Want a Job? Go to School.

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Last year, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers was asked whether college is still worth it, given soaring tuition. "I think a college education is expensive, but it is very cheap compared to ignorance," he said. "Those who suggest the irrelevance of knowledge in a knowledge economy are very much barking up the wrong tree."

I played around with some employment data this weekend and found a way to show what he means:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics; author's calculations.

Since 2000, total employment for those with bachelor's degrees has increased 31%. For those with some college, it's up about 9%. For high school grads with no college, it's down 9%. And for those without a high school diploma, it's down 16%.

There could be some demographic explanations here. The value of an education was much lower 50 years ago than it is today, so the number of uneducated workers might be falling in part because older workers who enjoyed a successful careers without much schooling are retiring. And as a larger share of the population gets a college education, the number of workers with a degree will rise even if they're in low-skill work.

But that's nitpicking. We know the bigger picture: The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor's degree is 3.7%, versus 12% for those without a high school diploma (both for ages 25 and up).

Story after story has highlighted the burden of rising tuition and student loans -- rightly, of course. It's a big problem. But the most important story isn't how expensive school has become; it's how expensive forgoing school can be. 


Read/Post Comments (45) | Recommend This Article (34)

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  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 6:26 PM, xetn wrote:

    What about the "story after story" of college grads moving back home with their parents because they can not get a job that allows them to pay for living expenses and pay off education loans?

    Education loans are completely out control and with very high default rates.

    As for earnings, many people in the trades earn very high incomes without a college degree and the attendant education loans.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 8:14 PM, RonbonBFhon wrote:

    Morgan, I really appreciate so much of what you have presented over the years. However, I've read too many articles and charts from too many people about education advantages, when NONE of these articles have bothered to consider that the charts are really showing something else entirely.

    Why does someone NOT get a higher education? A large percentage is probably because they either have mental incapacity or emotional/motiviation deficiencies. These people are not going to be any more successful if they tried, or were even able to get a higher education. They are doomed to be in the bottom of all the charts presented, whatever group you associate them with.

    I believe that most motivated, well balanced and intelligent person would be more successful without a college education. First of all, they will have a 4-5 year advantage on the college grad. How incredibly valuable is 5 years in a typically 30-40 year working career. (Especially the FIRST 5 years.) Also, they will have NO student loan to drag them down for years, another HUGE drag on the early earning years. (I would like to see a chart showing how much the student loan alone would be worth at retirement age if it went into the stock market) The non-college grad could have a solid nest egg already starting to compound interest before most college grads are at break even.

    A motivated intelligent high school grad can be president of any of hundreds of existing businesses, trades, shops, retail, etc., simply by learning the ropes, before the college grad can make his first IRA deposit.

  • Report this Comment On February 19, 2013, at 8:23 PM, playtothebeat wrote:


    Sure, to some extent, you have a point. A motivated, well balanced and intelligent person could indeed be very successful without a college degree. However, you have to consider several facts beyond that:

    1) a lot of employers require a college degree for you to even be considered for a position, whether that's appropriate or not is another topic; however, i'm willing to bet that one of the reasons they require that is my 2nd point

    2) college is so much more than just a technical education; the social, networking, teamwork, etc skills you develop are absolutely invaluable and in many ways are probably more important to making you successful in the working world

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 1:14 AM, ValueSpreadsheet wrote:

    “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” ~ Jim Rohn

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 8:52 AM, voelkels wrote:

    Interesting but misleading article, IMHO. Not all jobs and not all people should require a college education. 75 or 50 years ago, many high schools had 4 or 3 paths to graduation, college prep., business prep., trade and/or “general studies”. If you were in the “college prep” path, you took science & higher math courses along with the “humanities” & “socialist sciences”, etc. In the “business prep” you took less math & science and took accounting/bookkeeping & maybe typing, etc. instead. In the “trade path” one took auto mechanics, carpentry, simple electricity/electronics, etc. In the “general studies’ one was taught some life skills like “home economics”, etc. along with history, English, etc. After graduation, you either went on to college, got a job as an office boy/secretary, mechanic’s or electrician’s helper or joined the military (which gave you more training/schooling depending upon your aptitude).

    One of the problems now-a-daze with our public schools is that they are trying to educate everyone on a college prep. path when only about a third of their students can or should go to/graduate from college. The result of this is to water down the math & science courses for the brighter students and cause many of the less gifted students to drop out of high school before graduation.

