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College Students This Is Your Future: High Unemployment And Student Loan Hell

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Hundreds of thousands of college students all over the United States have just graduated and are getting ready for their first taste of the real world.  Unfortunately for them, the real world is not always easy and it is not always fair.  In fact, for large numbers of recent college graduates, the transition to a world of high unemployment, brutal student loan payments and lowered expectations can be extremely sobering.  But the truth is that we have taught these young people to have a completely unrealistic view of the future.  We have told them to take out gigantic student loans without worrying about how they are going to pay them back, we have told them that if they get good grades and do everything “right” that the system will reward them with secure, fulfilling careers, and we have made high school and college so “soft and cushy” that most of these young Americans find that they don’t have the discipline and the work ethic to make it when they actually do get out into society.

So needless to say, the first six months after graduation can be a complete shock for many college graduates.

In a piece recently published on MSN Money, journalist Joe Queenan described the tough environment that 2010 college graduates are being thrown into as they enter the real world….

They will enter an economy where roughly 17% of people aged 20 through 24 do not have a job, and where two million college graduates are unemployed. They will enter a world where they will compete tooth and nail for jobs as waitresses, pizza delivery men, file clerks, bouncers, trainee busboys, assistant baristas, interns at bodegas.

But waiting tables, delivering pizzas or greeting customers at the local Wal-Mart is not what most college graduates signed up for when they invested tens of thousands of dollars and four years (if not longer) of their lives in an education.

Unfortunately, that is where our economy is at today.

“Good jobs” are very few and far between and those freshly graduating from college are finding themselves suddenly thrust into an extremely competitive job market.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in March the national rate of unemployment in the U.S. was 9.7%, but for Americans younger than 25 years of age it was 18.8%.

In fact, according to a recent Pew Research Center study, approximately 37% of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have either been unemployed or underemployed at some point during this recession.

But what makes things even worse for college graduates is that so many of them are coming out of school with absolutely crushing student debt loads.

Today, approximately two-thirds of all U.S. college students graduate with student loans.

But it isn’t just that they have student loans.  The loan balances that many of these students are graduating with these days are absolutely obscene.

The Project on Student Debt estimates that 206,000 U.S. college students graduated with more than $40,000 in student loan debt in 2008.  Using 2008 dollars as a baseline, that represents a ninefold increase over the number of students graduating with that amount of debt in 1996.

Most college students don’t think much about all of the debt that they are accumulating while they are in school.

But once they get out, the sudden realization that they have gotten themselves into student loan payments that they cannot possibly handle can be completely demoralizing.

The New York Times recently profiled Cortney Munna – a recent college graduate who has not been able to get a “good job” and who now finds herself in student loan hell.  She recently told the New York Times that she would be more than glad to give back her education if she could just get out of all this debt….

“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life slaving away to pay for an education I got for four years and would happily give back.”

In recent years, millions of young college graduates have found that the “great education” that they thought they were getting actually doesn’t get them very far at all in the real world.

In fact, they often find themselves taking jobs where they work right next to other people their age who never even went to college.

So a lot of young college graduates find themselves wishing that they could just “return” their education and get all that money back.

But there is no walking away from student loan debt.

The truth is that federal bankruptcy law makes it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debts.

Basically, once you get into student loan hell there is no escape.

So now we have hundreds of thousands of college graduates that can’t get good jobs and that have brutal student loan payments that they can’t possibly handle.

No wonder so many of them seem so angry and depressed.

But the funny thing is that so many that are still in college are so unbelievably optimistic about the future.

Edwin Koc, director of research for the National Association of Colleges and Employers says that those approaching college graduation are an extremely confident bunch….

“Over 90 percent think they have a perfect résumé. The percentage who think they will have a job in hand three months after graduation is now 57 percent. They’re still supremely confident in themselves.”

So have we done a good job of teaching them to have confidence in themselves or have we done them a disservice by allowing so many of them to live in complete denial?

The truth is that the U.S. economy is in the process of collapsing, and we need to prepare our young people for the tough times that are ahead.  Life is going to require an extreme amount of hard work and discipline in the years ahead, and unfortunately those qualities are not in great supply among young Americans right now.

Actually, the “real world” is not going to be getting easier for any of us.  We are all going to require an attitude adjustment if we are going to successfully navigate the difficult times that are coming.  So let’s not be too hard on new college graduates and other young Americans.  The truth is that the vast majority of us are “soft” at least to some degree because of the decadent society in which we live.  Let’s just hope that somehow we can all find enough inner strength to endure the great challenges that are going to confront us in the years ahead.

  • Trevor

    Most students graduating in 2008-10 started in ’03-’05 when many of their parents had home equity and other financial means to defray their financial burden. Those means are, for the most part, no longer available. Also, students are staying in college longer to avoid the real world as long as possible. Expect to see a sizable increase in student loan debt over the coming years.

    College is the biggest scam going. The reason that grads were able to get jobs during the boom is because there were more jobs than there were people to do them. Many of these young people are going to have very difficult financial lives.

  • MrPotato

    finally some good news, being drunk for 4 years and buying ipods/iphones SHOULD come back to bite them, that’s karma!

    I don’t know how it is in the US but in Europe it’s not enough like this, they get massive goverment money for going to school meaning that the loans they aquire is still very small considering they’ve lived comfortably for 4 years, and then when it’s time to pay that money back they get to use tax-free money (no incometax) to pay it back,

    so if it’s tougher in US you should be very happy about that.

    • Freeatlast

      I’m not sure what it means when a person vents so much anger at another who simply did what was expected from them by their parents and society. I think it is a special kind of mental illness.

