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Value of a degree

2013-05-01 16:30:47.790748+00 by Dan Lyke 7 comments

Wall Street Journal: The Diploma's Vanishing Value:

Think a community-college degree is worth less than a credential from a four-year college? In Tennessee, the average first-year salaries of graduates with a two-year degree are $1,000 higher than those with a bachelor's degree. Technical degree holders from the state's community colleges often earn more their first year out than those who studied the same field at a four-year university.

(Via, Via)

To be fair, there are all sorts of reasons this data could be skewed, but I think the higher ed bubble is real.

[ related topics: Work, productivity and environment Chattanooga Community Education Economics ]

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#Comment Re: made: 2013-05-01 22:17:19.848649+00 by: Dan Lyke

On "all sorts of reasons this data could be skewed", note particularly weasel words like "graduates with technical degrees from community colleges" vs "graduates in several fields who get bachelor’s degrees". This could very well be comparing reasonably remunerative community college degrees with comp lit BAs.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-05-02 00:26:00.258625+00 by: markd

WSJ is a Murdoch vehicle now. Not surprised it's starting to attack higher education.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-05-02 10:23:20.780276+00 by: topspin

I think we, as the older generation, do a disservice to the younger generation when we encourage them to live their lives by "the averages" or "the statistical likelihood" of financial success and not to follow their gut/heart.

It's easy to see a BA/BS isn't a ticket to success for everyone. Guess what? It never was! Many, many, MANY people from my generation matriculated into misery.... both financial and personal.

We can serve the young, fresh faced high school grads by telling them the cold, hard truth: Life isn't fair. It's not even close. That slacker/stoner might be your boss in 10 years. Do yourself and society a favor: fall in love with something and enjoy what you earn while loving and respecting yourself and your loved ones.

The young aren't likely to listen to the WSJ anyway (a show of hands from those who recall making a career decision at 18yo based upon the WSJ?) and we, as parents/mentors, have a duty to foster their growth as productive happy people, not just cash cows.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-05-02 13:14:28.980235+00 by: Medley

Starting salary upon matriculation is its own skewed metric.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-05-02 16:22:00.502551+00 by: Dan Lyke

Medley, I'm having trouble finding hard data, but I know that there's a huge emphasis in the upper tiers on starting salary as a predictor of future earnings, and I remember seeing various suggestions that economic situations impacting starting salaries have a large effect on future earnings: if you get hired in a recession, your salary over your lifetime will be lower than those hired in peak years.

Topspin, I believe we're in violent agreement in the big picture, we may differ on the details. I see the "college for everyone" thrust as both discounting that college is a very inefficient way to learn, and missing that many students aren't well served by being squeezed through that particular meatgrinder. Heck, if I had it to do over again now I'd seriously consider heading after a contractor's license...

#Comment Re: made: 2013-05-02 16:58:31.114896+00 by: Medley

Sure - starting salary may be a useful predictor of lifetime earnings. Doesn't mean starting salary is a good metric for evaluating a degree program (or the moral worth of a person for that matter, but that's another argument).

I also think it's not useful to use "college" as a blanket term. There are many different kinds of "colleges" and "universities" (not to mention 2-year degrees, and vocational schools, and so on). Never mind that in large universities experiences in different schools (e.g., engineering v. business v. hospitality) within those unis can vary dramatically.

To lump the options for immediately post-high school formal educational experience into one bucket, point at it, and declare: "Thou, unperfect! Such a useless con!" is just silly.

I'm also not convinced that "college for everyone" is actually such a huge thrust. In my hometown, it's definitely not. And in my current group (at a fairly elite institution) 2/3 of the admin staff do not have 4-year degrees.

In short, I continue to be unclear on what battle you're fighting.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-05-02 17:56:56.51907+00 by: Dan Lyke

My battle is to question the religious significance that we have raised the standard academic post-high school educational structure to. As a matter of public policy we waste a hell of a lot of money doling out dollars based largely on the qualification of post-graduate education, to idiots. As a matter of personal growth, we waste a hell of a lot of innovation and desire to learn in classrooms listening to lectures that transfers accumulated lore, rather than knowledge.

There are better ways to learn, better structures for accumulating and transferring knowledge, even better mechanisms for certification, and I believe that our continued focus on the entrenched systems is costing our society a lot.