By Professor Doom
According to a paper by Mr. Autor published Thursday in the journal Science, the true cost of a college degree is about negative $500,000. That’s right: Over the long run, college is cheaper than free. Not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars.
--it seems like every mainstream report on the subject says something like this. But why did the Occupy Wall Street movement have so many graduates holding signs, why are the default rates on the student loans so high, and why do we have 17,000,000 college graduate waiters/hairdressers/salespeople?
Time and again I’ve quoted the Poo Bahs that run our institutions, saying how higher education is worth it, no matter the cost. I’ve gotten into a few arguments with friends when I try to point out that paying out huge sums of money for a degree, any degree, fiscally makes no sense.
I don’t blame people for arguing with me, I’m challenging beliefs ingrained when they were children, after all. From childhood, we’re told how critically important it is to get an education, and that always, more is better, that no price is too high when it comes to education, that the only way to succeed in life is an education, that oh-so-expensive college is the only way to get that education.
Even people that leave their jobs, spend years of their lives getting some degree, then go back to the exact same job they had before (plus debt, and being older), generally won’t admit that, yeah, getting a degree was a mistake.
Don’t get me wrong, legitimate education is valuable, but that’s not what education is today, for most people. We were trained in public school that education is primarily about showing up, that as long as you did the bare minimum to get by, then a high school diploma would be yours. It’s little different in many colleges and universities. Open admissions in higher education has forced standards to lower to the point that, in many classes, all you need to do is show up, and you’ll pass. Heck, data from one school I taught at indicated about 1/3 of classes you don’t even need to show up to get an A.
Public school trains us from a very young age that you get your education at large institutions, provided by a “teacher.” It even trains us that all high school diplomas are equal, that all diplomas are equal.
And so we have this huge population of students in higher education that comes to campus, and doesn’t even mind that classes typically don’t ask the students to do anything, not even show up. The students don’t even mind that they’re going deep into debt for the degree, because they’ve been trained for years that education (education of the sort they’ve been exposed to) is worth it, no matter the price.
Then these students leave with their shiny degrees, a big monthly payment on their student loan…and encounter the real world, which sees no reason to reward college graduates who are indistinguishable from high school graduates in terms of knowledge or capabilities.
This problem is just beginning to snowball. Years ago, student loan default rates used to be in the area of 10%. Despite a wide array of deferment programs (which didn’t exist when default rates were much lower), default rates are now 27%...this is not a trend that will reverse any time soon.
Some people are finally starting to figure it out, and their responses to the realization of how they’ve been victimized by a higher education scam that truly begins in kindergarten can border on comedy:
A recent college graduate is selling her Bachelor's degree for $50,000 on eBay after struggling to find employment for four years.
What a clever idea! Since degrees no longer necessarily represent any actual skills or knowledge, and are merely pieces of paper that represent a student went to classes for four to six years, why can’t they be sold like anything else?
"I thought this piece of paper [had] so much worth to so many people, but for a theater major, it couldn’t mean less," Ritter told BuzzFeed, according to the Daily Mail. "I’m doing the exact same things and probably getting paid the exact same amount as people that dropped out halfway through freshman year, except I’m still $40,000 in debt and they’re, well, not."
--why did admin approve a ridiculously expensive degree program in a field where degrees are meaningless? More importantly, why can’t we throw these thieves in jail?
The enterprising graduate is offering a bit more than just the diploma, she’ll provide some of the student experience at FSU: a tour of where she spent her time, from visiting her drug dealer, to the theatre, to where she was given speeding tickets going between classes (does anyone else think universities need to be so large that you can drive from one class to the next?), as well as access to photos of when she was a student.
Now, here’s the thing: she did get an education, and it is worth something. She would have gotten an education (probably a better one, and certainly a cheaper one) if she’d just gone down to the library and read for four years, as opposed to doing what she was told to do as a small child: go to a large institution and pay endless sums of money to have teachers talk at you while you sit at a desk.
She set a minimum bid of $50,000 for this degree, but, alas, no buyers. Hey, why didn’t any of the Poo Bahs of higher education step up to buy this? They’re paid so much that $50,000 would’ve only been a minor dent in their monthly expenses. Not a one did, of course, because they all know they’re lying when they say an education (as the Poo Bahs define it) is worth any price.
Someday, I hope everyone will know what’s going on in higher education, and I hope they learn it before they’re deep in debt with a useless degree.