    I started at a community college in the spring of 1968 after being discharged from the navy and working overseas for 3 years. During the fall semester, parking around the college was a problem but during the spring semester it wasn’t because at least a third of the students (mostly fresh out of high school) had dropped out. We had a number of veterans going to that school along with myself. Since most of them were going there on their nickel instead of their papa’s, very few of them dropped out. ;-)

    C.J.V. - would like to see the schools go back to the old ways, me

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 4:06 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    Oh, please. If you don't have a PLAN by the time you are 18, regardless of whether you want to go to college "for the money" or do something else, "for the money," the truth is you are in trouble. And doing anything only "for the money" is not likely to make you particularly competitive against those who really want to do that thing.

    At age 18, you become an adult, which means you can enter into contracts in your own name, and are responsible for your own debts. Were you brought up to think that debt is no big deal? Well how do you think that's going to work out?

    Take pride in being frugal and resourceful. Move to a state where the cost of living is relatively low, establish residency, and go to the best state university in that state (and make sure to excel there, by the way). Why is it that no one thinks of that any more? You can probably save $20K that way over four years. People used to do it all the time. Sometimes they matriculated, cracked the books hard, then took a break after freshman or sophomore year to work for 12-18 months and become full-fledged residents of the state where they were studying. This sort of thing was taken in stride. (Why all this parental handholding, and indulgence? Who conned you into believing this is good for you?)

    If you know you are going to be a plumber or electrician, or enter some other highly skilled trade, that's fine. But think about what these numbers show. The few people who do well in the skilled trades are so far outweighted by those who do badly that the average income for non-college grads is really low. Oh, and a lot of the skilled tradespeople do end up in focused certificate programs at the best community colleges, so they eventually exit the high school-only demographic. They don't bother going to the closest community college. They go to the one that excels in providing them with exactly what they need to advance in their careers. (And they do have careers. I'm no college snob, thinking an electrician is somehow less than an accountant, or something. Hardly!)

    There's nothing misleading about these graphs. The social reality behind them is another story.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 4:27 PM, CHNYCREALTY wrote:

    Harvard is free if you can get in but can't afford it. And education is inexpensive for good students. But maybe one had a bad high school record. Community Colleges are great places to put it back together. And graduate schools respect the best students in any school. I really don't think college is expensive all things considered, especially with loans with such low interest rates and long payment schedules. What is "expensive" is studying while young. That time is valuable. Few want to invest it. And you can't major in Wiccan Cultural Studies, get a C- average, and expect to make a lot afterward. So many do and spend the rest of their life complaining ... or worse.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 4:36 PM, NickD wrote:

    A parent would be wise to allow their kid to live with them so they can invest their money and maybe 20 years later when their saved 100k assuming that is all you can mustard up grows to millions and at 65 those parents can retire off of their kids well worked for me.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 5:00 PM, astuber9 wrote:

    A lot of good comments along the lines of correlation does not prove causation. Yes a lot of people that go to college have above average intelligence and ambition and might succeed regardless of education level. However, I think that is mostly true for the cream of the crop entrepreneur type people. I'm not Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, I think going to college will definitely increase my earnings significantly over my lifetime.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 5:15 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Hi Morgan,

    Interesting topic and definitely thought provoking. I think it's worthwhile to separate what the quest for knowledge is from solely a "college education." I don't think "education" and "knowledge" equal one another and of course, having a degree does not guarantee a job these days. An education may be helpful (these days not as much as say, 6 years ago, given the number of people looking for work), but people who have a burning desire to learn or do or create will generally do better regardless, I think.

    That said, I'm not saying that formal education is a horrible idea, just that it isn't an end-all be-all or guarantee, and I can't stand that our society has made it a proxy for a "qualified" job candidate most of the time when things like experience are just as important. In a terrible job market college graduates may not get a return on investment if they don't make their career moves plans wisely (or perhaps even luckily). I would hope they are happy for having expanded their knowledge, because it is important in its own right, of course. Then again, those with a thirst for knowledge and learning regardless of how they go about it will likely do well.

    Just my two cents. I get a little annoyed by how much stock is put into education these days given how horribly high tuition is and a sneaking suspicion actual quality of education and outcome for students hasn't exponentially risen along with those rates.


  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 5:38 PM, TMFMorgan wrote:


    Fair points all around. Yes, it's absolutely possible to not go to college and be very successful. And most of us know many who go to college and don't do anything with their degree. But on average, the numbers are pretty clear: Jobs that require a degree are increasing, and jobs that don't are declining.


  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 5:59 PM, GripColt wrote:

    This article fails to tell the whole story. Here are just a few questions it inspires: Are those with the college degrees working in the field they studied? Are those with college degrees making more money than those with college degrees ten or twenty years ago when adjusted for inflation? How do trades such as plumber, electrician and construction compare in employment and salary? How much college debt do those with college degrees have compared to the others? What is the unemployment rate for those with college degrees compared to the historical average?

