Is a College Degree Worth It?

Hello, college graduates. It's October already, and you've been out of school for some months now. How's the job search going? Did you land that dream job yet? If they haven't already, your school loan repayment requests will start rolling in.

Artist Leon Reid IV doesn't think much of your college degree. In this art project, aptly titled "College Degree" (via Krause Gallery), he custom printed a roll of toilet paper.

For hundreds of thousands of newly-minted grads, Reid's sentiment is spot on. The Wall Street Journal reported a few months ago that 284,000 American college graduates with bachelor's degree and 37,000 holders of advanced degrees could only find jobs paying minimum wage in 2012. While that's down from the peak in 2010, it is still 70% higher than from a decade earlier.

It's no wonder that since the start of the Great Recession, more and more people have been beating the anti-college drumbeat. Venture capitalist and finance writer James Altucher said, as quoted in New York Magazine, "When [my daughters are] 18 years old, just hand them $200,000 to go off and have a fun time for four years? Why would I want to do that?" :

To Altucher, higher education is nothing less than an institutionalized scam—college graduates hire only college graduates, creating a closed system that permits schools to charge exorbitant ­prices and forces students to take on crippling debt. “The cost of college in the past 30 years has gone up tenfold. Health care has only gone up sixfold, and inflation has only gone up threefold. Not only is it a scam, but the college presidents know it. That’s why they keep raising tuition.”

Instead, Altucher proposed 8 alternatives to college, including starting a business, writing a book and traveling the world.

On the other hand, consider the graph above by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For adults 25 years and older, the data is clear: college and advanced degrees correlate with higher earnings and lower unemployment rates. Those with a high school diploma earn, on average, only $652 a week and has over 8% unemployment rate in 2012. Those with bachelor's degrees earn almost double ($1,066 a week) with half the unemployment rate.

So, what do you think? Is College Worth It?

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This is useless without a breakdown of the field of study. A bachelor's degree in just about any engineering or hard science field is worth much more than a doctorate with honors in hyphenated ethnic groups studies (hell, an associate's degree from a tech school probably is as well). Why someone would go six figures into debt at a private school without a good idea of the employment prospects in your chosen field is beyond me. See the Related Neatorama Post "China to Eliminate College Majors That Produce Unemployable Grads" listed just below this article......
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It really depends on what field you are in. Additionally, once upon a time, degrees were not necessarily about getting better jobs (but without the better job options, you should be more careful about going into debt...).

Although when people complain that university was a waste because all they did was party, that isn't typically the university's fault. While I had occasional parties and social stuff, I spent time in college doing stuff that made use of resources such an environment offers, which goes beyond just classes typically. While self-teaching is potentially an offer, and easier as more and more course material becomes available, it can be amazing how much faster things going when you interact with the right people and/or get hands on experience.
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The basic concept of a degree being required to be an intelligent, functional member of society is a load of crap and needs to abolished. A degree doesn't inherently make one employee better or smarter than another, and many of the most brilliant minds in the world are self-taught. That much is true.

That doesn't mean however that degrees aren't worth it - many are and if you make the most out of them they add a lot to your life. It's the degree for the sake of the piece of paper that is the true scam of current society - and the fault lies mostly in business and mindless HR departments, not in education.

Also, as someone who works in education, saying schools are raising tuition only because they can is a load of crap. Schools are raising tuition because costs of education are rising due to rapid technology growth and overall changes and competition in education, plus the funds coming from the government to many schools has fallen DRAMATICALLY. The professors are still largely overworked an underpaid outside of the high profile schools. Many, many schools are raising tuition to keep the lights on and keep from becoming the laughing stock of academia. The increasing need to compete in research drives up costs as well, since even if the school gets grants they still have to cover facilities overhead and startup costs.
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Maybe you are just in the wrong field. Those numbers they are showing are pre-tax which would mean you would need to make 52,000 a year. I have a bachelor's degree, I am not working in NYC and I bring in more then that post tax and I am not even well paid for my field.
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