We live in an information age. The world’s reward system operates pragmatically. People get job rewards based on their economic value to organizations. As firms get more competitive in an information age, automation becomes the alternative for cutting costs. Every day, more graduate positions in industries are getting lost.
Newer positions appear that require a higher level of education qualification. However, the new job positions do not necessary pay more than the graduate posts, which they replace. The return on investment for a four-year college degree is very low or sometimes, absent. Forgoing college to pursue learning on the job or getting a shorter program is a cheap and rational option.
Why A Four-Year College Degree is Not Worthwhile
The success rate of a job-seeking college graduate depends on their human relationship skill and societal status. When the person lacks inherent abilities to acquire knowledge through learning and training, in college and on the job, he or she has little use of a four-year degree (Greenberg, Weinstein and Sweeney 13). A well-networked individual with the right amount of wealth to support his or her job-seeking endeavors is more likely to get a job compared to a college graduate with honors, but without the necessary network.
On the other hand, having a college degree kills the entrepreneurial spirit of most people and renders them poorly equipped to navigate the tough waters to a successful career. When you get a job because of your college degree, but lack the necessary drive and skill to maneuver the professional landscape, it is likely that you will remain in the same job for a very long time. People need life skills like relationship building, marketing and networking more than they need a four-year college degree qualification.
The degree ties a person to the need of getting a relevant job in the particular field of study. It serves a person well when there are many jobs in an industry. In such a case, the degree would be an investment. However, the lack of jobs, in particular, makes the education investment an unnecessary cost.
Many, who hail the need for a college degree, quote the high chances, of a graduate job seeker, of getting a job. What they fail to say is how the number of jobs for a particular industry diminishes with changes in business environments. Carnevale, Cheah and Strohl (2) mention that, the risk of unemployment for graduates recently out of college now depends on their study major.
They say that the unemployment rate for architecture graduates was the highest at 13.9 percent in 2011. The figure is higher than the average of all graduates, which is 8.9 percent. For a person going to study architecture because of the relatively low unemployment rate of all college graduates, the actual figure will be shocking. The most unfortunate thing is that the graduate will realize the truth after they finish their four years and start looking for jobs.
While college graduates may actually have stronger chances of employment, they have to put up with compensation levels that do not match their degree investments. Yes, it is true that, graduates have a higher employability rate compared to high school leavers. It happens for occupations in Healthcare, Education and other technical occupations. Wages in the relatively stable occupations depend on the performance of the economy.
It is difficult to get a pay rise in the healthcare industry unless a person has many years of experience. For new employees, getting an increase requires them to get additional qualifications. Unfortunately, degree cost increase yearly as colleges increase their fees as their research costs increase.
On the other hand, organizations seek to reduce their wage bill by freezing salary increases, when their business environment becomes tough. The hurdles continue to increase the repayment period of a college degree. The burgeoning question is whether it is worthy to spend a fortune in time and money and then work for more than ten years to repay back the money (Coughlan 169). The economics of a college degree is skewed in favor of alternative investments, which promise a higher return.
There are alternatives for a four-year degree program. They are cheaper, shorter and deliver more in quality than college degrees. Foregoing college opens a person to various opportunities for education, at a fraction of the cost of a college degree. The problem with four-year degrees is the one-size-fits-all treatment (Brennan 64). Students have different optimal duration and setups for learning. The universal system only serves those who are naturally inclined towards it.
Moreover, some learning opportunities, outside college, are worth a fortune in terms of their return to investment. Holzer and Nightingale (72) show that, people choosing to go for apprenticeship earn up to US $1900 more per quarter compared to their counterparts choosing the state employment service, which depends on their degree qualification. Furthermore, those who finish the intern programs increase their earning to nearly US $ 4300 per quarter.
Various non-four year courses are available, which help people become proficient in financial management, prospecting, marketing and sales. The courses do more in influencing real skills to people compared to four-year degrees. First, they are highly pragmatically. Students see results immediately they complete the courses. When the results do not appear instantly, the costs are relatively low and recoupable in a shorter period, than it would take to pay back a four-year college degree.
Four-year college degrees are risky investments; they lack a high quality assurance (Nemko para.12). Other than the job training, college degrees should prepare students for opportunities that would build their careers. Very few college plans give students the additional benefits of surviving in a collapsing job market.