      Not every person in debt boozed and drugged it up and studied basket weaving. I personally have a high level of debt because I was taken away from my parents from child protective services and spent my teenage years in a state institution as a ward of the state. When I was allowed to apply for emancipated minor status at 17 it was with the expectation that I would attend college early – I had great grades. With no parents to help me I was strongly encouraged to take on heavy loans – as a great investment in my future. Liberal arts majors were also being heavily marketed as the smart move for one’s future, “what businesses want for an educated workforce.” Yea, right.

      When I graduated at the top of my class in college I did it with a mountain of debt. Lacking the connections and money of my classmates I went straight in to temp work at low wages. Everyone at work told me I would never get ahead until I went to graduate school. Gullible to the last, I worked and went to a private graduate school that promised to enable me to work while getting my education. Another lie. After one year the school financial aid office told me that my Stafford loans (the only aid I received) were being reduced by half and I would need to apply for private loans (since they received a kickback for this!). I had no assets and even if I had I would not have applied to private loans. Even someone as gullible as I had been to that point knew what trouble they spelled.

      I worked full or close to full time my entire time in college, a fact which only resulted in having my gift aid reduced. I was forced to take out more loans because my salary was higher. I had no social life. I did not have the money to drink or party or own a car. It was an exceptionally un-fun time. I studied biology. My graduate degree would have been in physical therapy. I assure you these are not easy subjects.

      The bottom line is, our government is fascist and growing more so over time. Government is in bed with industry and we are the sacrificial lambs. I was encouraged all the way through my attempt to commit suicide by education. In the end the plug was pulled for me and I am now self employed – at very low wage in an area completely unrelated to my area of study. Thanks, U.S. government. You suck.

  • Zeke

    From the NYT:

    “She recently received a raise and now makes $22 an hour working for a photographer. It’s the highest salary she’s earned since graduating with an interdisciplinary degree in religious and women’s studies.”

    Religious and Women’s Studies at a $50K per year school?

    ‘Nuff said.

  • Caitanya dasa

    This is a really great article, and it makes me happy that I became a Hindu monk at age 20 instead of going to college. Now I am debt free, and have complete freedom to do whatever I want to do, while other people my same age are totally enslaved by student debt payments that they will never be able to pay off.

    It’s kind of hard not to look back at them and feel a little smug, like “I told you so”.

    • Blair

      wow thats kind of an ************* thing to say

  • SweetPea

    It is the great lie that a college education means success and money. The truth is that success is not dependent on an education.

    Success is instead dependent on each individual person and how much time and energy they are willing to invest in going after what they want.

    It is up to each and everyone of us to decide if spending the next 40-50 years of our lives stuck in a cubicle so we can get that great house, car, flat screen, etc is really that important.

    Things and stuff will never satisfy. Instead pursue what you love and live your life free of stuff!

  • kolchack

    As a liberal arts major who graduated 20 years ago and has done very well for myself it pains me to say this, but vast majority of the liberal arts programs out there should be shut down. There is no way any but a very small percentage of liberal arts majors are going to get decent jobs these days on in the forseeable future.

  • laura m.

    There is no reason to establish a family now days; there is no secure job future (with few exceptions.) Divorces increase during economic downturns and this is a continual downturn into a depression for decades. America is hopeless; most the jobs are gone. We have no real leadership. Young people today are crazy to want to be tied down to raising a family as there is no future. I’m a retiree and have lived the best times. So, live for self.

  • Law School is the biggest scam in this area. $40,000 in student loan debt is nothing compared to the debt that new attorney graduates have. (Think $120,000-185,000 in addition to undergraduate loans.)

    Most laypeople think that all lawyers are rich and that earning a JD and passing the Bar Exam is almost a guarantor of financial comfort. However, the truth is very different from Hollywood movies and TV shows.

    In reality our nation has been overproducing lawyers for about 3 decades and we are currently producing enough new lawyers so that we will have about 165 people for every lawyer. (The current number is around 257 and in 2004 it was 275.) A large fraction, perhaps as much as 1/3 or 1/2 of all new attorney graduates (and probably more like 9/10 today) cannot find jobs in their field and they end up either unemployed or severely underemployed-and-involuntarily-out-of-field. However, the law schools convince naive lemmings to come to law school by peddling bogus and misleading employment stats with the tacit sanction of the ABA (which seems to accredit any new law school with a heartbeat).

    The law schools are, in essence, for-profit institutions that do not car about the well-being of their students or society.

    Here are two animated cartoons on the subject:

    You can learn more and find links to sites about the law school scam here:

    • Kenneth Casper

      Your best bet is to enjoy living even if you’re on the street. Save on the rent by buying a sleeping bag. Eat well in order to save on medical bills. Read all of the best literature so you can be interesting. And accept the idea that your goal is to be a high quality human being. Be generous, interesting, and enjoying life no matter what you circumstances might be. After all is said, what can they do to you if you eat well and sleep well but do it honestly. There is no debtor’s prison, but there are tin cans and other collectables that can be changed into some spending cash. There coffee houses, there are books and there is travel. What else can you do for nothing? “Man is born of woman and lives but for short time and then comes the judgment.” Breath the air and learn what is good to eat and make good friends (both well-to-do and down-and-out). Living is interesting if nothing else.

  • lostinmissouri

    I see that even Law students are having trouble finding employment. That blows me away, and shows how much this country has slipped.
    All these grads. today are just waiting around for someone to hire them, or tell them what to do!
    Whatever happened to starting your own business? Find the need and fill it. If you can’t find a job, CREATE ONE! just saying…


    This article breaks my heart. It really does. As a baby boomer and a middle aged woman, it makes me sad for men and women like my nephews.

    On another the younger generation grew up with technology and most of them are smart as hell.