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 6:17 PM, smartmuffin wrote:


    Have you considered that the increasing amount of jobs that "require a degree" might be influenced by the fact that more and more people are getting degrees?

    Many jobs list a Bachelor's Degree as a requirement, despite knowing full well that they plan on training the new employee on everything, simply as a way of filtering out the less (though not UN) qualified, safe in the knowledge that they will still get plenty of applicants who do in fact have degrees.

    These days, listing a degree as a requirement for a job is simply an easy way to ensure that you only receive 300 resumes instead of 600.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 7:03 PM, devoish wrote:


    Median 2012 starting salary $42,500

    Median monthly 10 yr college loan payment $290

    42,500 - 3480 = 39020

    the value of $1.60/hour 1968 minimum wage, today, if it had been indexed to US income growth = $43680

    Best wishes,


  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 8:22 PM, TMFDarwood11 wrote:

    This is an interesting problem.

    Yes, the overall statistics support the assumption that a higher education results in improved employment opportunities. However, there are many paths to that destination. The devil is in the details. Generalities do not support individual data points.

    It's also important to view one's education as an investment. It should have a payback. Of course, if this is not a consideration by parent or by the children, then I think that unpleasant reality can be the consequence.

    But there are alternatives. One of the challenges is to "work smarter, not harder" and similarly, that capital and time spent on an education is valuable. Are these being squandered or wasted? Attending college is not a placeholder for one's life for 4 or more years.

    A nearby community college offers a 4-year degree program for $30K. This was achieved by linking up with several nearby 4-year degree colleges.

    There are also 4-year colleges which offer a degree as part of a co-op program. One of my children took that route and got a nuclear engineering degree. They were paid to work in their profession alternative semesters. On graduation, they also were give work credit by an employer for their work experience. In other words, they were bumped up a pay grade.

    In the real world, many high school students don't think about a life of work. Similarly, asking children "what do you want to do" when they grow up is the wrong question. The better questions are 1) How are you going to make a difference for the rest of your life, and 2) What kind of work will challenge you, sustain you emotionally and financially for 40 years, and allow you to build a suitable retirement nest egg?

    These conversations must begin at an early age, the children monitored, nurtured and challenged by the parents. They should also be exposed to a broad range of possibilities so that they have some idea of what they are facing and of the opportunities available.

    A short time ago, during the "Occupy" movement, a frustrated college graduate complained that she could not find suitable employment and had $10s of thousands in education debt. Her field of endeavor? It was Female Studies. I appreciate her frustration, but one should not overspend on an education. She was apparently not given good coaching or ignored it.

    Planning and preparation is a lifetime endeavor.

    BTW, the child of mine who achieved a nuclear engineering degree wanted to be a video game designer. That child was and is brilliant. So brilliant that the sibling who is also quite intelligent and an aerospace-mechanical engineer, is jokingly referred to as "the dumb one" by some. He takes it with a good humor, but then, he makes more each year than 95% of the working people in the U.S. For the one who eventually made it as a nuclear engineer, with a decade of underachievement, it was quite a challenge to funnel that energy into something that would be both challenging and rewarding. He is in a profession he thoroughly enjoys. But I assure the readers that was not a foregone conclusion for his first 21 years of live.

    There is an expression "there are no guarantees in life." I adhere to this and I suggest that we consider that we will be challenged for our entire lifespan. If this is so, then we had better develop critical thinking skills and a long term vision. The specifics of the education path we choose should be determined by this.

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 8:23 PM, Realexpectations wrote:

    College is much MORE than an EDUCATION its an

    EXPERIENCE that makes you stronger and better in almost every way.

    Until you go and you experience it from the ground up at REAL UNIVERSITY.

    Not Phoenix or some other so called institution that spends more on marketing than it does actual education and actually hires people with 20 plus years of experience and Doctorates.

    If I could I would go back and pay 100X more than I did to relive the experience.

    I Would!

    Life isn't about money its experiences!

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 8:44 PM, whereaminow wrote:


    There are a couple of problems here, just off the top of my head.

    1) Too much aggregation. The breakdown by degree type, by profession, etc, might show more useful information. For example, a psychology degree could having a higher unemployment level than a programmer with no degree. (Pulled those out of a hat. Don't hold me to it. Just making a point.)

    2. The biggest reason for high unemployment among those without college degrees is the Minimum Wage. Remove this violent intervention in human affairs (it must be enforced at a point of gun. It violates private, voluntary contracts.) and you will see that number fall more in line with college level unemployment.

    (The Minimum Wage Law is also a racist act and has racist origins. No Progressive should ever support this racist legislation.)

