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Old 08-07-2006, 11:59 PM   #31
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Originally posted by anitram

The bachelor's degree is completely overvalued. It's worth almost nothing anymore in the workplace.
I've seen articles indicating undergraduate recruiting has been up this year, with many degrees offering over $50k in starting salary.

http://money.cnn.com/2006/02/13/pf/c...ries/index.htm
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Old 08-08-2006, 12:02 AM   #32
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Well but all the $50K+ salaries are for engineers. That's no surprise, it's essentially a professional degree. The liberal arts grads, according to that article are at $30K/year.

I did a highly technical science degree and I had no trouble at all finding very good employment for a couple of years before I went back to school. But there are very few truly valuable undergraduate degrees and unfortunately most of them are in the sciences.
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Old 08-08-2006, 12:10 AM   #33
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
Well but all the $50K+ salaries are for engineers. That's no surprise, it's essentially a professional degree. The liberal arts grads, according to that article are at $30K/year.

I did a highly technical science degree and I had no trouble at all finding very good employment for a couple of years before I went back to school. But there are very few truly valuable undergraduate degrees and unfortunately most of them are in the sciences.
Business degrees are looking better too.
I have an IT-related masters degree, but most of my work colleauges have only bachelor's degrees. I'm not not sure how much that matters- it's really the amount of experience and ability that counts in my field. In fact, they fired a PhD guy last year because he was clueless. Of course, it varies by field.
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Old 08-08-2006, 12:32 AM   #34
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Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic
I'm with anitram. I tried so hard in HS to pull all As and then went to one of the best "liberal arts" private schools in it's class and what do I have? $100,000 in debt and no job because the economy in this part of the country is so bad you can't even find work bagging groceries third shift...I feel like the whole experience has only made me more bitter, because I spent four years with these profs that kept promising this education was special, and now I realize these profs grew up in bubbles and their PARENTS paid for their education, rent, and living expenses, so yeah they can sit there and spout off on how lovely it is to have this liberal arts degree because it was so EASY for them.
The economic argument for a narrow career focus, I can understand; I'm still paying off my grad school bills myself, and my (one) parent certainly didn't pay for either my college or grad education, because she couldn't afford to--by the time I was in grad school, I was sending what was left of my stipend and salary from work after expenses home to help her and my younger sibs out, not the other way around. Obviously, I can't speak for all professors, but I think you're perhaps being a bit too quick to assume what kinds of experiences their advice to study broadly comes from. And I doubt very much that you were ever the sort of poorly rounded student I'm describing--you would really have to see examples of the kind of work I'm talking about, and for ethical reasons I can't post any.

I don't find the economic explanation for poor preparedness (and the resistance to improving on it) fully adequate, as in my experience the worst examplars of this type are in fact students from precisely the sort of privileged background you're attributing to your professors. While I certainly also have many students who arrive underprepared for largely economic reasons--and I was one myself; trust me, my composition skills circa freshman year were atrocious--I generally find these students much more willing to admit their underpreparedness, and to follow their advisors' advice as to how best to remedy it (which isn't limited to studying broadly; I was just singling that out because it resonated with me when enggirl highlighted it). Now admittedly, I do work in a profession where intellectual well-roundedness is more critical than it would be in many fields, and my non-academic-career advising is limited to students who wish to work in politics--which is itself non-representative in many ways. So please forgive me if I came across as shaking my finger at anyone who feels pressured into a narrowly career-oriented course of study for purely economic reasons--it wasn't my intention to do that. I've expressed before how much I loathe how insanely expensive higher education has become--but as a professor, I can't help but find it ironic how this has paradoxically "cheapened" its value in a human development sense...and again, no more so than for those who are actually most able to afford it, in my experience. The more driven and unquestioned the race-to-(stay-at?)-the-top mentality, the more gets crushed in its path.

Of course the generally cruddy state of the economy doesn't help, as it affects the calculations of what awaits you at the other end...but that's really a whole other topic. And here again, it's easier to "rest easy" about the implications of that for one's course of study if you can count on continued financial assistance from your parents. But this still doesn't make the end justify the means--it's just that it further encourages the narrowing of both. I don't envy my students their declining opportunities, but I'm just not seeing the evidence that a "financial umbilical" enhances what they get out of their education, and I have my doubts as to whether it will ultimately enhance their careers either.
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Old 08-08-2006, 12:47 AM   #35
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No hard feelings, yolland. I guess I was pointing out the double standard I feel exists. Of course a well-rounded, liberal education is theoretically the "best", but in the "real world" it doesn't really get you anywhere, at least not with just a BA/BS.

It's not just now I feel this. Starting college I felt the same way. Like I said, I worked my ass off to get good grades and I worked my ass off in gymnastics and I just plain worked anytime I wasn't doing either of the above. But going into college, this was worthless because the kids who never had to work a day during high school and, thanks to that umbilical, had PLENTY of time to be in all sorts of clubs and extracurrics got all the scholarships and grants because let's face it, even a 3.99 from a top-in-the-state private high school and two-time MVP is barely worth shit anymore. You've got to be valdictorian with a 4.5 and 2987549825 man hours of volunteer service to even be elligible for worthwhile financial aid.

