Maybe You Should Re-Think That Bachelors Degree: Why a College Degree Isn't Always What It's Cracked Up To Be
College/Uni is a milestone in many people's life. Not only is it their first time they experience true independence, but their success at a university can set them on a path for the rest of their lives.
According to the National Center of Education Statistics, this fall over 20 million students will attend a US college/university. This number has increased over 5 million since 2000. It is great that the overall population is seeking higher education and the college experience; however, only 32% of the population obtains a bachelors, with 8.7% going on to obtain a masters. This numbers may seem small, but these numbers bring up a few questions:
1. What happens to those who get a high school diploma, take college courses, but drop out before a degree is obtained? Are they considered any more educated than their peers who chose not to take college courses? Are they in a better situation to obtain employment? How are their student loans being addressed, if they have any? What is driving over half of the people who go to college, to drop out? There has been a recent argument that society pushes people to believe that college is the only way to success. Are people going to college before they truly know what they want to do? Is this a waste of time/money/scholarships/resources? There are many careers paths that do not require a college education. Look at the below chart, taken from "The Real Deal: New York Real Estate News." Working in New York City construction pays well above a lot of the $16 hour starting positions that recent graduates are taking.
Would a person be better jumping into a career path, such as one in the chart? Entering the workforce at 18. No student loans. Making substantially more than his/her peers for the first decade of work. In fact, the Huffington Post published an article saying that female 2015 grads expected to make $16.56, on average. This number was a 6.7% decrease in wages, compared to females graduating in 2000. With inflation, this would be like a 2000 grad making $11.94 an hour, compared to the $18.41 they were actually making, according to Huffington Post.
2. Close to 1/3 of the US population holds bachelors degrees. On the surface, this sounds like we should be an educated society, that has the discipline to study to get ahead financially. However, in reality, this statistic means that recent graduates are many times underemployed. They are working in jobs that they could have done without four years of studying (and debt). The interesting thing is, many employers now post many jobs with requirements of a bachelors, even if no higher skills/knowledge is needed. You can find countless bookkeeping, retail, sales positions on Indeed where educationally the applier needs to have minimum a bachelors. This not only impacts the graduate, but it impacts those who are less educated and would typically work these positions. It is a domino effect. Yet, can you blame the employer? Employers/companies want someone who is highly educated and has a track record of success, and a degree shows that, and why not? The job market is diluted with people with bachelors degrees.
3. Also, many "experienced" professionals have complained that recent grads have a sense of entitlement. I firmly believe that there are many millennials that are underemployed. There are also a lot of millennials that are unemployed, given they refuse to work at a job "that is below their educational background." Yet, is refusing to work until you find a dream job the way to go about things? If you are working at McDonald's, Starbucks, Wal-Mart etc, at least you are bringing home a paycheck, gaining some sort of experience, and potentially networking. You can always continue your job search while you are working in your not-so-ideal situation.
A call to action needs to take place. High schools need to better educate their students on ALL possible career paths, and let the students explore different possibilities. College is not for everyone, and if a student realizes it is not for him/her, then why should he/she feel the obligation to society to answer the question "where are you going to college?" at the time of high school graduation. Career paths such as military, construction, entrepreneurship etc all have possibilities. Going to college does not promise a financially solid, or fulfilling, career.