    I keep saying this over and over again on all blogs. Surely there is some young man or woman who is IT savvy or a techno geek and I don’t say that in a bad way.

    This person could invent the next microsoft (another name of course) and start their OWN company, employ only US workers and pay them well. Trust me, most of us boomers would hop at the chance to buy a PC made in the US with US tech support.

    I’m going to volunteer in the gulf cleanup in the fall. This is a HUGE opportunity for us laid off workers to network and put something together.

    We have a lot of intelligent smart people in this nation. We cannot let this stuff slide and allow our nation to fall into the dark ages.

  • If you have never seen the film ‘Fight Club’ rent it now with this article in mind. For an added bonus, take a short refresher on Buddhism first.

  • Maybe there’s hope for us since our kids won’t be graduating college for another seven years!

  • Randy

    Commencement comments from this spring’s Virginia Tech Architecture and Urban Studies program: “If you have to wait tables, wait tables like and architect.” I would honestly love to know what that comment meant, yes the dean really did say that. We did our best to get our son through college with very little in debt but know others who are so far in the hole they will never climb out. Worse, remember who now owns your ass, Uncle Sam. Yup! And, given how Congress just loves to pass bills and presidents just love to sign them into law, if you don’t keep up your payments, you just might find yourself drafted into who knows what and then sent to who knows where as stated above, you can’t walk away from them unless you plan to just disappear overseas and never come back. Nepal is nice this time of year I hear…. 😉

  • tyler

    College is so twenty years ago. Its hillarious to me to hear people say, “I’m gonna turn my life around and go to college.” College is a joke and most kids are pressured by their parents. I think they would be much wiser to take the money it would cost to go to college and invest it in silver.

  • Agreed: If I have 10 cents in one hand and a college degree in the other, which one buys me a cup of coffee? (Well, a dime USED to)…..

    The problem I see with education today, is that once an individual graduates, they think, “That’s it! I’m smart! No more studying! Hallelujah!”

    The fact is, there’s much more to life than the focused materials found in a college curriculum. To be truly intelligent, one must first obtain knowledge on an incredible amount of subjects. Only after years of books, reading and ‘learning’ does true wisdom begin to develop. College does little more than teach one ‘how to learn’. It provides little in the way of life’s true lessons.

  • Grace

    This article, especially the headline, makes me upset. It’s a personal, albeit tempting, choice to go to the best school you can get into thereby sinking into such debt. I’ll be a college freshman next year, and have been blessed with the means to emerge debt free if all goes as planned, but some of my best friends have actively chosen a school that would not have been there first choice, but they will undoubtedly end up loving. It’s not that “student loan hell” just AWAITS graduates, but a tough situation does that needs to be anticipated.

  • Grace

    Also whoever wrote this has very little control over sentance progression. It seems he or she is deliberately malicious and pessimistic. You aren’t going to “scare” kids into making better choices, especially with this kind of writing.

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes

    Thanks for the concern Grace. At 19, your intelligence is far more advanced than most of us. Waiting for you will be middle age, that period when most of us realize how stupid we have been.

  • ssdd

    Flight Instructor, AS degree Aviation Science and BS Airport management…

    Seen the airlines lately? lol.

    We have about 15 instructors in this country for every 1 opening for a flight instructor.

    If oil ever goes down and the airlines ever get their **** together, maybe I can quit the hardware store, but let me tell you,

    The situation on the ground is


    -sleepless in san diego

  • Hey Folks!

    One of the greatest frauds ever foisted on Amerika (yes, with a “k”). Is the idea that a college degree will solve every problem you have.

    In the past forty years this has become part of the Americanist religion. I could write a book on the subject based on my own experiences.

    If you are not studying hard science, engineering or medicine, you are better off getting a job as a Wal(China)-Mart greeter and investing in GOLD with the crumbs you receive as wages.

    So many decent and hard working parents, grandparents and students have been sucked into this lie that it is truly one of the greatest evils ever perpertrated on the country.

    Many of those who have been led down this primrose path will end up in debters prisons, work camps or face down in a gutter.

    You can get out of creditcard debt but not student loans! Don’t sell your soul!

    Higher education is a complete joke! Go to a community college, don’t fall for the Ivy League trap.

    If you want a degree , get something in construction, HVAC, or something which has a future and can’t be replaced by computers.

    By all means don’t waste your money in the following: Women’s Studies, Sociology, History, Political Science, Art, Spanish, Psychology, Non-Western World etc.

    What are you thinking?

  • By the way, Grace, what on Earth are you thinking? Hello! Earth to Grace!

  • As James Kunstler says:

    Modern America, especially education, is based on two big lies:

    1) You can get something for nothing

    2) When you wish upon a star your dreams come true

  • Mark

    Knowledge is infinite, what one learns to do with this knowledge by experience, is the true practicality.

  • Robert, the Anti-Mid-West-Guy

    Midwest Guy – for whom are you speaking those lies for? Actually the entire article is sleazy. Reminds me of people who tell about family values and the conspiracy against them and then go get themselves a wife from Thailand or a small boy even. Hypocritical in a big way!

    “Go into consutruction” – eh, how so? Need I say more! Construction has lost 30% of employement and will probably never regain it, still losing until it probably hits 40%. How smart do you think you really are? Manufacturing has fallen 20% during the depression. Stop telling the Glen Beckish lie that somehow manufacturing will save. I work in manufacturing and I see everyday how lazy the workers are and how tough conditions owners of manufacturing companies face from banks, financials for loans etc.. Of interest is the data that shows employement in finance related activites has remained roughly the same. So has in it all the fields You despise, they have not done well, but they have not lost any ground at all either – they´re neutal.

