This theme – Higher Education Bubble - is appearing more often, maybe because it has a heavy dose of truth buried within it.
As so many of us have written again and again, we've all been sold the idea that in order to get a good job that we had to go to college to get a degree. It's almost become gospel. The only problem with that idea is that it is dead wrong.
While some kind of education after high school is a good idea, it needn't be in the form of college. It could be trade school, including apprenticeships (something that has fallen out of favor over the past century or so), or military service, or going out and doing.
We've seen the effects of this wrongheaded thinking, where students come out of college with their sheepskin, a large amount of student loan debt, and no prospects for a job. It's not that college in and off itself is a bad idea, it's what the courses of study the students pursue that are a bad idea. As I mentioned in a section of yesterday's post, one of the protesters at the Occupy Wall Street tantrum was concerned because she was going to be thousands of dollars in debt once she completed her Bachelor's of Fine Arts degree, but had few prospects in the way of finding a job. What kind of job did she think her degree would help her find? You don't need a BFA to work at McDonald's or Dunkin' Donuts or any of the other 'menial' jobs she's likely to have. The same is true of those whose degrees end in the word “Studies”, or degrees in Philosophy or Sanskrit or Medieval European Husbandry and so on. Unless all those students plan on careers in academia, most of those degrees are useless in the real world. (One of BeezleBub's friends from the farm had a degree in philosophy from Trinity in Dublin. The only problem was that none of the philosophy companies were hiring, so he ended up with a job as a farm hand.)
Now don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with studying those subjects. But they should be secondary majors or post-grad courses of study. After all, I am a firm believer that all science and technology without the humanities is a bad idea.
What America needs more than folks with college degrees is people who know how to do things with their hands, be it in the trades (construction workers, plumbers, electricians, masons, steelworkers, mechanics, HVAC technicians, etc.) or in factory work (machinists, assemblers, inspectors, etc.). How many times have we seen reports of companies wanting to hire workers, but too many of them are inexperienced, unqualified, or don't have the right training to do the job? Some have gone so far as to hire qualified workers they don't need at the moment because they know they'll need them soon and they want to make sure they'll have them when they need them.
We've got to stop buying into idea that the only way to get ahead is to have a college education. For some job openings, the need for a college degree is overblown, as illustrated by this example. Since when does a receptionist require a college degree?
Hey, maybe that woman with the BFA can apply for the job! I'm sure her expensive college education will qualify her to answer the phones.