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Last night’s debate left me a bit queasy. It wasn’t Candy Crowley’s implicit cheerleading of the president or her incorrect “correction” of Mitt Romney on the Benghazi question. Nor was it the fact that both candidates were interrupting each other so often that few coherent messages made their way to viewers. It was the first question that came out of the starting gate that had me reaching for the Pepto.
It was from a young man named Jeremy who asked:
“Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?”
No doubt that his parents most certainly need assurance, especially since so many parents find themselves supporting their post-college adult children (see my recent study, “How are Baby Boomers Spending their Money?”
answered included the
“We have to make sure that we make it easier for kids to afford college.” He then elaborated about the importance of keeping the Pell grant program going (thereby increasing the supply of potentially unemployed college graduates) before he got around to the jobs part, “When you come out in 2014, I presume I’m going to be president. I’m going to make sure you get a job…”
President Obama then provided his answer, beginning with:
“Number one, I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. Now when Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go bankrupt. I said we”re going to bet on American workers and the American auto industry and it”s come surging back.”
I am fairly certain that Jeremy was not setting his sights on an assembly line job in Detroit, atlhough there are many skilled and hard-working people who do.
While the candidates pontificated on jobs, or the lack thereof, and what to do about it, they both missed important points: Is a college degree always necessary? And, should the federal government continue pushing college education as the primary path towards a job?
Every university wants to promote their area of academics, regardless of the demand in the job market. For instance, the more law schools can convince students that jobs abound for them, particularly jobs for graduates of their institution, the more money and talent they will get. Or to young people fresh out of high school who want to venture off and “find themselves,” the appeal and variety of a degree in Interdiscplinary Studies may be just what they”re looking for. But when the time comes to move out of Mom and Dad”s basement and earn a little money, many are disillusioned. Why? Because many students rely on passions and feelings when it comes to career pursuits and pay little attention to what the job market demands. As a result, they are saddled with years of college debt and may get very little return on their investment.
This is not to say that students should pursue a career path in something they detest. And this is not an indictment that degrees are worthless. Oftentimes, having a degree on one”s resume signals to an employer that a person is willing to work hard and put in some effort, even if the degree does not necessarily match an employer”s skill requirement. But young people should do their homework. There are many jobs that do not require a college degree at all, or require only vocational training for two years and some on-the-job experience, at a much cheaper price. In fact, there have been several recent articles from high-profile publications listing jobs that do not require a college degree in a variety of fields.
And many of these jobs pay well. When a self-employed master electrician came to my house, removed some tract lighting and installed a ceiling fan to the tune of $400 for two hours worth or work, it made me realize he probaby isn”t doing too bad.