American colleges: Education worth the price?
Is the US raising a generation of janitors with PhDs?
Modern-day post-college survival is no joke.
“I have $76,000 dollars in college debt,” said unemployed college graduate Larry Hales, who has been unsuccessfully looking for work for over a year and a half.
Haunted by tuition debt, Hales is one of America's college degree owners facing a job market that has long ago thrown out the welcome mat.
“Young people have twice the unemployment rate of most Americans,” said filmmaker Danny Schechter.
College grads are stepping out into the world at the worst time to try to land a job – with around 2 million of them unemployed.
The dire market is forcing many to forget their skills and agree to any nearly any job offer.
Over 300,000 waiters and over 18,000 parking lot attendants working in the US are said to have a college degree.
Moreover, the US Bureau of Labor statistics suggests as many as 17 million Americans with college degrees are forced to work jobs requiring fewer skills than a Bachelors degree provides, raising an entire generation of overqualified employees.
“As we have an ever-higher percentage of kids in college, an ever higher percentage of kids graduating at the same time as ever – more companies are hiring fewer people,” said Marty Nemko, an education consultant and career counselor from California.
Inspired by the traditional American promise of a dream life after college, what students aren’t told however, is that the cash and time they are investing is going to come back to bite them.
At 22, Charles holds a Bachelors degree in film and a dream of directing and is already about to settle for less.
“You do wonder sometimes, was college a waste of time, with the economy that we are in,” said the unemployed graduate.
The young man is looking for any available job to pay off his student loan debt, but has not been able to find any paid work.
“I spent probably like $65,000 to seventy thousand on college. And that’s all tuition bills that are going to start coming in soon”, Charles added.
Apart from waving a dream career goodbye, another big trend is debt driving more than career choice, but rather – destinies.
“You want to help poor children as a physician? Good luck with your four hundred thousand dollars in debt! People’s college and university debt is beginning to pick their careers, who they marry, where they live,” said Economist Max Fraad Wolff.
With the economies of other countries beginning to excel again, job hunting abroad is becoming more attractive than in the US.
“A lot of my friends are considering jobs outside of the U.S. – in India. They are considering Argentina, and China,” explained college graduate Tanushree Isaacman.
With $50,000 of college debt Tanushree believes debt walks hand in hand with American culture, it’s simply the cost of living the American life.
“It is education debt, then it’s debt on taking out loans on houses and cars and such, and you live from one debt to another,” the 26-year-old explained.
The US strives to lead the world in the number of college graduates. At the same time, not enough jobs are being created to meet demand as student debt piles up, forcing millions of Americans to settle for less than what they dreamed of.
Lauren Kelley, an associate editor at AlterNet explained Americans simply spend far too much on higher education, forcing many into debt they may never be able to pay off.
That being said, there is no need to discourage people from a college education. People need options.
“We have not invested in any sort of vocational training,” she said. “There should be the option of vocational school.”
In the US there is a tendency to see vocational programs as lesser or inferior. When, in fact, such programs are necessary for a number of sectors of the American economy.
Traditional college and a liberal arts education is not right for everyone, explained Kelley. There needs to be option so people can choose what best fits them.
As student pay for an education they may not want nor need, they enter a world in debt and unable to find work. If given greater options are presented there should be a major shift in the level of debt.
“If they can get a head start now on a career that will actually be beneficial to them, all the better, but it’s just not something we prepare our student for,” explained Kelley.
All students have to make the right choice for them, and need to be given the opportunity to pick from options, she argued.