Joseph Cotto, 6/22/2015 [Archive]

Time to Reconsider Going to College?

By Joseph Cotto

The American economy has supposedly long since recovered from the Great Recession. The stock market is doing exceptionally well and unemployment isn't what it once was.

Considering all of this, things should be looking up for most people. But for those who represent our nation's future, they are not.

Last year, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released some stark data illustrating the dire state of joblessness faced by recent college graduates. 44 percent were classified as underemployed and career offerings failed to improve for 18 straight months. Why not 19 or 20? The study ended in the summer of 2014. Had it gone on further, the situation would likely not have turned around.

"Fed researchers did not look into why the demand for college-educated workers is stagnating," Tami Luhby of CNNMoney reported. "But they did note that not all of these underemployed grads are working as baristas, waiters and retail clerks. Some are in relatively well-paid, career-oriented positions, such as dental hygienists or electricians."

With student loans crippling an entire generation and unresolved angst about the long-term availability of professional employment, it should come as no surprise that, according to a 2014 PDK-Gallup poll, just 44 percent of Americans feel that college is "very important". This marks a 31 percent decrease from 2010.

Veteran economist and blogger Aaron Clarey agrees. He has spent much time crunching the numbers which formulate Millennial economic life. No small amount of his research went into the popular 2011 ebook, "Worthless: The Young Person's Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major."

"Unless you're in a field that rationalizes... your spending on tuition and provides a decent ROI, then college MATHEMATICALLY is not worth the money," Clarey told me in 2013. "If young students are too blinded by their idealism or feelings....they will suffer an incredibly rude awakening when they graduate with $75,000 in debt and their 20s half over".

Practical skills and knowledge need to be emphasized over an impressive-looking sheet of paper that costs, at the low end, as much as a new sports car, and at the high end, a posh condominium.

One can discover many great things in college, but without marketable skills, what good is the new graduate to a human resources officer in need of someone who can hit the ground running?

On-the-job training, especially for those holding post-secondary degrees, can be both tedious and expensive. While a high school diploma is simply not enough to survive, let alone thrive, in the modern business world, none should be so naive as to believe that an undergraduate or graduate degree holds all of the answers.

The emerging American economy is clearly more competitive than it has been during any other generation. Perhaps many of those coming of age will learn that the educational route followed by their parents or older siblings is, in terms of dollars and cents, not worth pursuing.

If we want to avoid plunging the next generation of students into an ocean of debt with poor job prospects, then we need to reconsider post-secondary education. Career diplomas, technical certificates, and certain Associate's degrees may experience a surge of popularity not too far down the line.

That cannot come a moment too soon.

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Copyright 2015 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at joseph.f.cotto@gmail.com.

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