So, I spent all that time, money, and effort into being a top student, being as good of a gymnast as I could've been, trying to find out what "major" was best for me and at the end of the day I still feel stupid and worthless because I have no job, nowhere to live, and no way to pay off my debt because my daddy couldn't finance my education and my uncles can't get me break-through jobs.

I still agree with anitram. The liberal ed degree is not worth it unless you've done engineering, nursing, or teaching. If you have the luxury of living off a trust fund that can send you on several semesters abroad and allow you to work unpaid internships rather than 30-40 hours a week during school doing menial labor to make rent, then maybe it is worth it. Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up and feel better but right now I'm in the worst mood ever and if I knew where my diploma was I'd probably go pee on it.
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Old 08-08-2006, 01:54 AM   #36
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OK, that last line is going into the "savage humor" sub-file of my Great FYM Quotes stash right now. And I'll admit I have no idea nor concern where my undergrad diploma is, either.

Well perhaps then, I should ask you--what advice do you wish your professors had given you about how and what to study, and how do you think that would have helped you out today? If you'd opted for a less expensive state school, do you think your answer would be any different? Because obviously, I have my own biased stakes in the matter here. My job prospects now are far better than they were when I graduated in '94 with a "worthless" BA (though sometimes I do contemplate the difficulties of supporting a family on my lone $35K salary and think, "Why the fuck didn't I just go to law school instead?")...but, it would make me feel worthless professionally if all my students took the attitude, "Screw your starry-eyed liberal education nonsense; I just want a surefire path to a job." Because I can teach them international human rights theory, but I can't teach them how to get a job with the UN or whatever NGO, you know? And even the ones who want to be academics, I can only offer pointers to, because the fact is that nowadays even an entry-level tenure-track position at Mediocre State U. typically attracts hundreds of highly qualified applicants, at least in mine and other humanities fields. (And if that's the path they're choosing, then yes they'd damn well better study widely, because the greater the number of subtopics and interdisciplinaries they're able to teach, the better their CV will look.)

I don't want my students to feel robbed or cheated by their education, and I know from personal experience how galling it is to be tiredly heading out to catch the bus to work while meanwhile your better-funded roommates are heading out to reward themselves with beer and a movie for another day's or week's coursework well done. But I can't just "advise" my students, "Let's face it--you're screwed. I suggest you forget all this follow-your-interests nonsense and switch gears to a tech degree." So what do I say instead?
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Old 08-08-2006, 02:46 AM   #37
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I saw an excellent programme on telly just recently which had the baby boomers and the 20 somethings fighting it out. It was brilliant. The baby boomers reckon the 20s are all for instant gratification, and the 20s reckon the baby boomers are hogging the good jobs, good housing, good everything. Each side had some good points I thought.
The baby boomers claim:
* Young people these days are not as willing to work for something in the way they did in that the younger generation graduate and go looking for higher paying & higher privilege jobs. They are not willing to start at the bottom and stay at a company for 30 years and get promoted up the ladder. They want to skip half of it and start in the middle. They chop and change jobs and expect too highly too quickly.
*They graduate bitter because they are in debt equivilent to an average mortgage deposit.

The 20 somethings claim:
* Baby boomers lived in an era where you could leave school, waltz into a respectable job and easily stay there. The pressure of surviving in this social and economic climate was vastly different, and now when you have to work so much harder even at the start there seems to be little payout.
* Competition was different and in some ways none existent in that you didn't compete with 20 other shiney new graduates who slogged hard to get to the apparent reward of the good job while back then it was walking into the job and then working your arse off to make it. It seems it's stacked against the degree clad grads right from the start and never lets up.

So who's right? I reckon there's more than a grain of truth in both. Times have changed tremendously, but has opportunity and availability for the reward for hard work changed with it?
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Old 08-08-2006, 01:49 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
OK, that last line is going into the "savage humor" sub-file of my Great FYM Quotes stash right now. And I'll admit I have no idea nor concern where my undergrad diploma is, either.

Well perhaps then, I should ask you--what advice do you wish your professors had given you about how and what to study, and how do you think that would have helped you out today? If you'd opted for a less expensive state school, do you think your answer would be any different?

But I can't just "advise" my students, "Let's face it--you're screwed. I suggest you forget all this follow-your-interests nonsense and switch gears to a tech degree." So what do I say instead?
Ok, yolland, I feel much better now so I'll try to address this.

My feelings of bitterness and being robbed stem from the fact that every summer I contemplated switching to a less expensive, state school and every summer the academic advisors insisted that recruiters DO look for students with liberal arts degrees and they DO give priority to people who went to harder/better schools. Well, that's just a boldface lie! I've applied for about 20 different jobs in the past two months and not one single person has inquired as to whether or not I have a "liberal arts" degree or what types of classes I took and why they are supposedly so much better because I sat around a table with a prof and 15 other students rather than the kids who took a philosophy class taught by a post-grad student in an ampitheater of 300 students.....but really, nobody cares.

