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The College Scam: Why You Shouldn't Go to College
Is College a Scam?
Americans are in crisis mode.
Debt, both personal and national, is drowning them up to their eyeballs. Jobs are hard to find, and what few opportunities remain offer less benefits and lower pay than what they used to.
Lines are forming at the unemployment office as jobless rates hit record highs, and employers who are hiring, bombarded as they are with applicants, have their pick of the litter in what is now in the truest sense a buyers market.
With so few prospects, many people are returning to school to gain a higher level of education, or to complete the education they didn't finish in their youth. Young people fresh out of high school are pushing now more than ever to get into colleges, all in hopes of avoiding the “Great Recession” and securing the bright future they were all promised by their guidance counselors.
Unfortunately, what seems like a bright idea may well lead to more financial trouble than most started with.
Young Graduates Aren't Prospering
According to this ABC News report, many college graduates -approximately 5.9 million- are forced to move back in with their parents thanks to the crushing weight of student loans.
As of 2010, the average student loan debt in the United States was just over $25,000 for graduating college seniors, and 9.1% of those graduates were unable to find a job.
College students in particular have a harder time getting their foot in the door, it seems, as according to this article published by the Wallstreet Journal, “Forty-four percent of 2009 graduates are either unemployed or hold jobs that don’t require degrees.”
Partly, the reason for graduate's woes are the same as everyone else; when the recession hit, solid employment became a scarcity, and people who at one time thought they had job security found themselves in the welfare line. Companies either can't afford to maintain the same staff as they used to, or they are using the current economy as an excuse to cut jobs and reduce labor costs.
All in all, it's a bad time to be looking to start a career.
Contributing to their hardship is the tired “overqualified” label. Many graduates are unable to find work in their field of study, and as one young woman puts it, many have become “over-educated and unemployed.”
What jobs many students went to college for are either not hiring, or hiring with preference to work experience over education level. Jobs they try and fall back on won't take them for fear they will demand more money because of their degree, or because they know the grad will quit when better employment comes along.
In short, the modern degree holder is too inexperienced to work a relevant job, but also too smart to flip burgers.
The Post-Secondary Bubble
Not only is a college education becoming less valuable in the current market, but the cost of attaining one is rising. USA Today reported last year that the rise of tuition was around 8%, and that number has only increased since. As tuition rates go up, so does the dependency on student aid, much of which comes from the federal government, and the number of loans accepted is increasing dramatically as more unemployed find themselves trading their time cards for textbooks, hoping to earn their cap and gown alongside students half their age.
At a time where the combined amount of student loan debt is greater than outstanding credit card debt, reliance on government aid is not something to pat ourselves on the back about.
Student loans add up to nearly 1 trillion dollars, which to put in perspective is roughly one-fifteenth the US national debt. As college prices continue to rise, the debt will only increase, eventually hitting a point at which the government will be unable to subsidize it. When this happens, many students will be unable to afford an education, and colleges will face budget shortages from the lack of incoming tuition dollars.
When Uncle Sam stops paying the bill, colleges and universities will be forced to either shrink and cut costs, or will have to be bailed out in a manner similar to what happened when the housing bubble burst.
Obviously, this is not good for the students, the institutions, or the taxpayers; but if nothing changes, the collapse of the educational system will be a reality.
Can't Find Work? Ask the Lucky Few.
Of course, not all students are in such a bind. While there are plenty of horror stories, some college majors are doing better than others at finding work. Here are the top five majors in terms of least unemployment, according to the Wallstreet Journal :
0% unemployment, median income of $81,000
0% unemployment, median income of $60,000
EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION
0% unemployment, median income of $65,000
SCHOOL STUDENT COUNSELING
0% unemployment, median income of $20,000
GEOLOGICAL AND GEOPHYSICAL ENGINEERING
0% unemployment, median income of $73,000
While all those 0% unemployment rates are something to marvel at, don't go running to a school counselor just yet. Each of these top five fields are highly specialized, meaning that should the market shift again, those in school for these majors could find themselves halfway towards a useless degree.
Even worse is that with information like this public and available to everyone, these fields will likely become flooded with new applicants in the next few years as students change their majors in search of more secure careers. Those who jump on the bandwagon too late may find that all the good jobs are taken.
Education is portrayed in society as a means of bettering oneself, and as a guarantee of success for those who can make it to the end. The reality is that an education in America is simply not enough anymore for employers seeking practical experience, and the cost of that education has become a pair of shackles to those who once saw it as a key.
Essentially, this means that once a graduate gets into the real world, they may find that instead of the passport to a career that they were promised, all they have are their wits.