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

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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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven 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 (seven years ago) Permalink

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

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

actually that wasn't a very good book sorry

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

but at least "you" have a job!

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

DAYO!!!!! my dear boy

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

then everybody could join an indie rock band

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

you could become a dockworker!

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

yes i agree with all of that!

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

or to approximate the kind of education offered at a top tier school

Why would you need to do this for people who otherwise might not go to college at all? A much less rigorous level of direction toward thinking/reasoning/critical skills would be just fine, probably. This is not a slur. People who get their livelihood by learning a trade are not also at the same time going to be the nation's foremost scholars. If they're using an online method, it doesn't have to approximate the offerings of an ivy or something.

brb recalibrating my check engine light (Laurel), Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:58 (seven years ago) Permalink

fwiw i've taken a few classes on line and they were - save one - uniformly terrible. mostly, subject-area professors are pretty unsavvy, conservative, and old-fashioned in their computer usage, and schools don't want to invest in the video technology that would make online tutoring/mentorship/discussion actually useful. the one valuable online class i took involved weekly skype check-ins with the professor, t.a.,; streaming video lectures with online chatting & question submitting, a lively discussion board, and a lot of free resources (.pdfs) provided inline in the course framework.

remy bean, Saturday, 3 September 2011 14:58 (seven 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

online university doesn't need to complete with harvard. most of the country goes to middle of the pack 4 year colleges - outperforming and underpricing that model would be enough.

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:01 (seven years ago) Permalink

xp iatee otm.

To remy: I'm not saying the tech or the methodology is there right now, you're the expert on this stuff! But even for a hypothetical future.

Fwiw I went to an expensive-ish liberal arts school, hated it, hated my classes, took a bunch of crap that I don't remember because I didn't have any framework to put it in because I grew up in a box where we didn't even watch the nightly news because it showed sensationalistic, violent, depressing stories. I needed another LIFETIME to grow up before I went to college. Would have been better served by working some low-level job and just living.

brb recalibrating my check engine light (Laurel), Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:02 (seven years ago) Permalink

as noted in the article, the keyword is rigor. if an online unversity program is *very hard* it'll be a the path towards gaining respect, esp when getting a generic BA from local U is easier than ever.

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:03 (seven years ago) Permalink

be on the path

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:03 (seven years ago) Permalink

for sure, laurel.

I also think it's interesting that word 'rigorous' is currently so very loaded in elementary education. In my experience 'rigorous' is a cipher for 'quantifiable STEM and LA knowledges and discrete skills and abilities' as opposed to the more holistic, vocational, child-sensitive, broad-based, social science and socially/artistically inclusive curriculum that would actually be more valuable to pretty much everybody. Obv. I'm not parsing your use of 'rigor' that way, but even if I do I think the point stands that 'rigor' is much less important than whole-child education.

remy bean, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:03 (seven years ago) Permalink

STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. Education is full of the most absurd acronyms.

remy bean, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:04 (seven years ago) Permalink

ok laurel - but if you argue for a less rigorous, online approach, what separates that from phoenix university?

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:06 (seven years ago) Permalink

basically I think it's amazing that America has such an amazing university system given how incurious our population is, & it's sad that we're gonna wash that away to save a few bucks & lose the last, great hope of mankind

Euler, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:08 (seven years ago) Permalink

well blame the people who run those universities!

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:08 (seven years ago) Permalink

also our state gov'ts

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:09 (seven years ago) Permalink

and I'm still talking under the influence of that atlantic article, but is there any evidence that the market for middle class jobs - i.e. jobs that pay $40-60k (or even 80!) and would thus be a reasonable goal for someone who enters a middle of the pack 4 year college or online equivalent - is growing? what use is training someone for a middle class job or for trade if those jobs aren't there in the first place?

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:09 (seven years ago) Permalink

also us news and world report

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:09 (seven years ago) Permalink

Re "rigorous": Hm yes, I was just looking for a more neutral word to describe a less advanced, slower-paced (maybe?), program that would assume people coming in didn't have any background in the material yet, for instance. Dunno. Thinking about people who are not natural "students", and whose focus in time & energy is on another part of their lives at the same time they're using this hypothetical study program.

Dayo: oh god, I have no idea. I was just questioning the demand for a program "as good as" top schools, for the purposes that have been given here.

brb recalibrating my check engine light (Laurel), Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:10 (seven years ago) Permalink

and I'm still talking under the influence of that atlantic article, but is there any evidence that the market for middle class jobs - i.e. jobs that pay $40-60k (or even 80!) and would thus be a reasonable goal for someone who enters a middle of the pack 4 year college or online equivalent - is growing? what use is training someone for a middle class job or for trade if those jobs aren't there in the first place?

the overall performance of the american economy is not something that our universities can control, but I agree, all signs point downward and think this is one of the factors that's going to take down the system.

iatee, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:12 (seven years ago) Permalink

given how incurious our population is

This feels like a...strange thing to say. Or at least a pre-judged thing? I mean, how did our population GET so "incurious"? Americans aren't stupider than other (what other?) populations, I'm p sure.

brb recalibrating my check engine light (Laurel), Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:13 (seven years ago) Permalink

it's kind of a chicken and the egg question - why push 18 year olds into debt for college when so far all signs point to the economy not being able to support them when they graduate

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:13 (seven years ago) Permalink

This feels like a...strange thing to say. Or at least a pre-judged thing? I mean, how did our population GET so "incurious"? Americans aren't stupider than other (what other?) populations, I'm p sure.

― brb recalibrating my check engine light (Laurel), Saturday, September 3, 2011 11:13 AM (8 seconds ago) Bookmark

I am always wary about talking about things like these, but for one thing, education isn't as highly valued by our culture (or certain segments of our population) as it is by other cultures

dayo, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:14 (seven 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 feel like this is kinda projection or s.thing, like if were talking techno-utopias then a system that got 'most ppl' into and out of school earlier wld be the ideal, with college being open to the ppl who 'really want it'

Lamp, Saturday, 3 September 2011 15:17 (seven years ago) Permalink


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