Recent employment statistics in the USA strongly imply that investing in a costly college education is risky at best. Look deeper for more details in the headline news from the Department of Labor that proudly boasts that hundreds of thousands of new jobs were added. Between September 2015 and March 2016, 14 times more of those new jobs went to unskilled workers who did not have a high school diploma than to those who had a college degree.
Essentially, this is a measure of performance of a service industry dominated economy. Over time, the USA has lost much of its manufacturing base to third world (emerging) nations. Essentially, both the over-taxation of U.S. industry when combined with the little or no regulation and the cheap unskilled labor in the third world, has encouraged the moves. Especially, when a key industry competitor made such a move, the other U.S. companies that produced competing products were compelled to move their manufacturing out of the USA too.
What does this have to do with college? College, since the 1950’s, has churned out graduates who mostly took junior manager jobs in companies that employed skilled laborers. Since the USA has lost those jobs, and is mostly a service company-driven economy, the need for college educated managers has greatly diminished. Why does a fast food franchise need to hire a recent college graduate to manage anything? The answer is that it does not need to do that, and it had better not suffer it either. It makes better business sense to hire many high school dropouts to work the various menial jobs, identify the ones who have some integrity and can work a cash register, and train them up to manage a small work force that always will have a high turn over rate – because that job is not a career.
Some people attend college with clear future job goals, and while they are in college they do their best to learn and earn high grades in their classes. Students who have a clear goal, a plan on how to get there, and come out of college with a degree in a field that has a career, plus they show by their grades that they are top performers greatly enhance their chances of getting hired. However, our economy today works against even those top performing students. This last quarter, the US GDP was only about 1%. Who needs to pay the grossly inflated costs of fat-cat me-focused colleges in order to obtain a non-competitive college degree in a 1% economy?
My article is for the legions of kids who show up at colleges because their parents defined success in the 1950’s as having a college degree. This is not the 1950’s. If those kids don’t know why they are in college, have no career goal yet, have never planned more than what they might do tonight, and do not know their own potential, they are doomed to squander their parent’s money or to saddle themselves with hopeless decades-long debt. Perhaps worse than that, millions of them will join their friends at the hometown fast food franchise, four years late. There, they will probably work for some of their friends, who went straight there, and earned their way to become managers.