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College reality

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

In a few weeks tens of thousands of young Americans will leave home and begin the “college experience”. As they descend on campuses across the country, they will be greeted by impressive buildings, acclaimed alumni, elaborate social functions, and luxury hotel-like accommodations. In addition to getting used to their new “homes”, these newly minted adults will be asked to select majors that prepare them for post college employment.

Interestingly, the university structure and incentives may not always be aligned with what is best for students.

Universities are broken into departments. Each department is responsible for running a profitable business or demonstrating that there is enough demand for its offerings that it would be foolish for the university to close the department. Departments like engineering generally have large research budgets, so they are less concerned about student enrollment than departments like the humanities and social sciences that have fewer research dollars.

As might be expected, the departments with fewest research dollars generally work hardest to convince students to select majors within their purview. Until 15-20 years ago, this model worked well, because it was possible to obtain high quality employment with a wide variety of university degrees.

Technology has improved access to information so much that many jobs related to compiling, organizing, and disseminating information have already been or are being eliminated. Careers that have been hardest hit are law, social sciences, and the humanities.

Since there are fewer job opportunities for people with these degrees, many college graduates find it difficult to procure jobs that pay a premium over what was available to them before they attended college.

This shift creates a dilemma for the parents of a child who did not develop a proclivity for math in high school. Does the parent have the resources to send the child to college so he/she can graduate without debt and go on to a job that he/she most likely could have obtained without attending college? Is it better to consider a high paying trade like plumbing or electricity, rather than expending money on college? Or is it wiser to encourage the child to go to a community college and learn math, so he/she has the skills to obtain a college degree with higher earning potential?

It is a tough decision, but is something that should be discussed before a family blindly spends large sums of money on a college education that does little to improve a child’s long term earning potential.

Is college the best option?

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

With all the changes in the workplace, the adage that a university degree always provides the best employment options is no longer true.

Sometimes a college education is the answer and other times a trade career makes more sense.

If you like math and/or science and have an interest in accounting, engineering, or nursing a university education is an excellent option. There is so much demand for graduates in these fields that you do not need to attend a high profile private university to have job offers. Also, the salaries are such that students can pay off loans quickly.

If you excel in math and/or science, but you can’t imagine a career in accounting, engineering, or nursing a university education could still be wise decision if you are willing to double major. In this case, the accounting, engineering, or nursing degree would serve as an insurance policy in the case you are unable to find employment in the field you want to pursue.

If science or math is not your cup of tea, college may not be the best financial option. While some subjects are fascinating, employment realities make them poor degree choices. In sociology, for example, there are only 2400 jobs, so employers can demand graduate degrees from the most prestigious (high cost) universities. Other majors, like elementary education, have plenty of job openings, but offer low pay.

As a result, it is wise to ask some questions. What is the median pay for graduates in the field? How many jobs are available? Do I have the financial means to cover the cost of the education? If I cannot get a job in the field I study, what will I do? If I take out a loan and am not able to get a job, how will you make the payments?

If the pay is low or you do not have a way of supporting yourself or if you cannot get a job in the field, a trade career may be a better option. Electricians, plumbers, and aviation mechanics make very good salaries – much better than many college graduates. These careers require no post-secondary education and allow early entry into the workforce which means there is more long-term earning potential.

As a result, it is important to approach post secondary education in a rational way. Think critically about your interests and abilities and remember a college education only makes sense when it gives you financial freedom.

 

Federal proposal seeks to create summer and youth jobs

The Washington Post – Steven Mufson

“The Obama administration unveiled a $5.5 billion proposal to create summer and first-time jobs for youths over four years and a $2 billion scheme to create apprenticeships over five years, the latest in a series of ideas that will be included in the federal budget plan next week. The proposals — part of a $12.5 billion package of new spending over five years — includes $3 billion to train people to lure firms to the United States from abroad or to keep them from leaving. The administration also plans to ask Congress to approve $2 billion in competitive grants that would be jointly administered by the Labor and Education Departments. The budget, especially in a president’s eighth year, is often more of an aspirational document than a real-life tax and spending plan, but President Obama has vowed to search for additional common ground with Congress during his final year in office.”(more)

Britain Looks to Reinvigorate Apprenticeships, Vocational Education

Education News – Raymond Scott

“State schools in England will soon be required to spend as much time on vocational training as they do on academic subjects for students interested in landing an apprenticeship after their studies. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said that England’s education system should “level the playing field” by offering students all the options available to them. A new law will require the schools allow apprenticeship providers to advise and connect with young students to rub out an “outdated snobbery” against technical education.”(more)

How Apprenticeship Will Save the American Economy

Forbes – Nicholas Wyman

“President Barack Obama has proclaimed this week – November 1 though November 7 – as National Apprenticeship Week. States the President, “during National Apprenticeship Week, we recognize the ways apprenticeships foster innovation and prosperity, and we recommit to encouraging and supporting those who offer and partake in them.” Apprenticeship is the western world’s oldest form of occupational training, and for good reason…It is a hands-on method that equips participants with exactly the right skills and experience to transition directly into a particular job…The timing is not accidental. The recent recession has made it difficult for many low-skilled workers to get jobs that pay enough to keep themselves and their families above the poverty line…Apprenticeship training offers a lifeline to both workers and employers. As the President notes in his proclamation, “apprenticeships help people upgrade their skills and keep pace with the demands of the 21st century.””(more)

America’s Guidance Counseling Crisis: A Potential Solution From Abroad

Education Week – Heather Singmaster

“…there are two things that the Swiss provide students that the U.S. does not: access to comprehensive, ongoing guidance/career counseling and a flexible, permeable education system that allows everyone—recent graduates through adults—to go back to school and learn new skills and change their career path at any time…Here in the U.S….chances are you do not have access to anything nearly this inclusive—and certainly have very few opportunities to do on-site career investigation. The national ratio of guidance counselor to student is 500 to 1…until we seriously attempt to fill the funding shortages and come up with a comprehensive system that helps students find the path that is right for them, guidance counseling in this country will remain a crisis.”(more)