    Personally, I am the ideal guy for your perverted stereotype – went to the best community college (for free), have a paying job in manufacturing (not the basic grunt on the factory ground, but a king in the matters that concern my right duties/tasks). But my advice, as a real practioner is the opposite of phonies like the Midwest-Guy

    Midwest guy and your like, could You please stop stating the myth of “decent – hardworking people” – you would not know any. You´re probably just a shmuck who hates better educated, more intelligent people.

    Women’s Studies, Sociology, History, Political Science, Art, Spanish, Psychology, Non-Western World etc are all excellent studies. People who graduate these jobs face a much better future than the fake myth of blue-collar America that you try to provide here. You are prejudiced bigot who tries to hide your own tracks of ignorance – and that comes from someone who actually works at the best possible position in manufacturing other than the owner. Go away, get off my lawn, fakes, none of you will ever buy anything produced in the United States, despite the phoney patriotism You show in words. I know this type of attitude that comes from books like the “Millionaire Next-Door” which tell lies about carpenters who become millionaires (a cleverly re-dramatized version of the evangelical jesus myth – from carpenter to the saviour that appeals inside the gut to the audience) and how middle-americans are doing well. Most money in this country is in the hands of white anglo-saxons and europeans, the ivy league type – of whom both Bushes, Obama represents. The supposed rising influence of Jews, Asians you see in the magazines in the last century is just the rise and fall of drunk puppets.

    Banks are owned by WAS´es, the asian/black/jewish/italian/arabian puppets getting the “big money” as CEO´s or being named and known among the many. Go into banking-finance. Study sociology and foreign languages they will help you make money otherwise You will have to hire someone who knows the languages since over 50% of manufacturing is exported from the United States and sociology teaches You how to study the target market of Your product/application/service/repair and consulation much better than self-help books that teach You to live “frugally”. Political Science will help You understand how the politicians think so You need not pay expensive bribes and can get by in a honest way. History and English literature will help in so many ways as consult you from anything from product naming, development etc..

    Again I am a manufacturing guy, really, and most people in manufacturing just find comments like the Mid-West-Guy one´s nasty, totally opposite to the daily experience. The whole tone of the article makes manufacturing seem like close to heaven, which is only true for select few people in any given substance production company – fortunately I am one of them – I can disagree, discuss and have meetings with the owner/team leader whenever I want to express the need of the task. Almost all other people follow a strict hierarchy and can not say a single word without being asked to. You need to understand!

    • Jenna

      Judging from that man Robert’s long rant, he is a sucker whose being recycled and brainwashed in the system. He lost his soul long time ago.

      The longer you write, the more you need to prove something that your mind is not quite agreeing to FAIL Robert. Fail!
      I’m with Mid-west guy 🙂

  • Billy

    I graduated from college in the late 70s and had to do manual labor for seven years. I was practically living on the street but took every opportunity, no matter how dirty or dangerous.

    My parents didn’t pay a dime for my schooling. I worked my way through college. It took five years but I did not have a mountain of debt.

    Things in general may look bad but there are still opportunities. The mountain of student loan debt, lack of motivation and media programming will make it ten times harder for today’s graduate.

    My advice to today’s graduates: Get off your ass and get to work! You are on your own. You can make it but don’t expect any handouts or breaks.

  • D


    I can’t wait to see the student loan debt beast turn on its masters… all those liberal universities closed and leftist professors out of jobs.


  • Honest John

    Dear Mr.Midwest Guy;

    Engineering degree lost its value.

    Since good old ’50 (all times are good when old,though) 95% of all engineering tasks were automated.

    120 years ago probably 300 engineers designed Eiffel Tower using slide rules.Nowadays a bright chinese kid can pilfer from Torrents “Solidworks” software package and not only design but even optimize this Eiffel Monster.

    Boeing 787 Dreamliner was designed 100% abroad by the consortium of Russian-Japanese-Italian-Israeli aerospace firms.They charged $38 per man-hour while US firms used to charge $120.

    Even our “Virginia” class submarine was designed with “Solidworks” -courtesy of French Dassault Systems.

    You may check my claims by looking up relevant entries in Wikipedia.

  • Honest John

    A little correction:

    “Solidworks” is a part of “CATIA”(Computer Aided Three Dimensional Interactive Application)-Commonly referred to as a 3D Product Lifecycle Management software suite.

    Northrop Grumman Newport News also used CATIA to design the Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers for the US Navy.

    Yet another reason to dislike French.

    Recently I read about one architectural firm in New York-they just fax to China customer specs and get back complete blueprints.They charge 70% less and, while getting building permits,their approval rate is 100%.

    It is because Chinese clerk working at the City Hall keeps their Chinese counterparts up to date regarding all the latest building ordinances.

    Newly minted US engineering grads for $35,000 per year,anyone?

  • Rachael

    If you are going to get an education, make sure you are getting a skill that has real world application. How hard is that for high school graduates to get? I look for this line of thinking to be commonplace a few years from now. For those who have already misallocated capital into useless endeavors and are drowning in a debtors hell, get out of the country…’s your only escape.

  • Pittsburgh

    I’m SO tired of being told to undertake an attitude adjustment. A great attitude gets you about as far as a college degree these days: your resume into a circular file. Our government doesn’t care about people like me (law-abiding, save-and-invest for my future, non-wealthy, not connected to Goldman Sachs or Big Pharma or Big Tobacco or Big Oil). Why bother saving for retirement and having only the number of children you can afford, if the Govt gives free welfare and free nursing homes via Medicaid to people who aren’t responsible? The Govt’s main goal is to get everyone dependent upon it so that it can squash us under its controlling thumb even more than it is now. Ayn Rand was 100 percent correct.

