How Much Is A Degree Worth?

Even if you think that universities should be purely a place to learn and expand your mind, it is surely obvious that we have a system which does not encourage students to learn well.

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This post originally appeared on the Irish Times Student Hub

When you graduate from college, you feel like you should be qualified for something.

After all, you spent three to five years reading, cramming and studying. All of this knowledge should be useful, otherwise what was the point of learning it?

For better or worse, going to university has always been considered necessary in order to get a good job. The corollary of this is going to university should in fact lead to a job.

It used to be the case that having an undergraduate degree would make you instantly employable. However, now that the number of people with degrees has increased this no longer seems to be the case.

You leave university and realise that while education may be a prerequisite for certain jobs, it certainly doesn’t assist you in getting them. All those years of study haven’t prepared you for the ‘real world’.

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A Defence of Millennials

This article originally appeared on Independent.ie

Hands up if you can’t stand the word ‘millennial’.

There’s a good reason to. Books describing our generation also call us “Generation Me” , “Excellent Sheep”  and the “Entitled Generation”.

The best summation of why millennials suck was a viral blog post that circulated a couple of years ago called ‘You Are Not Special’ by Wait But Why.

The post argued that the reason we are unhappy is because we all think we are special and expected to find our dream career the moment we leave college.

So basically, we’re entitled.

It is frankly ridiculous to generalise about the largest generation in history, spanning millions and millions of people born between 1982 and 2000, all over the world. Are some young people narcissistic, lazy and entitled? Absolutely. But so are people in every generation.

However I could maybe think of a few reasons that millennials in Ireland might be unhappy, apart from the fact that not everyone realises how special and amazing we are.

How about the fact that most people in our generation will never own a home?

 

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Crisis of College

The question ‘Is College Worth It?’ has really and truly been put to bed. The Pew Research Center Study this year on higher education has found that on average a bachelor’s degree in the US will earn a graduate $500,000 on top of the average industrial wage over the course of a 40 year career, taking into account student debt. This difference is roughly double what it was two decades ago.

A college graduate earns 98% more per hour than someone who never went to college. 53% of college grads are satisfied with their jobs compared to 37% of non-grads. 22% of those who never go to college end up in poverty, compared to 5.8% of those with a bachelor’s degree. These numbers don’t include those who went on to study a masters or PhD.

The question of whether or not college is worth it also misses the main issue of economic mobility. In the past it was possible to get good working class jobs which paid wages able to pull large groups up into the middle class. With low skill jobs moving to developing countries and many career paths blocked to those without a college degree there is a consensus that having a degree is the equivalent to having a high school diploma three decades ago – it’s a basic requirement to break into the middle class.

According to the White House Report on Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students, in 1970, roughly 75% of the middle class had a high school diploma or less. By 2007, this share had declined to just 39%. Without a college degree, children born in the bottom fifth of the income distribution have a 5% chance of making it to the top fifth, and a 55% of chance of making out of the bottom fifth. With a college degree, the chances of making it to the top increase to 19%, and chances of making it out of the bottom increase to 84%.

A degree has become more necessary than ever. The question we should be asking is not whether college is worth it. The question is whether or not college is really preparing graduates for the work environment.

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Degree of Choice

Is Liberal Arts going to be a thing of the past?

Let’s talk numbers.

According to Forbes, subjects studied as part of Arts degrees such as English and Philosophy are ranked exclusively under the Top Ten Least Valuable College Majors. Meanwhile, more than 90% of graduates from subjects such as medicine, engineering, veterinary and mathematical science are employed.

A 2013 report by American consulting firm McKinsey finds that 42% of arts graduates feel that college didn’t prepare them for employment, more than graduates from any other degree. 47% said that if they had the choice do their degree over again they would have chosen a different subject, again a higher percentage than any other course.

For the lucky few who do get employed they earn the least out of any other degree, a third less than those who graduated from science according to a British Labour Force Survey from 2012.

The idea that an arts degree is useless has been around for a while, but the discussion about whether they should remain part of university course catalogues has come back to the fore with the discussion of youth unemployment.

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