    3. Taking into account the debt burden when calculating return on investment in education might yield a different picture. Would you rather be employed and staring at 200k in unpayable student loans? Or would you rather see the racist Minimum Wage Law ended, have no debt, and a job without a degree?

    Just some food for thought.

    But the title of this article is poorly worded. "Go to school" does not equal "get a job."

    In fact, I'd like to see a study where people had to display their understanding of how markets work. I bet, degree or not, the unemployment level would be far lower than the average college graduate.

    So a much better slogan:

    Learn how markets work. Get a job.

    David in Liberty

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 8:54 PM, NewAlchemist wrote:

    There is going to college and there is going to college. People need to differentiate what they are talking about.

    Going to college. Frat parties, Football games, Food court, Free gym, Video games, and free time.

    Going to college. Physics, accounting, economics, engineering, studying, memorizing, labs, cramming.

    When I went to college there were numerous degrees where you didn't have to pass a single math class or a single finance class but everybody had to take humanities to be "well rounded". It's biased and insane.

    Too many people go to college. For many people it is not 4 years of higher education, it is a 4-6 year vacation. Many degrees are nothing more than a piece of paper.

    You think these professors and administrators really care about the debt these kids are racking up? Of course not. They are empire building these universities. Look at colleges 40 years ago. Basic dorms, basic food court, basic facilities. Now they are making these lush apartment buildings, fancy gyms, fancy buildings. Guess who pays for it all?

  • Report this Comment On February 20, 2013, at 8:56 PM, rmsteere wrote:

    These data and these discussions are perfectly valid, but people draw the wrong conclusion.

    The fact is, everybody should go to college who has the education and the attributes to do so. It is an unfortunate fact, but a fact nonetheless, that not everybody is equipped for college. We Americans always want everybody to be equal in every aspect but it just isn't true.

    The only thing the education system can do to grant college degrees to people who don't have the mental and emotional equipment to succeed in college is to relax the standards. And they have done so. In spades.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 12:02 AM, pedorrero wrote:

    Interesting topic. May I add some pessimistic comments, that are facts I believe. First, consider the fact that in the USA, the term "college degree" has been dumbed-down, perhaps as much as "high school degree." If you do some research, you will find that a high school degree 50 or 100 years ago proved much more education than today's. Personally, I believe the "grade inflation" and watering down of education is part of the decades-long "liberal" ideal of equal outcomes, regardless of an individual's ability. Secondly, many critics cite the widespread availability of student loans as contributing to both runaway college costs and also the demand for degrees. Supply and demand, and all that! Let's face the old days, unless parents paid the bill, you had to work your way through college. There were few grants and fewer loans. No sane person would loan money to someone who MIGHT graduate (about 1/3 drop out the first year), with a degree in Women's Studies? Golf Course Management? The USA and Western Europe are both horribly "over-educated." As a student (I am one of the ones who do it for recreation), here's an example: a recent opening at USF for a Spanish Professor had 45 applicants. Those are Doctorates, for a post that might pay $60K/year. If Mommy and Daddy are paying for your BA Modern Dance or whatever, be happy. But if you are doing it on student loans, well, good luck!

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 1:39 AM, BilboBaggins wrote:


    you wrote " actually hires people with 20 plus years of experience and Doctorates"

    There are almost no academic positions outside of community colleges that would even consider hiring someone with 20+ years of experience. The actual hiring practice of universities shuns real world experience in almost every field. (I grant there is an exception for real sciences like physics and chemistry) The fact is that the best and most likely way to get a job in academia is to go from K-through-PhD, without ever setting foot in the real world. Those who must sully themselves with real world experience do it for two years and then run back to the womb of academia.

    I challenge you to show me any university major that encourages its professors to hove real world experience (more than two years) over academic/ publishing credentials.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 2:25 AM, BilboBaggins wrote:

    For the record, since I criticized Glejeg, I am a 37 year old law student at a top 20 law school. I am not paying for law school. I have a combination of scholarships and GI Bill.

    Law schools are at the forefront of the "school is a waste of money movement." A 3 year degree is $150,000.00 or so. The schools routinely lie about the job rate of their graduates and about the graduates salary. google "law school scam blogs" for more info. My school charged under $10,000 in 2000. Now the tuition is $54,000 for out of state students and about $49000 for in state.

    The education that law schools provide is truly horrific. It consists of mainly learning that there is no such thing as the law and that judges do whatever they please. Judges, law firms and alumni routinely and consistently complain about what law schools teach and beg for better graduates. Law schools ignore them.

    There is a serious problem with the left-progressive bias in law schools. There are literally about 5 conservative constitutional law professors in the country, even though the judiciary is basically split the same way that the electorate is. Conservatives and libertarians are basically blacklisted from academia.