  • ross

    This is more to do with the higher percentage of people going to college more than anything else.
    Years ago only kids from wealthy families could go to college, if you leave aside the morality of this for a minuite, mathmatically this ment that only a small percentage of graduates entered the employment market each year chasing the small percentage of elite jobs that required a degree. Supply & demand ecconomics ensured salaries were kept high & ensured even graduates with poor grades were almost guarenteed to find graduate jobs.

    Easy credit ment an increase in the numbers taking loans to go to college, this means more graduates than graduate jobs available & employers can be picky about who they want working for them & how much they are willing to pay.

    All this means in the future as the artical highlights there`ll be graduates without the connections to get them a good job who will be stuck in low paid work for life. They simply will not earn enough to service there debts, which will never be written off.

    In there shoes i would probably think about emigrating.

  • Professor G

    Okay, here is the “lowdown” from a professor. First, I’ve been a student and taught at both state universities and elite universities. Currently, I am teaching at one of the “largest” state universities in the U.S.

    First, most students will gain no real benefit from university study for several reasons. The “system” is failing the students. Students are generally not receiving an adequate education; I prefer to call it training for most fields. Professors are under pressure from administrators to hand out A’s. Administrators care too much about stats and are out of touch with reality. Namely, in tough times they want you to stay in the university, not move back home and go to the more local university. Massive grade inflation is the order of the day. Students think that getting a perfect record will get them into an Ivy League, Wall Street job, etc. As a professor and graduate of an elite university with inside experience, I have to tell you this is simply Hors_shi_. They elites have their minds made up for the most part, they KNOW. They know that there are always exceptional, deserving individuals. However, they know what is going on and that the quality of students at state universities is low. Employers could care less about your grades. They will not judge you on your GPA.

    Well, there is much more to say, but that would take too much time.

    Here is the bottom line for now. You probably do not need to go to university. You will run up debts that cannot be discharged, etc. You will gain nothing but a delusional sense of self fulfillment for sticking it out for three or four years. Most professors have given up; that does not mean that they do not love what they do or that they hate this generation, etc. We want people to have a fulfilling life, etc.

    Challenge yourself and do not accept the mediocrity that is being forced upon you, for the most part.

  • Professor G

    This article is from Reason. It reflects some of my thoughts about higher education in the U.S. I will write a more thorough essay in the future that explains the real reason for the infatuation with higher education in the U.S., and it does not have to do with money nor education itself…

    Ask random members of the professoriate at my alma mater, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and many will confide that too many people—not too few, as recently suggested by President Barack Obama—are attending college these daysThis opinion is impolite and impolitic (perhaps, in the context of the American university, we should say “un-PC”). But years of furtive conversation with academics suggest it is commonly held. And one can see why. To the professor with expertise in Austro-Hungarian history, for instance, it is unclear why his survey course on the casus foederis of World War I is a necessary stop in a management-level job training program at Hertz.

    This is not to say that some Americans should be discouraged from participating in a liberal arts education. As the social scientist Charles Murray writes in his book Real Education, “Saying ‘too many people are going to college’ is not the same as saying that the average student does not need to know about history, science, and great works of art, music, and literature. They do need to know—and to know more than they are currently learning. So let’s teach it to them, but let’s not wait for college to do it.”

    Take this bullet point, proudly included in a November 2008 press release from the Boston public school system: “Of the [Boston public school] graduates from the Class of 2000 who enrolled in college (1,904), 35.5 percent (675 students) earned a degree within seven years of high school graduation. An additional 14 percent (267 students) were still enrolled and working toward a degree.” In a news conference celebrating these dismal numbers, Mayor Tom Menino called for a “100 percent increase” in the number of city students attending college, though offered no suggestions on how to ensure that those students actually graduate or are properly prepared to handle undergraduate studies. Besides, if 14 percent of those enrolled are still ambling towards a degree after eight years, is Menino convinced that the pursuit of a university education was the right decision for these students, rather than, say, vocational training?

    Alas, these numbers are not uncommon. (They’re often worse in other major American cities.) Citing a recent study by two education experts at Harvard University, former Secretary of Education Margret Spellings sighed, “The report shows that two-thirds of our nation’s students leave high school unprepared to even apply to a four-year college.” Nevertheless, a huge number of these students are matriculating to four-year universities, incurring mountains of debt, and never finishing their degrees.

    The devalued undergraduate degree is one thing when the people doing the devaluing have privately financed their education. It is quite another when the federal government foots the bill. While America debates the merits of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the nationalization of General Motors, and how to fix a broken health care system, the Obama administration has been quietly planning a massive expansion of the Pell Grant program, “making it an entitlement akin to Medicare and Social Security.” Read that sentence again. As we spiral deeper into recession and debt, our dear leaders in Washington are considering the creation of a massive entitlement akin to the expensive, inefficient, and failing Medicare and Social Security programs.

    According to a report in The Washington Post, Obama’s proposals “could transform the financial aid landscape for millions of students while expanding federal authority to a degree that even Democrats concede is controversial.” It is a plan that has met with outspoken—though likely toothless—resistance from Republicans. Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee, suggested that the president reform existing entitlements before creating new ones. And, as noted in the Post, Obama is facing resistance from his own side of the aisle as well, with Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) expressing skepticism towards both the price tag and the necessity of such an expansion.

    Beyond the massive cost of expanded Pell Grants, Ohio University economist Richard Vedder argues that, historically, “it is hard to demonstrate that enhanced federal assistance has either significantly expanded college participation or brought about much greater access to higher education by those who are financially disadvantaged.” If the idea is expanded into an entitlement, Vedder sees rising demand for higher education leading to significantly higher costs. “When someone else is paying the bills, costs always rise.”

