Education

Hey, Kids: College Is Worthless! Or At Least a Rip-Off If You’re Sorta Dumb

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Graduation season is upon us, meaning it’s time for everyone to have an existential crisis. Whether it’s the kids, rightfully freaking out about finding a job in this not quite all better economy, or the X-ers, realizing they’ve been out of school twice as long as they were in it, it’s all around you. Then there are the Baby Boomers, charged with giving speeches to guide the malleable youth. Follow your dreams and all that shit.

But there’s some counterintuitive advice out there, too, and not from Slate or “Wear Sunscreen.” It’s The New York Times! And they’re saying maybe skip school and just save the money. Learn a real skill, none of this sex and gender cultural theory nonsense. What’s Heidegger paying you anyway?

In his piece “Plan B: Skip College,” Jacques Steinberg, media writer and author of The Gatekeepers, about the admissions board at Wesleyan, makes the case against college — in a way, for some people.

The idea of a college degree as a picture of success, Steinberg writes, is “rote” and “knee-jerk.” The economic crisis has clarified the question of whether everyone in college really needs to be there. The answer, according to graduation statistics and the price of tuition, is clearly no. But if not college, then what?

Well, “intensive, short-term vocational and career training, through expanded high school programs and corporate apprenticeships.” Like the old days! Because, as it turns out, “of the 30 jobs projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next decade in the United States, only seven typically require a bachelor’s degree.”

Among the top 10 growing job categories, two require college degrees: accounting (a bachelor’s) and postsecondary teachers (a doctorate). But this growth is expected to be dwarfed by the need for registered nurses, home health aides, customer service representatives and store clerks. None of those jobs require a bachelor’s degree.

You mean comparative literature isn’t as lucrative as it once was? There have been some whispers about this journalism thing, too.

On the other hand, there are the questions of money and unemployment, which favor those with degrees. Plus, the intangibles of college, which probably means getting laid? No one’s saying scrap the whole system, but …

“Some of them could have bought a house for what they spent on their education,” one expert says about the 15 percent of mailmen with bachelor’s degrees. Oh.

You, reading this blog: sorry you wasted so much money. Now, back to your New York Times.