    The % of professors with real world experience (beyond the courtesy 2 years) is minimal. Off the top of my head I can think of only two professors in 3 years that bragged about having real experience. Look at any law school's web site. If they list their tenure track professors, half will be from Yale, 25% from Harvard, 15% from Stanford and the rest from a select handful of schools ranked in the top ten. The professors, if the have their CV on the web will downplay their real world experience and up play all of their academic experience. Two years as a Federal Prosecutor is less prestigious than a published paper on "Immanuel Kant and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure."

    My twins started college. One has a partial scholarship and the other has some grants. They are taking loans and using our college funds for the rest. During my son's first political science class his assigned text book was written by Mumia Abu Jamal, the Philadelphia cop killer. I bought it second hand on ebay so I would not have to give my money to support that psycho-killer.

    I really do not think that the average American really understands how far to the left the universities actually are. Universities have always been liberal, but there is really nothing that liberalism embraces that is taught in universities these days. They discard Marxism for Post structuralism, which basically advocates destroying all civilization. Derrida, Foucault, and Lacan make Noam Chomsky look downright conservative.

    The amount of money being spent on supporting the tenure system and the luxurious living conditions of college students is unsupportable. The poor job prospects and debt alone ought to be enough to stop it. If the American people ever get wind of the total garbage being taught, the universities will never recover from the blowback.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 6:55 AM, BMFPitt wrote:

    Story is woefully incomplete. If you're not getting a "real" degree, you better be going to a cheap school or you will never ever make up for the opportunity cost and loans.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 7:58 AM, StopPrintinMoney wrote:

    Boom-boom-boom. Same old drumming we heard over the years. Go to school, get a degree and become wealthy beyond your wildest imagination. Except that in reality it works like this - go to school, graduate with s**tload of student debt, lack a job, default on your student loan, and eventually let the taxpayers pick up your tab .

    here are the stats you won'tever see here at fool:

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 8:15 AM, BMFPitt wrote:


    "I challenge you to show me any university major that encourages its professors to hove real world experience (more than two years) over academic/ publishing credentials."

    In Computer Science, over half our professors were doing real-world work while teaching, either with a day job and night classes, or with day classes and random contract work.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 8:21 AM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    To reiterate, there is no doubt that student loan debt is ballooning and putting millions in a terrible position. But the other side of this is that those without degrees are in a really, really, really bad position, too. To me, the 3.7% unemployment rate for those with a bachelor's degree is a more important statistic than the $24k average student debt load.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 8:33 AM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    To add another statistic to the debate:

    The average (median) car loan is $26,673. The average student debt loan is $24,000. Why is there so much uproar about borrowing $24k for a degree that will last a lifetime and on average vastly increases your odds of employment and income, but so few are bothered by borrowing a higher amount for a car that will lose value as soon as you drive it off the lot?

    I haven't thought it through yet. Maybe the difference will hit me once I've had another cup of coffee. Interested in others' opinions.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 8:53 AM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    One more comment, because I've been thinking about this topic all morning.

    This is anecdotal, so take it for what it's worth. But I can't help but notice that most of those who say "You don't need to go to college to be successful" went to college themselves and will move mountains to get their kids into the best schools. And whenever we have this debate people always bring up Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. "They didn't go to college, and they're wealthy." Yes, but what are they spending their wealth on now? Funding education because they know how important it is.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 9:56 AM, BMFPitt wrote:


    The important part that you seem to be glossing over is that every degree is not equal, and that a marginal student going to a 4-year school for a cupcake degree is going to be worse off than if they had not gone to college.

    Nobody is arguing that somoene who is capable of getting an engineering degree should skip out on college, but there are huge numbers of psychology and communications majors out there racking up six-figure debt for degrees that will do nothing but impress their coworkers at Starbucks and cost the taxpayers money.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 10:36 AM, cmfhousel wrote:


    You're being a little unfair there. From the numbers I've seen (on my phone right now, sorry no link) less than 2% of college grads finish with more than $100k in debt. the average is $24k. And yes, some degrees are worth more than others. but we are looking at averages here.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 10:38 AM, cmfhousel wrote:

    Here it is:

    •As of Quarter 1 in 2012, the average student loan balance for all age groups is $24,301. About one-quarter of borrowers owe more than $28,000; 10% of borrowers owe more than $54,000; 3% owe more than $100,000; and less than 1%, or 167,000 people, owe more than $200,000. (Source: FRBNY)

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 10:41 AM, cmfhousel wrote:

    (should note: those stats are for those who borrowed, not all students. hence discrepancy between "less than 2%" and "3%")

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 12:40 PM, whereaminow wrote:


    ------> But I can't help but notice that most of those who say "You don't need to go to college to be successful" went to college themselves <-------

    Not surprising. People aren't very original. Comparing student loans to car loans doesn't help your case. Car loans are one of the worst decisions a consumer can make. It's nice to know that student loans are about as bad as one of the worst decisions you can make LOL.

