How much is a diploma worth?

The science major asks “Why does it work?” The engineering major asks “How does it work?” The liberal arts major asks “Do you want fries with that?”

–The internet

Glenn Reynolds links to a Boston Herald article post that posits:

The average private school now costs more than $40,000 a year, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting that most of the jobs created in the next decade won’t require “much more than on-the-job training.” Princeton economist Alan Blinder tells the Los Angeles Times he “won’t be surprised years from now if a carpenter in the U.S. earns more than a college-educated computer operator.”

Robert Heinlein, in is novel Friday, had the citizens of the “Republic of California” vote to give every citizen a college degree because “everyone with a degree earns more.” Of course that doesn’t happen in the novel and we are seeing it play out IRL.

A Bachelor’s degree is a start nowadays unless you are an engineer, CS major (programmer) or get a commission in the military. Want to get into the medical field? Unless you want to be a counselor at a mental health clinic (earning what a Taco hut manager does) you need a PhD. But wait! unless you want to be an MD, the insurance companies don’t want to pay you. They farm mental health to counselors or social workers with Masters or case workers with a BA or BS. most PsyD’s end up in research. Most Psychiatrists end up as a consult on a team in a mental health clinic or, worse yet, just write ‘scripts for teh crazy meds.

A college degree is not the meal ticket or magic scroll it once was (if it ever was). Most students are less mature and less willing to think about their future after the weekend kegger, let alone after graduation.

And the problem is endemic to our society. No one “operates” computers anymore. There is software on the market (and many free proggies) that can do what used to take days in a computer lab. In my college, the computer lab went from a mainframe the size of your living room to a bank (serviced by lots of contractors and dedicated staff) of networked desktops (cared for by 2-3 employees and lots of students). Technology marches on , only those who have the smarts to see it and the discipline to work hard will survive. Given the state of technology today, the heavy lifting has been done for you. You don’t have to program to use a computer. You don’t have to know music to compose a video. Most people can survive without a degree.

Sure you could get a BA in English lit, womyn’s studies or popular culture. Your parents could take that money and set it on fire. Your life would be the same either way.

So why is there a push for college? The universities and the left are stuck in the 60’s. The left can’t survive without college age kids making noise and student loans pay for the lush salaries of many professors.

The future is in online courses, vocational school and a more specialized degrees. Maybe the “fluff section” will make it. Or maybe the “Buffy Studies” and “Twilight as modern literature” will become a footnote in the history of higher education***. In the chapter that explains why many colleges and universities folded.

***: no I did not make those courses up.


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