Why do students pay so much to earn so little? – GV Wire

This could be called “graduation creep”.

At the dawn of the 20th century, an eighth grade education was considered the norm in the United States. Less than 7% of public school students even graduated from high school in 1900, and a small number went to college.

Dan Walters


By the end of the 20th century, however, anyone who did not have a high school diploma was considered a failure, and college degrees were entry-level requirements for white-collar jobs. School systems routinely minimized or eliminated vocational education in favor of requiring college preparation programs for all students.

As bachelor’s degrees have become commonplace, more and more students have sought to enrich their resumes with graduate degrees. Colleges have reacted accordingly and, one might say, irresponsibly, by increasing the costs of master’s programs and encouraging students to take on huge debt.

“The absurdity of the flight of diplomas”

The absurdity of the degree drift is captured in recent newspaper articles about what’s going on in California.

The Wall Street Journal revealed that the University of Southern California used a for-profit company to recruit students for its online master’s degree program in social work.

“The nonprofit school has used its status symbol image to attract students from across the country, including students from low-income minorities that it has targeted for recruitment, often with aggressive tactics. “the Journal reported. “Most of the students took on debt to pay for the tuition, which last year reached $ 115,000 for the two-year degree.”

The Journal continued, “Recent social work graduates from USC who took out federal loans borrowed an average of $ 112,000. Half of them were earning $ 52,000 or less per year two years later (and) compared to other master’s programs at top U.S. universities, USC’s social work degree featured the one of the worst combinations of debt and income. “

Gifts to politicians, debt to students

Former USC School of Social Work Dean Marilyn Flynn has been charged with providing a full scholarship and teaching position in 2017 and 2018 to the son of a county supervisor, Mark Ridley- Thomas, in return for his help in managing county contracts for the University. Now a city councilor, Ridley-Thomas also faces charges in the scandal.

After the indictments were announced, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Flynn also offered a full scholarship, worth $ 95,000, to Los Angeles Congresswoman Karen Bass for a master’s degree in social work. . Bass, who is now running for mayor of Los Angeles, accepted the offer.

So, USC was handing out master’s degrees in social work like candy to local politicians while charging students $ 115,000 to get them, racking up debt for jobs that paid lower middle-class wages at best. .

The syndrome is not limited to USC. The San Jose Mercury-News used data from the federal government’s college scorecard to highlight the absurdity of spending so much to get jobs that pay so little.

Expensive degrees lead to low-paying jobs

“Students in Stanford University’s English program can expect to earn around $ 24,000 two years after graduating from the prestigious private university,” the newspaper reported. “Just down the street, students who complete a two-year associate’s degree at Foothill College in the allied health professions of diagnosis, intervention, and treatment can expect to earn around $ 113,000.

“The highly selective UC Berkeley Philosophy majors can expect to earn around $ 21,000 soon after graduation – having shelled out over $ 15,000 per year for the degree. At Cal State East Bay in Hayward, which costs around $ 11,000 a year, students who earn a bachelor’s degree in construction management can expect to earn around $ 80,000.

Meanwhile, the men and women who have chosen to leave college to become skilled workers such as plumbers, mechanics or electricians are in demand and earn far more than their collapsing, college-educated contemporaries. under student debt.

About the Author

Dan Walters has been a journalist for almost 60 years, almost all of them working for California newspapers. He now writes for CalMatters, a public service journalism firm committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters. For more articles by Dan Walters, visit calmatters.org/commentary.

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