College grads: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
Unfortunately, for many, the answer is a resounding “no.” Hordes of college grads have not acquired any skills that will enable them to get a decent job. And if that weren’t bad enough, they’re saddled with a mountain of debt that will be an albatross around their neck for decades to come.
With no prospects for the future, is it any wonder that so many college grads feel lost? This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Higher education was supposed to be the best investment one could make to guarantee a solid future. Often they feel cheated, left asking “now what?”
Dumped into adulthood, with no job prospects, many decide to double down on their education. Go to grad school. Get an advanced degree. But will more education pay off? Or will it simply dig a deeper debt hole? No guarantee. Even many with graduate degrees are unemployed or underemployed.
The importance and value of a college education has been sacrosanct. But things change. It takes a while for people to get used to the change. Remember when owning a home was the guaranteed path to building financial security? Paying rent was supposed to be throwing money down the drain. Then came the housing bubble. And we all know how that story turned out for scores of homeowners.
Might it now be time to openly question the value of a college education? With the walloping nonstop increase in tuition costs, it sure seems like we’ve entered an education bubble. It’s likely to leave many in mega-debt, with no prospect for even a ho-hum career. Latest reports indicate that 53 percent of recent college grads are either unemployed or working at a job that does not require a college degree. There are more than 100,000 janitors in the U.S. with college degrees and 16,000 parking lot attendants.
Clearly, many families need to consider other types of post-secondary education for their kids. Perhaps learning a marketable trade is the way to go. There will always be a need for auto mechanics, electricians, carpenters, beauticians, makeup artists, and workers with other hands-on skills. These jobs will not disappear and cannot be shipped overseas. Or, one might consider investing in a small business or franchise. Become an entrepreneur. Pursue your culinary skills. Follow your artistic dreams. Or, don’t attend college as a four-year vacation with beer parties, drug parties, hooking up and easy courses as the main attraction. Instead, pursue your degree with the primary goal of learning marketable skills.
But what about the idea of education for education’s sake? Isn’t that what college is supposed to be about – making you smarter, more savvy, more cosmopolitan? Ideally, yes. However, in today’s world, anyone who wishes to become smarter and savvier does not need to attend college. The Internet can provide you with an amazing low-cost or free education. Several companies, including Coursera and Khan Academy, offer lectures taught by world-class professors. You can learn at your own pace, test your knowledge, and reinforce concepts through interactive exercises. Curious about what makes good people do bad things? Go online to TED talks for free lectures from top researchers in the field. Get started with a talk by Dr. Phil Zimbardo and you’ll be hooked.
Even Ivy League schools offer free courses. Yes, prestigious universities like Stanford, Yale, Princeton and MIT offer the same courses with the same professors that college students spend thousands of dollars to take. For free.
The catch? You don’t get college credit. But you will get an education. And you can use the money that would have been spent on getting a degree to launch your career and move out of your parents’ house before you turn 30
There are choices to be made, folks. Don’t automatically assume that going into debt for a college education is the only or best way to create a first-class future. There are many options out there. Consider them before deciding what to do.