    With more than 40 percent of students who enter college dropping out before graduation, Vedder’s suggestion that “a greater percentage of entering college students should be attending community colleges, moving up to four year universities only if they succeed well at the community college level,” seems sound. But the idea pushed by President Obama that, regardless of a student’s career aspirations, secondary education is a necessity in 21st century America, ensures that an undergraduate education will become a required (very expensive) extension of every high school diploma.

    To the average high school senior, the American university has become an institution that one simply must slog through to reach a higher salary. As one college dropout recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I am determined to finish my degree. A high school job isn’t cutting it these days.” The former student, the reader is told, simply wants “to do something else with her life,” though it is unclear just what that something else is. Perhaps she’ll figure that out after getting the degree.
    As Charles Murray observed in The Wall Street Journal, “Our obsession with the BA has created a two-tiered entry to adulthood, anointing some for admission to the club and labeling the rest as second-best.” But not to worry. If Obama’s plan for a secondary education entitlement is foisted upon us—the final cost of which remains anyone’s guess—we might soon have a one-tiered system where everyone is second-best.

  • Professor G

    In 1993, I went to Taiwan for the summer. A friend of mine had just received her MBA and was working for a motherboard manufacturer. One evening, she invited me to a tradeshow. She turned to me and stated, “Look around, everybody here has an MBA or PhD, but we all start at the bottom in sales.”

  • Professor G

    Americans have been smitten by the “status bug.” The real reason is that most Americans of the middle class, which is really the working class, think that a degree buys them status. Colloquially, it is “keeping up with the Joneses”

    The hard truth is that the middle class was an ephemeral result of historical circumstances, and that we have now returned to the pre-World War II equilibrium, which was generally, “poor as dirt.”

    The U.S. victory in WWII made us an economic and military hegemon.

    The hegemony began to erode with Vietnam and the costs of the Cold War, by 1973 the hegemony was being tested. Check your history 1971-1975 is very pivotal.

    The illusion of the middle class was kept up by supporting financial institutions that give “credit” by fractional reserve. They produce nothing of tangible value.

    The era of credit pretty much ended c.a. 2006-2007.

    The U.S. now sustains its hegemony through the military industrial complex. Think about which industries are thriving, etc.

    I recommend you prepare now. No, the apocalypse is not coming, but hard times are going to be the norm for at least a few decades. First step is to rid yourself of all debts. Pay them off by making a five year plan. It is hard at first, but a year or two into it, you will be proud of your discipline, and you will realize the extent of brainwashing that is going on.

    Second, leave status anxiety behind. You are not a loser if you don’t have an Ivy League education, BMW, garbage bought on credit, etc. In fact, you’ll enjoy laughing at the fools drowning in debt.

  • Professor G

    Okay, this will be my last comment for now. I have sounded rather pessimistic, so here is some pragmatism.

    University students today find themselves in a very difficult situation with student loans. As a professor, I think it is my duty to advise students about this. This is generally a “no-no”, but since it affects the psyche of students and their ability to perform well, I think it is important to discuss.

    First, learn to make a plan. This is not something young people like to do. Plan how you are going to pay for the university and be prepared to have it interrupted. It is probably going to take a year or two more to finish, but that is much better than life in perpetual debt. Do not get married, etc. Marriage of the monogamous sort, is a western, largely 20th century creation. If you live long enough, you will see that I’m correct.

    If you have already racked up debts, here is something you can do. You cannot discharge student loans; there has to be a collective precedent among judges in their interpretation. So far, that has not occurred. Even disabled military members have failed in court.

    Again, make a plan. The best time span is five years. If your parents have a house that they do not really treasure, take out a refinance and immediately pay as much of the debt as possible. Get a job and work for a year or longer; you’ll be running up credit debt anyways just trying to survive.

    Take your time and find a GOOD bankruptcy lawyer. Find one who does nothing but bankruptcies. Most of the non-collateral (unsecured) credit lenders will make lots of technical errors that your lawyer can use to your advantage. Most of the time, the credit reps won’t even show to the required hearings allowing a default concerning your pending bankruptcy. Most lawyers are lazy, so put a little pressure on them and do not be intimidated. Try for a C-7; if that fails, then you will have to do the C-13 which is rather arduous. It will be tough, but if you can hold out, you will be debt free. Just don’t make the same mistakes twice.

  • Professor G

    Midwest Guy is correct for the most part. I speak as a professor, so I know what I am talking about. The “American Dream” is ending, but it is not the end of the world. We will return to our Pre-WWII socioeconomic standing as our hegemony is challenged and eventually abrogated.

    You really do not need a university education. The elite universities and community colleges are doing their respective functions: education and training. Most of the colleges/universities in between are a lost cause. They are failing their students. Every graduation brings 5,000 or more new graduates most of them with bogus degrees in management, etc. I would not hire 99% of them. I am not crass or arrogant. And, I do not blame it on the students. Their teachers, professors, and administrators failed them. Feed them delusions about the Ivy League and Wall street, pilfered their money, and left them destitute and without an education.

    I have listened to the latest commencement addresses and they are getting quite interesting. Last one I listened to had a state Senator as guest speaker tell students to expect a lifetime of many jobs, unless they studied engineering or science. The president of the university where I work explicitly downplays the utility of liberal arts study. He came from psychology not engineering or science per se.

    If you are not a stellar student, do not waste your time and money at a university. Go to a community college and study computer science/tech, medical tech/paramedic, etc.

    As for the elite universities, if you get in, GO. Do not pass it up. You may not get the chance again. The best elite universities remain committed to education. They do not feed students’ sense of entitlement. They make you work and you will learn the virtues that lead to success. As a graduate student and a professor, I used to see students break down and cry. The professors made them redo and redo their work because that is how is successful work emerges. These students have fortitude; they pull it together and do it better the next time.

