“Settle” for low-paying jobs?
You can’t be serious, Dude.
There was a time in the US when you could get a great job if you earned a bachelor’s degree in “anything.”
The catch is that JFK was president at the time.
Most parents (and their students) are oblivious to how college really works today.
In some ways it is hard to blame them. Colleges and universities have a powerful public relations team, pushing the message 24/7 that “college is for all.”
The team is made up of educators, guidance counselors, financial aid officers, politicians, pop culture, special interest groups–like the College Board, and college administrators—who are the biggest beneficiaries. Their influence is everywhere.
Many, many years ago, my “anything” degree, Philosophy, was from a state university in fly-over country, better known for its football team than scholarship. (As I vaguely remember, my GPA wasn’t that robust either.)
However, I had a successful career in IT, and retired as an executive from a Fortune 100 company.
The bad news is that college doesn’t work that way anymore.
Years ago very few high school grads (7%) went on to college. (They tended to be the “smart kids.”) If you graduated with a degree in anything, i.e. English, Gender Studies, Comp-lit, Philosophy, etc., you could get a good job.
Over the years a greater and greater portion of high school grads answered the call,
“You have to go to college!”
We are now at 45%. Probably half these teenagers don’t have the “academic firepower” to handle a serious, marketable major.
Back in the day having a college degree was a big deal. By the year 2000, the quality of a college education had deteriorated significantly, and college grads were a-dime-a-dozen. There were too many graduates, but not enough suitable jobs.
Then we got hit with the Great Recession of 2008.
In the US almost anyone can find a college or university that will accept them and their parent’s money.
You might even manage to graduate with some degree or another.
The problem comes when you try to find a real job. Employers aren’t stupid. They are going to sort through that gigantic stack of resumes and find the smart kids.
Today college is a competition for a relatively few (1,100,000) well-paying, professional jobs. Every year colleges and universities churn out 1,900,000 graduates with shiny new bachelor’s degrees. We don’t know the exact number, but a heck of a lot of minimum wage jobs are held by young people with college degrees in stuff like English, Gender Studies, Comp-lit, Philosophy, etc.
Given the high cost of college, that just doesn’t make any economic sense.
The “Anything” Degree
Two decades ago in his book, Another Way To Win, Dr. Kenneth Gray coined the term “one way to win.” He described the OWTW strategy widely followed in the US as:
- “Graduate from high school.
- Matriculate at a four-year college.
- Graduate with a degree in anything.
- Become employed in a professional job.”
Dr. Gray’s message to the then “academic middle” was that this was unlikely to be a successful strategy in the future. The succeeding twenty years have proven him inordinately prescient and not just for the “academic middle.”
The simple explanation is that it comes down to “supply” (graduates) and “demand” (suitable jobs).
Fifty years ago only seven percent of high school graduates went on to college. In post-WW II America our economy was booming while the economies of many European and Asian countries were–only slowly–being rebuilt. The “Law of Supply and Demand” strongly favored the freshly minted college graduate.
Parents and students noticed how college really paid off, and the “great gold rush” to the halls of higher learning began.
Today my local, Midwest run-of-the-mill high school sends eighty percent of their graduates on to college.
Most of them are going to be very disappointed.