August 5, 2010

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE NOISES? Reader Peter Galamaga writes:

I’m a high school teacher and a parent and your post today re: higher ed really resonates with me.

Just two days ago my principal and I were talking about a HUGE paradigm shift we’re seeing not only in our students, but in ourselves as parents.

Just having “go to a good college” as a goal isn’t cutting it anymore. Except for the very wealthy, folks just don’t have the money and spending 100K+ for a four-year “experience” isn’t going to cut it.

A lot of students/parents are now looking at getting core classes done at the relatively inexpensive local college and then transferring to a school where one can do the remaining work towards a very specific goal.

I think the days of spending the equivalent of a mortgage on one of the many two-word degrees (the second word is usually “Studies”) are coming to a close.

That’s likely.

UPDATE: Reader Nick Gustafson writes:

Just a few thoughts about your post yesterday about the higher ed bubble. I graduated with a BA in Poli Sci about four years ago from a well-regarded, but not elite, private university in Minnesota (U. of St. Thomas). I finished up with a relatively modest load of student loans (approximately 27k at graduation). Between a few bouts of unemployment and a number of moves since college, I’ve managed to keep up with the loans, but I’ve certainly learned some lessons that I’d love to impart to my 17 or 18 year old self.

* Unless you feel some real passion, setting your sights on a professional degree is silly. I was looking at law school and am happy every day that I decided against it in the end.

* There’s absolutely nothing wrong with community colleges. By the end of my four years, I was hunting for core classes that could be fulfilled for $300 instead of $3000. A good two years of any bachelor’s program could be fulfilled at a two-year school at about half the cost of a state school and maybe 10% of a private institution.

* Reputation doesn’t matter a whole lot in the real world. Maybe this is different on the coasts, but here in the midwest no one (read: employers) really cares if you went to a local state college, a flagship state U, or a touted private school.

* College brochures lie. The salary and employment numbers they give generally don’t reflect reality. I know a few people making 60k that I graduated with, but out of my social circle I’d guess that it’s no more than five or six. Most of us are making 60-70% of that number. Again, that’s four years after graduation. Those student loans are a significant budget item for as long as 15 years.

* Look at degrees that offer multiple employment outcomes. I’ve joked since my senior year that a political science degree is good for grad school, law school and telling people that you went to college. I didn’t realize until later how true that was. We all made fun of business majors while in school. Little did we know that their degree actually meant something. I can only imagine how screwed the people that majored in Justice & Peace Studies are.

My mom uses me as a sounding board to talk her friends’ kids out of spending too much on college (Creighton U here in town would probably hate me if they knew who I was). Sorry for the long-winded email on relatively obvious facts, but the post yesterday struck a nerve with me.

Points to ponder.

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