  • Barry

    Higher education and universities in the US is the biggest scam on planet earth. All they want is your money…so they’ll build five star infrastructure to attract gullible students and kids.
    End result is the student is doubly enslaved after four years of school. First because he/she takes out huge loans and that makes you a slave to the banks and financial institutions. Second because the students are brainwashed to be slaves of corporate America. Corporations get ready-made slaves exactly as they want them to be.
    Good going America..well the party is almost coming to an end. But the generation of students will be slaves for the rest of their lives.

  • matt m

    Alright, after reading a lot of the comments on here i can come to the conclusion most of you aren’t college graduates. I’m sorry to say but in this day and age without a college degree most young people aren’t going to make it far in life. I’m a recent graduate and yes I did my faIr share of partying in college but i also had two jobs as well as 2 internships on top of trying to keep my gpa above a 3 point. Getting a college education is no walk in the park, hence why a large number of students who try fail. I graduated high school in 2005, 90 percent of my class went on to college, less than half graduated from a university. Now those who didn’t finish college are struggling terribly, going from part time job to part time job. All my friends who have just graduated have found jobs making 45-50 grad a year fresh out….every single one, that’s nothing to turn your nose up at. Getting a college education in today’s society is absolutely essential. Yes I have about 15 grand to pay off in student loans, but with the job I just got out of college I will have that payed off in about 5 years. At the end of the day i will always be financially secure and know I have the upper hand above people who don’t have a degree.

    • David

      Matt what a corporate drone! I went to ivy league for 2 years and dropped out. I am not against education but I am against those who think (which is a majority of college grads) that education ends when you graduate!

      I run a small company that recently reported $500,000 in its second year! How’s that for 26 years of age? You must be those sad employees by the water cooler talking about the new printer that just came in! Come WORK FOR ME!
      You live a sad exsistent if you think that college is all it’s worth and nothing competes with that! We live in an age of innovation so that means that crappy theory that they teach you in school is worthless. Most graduates are totally confused when when it comes to applying that BS!

      I hired a summer intern (one of your drones who would fit perfectly in your cubicle) and he had no clue where to start. We had to train him and train him like a small baby. Now tell me if your education is working for you there? So why would I hire a drone like you just because they sat in a class for 4 years versus a person who shows a track in terms of experience and action??

      Your friends who are moving from part time to part-time jobs are probably not utilizing the essence of opportunity. In Einstein’s words he defined insantity: “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”
      I suggest your friends get some apirations and dreams.

      You are not better off at your job infact, your work could probably be easily outsourced elsewhere. True you may get a job with education but there is NO job security nowadays. Infact, I don’t wish you anything bad but be careful how you look down at your friends who did not graduate! A friend of mine who used to look down on me (at the time) recently lost his job! Imagine that! Now he roams the earth going from contract job to contract job!

      Be careful that when you observe others you are not observing them from a cloud of your own illusions! And don’t sit on such a high cloud just because you “have a degree”

  • Golden Child

    For the vast majority of kids out there, college is a complete waste. There are only a few viable fields out there nowadays (i.e. finance, engineering, computer science and health care). However, not everyone has the mental capacity to perform these types of jobs. Also, if you don’t have any connections, a college degree is as worthless as a used pair of tighty whitey’s. If you don’t know anybody, no one is going to hire you. The new Great Depression has also effectively killed off many once flourishing professional fields. For example, no one needs architects anymore because construction is dead and so many properties are being foreclosed and abandoned. It is not fair that college grads prepared to work in fields that dried up as soon as they were ready to work. On top of that, the government is the only company in America who is hiring.

    Where I live in Maryland, the richest most recession proof state, there are tons of fresh college grads under 25 getting six figure salary cushy low stress government jobs and buying expensive houses. But these kids come from rich, well-connected families. As soon as these kids graduate, their mommies and daddies know someone who will hire them on the spot.

    However, for poor kids with no big connections who had to pay for school with hefty loans, they will face involuntary prolonged unemployment that will scar their resumes and low wages for years to come. God Bless America, Reaganomics, Free Trade, Outsourcing and putting Fortune 500 companies on welfare while the rest of America starves.

  • Charles Darwin

    College is New High School.

    100% of 18-year olds can go Now..

    humanities, social sciences arts: free free free on web.

    No need to study what’s free free free on web.

    Science / Engineering / Medicine will here on earth forever.

  • phld21

    I never understand people assuming they will get a high paying job because they have a degree. The value of an education is subjective, and is NOT determined by the markets. I’m about to graduate with a degree in architecture, which is a struggling industry. Despite that I don’t assume that because I know CAD and have a degree that I will get a job in architecture.

    In school I learned how strong my passion is for learning, research, drawing, photography, construction and buildings. I have been pushed hard by my professors, and at times I hated architecture. But I have also gained a second family, people who I would do anything for, people who support me.

    If I graduate school and find any work that somehow relates to design or buildings I could be happy. I don’t have much debt thanks to a scholarship part-time jobs and help from my parents. I can always do architecture in my spare time. Right now I’m re-designing my Mom’s house, while learning Revit.

    No industry is a safe industry. Life is about constantly learning and prioritizing new information and skills. The question is whether you have the work ethic and passion to do continue do that even when there’s no monetary benefit.

  • D

    Keep in mind that a college degree will not guarantee a job, but not having a college degree will keep you out of some professions. DH has 20 years of real world experience as a technician (often hand holding the engineers and walking them through their tasks) but cannot get engineering work because he only an Associates Degree. Friend of mine took the same route, finally got his EE degree so he could move in career path, but it took 7 hard years. These things are much easier to do when you are young and don’t have a family to support, so don’t throw an opportunity away.