I seriously contemplated switching schools starting the spring semester of 2005. I stuck it out that long because I was not willing to give up the opportunity of our study program in Tanzania, and I will NEVER regret that (and if I had the cash, I'd take the SAME course again this coming January). I figured, after accomplishing that, what's the point of paying five times what I'd pay to go to Community College or Grand Valley State? But everyone was like "oooh, no! That would be sooooo bad! This school is SO good and SO worth it! People in this community know it's the best and they will give you priority!" I honestly had one prof say that a GPA from my school was equivallent to the same GPA from any Ivy League school. So now I'm applying for jobs, within this community that knows about my school, mind you, and no one really gives a flying fuck about your actual education. All they see is "B.A, Business Communications Group....bla bla bla"

I'm not saying people are screwed if they don't have a technical or specialized degree, I'm just saying that in my experience, it's just hard to get a job around here regardless of how good your school was and whether you had a liberal arts curriculum. I did enjoy the variety; I changed majors five times (Biology > Computer Science > Digital Communications > Business > Business Communications) and I am happy with the program I eventually ended up in, but I really wish the faculty and staff hadn't pushed me into being so loyal to this school as if it were the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'm angry with some of them because like I said, of course it's easy to advocate for the 26K/yr private college when you're a tenured prof whose kids all get an 80% tuition break. I guess I expected more honesty and practicality and what I got was idealistic academic fluff.

Edit: sorry that had nothing to do with a digital umbilical, but hopefully I've answered your question.
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Old 08-08-2006, 03:27 PM   #39
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Thanks LivLuv, I really do appreciate the perspective. And you are right, it does sound like you were given some misleading advice, particularly about what the real-world value of a small private college degree compared to a public-school degree would be. (And when I say "real-world" I pretty much mean employment, period--it would be misleading advice to give to a prospective humanities scholar, as well.) I don't know much about business degrees, so I can't really comment on the value of a business communications concentration (is that what makes it an "arts" degree?) compared to other tracks--other than to say I know there are heated academic debates within fields with a strong technical component (like business) as to the career-prep advisability of promoting more human-relations-oriented concentrations. When I said "broad-based" I wasn't thinking so much in those terms, but rather in terms of a university-wide core curriculum that would ensure everyone gets at least a little exposure to "hard" science, a little exposure to social science, a little exposure to literature or philosophy, etc. I'm not convinced that more discipline-specific, narrow-application-focused versions of these courses yield the same critical-thinking or written/oral communications skills benefits, because I'm just not seeing it in my students. But I'll grant that so far as entry-level resumes go, the distinction is of little interest to most employers--these are benefits that emerge as career performance unfolds; you can't prove them on paper.

I'm sure it is the case that small private colleges try very hard to hold onto their students--state schools feel some of that pressure too, but not nearly as much. And faculty are indeed *often* paid better and get better benefits (80% percent tution break?!?...wow) at small private colleges, which I suppose might make it harder to sympathize with your students' financial issues; personally, I feel anything but secure and duly compensated, so I don't know. Anyhow, I'm sorry that you were misled, and I hope the choices you made turn up some tangible benefits and job satisfaction for you in the future. You will probably have to leave SW Lower Michigan for that though...which I know you're actively considering.
Quote:
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So who's right? I reckon there's more than a grain of truth in both. Times have changed tremendously, but has opportunity and availability for the reward for hard work changed with it?
Well "baby boomer" is generally understood to mean someone born 1946-64, so I'm not sure where this leaves us 30-somethings. The idea of working for the same company for 30 years and "climbing the ladder" that way strikes me as largely moot--far fewer companies nowadays do the majority of their promoting from within; I certainly saw this when I worked in retail management in grad school. And low-paying service jobs do comprise a significantly higher proportion of the jobs out there now than they did 30 years ago, while good-paying "unskilled" manufacturing jobs have significantly declined--so it does stand to reason that competition would be fiercer for what's left over. On the other hand, I am inclined to agree that many (not by any means all) younger people, up to and including 30-somethings, often have inflated ideas of how much income they really need (or deserve?), and tend to expect to have two cars, two computers, a home entertainment system, a "nice" house, etc., at a much earlier stage in life than their parents expected those things at. I guess the strong midcentury growth of the middle class, the tendency to wait until later in life to have kids, and the tendency to have smaller families all feed into these perceptions.

But also a lot of recently graduated 20-somethings are simply in very bad straits right now, with mountains of debt to pay off and poor prospects for the kind of job that could enable them to do that on a reasonable timeframe. And when you're desperate, pretty much anything looks way better than what you have--kind of like the way that, even for someone who doesn't have debts, the difference between $15,000 a year versus $20,000 feels enormous in ways that later increases just don't.
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