    I have an Associate's Degree in General Studies. Cost me next to nothing. I've been debt free since about 2006, so almost 7 years now. I never took a student loan. I make an excellent salary (IT Security pays very well, especially if you know what you're doing and you know the market) and will without much worry for the rest of my life. I have no desire nor need to go back to school and finish out the remaining two years to get a degree that will make me eligible to be bossed around... by me, since part of my job is training college grads to be less stupid..

    I will be homeschooling my children. I can work from home because i didn't go to college and learn a trade that keeps you stuck in an office. I studied on my own and learned a difficult skill that allowed me to write my own ticket in the labor market.

    I won't tell my kids they have to go to college. In fact, I don't care what my kids end up doing so long as they are happy. Since they'll be home-schooled I don't have to worry about whether they'll have the aptitude to succeed. I can take care of that.

    If they do want to go to college and argue with vapid unimaginative professors spouting Fabian Socialist nonsense for 4 years, they can go right on ahead. I sure as heck am not paying for it. Then again, since a home-schooled child is more desirable to Universities, they can just get a scholarship. If not, oh well. They'll be fine.

    Bottom line here, the aggregation in your post doesn't provide any real knowledge or insight. It's just meaningless numbers. The truth is that learning the market guarantees you a wealthy and happy life. Going to school does not.

    It's an easy choice.

    Want a job? Learn how markets work.

    David in Liberty

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 3:39 PM, smartmuffin wrote:

    Not to be Captain Obvious here, but the reason you wouldn't compare a student loan to a car loan is that a car loan is a secured loan. If someone defaults, you repossess the car. You can't repossess an education. This is why all the socialist OWSers are demanding student loan forgiveness.

    It's also the same logic that thieves use, of course. When you steal someone's credit card, you don't purchase a bunch of physical tangible goods that can be recovered. You go on a vacation and stay in nice hotels and eat at nice restuaruants.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 7:09 PM, cmfhousel wrote:

    ^ That makes a car loan safer for the lender. We're talking about value for the borrower.

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 11:00 PM, rclarsen wrote:

    Bottom line: College is just fed to us in popular society. Your own success depends solely on you.

    I dropped out of school after getting a general associate degree and paid off my loans. It's the best thing I could have done. I have friends that have large debts to pay off... many of them can't find a job contrary to what the article presents here.

    I'm not saying school is bad per se. I think it largely depends on the degree, the strength of that program at the particular institution, and the amount of loans you'll have to take out.

    To me it wasn't worth it. I did a year long culinary course while working. It doesn't pay much right now but I can pretty much relocate where I want to and get a job because... people have to eat anywhere and everywhere in the world! In my eyes studying a trade is the way to go at least for right now.

    I do plan to finish my BA eventually but I feel as though I'm doing good enough with a stable job and investing that meanwhile...

  • Report this Comment On February 21, 2013, at 11:06 PM, rclarsen wrote:

    see whereaminow comment! ^^^^^

    pretty much same boat.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2013, at 10:34 AM, TMFMorgan wrote:

    I think where the debate goes astray is when people say "You're wrong, and I can prove it by telling you my success story."

    Yes, there are individual stories all over the place that go against the narrative of the benefits of school. But in an economy of 315 million people, what you or your brother or your neighbor did isn't that significant. What matters are the broad averages. And those are clear: Those who attend college on average earn more and have demonstrably lower levels of unemployment.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2013, at 1:37 PM, smartmuffin wrote:

    "^ That makes a car loan safer for the lender. We're talking about value for the borrower. "

    Oh, but the ability to escape the loan payments by having the car repossessed DOES in fact provide value to the borrower. Buyers remorse on your car? Stop paying for it. You'll be out the car and whatever payments you already made, and your credit rating takes a hit, but then you're free.

    Buyer's remorse over your womens studies degree? Too bad, you're stuck with it forever.

    Also, I think your "a degree lasts a lifetime, a car is temporary" analogy is a bit flawed. People don't get degrees expecting them to provide value over the course of a lifetime. You get a degree to help you get your first job in your field. After that, your degree is basically irrelevant, and you will succeed or fail based on your abilities and work ethic. If you happen to get laid off, or choose to quit and seek a new job, your experience will be FAR more useful and impactful than your degree.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2013, at 3:58 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    jerrymurphy wrote:

    "The education that law schools provide is truly horrific. It consists of mainly learning that there is no such thing as the law and that judges do whatever they please. Judges, law firms and alumni routinely and consistently complain about what law schools teach and beg for better graduates. Law schools ignore them."

