Are College Degrees the New Jobless Debt?

Nowadays, apprentices are members of a production force as they train on the job and in the classroom. Their apprenticeship agreements set out the work processes in which they are to be trained and the hours and wages for each training period. At the end of their apprenticeship, they receive certificates that are similar to the diplomas awarded the engineering graduates of universities.”

History of Apprenticeship


If my kids were still college-age, I think I’d try to get them into a union apprentice program. Because if you’re not connected to the one percent job network, I don’t think a college diploma is a sure thing anymore and student loans mean being a debt slave for the rest of your life. But that’s just me.

I’m also torn by the fact that some degrees are more equal than others. It seems brutal to expect high school kids to suppress their talents and dreams to try to fit some more career-worthy mold. For instance, not everyone has the kind of skills that would make them good engineers or computer scientists. But if we’re forcing students onto certain career paths because they’re the only way they can ever afford to go to college in the first place, it doesn’t seem quite… American to me. After all, we’re humans, not car parts.”

Crooks & Liars


Are we educating our way to the poorhouse?

Does today’s bachelor’s degree promise only that we’ll be able to scrape by as a waiter/waitress, retail clerk or receptionist during the decade-plus that it will take us to pay off our student loans?

What do college degrees really offer in this new economy?

As reported in the Huffington Post, U.S. student loan debt hit $1 trillion dollars this quarter – and the number keeps rises with the college enrollment of each American student not to-the-manor born.

waitressThe Associated Press reports that exactly half of college graduates are jobless or underemployed:

According to government projections released last month, only three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor’s degree or higher to fill the position – teachers, college professors and accountants. Most [future] job openings are in professions such as retail sales, fast food and truck driving – jobs which aren’t easily replaced by computers.”

Further, David Neumark – an economist at the University of California-Irvine – says, “Even for lower-skilled jobs such as waitress or cashier, employers tend to value bachelor’s degree-holders more highly than high-school graduates, paying them more for the same work, and offering promotions.

us-comptroller-generalAfter analyzing the numbers, Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University says, “Simply put, we’re failing kids coming out of college.”

The bottom line of accumulated U.S. college degree/employment data shows that most Americans acquiring a bachelor’s degree will be faced with costly tuition, debilitating debt, and increasingly fewer jobs resulting from – amid other factors – staggering debt, an unsustainable lifestyle, and a downturn economy projected by the U.S. Comptroller General & most leading economists to have small chance of recovery to America’s past standards of prosperity.


Do you think the expense of college will be worth it in this new economy?

Or is apprenticeship the way to go?

Will you be attending yourself, or sending your kids to college?

Why? / Why not? 


World News Wednesday


13 thoughts on “Are College Degrees the New Jobless Debt?

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  3. As a former college professor and holder of 4 college degrees, I have actually been working on a book documenting how the ROI on education is incredibly negative and is decreasing at an exponential rate. There are many reasons, most of which can be quantified with undeniable figures, but the primary reason is that college stopped being about helping students learn and becoming productive members of society some time after college administrators started measuring research articles published rather than students impacted by their teachers.

    I have published many articles in high quality journals. Do you know how many lives they impacted? One. Mine. Because they allowed me to keep my job and 6-figure salary. I helped hundreds of kids get jobs and become viable employees for some of the biggest firms in the world. Do you know how much that was valued? Not at all! I actually got mocked by colleagues for helping kids with their resumes and prepping for job interviews. I also got mocked for working 80-90 hours a week on helping students and trying to make my classes more relevant.

    Those who can’t do, teach. And I guess those who don’t want to teach anymore because it makes us feel like bait-and-switch conmen, blog. 🙂

    • The heavens opened & angels sang for me as I read your comment. To hear an actual college professor admit that teaching is becoming secondary to research articles, is mana to the ears of us students who encounter these professors every semester! We students know this fact already, since our classwork, rather than relevant-to-the-topic coursework it should be, now consists mostly of conducting research for any given professor’s latest scholarly article. It is absolutely maddening to students to be used as research slaves! We want to LEARN fleshed-out information relevant to the topic of the course we signed on for – not slave away at irrelevant stats that serve only the professor and do nothing to deepen our understanding of factors behind/around those stats. God bless you for your honesty in this matter!

      That said, I feel for professors now forced into ‘teaching’ in this manner. It’s a sad, sorry state of education when a professor’s hands are tied in this way. I actually have professors who do this but, like you, feel such a responsibility to their student’s true education, that they hold call-me-come-by-anytime office hours which they use for actual teaching to balance out this travesty of values in our education system.

      We all suffer in this warped education paradigm – educators, students, and society alike. Thank you very much for this honest, thoughtful and informative comment.

      • There are so many dirty secrets in the college education game. The reality is that SOME research, like that taking place in medicine and other sciences, has advanced our nation and our world in wonderful ways. However, the overwhelming majority of research, including nearly ALL of that being spewed out by business school faculty, does little to advance our understanding of anything relevant. The few times that one does see a business research article with seemingly meaningful findings, the study a) is usually funded by an outside source and b) generates results that help said outside source.

        For instance, many people believe that the firms hired to audit public companies don’t do a very good job at getting their clients to disclose information in a truthful manner. Public accounting firms don’t like this, so they sponsor research to “study the problem”. The only research you will see in light of day is research that concludes that there either is no problem or that the problem is being solved thanks to all of the geniuses running Big 4 accounting firms. Is there other research “out there”? You have no idea how much! BUT, no editor will be publish it because editors tend to be endowed faculty and their endowments come from…you guessed it, the large accounting firms.

