recently would be people who have a four-year college degree but nothing beyond that. Opportunities have been less good, wage growth has been less good, the recession has been more damaging. They’ve been displaced from mid-managerial or organizational positions where they don’t have extremely specialized, hard-to-find skills.”

College graduates may be losing some of their luster for reasons beyond technology and trade. As more Americans have gone to college, Autor notes, the quality of college education has become arguably more inconsistent, and the signaling value of a degree from a nonselective school has perhaps diminished. Whatever the causes, “a college degree is not the kind of protection against job loss or wage loss that it used to be.”

Without doubt, it is vastly better to have a college degree than to lack one. Indeed, on a relative basis, the return on a four-year degree is near its historic high. But that’s largely because the prospects facing people without a college degree have been flat or falling. Throughout the aughts, incomes for college graduates barely budged. In a decade defined by setbacks, perhaps that should occasion a sort of wan celebration. “College graduates aren’t doing badly,” says Timothy Smeeding, an economist at the University of Wisconsin and an expert on inequality. But “all the action in earnings is above the B.A. level.”

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 13:14 (2 years ago) Permalink

from the same article, re: degree creep

All of that said, the overall pattern of change in the U.S. labor market suggests that in the next decade or more, a larger proportion of Americans may need to take work in occupations that have historically required little skill and paid low wages. Analysis by David Autor indicates that from 1999 to 2007, low-skill jobs grew substantially as a share of all jobs in the United States. And while the lion’s share of jobs lost during the recession were middle-skill jobs, job growth since then has been tilted steeply toward the bottom of the economy; according to a survey by the National Employment Law Project, three-quarters of American job growth in 2010 came within industries paying, on average, less than $15 an hour. One of the largest challenges that Americans will face in the coming years will be doing what we can to make the jobs that have traditionally been near the bottom of the economy better, more secure, and more fulfilling—in other words, more like middle-class jobs.

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 13:54 (2 years ago) Permalink

also cards on the table i am a liberal weenie type who would like everyone to go to college for the sake of going to college, what is the point of living in the richest and most technologically complex society on the planet if were not at least making the effort to give everyone the tools to talk about good books

I think this is true, but there's no reason it has to be done using today's college education structure. I mean we're operating w/ a basic model that's been around for centuries (okay it's a lot different today, but we've inherited the overall structure), not because it's the best of all possible ways to teach 18 year olds how to talk about books / create signals for the job market, but more because...well, it's there. in 2011 it still gets the job done. a BA is still a good investment, overall, I agree. but if you look at the trends w/r/t cost, value, risk - I don't think our current system is on a sustainable path. the best comparison is w/ our health care system.

another old blog post by the same author:

http://www.quickanded.com/2010/08/uc-world.html

basically the problem w/ online education today is that it lacks rigor, post-degree signaling, and it's mostly run by evil for-profit companies. but can you, in theory, get the equivalent of a *college education* online? absolutely. (this is harder w/ science and lab courses, but I suppose some institution could create a private lab an online student could go to.)

but basically, if college is just about 'learning how to talk about good books', there's no reason why we can't create a cheap, scalable way for people to learn the same stuff.

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:21 (2 years ago) Permalink

yes i agree with all of that!

max, Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:41 (2 years ago) Permalink

"but can you, in theory, get the equivalent of a *college education* online? absolutely"

stomach flu worse today so p much all I can manage is "lol"

evidence-less techno Utopianism

I mean it's coming but the point is that it's gonna be shitty, cheap but shitty, & we'll make big money off it & maybe it'll be good enough for a lot of shitty white-ish collar work but that's not the Dewey dream & im gonna put my stake in that dream over further cheap atomized memorization in order to serve the ruling class

Euler, Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:41 (2 years ago) Permalink

yeah I'm sure you can get one kind of college education through online services, but will it be equivalent to the traditional idea of a college education? by what metrics will you measure this?

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:44 (2 years ago) Permalink

what's the evidence that our current system is actually working when it comes to giving someone 4 years of education? it appears to be performing worse than ever:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/01/18/study_finds_large_numbers_of_college_students_don_t_learn_much

45 percent of students "did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning" during the first two years of college.

you don't think an online model can compete with...this?

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:47 (2 years ago) Permalink

well I guess that depends on what your goal is - to outperform middle of the pack 4 year colleges, or to approximate the kind of education offered at a top tier school

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:52 (2 years ago) Permalink

Theoretically this is possible, because the technology is there but

a) the interaction between students/student-and-teacher will always be mediated, and
b) the price will be roughly equivalent to traditional school b/c the model for 'quality education' will always be plain ol' college, not some other (better, more equitable and Dewean ideal) system of learning and dissemination of material
c) an online degree of any merit whatsoever requires roughly the same amount of attention and ability from professors, TAs, and adminstrative staff.

So there is an argument to be made about accessibility and customizability of a degree done online, and its but if it's done correctly it is neither cost-saving (at least for labor and materials) nor time-saving.

remy bean, Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:53 (2 years ago) Permalink

also not sure how an online model would ever replicate the social aspect of college, which is not really easy to quantify!

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:55 (2 years ago) Permalink

I'm involved in the tests they're talking about; we're implementing the collegiate learning whatever this year. It tests skills that ought to have taught in elementary school (crit thinking etc). Let's work on stuff there! and in pre-k

also I read ilx & see how seriously a decently smart community took college, imagine what others are like. A lot of people aren't ready for college at 18

like should we just dumb things down? What's the point?

Euler, Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:57 (2 years ago) Permalink


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.