    This is complete nonsense. I don't know what "top 20" law school you are going to, or claim you went to. (I did, by the way, and clerked at the federal level.) If you cannot distinguish precedent and dicta, and fail to appreciate why precedent-setting cases are indeed rare, or develop judgment about what will go into a court's legal reasoning, you are not equipped to be a lawyer, at any level. The cases where a judge deviates, and "does whatever he wants" are the ones that are talked about for years because they are rare. Courts don't merely hand down rulings, they have to explain them. The explanation isn't a paragraph or two, nor is it (usually) window-dressing to cover up personal bias toward this or that outcome. It has to be a real explanation, in the context of the facts presented in the case and the laws that apply -- and it needs to be demonstrated that those laws, and not some other laws, do apply. Judges aren't emotionally involved in deciding outcomes in the cases before them -- they're emotionally invested in being respected and considered intelligent by their peers.

    Court is one of the few places where anyone is tested any more. When someone sues you, you are challenged to give an account of what you did and why. You can be sure that every word you say, and every document you present, will be closely scrutinized. That doesn't happen all that much in society in other places. It's the CEOs, and the college presidents, who do pretty much what they want. Various boards of directors, or boards of trustess, are generally a rubber stamp. Not so most judges.

    As a footnote: Some people claimed you can become educated "on your own." Actually, you cannot. You cannot know what to study before you've studied it. (How can anyone possibly know? It's not even logical.) You have to rely on someone to tell you, and to encourage you -- someone who truly has your best interests at heart. This is how society brings up the next generation. It is a sacred obligation. And I'll agree that those who tell you to jump into something like Women's Studies as an undergrad, before you've read the Greek tragic poets or the Book of Ruth (the one in the Old Testament), much less learned the mathematics you need to function in the world, is taking your money and not doing you any favors.

    I once participated in a discussion board for "home schooling." (I'll never do that again.) I asked how many home schoolers knew, for example, the last 20 winners of the Nobel Prize in literature. (Or the Booker Prize, National Book Award, etc.) The first and only person to pipe up said, "what would you need to know that for?" You have to wonder how they build up their teenager's reading list. That the Nobel Prize page might be a good place to look for stuff worth reading -- stuff their kid would stick with because it's really good -- never crossed their minds.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2013, at 4:04 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    *ARE taking your money and not doing you any favors. (Sorry about that. Ugh, I hate grossly bad grammar.)

    Plus, the point bears repeating. What I really hate is when someone takes my money for little in return.

    An education is supposed to give you a means to earn your living, yes, but it's supposed to give you MORE than that, not less.

  • Report this Comment On February 22, 2013, at 4:13 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    "If you happen to get laid off, or choose to quit and seek a new job, your experience will be FAR more useful and impactful than your degree."

    Is that so, smartmuffin? Try talking to a few people who got laid off without a degree, and see what they've been up to in their evenings. And if they haven't gone back to night school, listen to them complain how unfair it is that in this economy, no one takes their experience seriously because they never finished their degree and they don't think they should "have to" now.

    Anyone who has been laid off and unemployed for more than 6 months is a fool if they are not taking a class. They are not part of active life, they have nowhere they have to go and no one they have to answer to for their work product, and as far as HR is concerned, they are allowing their skills to rust.

    Bottom line, this is a good article. The bloated cost of education is a separate issue.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2013, at 2:03 AM, whereaminow wrote:


    You wrote:

    ----> Some people claimed you can become educated "on your own." Actually, you cannot. You cannot know what to study before you've studied it. (How can anyone possibly know? It's not even logical.) You have to rely on someone to tell you, and to encourage you -- someone who truly has your best interests at heart.<----

    Why does that "someone" have to be a professor in a formal school?

    David in Liberty

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2013, at 12:03 PM, sabresoft wrote:

    Education whether formal or informal is important. Most highly successful high school dropouts were still educated just by experience. In fact many successful "un-educated" entrepreneurs succeeded because they didn't know that they could fail (ignorance is bliss concept), whereas many highly educated people have learned all the reasons why something "won't" work and don't even try it.

    The high direct cost of education, and the potentially high debt loads, depends somewhat on how much our societies choose to subsidized education. In Canada our governments provide significant funding to public colleges and universities, although we still have students with significant student loans, because of course the largest part of the cost of education is not so much the tuition and books, but rather the living costs (accommodation and food at least). Since I last went to University (26 years ago) tuitions have risen significantly, and even books sold through university bookstores have risen in cost too (i.e. less subsidized), as more of the cost has been transferred to the students.