        Here is the worst part. The fact that useless research is prioritized over student learning barely makes the Top 10 of reasons why Education ROI is plummetting. Hopefully, the Mark Cubans of the world can start fixing this problem. I didn’t make a dent in it during my 15 years in academia.

        • *ROI: ‘Return on Investment’

          *An article explaining ROI:
          “Measuring an Education ROI: No Dollar Left Behind”:

          *Mark Cuban:

          *Cuban’s very astute article about how college education debt is the ticking time bomb at the epicenter off our economic illness:

          Thank you for this revealing peek at the inside of Business School. You know what’s funny? In Journalism (one of my majors), profs. never fail to alert us to the fact that we will inevitably be reporting on businesses in some form during our careers, and that those stories will be heavily censored according to which business owns the news organization we work for. Moreover, it is always alluded to (profs. never quite come out with it – except for a maverick type here & there) that the Business majors are learning how to duck, dodge & spin as we learn to rid ourselves of any pipe dreams that we future journalists will have the freedom to expose them. This bizarre & deadly-to-democracy dichotomy strikes me as the ultimate foot up the a$$ of American students, nee, American society as a whole. I mean, WHY are Ethics courses a degree requirement?? What exactly is the point? I can name 5 students at 3 different universities who are crowing about how lucky they are that their Ethics profs. have a price during mid-terms & finals!

          I feel lucky to have had an amazing (Journalism) Ethics prof. who let us get away with not-a-damn-thing, called us out on every little breach, and actually taught rather than divide his irrelevant scholarly research workload among us. In a society in which business buys government & media plays Speak-No-Evil about the corporate sector, a truly moral Ethics prof. is all students have to shape their future dealings within a democracy barely even bothering to pretend anymore that tour government is anything other than 99% for corporations, and 1% for the people.

          You may not have “made a dent,” but at least you tried. That effort, believe me, will be remembered by your students. I always have & forever will remember teachers who tried to do right by us.

  4. Getting a degree was so important to me that I went back in my fifties to finish – but it had nothing to do with money. You don’t get rich with a degree in Creative Writing. I also didn’t incur any debt. I paid in cash. My husband and I altered our lifestyles to attain our goals (he finished his BBA and got an MBA while I finished my BA). We both drive older cars, we don’t have i-phones, we don’t smoke anything, we don’t have any recreational vehicles, we don’t have a gaming system, our sneakers don’t have name brands on them…the list goes on.

    I’m proud to have my degree, but during those thirty years I spent in corporate America, without a degree, I’d take whatever job I could at the entry level and worked my ass off. Along the way I took all kinds of computer classes and attended other kinds of training AT MY OWN EXPENSE, ON MY OWN TIME to learn what I needed to learn and prove to my employers that I was devoted to my job. I showed up ON TIME every day. I NEVER called in sick. I just got up and went to work. I worked until I finished the job, even if I’d clocked out hours ago. I ate my lunches as I worked and didn’t know what a break was.

    Here’s the funny part. I’m not complaining. I’m proud of my efforts. I didn’t expect anything of anyone. I just did my job. Was there a glass ceiling because I was a woman without a college degree? Probably, but I didn’t spend my time beating my head against it. I just did what I could with what I had and found satisfaction in what I was able to accomplish.

    There’s nothing wrong with a college degree, but it’s not a magic carpet. There are a lot of ways to get out there to make a buck and feed a family if you haven’t been indoctrinated with the lie that you have to have a college degree. What we really need to do is develop a respect for everyone – whether they pick up garbage or wear a suit to an office. And if you have a job, any job, be proud of it and put your heart into it.

    I know there are a lot of people out there that work just as hard as I did and even harder. But there are a lot who don’t. We’ve all experienced waiters, cashiers, clerks, etc that should have been fired on the spot and their jobs given to someone who would appreciate it more. Perhaps if we offered more respect to these people in “menial” jobs, the jobs wouldn’t seem so “menial” and a college degree wouldn’t seem so necessary.

    • Thank you for sharing this personal experience, Jane.

      “Perhaps if we offered more respect to these people in “menial” jobs, the jobs wouldn’t seem so “menial…”

      This is a profound observation that I would pay money to help instill in our culture!

      • One of the most amazing things I experienced while visiting Europe was the professionalism of those waiting tables. It was a career. They were proud of what they were doing. I managed to strike up a conversation with many of them and found that a goodly number of them had filled a position which had been held by members of their family for several generations. It was none of this “Hi I’m Sandy, please order and appetizer and a dessert so I can get a bigger tip” stuff. And the local patrons treated them like important members of the community, which I think they were. A competent professional serving a great meal can make your day.

        I also regret the demise of the receptionist. The gum-smacking, fingernail filing airheads of TV & movies are a sad portrayal of the contribution a real professional can offer sitting at the front door of a business and handling phone traffic. Voice Mail and a service bell don’t begin to fill the gap.

        And these two positions just scratch the surface of the jobs in this category – under-appreciated, under-respected and poorly staffed when they do exist.

    • I totally agree, which is why I’m doing it. Also, so many organizations are still pretty old school with a college degree requirement in order to get grants for research projects and the like. No way around that!

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