The high number of parallel coaches and material available to help students navigate a tough job market shows that, there is a need, which colleges are not filling. College-degrees were most suited for the industrial age where production depended more on a given number of skills set and a large pool of labor. Nowadays, technological and human capital, lead the economic competitiveness of a firm.
Many college-degree programs are academic-based. They teach people how to develop and operate technology. Very few focus on the career and choose a learning approach, within an appropriate context, to show the student how to increase capital by harnessing the skill and technology rather than learning how it works (Holzer and Nightingale 83). Thus, we see college graduates going back to school to learn how to use additional computer programs, as a way of making them competitive in the job market.
On the other hand, their counterparts learn how to use the same program to fill a need in their current job or business. We can determine that the job-seeking mentality of the four-year college graduate is the worst effect of a college degree. The truth is that, the four years spent in college is too much time to study a job whose skill set requirements change annually (Murray para.12). A sure career path would be, to spend less time in school and more on the actual job.
An Answer to Rebuttals
Many studies show that college degree holders have a high employability rate. Unfortunately, such studies fail to look into the long-term dynamics of the job market and the economy.
Government spending priorities affect the employment opportunities in the public sector. When budget cuts occur in a particular expenditure item such as education, then there will be expected cutbacks in the employment of fresh college graduates with education majors.
Other than cutting back on new employment, budget cuts also lead to the stagnation of salary increases. During recessive times, the cost of living spikes up and employees lose much of their disposable incomes to inflation. Many who are tied to the repayment of student loans have to reschedule their repayment period and incur additional interest payments (Coughlan 169).
The unfortunate thing is that even after recessions end, and the economy experiences a boom; the college graduates in fixed employment enjoy little in terms of salary increases. Much of their career progress equates their level of qualification. They have to incur an additional cost in time and money investments on new qualifications. However, when they eventually get the added qualification, the presently desired benefits may have diminished.
In addition to the previous paragraph’s point, economic growth and recession dynamics squeeze most benefits that should attract many to four-year qualifications. Looking at the private sector, the same effect, as in the public sector mentioned above, is also visible. Firing and hiring in non-public organizations occur faster compared to state corporations.
The high employee turnover puts question marks on the figures showing elevated employability rates for college graduates. Many people out of college get employment in various industries that are enjoying a boom. In a few years, the tables turn and the same industry will witness massive layoff, as economic fundamentals of demand and supply adjust to equilibrium. It would be argued that the college graduate has a better footing for finding another job compared to the non-college graduates.
Nonetheless, the professionalism of the graduate will limit their career choices. Moreover, they have to incur an additional cost of unlearning their degree to change careers. The flexibility of a non-graduate affords them the opportunity cost of losing their present jobs. As long as they have the necessary people skills and proper financial management wits, their navigation of the job market will mostly be successful.
People spend four years in colleges to learn things that already happened. They have to deal with complex subjects that would only be practically helpful if they pursue technical careers. Most of these people will do better with a practical skill learned from a two-year course or other skill certifications from an alternative learning institution.
Moreover, they could undertake a certification course in one of their talent areas and proceed to learn more as an intern. The alternative method is very cheap and has practical benefits that make the student more recession proof than his or her four-year degree holder does.
Brennan, John F. “Why Not More Three-Year College Degrees?” University Business 7.8 (2004): 64-64. Ebscohost. Web.
Carnevale, Anthony P., Ban Cheah and Jeff Strohl. “Hard Times, College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal.” Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. 2012. Ebscohost. Web.
Coughlan, Sean. The Student Finance Guide: Fees, Grants and What It Costs. London, UK: Kogan Page Limited, 2005. Print.
Greenberg, Herbert, Harold Weinstein and Patrick Sweeney. How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer: The Five Qualities That Make Sales People Great. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2001. Print.
Holzer, Harry and Demetra S Nightingale. Reshaping The American Workforce in a Changing Economy. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press, 2007. Print.
Murray, Charles. Should The Obama Generation Drop Out?. 7 December 2008. Web. <https://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/28/opinion/28murray.html?_r=1>.
Nemko, Marty. America’s Most Overrated Product: The Bachelor’s Degree (From The Chronicle of Higher Education). 29 April 2008. Web.