    There are those who argue that the student should pay the full cost, arguing "why should my taxes subsidize someone to (for example) become a doctor and earn a huge income". There are a number of flaws inherent in this argument:

    One - The benefit is all to the student (i.e. the doctor). This is wrong as society also benefits from having a doctor educated. Say that the true full cost of educating a doctor was $1,000,000, and the student had to pay the full bill; well we know that there would be very few doctors educated, and if and when we became sick there would be a very high probability that we would be sick for a very long time, or worse yet die, because there might not be a doctor available to treat us.

    Two - Many argue against subsidizing someone else's kid, ignoring the fact that they were probably subsidized in their day. Perhaps some of the taxes we pay now are "repayment" for society's investment in us in the past.

    Three - A doctor (with subsidized education) who gets wealthy, gains unfairly at the expense of society. Not really true because the high income earning doctor pays more taxes back to society. Even in a flat tax environment (which I firmly believe is the only fair system), a high income earner still pays more in taxes than a low income person.

    Four - Even the highly successful high-school drop out entrepreneur gains from having educated people in society, because in all likelihood his enterprise functions successfully because of utilizing many well educated employees.

    There are flaws and leakages in subsiding education for sure. For example someone who graduates and soon after emigrates, and therefore does not pay back for his/her education with future taxes. But then this is possibly offset by someone immigrating here. Then there are those who end up doing nothing with their educations (thinking back to a classmate who worked summers in a meat packing plant and after graduation went back for six months pending a vacation trip to Australia, and was still there 10 years later - and he was a really bright student, top two in the class - a waste of an engineering education). I'd suggest that on average this is an exception, and most do stay the course. There are some who never do practice their profession due to a say a recession and shortage of jobs when they graduate, and end up in a totally different career path. But, since higher education teaches (or at least theoretically does) critical thinking skills not all of that education is wasted on a career switch. In deed while we tend to believe that professional degrees have more value than a liberal arts education, many employers looking for management track employees actually prefer the latter over the former, as they see a more generally educated, and malleable employee, versus the more focused professional types.

    The reality is that students must have some investment in their educations, as it is all too easy to abuse something that is free, but I believe that there must be a balance between total subsidy and total burden for students. Certainly any subsidy should be contingent on performance, so that perpetual students don't make a living off society by going to school forever, but at the same time we shouldn't penalize those who aim to become significant contributors to society, but come from the "wrong side of the tracks" so to speak.

    My father always believed, and so do I, the one thing that he could leave me that no one could take away was an education. He did pay for a significant part of my earlier post secondary education (and even helped when I took my third degree during the early 80's recession - 60% unemployment in my field at the time - by giving me a break on the rent on a condo I was renting from him at the time). While I have no kids of my own, I do have grand children through marriage and will help with their education, and I also sponsor a scholarship in my fathers name at a trade college that he originally started but lapsed after he passed away, and which I reinstated a number of years later.

    While good parents should and do help their children get education, some won't or can't, and it would truly be a shame if the potential future discoverer of a cure for cancer fails to get an education and ends up never making that discovery. Even in free enterprise societies, the term society implies cooperation, as the only true free enterprise environment consists of cavemen clubbing anything and everything necessary for their survival, including their neighbours. And even there the family unit within the cave is a micro-society. Cooperation makes stronger and more well rounded societies.

    The long and short of this whole discussion is that if you charted level of education against living standards of countries around the world, there would be a strong positive correlation between the two. And the more widely distributed that education, the higher the correlation. Now quality of that education is a factor too, and I believe that quality has dropped over the years, but that is a whole new conversation.

  • Report this Comment On February 23, 2013, at 5:07 PM, Sunny7039 wrote:

    David in Liberty writes:

    "Why does that "someone" have to be a professor in a formal school?"

    Actually, I didn't say they did. I'm not naive enough to think that it "always" has to be a professor, much less that "all" professors actually have a student's best interests at heart.

    I recognize that there is a difference between bringing up a child and educating a full-fledged adult, and that the first is vulnerable in ways that the second isn't. But at some point, every single person is going to have to answer to somebody, and satisfy somebody. College classes can be excellent practice for developing the discipline needed to fulfill this task. They "can" be; they are not always. A college student (who is an adult) needs to look for classes that are good practice, over and above the other things these classes should offer (theoretical rigor, challenging problems, marketable skills, etc.).

    As sabresoft said, society is far too complex for anyone to discover, say, a new cancer treatment "on their own." With a little imagination, you can come up with all sorts of things a person can't possibly accomplish "on their own," and are most efficiently mastered in a formal setting. (Learn to fly a plane? Learn to prepare a company audit? Yeah.)

    Not all of the reasons employers want a degree on your resume are "bad" reasons. Some of the reasons may be misguided, true. But that's not the same thing.

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