  • Sarah

    I do believe that life just got a lot tougher for people out there. But I can’t believe that people are actually talking about education like it’s a bad thing. It’s never a bad idea to get a college education and if it’s hard for people with a degree, it’s even harder for those that do not have one. I graduated last year with a degree in psychology (apparently a ‘useless’ degree) and I obtained a job with the federal government making $52,000 a year. I am proud of my job and I think that is a good starting salary. I also went to a small university and I got a great education and at a lower cost than a really big school. I had a great time, made great friends & I loved the experience of freedom and carefreeness that I know I won’t have an opportunity to have again. I think some of the people on here are bitter people that regret not going tc college.

    • Jane

      It is sad Sarah that you rant like 52,000 is a great amount of money! It is NOT! I am telling you if you are counting on the goverment for security, start stocking up cat-food for your retirement food! The goverment loves people like you because you have no passion to pursue anything that may make you remotely powerful! In essence, you become a dependent so what? If you are dependent on something (or someone) it means they have the power. Like a marionette and a puppeteer.

  • Kim

    I graduated with a MBA in May and still have no job. I have a pharmaceutical sciences degree and MBA, but during the time while I was in school for both degrees I had done several federal government internships. I have some experience which is helpful, but it is still hard to attain a job. When I was a junior during the spring semester when studying science the pharmaceutical companies had major layoffs. I knew I wasn’t going to land a job in the sciences so I went to do my MBA and worked as a student intern.

    I will tell you this that it’s very important for students to take advantage of extracurricular activities or join student chapters, student internships, or do volunteering because it is about building your resume during college. It’s not all about the GPA or what school you went to, but what can you bring to the organization.

    I did a lot of volunteering in my community, joined couple student chapters, worked in federal government, and graduated with a high GPA, but it’s still hard knowing there is a lot of competition for jobs. I will say this if you have an impressive resume you will get at least your resume looked at by a hiring manager.

    I believe more students should build their resume while in school and because if you don’t have work experience or something else to show then you will have a difficulty getting a job and paying off these student loans and other things.

    I really encourage students to do student internships at organizations whether it is paid or not paid (volunteer) and make the sacrifice because you need to have some work experience. Don’t believe what all these stats say because all of them are rubbish. Majority people have a hard time getting a job and it doesn’t matter if your graduated in 09 or 10 or 11. It’s very hard.

    I know couple of federal agencies have cut the student paid internships and now have volunteer ones, but it’s better for college students to try that then have nothing on the resume. So my advice to students in school whether in undergrad or grad school is to build your resume. It is also very wise to attend job fairs and virtual job fairs during your senior year or end of junior year. Do all the networking you can and expect a roller coaster ride after graduation.

  • Mr. J Crowell

    This article is true to form. Most people in the U.S. take out the greatest amounts of student loan debt beyond that which can be paid back to the respective loan authority. It is tragic that many citizens remain simple-minded and ignorant sheeple through unfounded dreams and false hope with optimism in an illusary future. There is no waiting employment offer or perfect tangiable result after college graduation. These are empty promises and wishful thinking to degree holders that are completely meaningless. Unless we irradicate the major systems of disease within a corrupt United States Corporation and Charter of the Federal Reserve Banking System; no change will ever occur. It is through a devalued currency with the U.S. Dollar that no one can or has been able to solve the “outsourcing problem” of the last 30 years. It would be “extreme” if people worked to solve the “U.S. Dollar Crisis” to restore real manufacturing and production in an emphasis placed on arts, science, and technology of innovation. Nope this will never happen, most common people who graduate will settle with the worthless argument of staying the “status-quo” by accepting low-end service- sector work. Of course, this will never solve the true problem; but, re-born the real diseases America needs to eliminate. Low-wages and unacceptable working conditions is all that is seen through the United States. As each graduate fight every day for table scraps, more time is wasted to restore and give change to make America a better for all. In statistics, most settled Americans earn their total household income not more that $30,000 (“the average”). Most, on average, will stay at that minimum wage work with a hopeless future and no real change. We got change. Less Employment, More People With Student Loans, and More People Dependent on Welfare. Good Luck to the U.S. population. You will see more difficultly rather than optimism in the near future if action is never taken. Prepare by the most and expect for the worst in the coming years of 2012 and beyond. Love and Light. ~Mr. J Crowell

  • True but sad! There are true behinde the article, at the same time, what is this article trying to tell the people??? People should not go to college because is a waste time and money that you will never get back? You should just find a low end job and be happier with your live? Then high schoolers should not try hard in school to excel and prove themselves? School is bogus and is not worth the time and effort? We all should just be dumb and stupid? Come On, stop brain wash young people and parents that have higher goal for their kids. Education did not pay off right now because the economy sucks, Agreed! But it does not mean that it will never turn around. You want to make minimum wage for the rest of your life or take a chance in life and challenge yourself? You may be the next Bill Gate, who knows? Take a chance in life and educate yourself.

    “Education is one thing that can not be taken away from you!”
    If we can spend on all our money on all unnecessary things in life, why not invest on educations? you will always have that with you!

  • Pati

    I’m a community college student, I’m 24, and everything I’m reading here, is seriously bumming me out. After being in class all day since twelve in the afternoon to nine at night, I just feel like I wasted my time. Instead of going to work and supporting my two year old daughter, I’m going to school full time because I’m thinking that my education is better in the sense of me providing my daughter in the future. IDK!

    • shadowguy14

      At least you’re doing the cheaper option, the less debt the better!

  • No One

    Someone like Pati shouldn’t have to start worrying about if she is taking the right direction in her life because of this article and the opinions of others. There are two sides to these comments just as every dualistic concept. Just let it all be and wish your other selves and your selves happy states of mind.

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