We have already looked at the rapidly growing cost of a college education. The average cost in 2011 was $18, 497 a year. So what does four years of your life and almost $75,000 dollars get you. Not a hell of a lot it turns out.
We are of course coming out of recession, and unemployment is high. According to the Department of Labor, though, unemployment for those 20-24 is 2/3 higher than it is for the general population. When the sluggish economy does manage to create jobs one study showed 58% of new jobs are going to those over the age of 55. So that shiny new degree is not the instant ticket to a job. Talk to any recent college graduate and I guarantee you will hear stories about job interviews where the interviewer made a huge production out of asking if they are married or have kids. When they say no I guarantee they did not get the job; unless it’s at hooters.
If you do manage to get a job you will make a good living; except of course you won’t. A Rutgers study showed that the average income for recent college graduates was $27,000 a year. This is barely above the national median income. To put this in perspective an average Wal-Mart assistant manager makes $38,000 a year. That’s $11,000 a year more without the college loan debt at a company notorious for low pay. On top of this the same study revealed that wages for recent college grads were rapidly declining. I had a job paying more than the average for recent grads at a major bank, and worked with probably a dozen recent grads. I was the only one who did not live with my parents. There is a generation growing up in perpetual adolescence because of low wages and college debt, they still live with mommy and daddy; this is a bar to growing up.
Now you have a job that doesn’t pay enough to get you out of you parent’s basement, but you will get some stimulation from your job, right? No. Meet our new friend degree inflation. Increasingly office jobs, in particular, which required a high school diploma ten years ago now, require a college degree. Employers claim this is an effect of them needing skilled workers, but they have not raised wages to entice these skilled workers. So the majority of recent college grads are working jobs that require none of the skills they should have learned.
Now for the good news; if you can’t find a job, are living with your parents because of low wages, or had to get a PhD in zoology to be an exterminator you are probably too stupid to realize it. In “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” Richard Arum shows that after four years of college 36% of student showed no improvement in critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills. This means not only do college grads pay a huge amount of money for something with little economic value, but a significant portion manage to learn nothing while doing so.