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The value of a college education

Jane Galt talks about what a college education is really worth these days - her take on it is that it's more of a signaling mechanism of good work habits and the ability to work well with others than an actual indication of marketable skill. This follows a post by her fellow blogger Winterspeak on the same topic.

One thing that bothers me about the studies they cite on these things (expected income and all that) is that we never see a breakdown of categories. The anecdotal evidence is fairly strong that many college students are wasting their money going into liberal arts majors -which have pretty much zero market value- instead of just working their way up through the ranks to that assistant manager's job at Hardee's/Checker's/Popeye's. I suspect that what goes on with these studies is that the income of accounting, engineering, pre-law and pre-med majors really pulls up the mean income, so that even the worthless Engllish and Fine Arts degrees appear to be worth spending all the zoobs on. Long time readers of my LJ know that I think the current practice of trying to get all high school kids on the college prep track is a very bad idea, and studies like this one just make me sad, because they get misused to convince a lot of people to waste time and money on college when they could be off making money and being happier unclogging toilets, fixing tanks or trucks, or killing people/breaking things for their Uncle Sam. It has always struck me as significant that the two wealthiest men I know are both college dropouts...as is the wealthiest man in America.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 1st, 2005 11:29 pm (UTC)

I have always taken a basic degree to be less about a particular topic (computer science, chem, physics, phys ed, english lit, history, etc) and more about the ability to get a degree.

This is because today, the level of education you get as an undergrad is directly applicable to a job in maybe 50% of the cases (I am being generous on that I think) - advanced degrees are much more about the expertise I think. A BS in chemestry shows an INTEREST in chem, and and proof of the ability to think and study and apply onceself (and to put up with huge quantities of BULLSHIT and RULES and PAPERWORK) - yes, a BS chem degree might get you a chem job, but it is just as likely to get you a computer programming job at a chem company, or a sort-of-related job. A Masters of a PHD is much more likely to indicate that you are some sort of EXPERT in a particular field, and that you are a tool that can be specifically applied to problems

In interviewing a LOT of people in my life, I look for the right person to do what needs to be done - that person might have a degree, might not - and a tie does NOT always go to the guy with the degree.

I am not AGAINT degrees, sometimes they can be good, and even when they are not most people can overcome any disadvantage they represent after some good real-world experience ;-)

I agree with Kevin ccompletely on his position that there are some people who should be able to work and might even be better off, without a degree - in fact, there are so many people out there who don't want to do this or that job, you have to wonder if some of that is because they have been told since birth (and in some cases befor birth) that they are destined for "better" and "more" and now they are like "cleaning things? that is not for me. momma told me so" rather than "ok, I can clean and polish those floors and make sure that my bosses sees the best job he has seen in a while - I have some pride in how I do my job"

in fact, maybe that is the issue - have we moved from pride MAINLY in "how we do" to pride in "what we do" ?


Dec. 2nd, 2005 02:12 am (UTC)
Re: college
in fact, maybe that is the issue - have we moved from pride MAINLY in "how we do" to pride in "what we do" ?

Ironically, one of the features of the red states seems to be a pride in achievement as opposed to status. The irony is more apparent than real, though; as James Webb observes in his book Born Fighting, the Scots-Irish founders of red state society always had that attitude and were never all that impressed by aristocrats in the Old or New World. However, iggerant people tend to lump the Scots-Irish "hillbillies" together with the Old South, which was very much an honor-based, status-oriented culture, which is why most of those people are dead...kind of like gangbangers or Spanish hidalgos, who are and were overly concerned with status, honor and how one was perceived by others.

Interestingly, one of the teachings of Catholicism which tends to get lost in all the noise over "unpopular" theological positions is that work dignifies the worker, no matter what that work is.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )