Some college

College drop-outs are “one of the largest and fastest-growing groups of young adults in America,” says the New York Times’ series on social class. Once they’ve left college, most never go back to complete a degree.

Almost one in three Americans in their mid-20’s now fall into this group, up from one in five in the late 1960’s, when the Census Bureau began keeping such data. Most come from poor and working-class families.

Students from low-income and blue-collar families tend to go to colleges where graduation rates are low. Elite colleges with high graduation rates are more tilted toward affluent students. The five-year graduation rate is 41 percent for low-income students, 66 percent for high-income students, concludes a Department of Education study.

“You get there and you start to struggle,” said Leanna Blevins . . . who did get a bachelor’s degree and then went on to earn a Ph.D at Virginia studying the college experiences of poor students. “And at home your parents are trying to be supportive and say, ‘Well, if you’re not happy, if it’s not right for you, come back home. It’s O.K.’ And they think they’re doing the right thing. But they don’t know that maybe what the student needs is to hear them say, ‘Stick it out just one semester. You can do it. Just stay there. Come home on the weekend, but stick it out.’ “

Without a college degree, workers can achieve a middle-class lifestyle but fear they’re vulnerable to changes in the economy.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Richard Nieporent says:

    Students from low-income and blue-collar families tend to go to colleges where graduation rates are low. Elite colleges with high graduation rates are more tilted toward affluent students.

    This is classic NYT’s logic. They seem to have problems understanding the difference between cause and effect. They will periodically write an article lamenting the fact that the nation has a high prison population when the crime rate is low.

    You would think that the geniuses at the NYT would be able to figure out that the reason the graduation rate is low at these colleges is because of the fact that students from low-income and blue-collar families are going there. Do they think that if these same students went to Ivy League Colleges they would graduate summa cum laude?

  2. “Without a college degree…they’re vulnerable to changes in the economy.”

    Tell that to your plumber or electrician.

  3. “Without a college degree…they’re vulnerable to changes in the economy.”

    Even with a college degree, they’re still vulnerable to changes in the economy. Everyone is. Except possibly the mafias that control the economy.

  4. Tom West says:

    I’d have to agree with Mr. Nieporent. Better they have the opportunity to try and fail, than be refused even the chance of success because of somebody else’s determination that they’d be unlikely to succeed.

    And truly, unless there’s a sudden stupendous increase in the intelligence of students, there’s no way that the survival rate in university should anywhere near 100%. University is supposed to challenge even bright students. And what challenges bright students, will wash out mediocre students.

  5. Baltimore Joel says:

    A huge blind spot of college educated people is that they don’t understand that people without college degrees can do well in life economically. This is because a liberal arts college education by and large teaches nothing useful in the real world.

    It’s true that a stupid, uneducated person will do badly. A college degree many help a stupid person do better than he otherwise would. But, a smart person with ambition and brains will do just fine if they sent themselves the goal of making money without a college degree. Just the money saved in tutition is enough to start a business or investment program. As an extreme example, put that $120,000 into a mutual fund, then hang out at the beach for 40 years, and “retire” quite nicely.

    BILL GATES IS A COLLEGE DROPOUT. MR. DELL IS A COLLEGE DROPOUT.

    Think about it.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Some people are better served by not wasting time in college. On the other hand, some forms of non-college education, like apprenticeships, are on the way to becoming colleges in fact as well.

  7. Avoiding “vulnerability to changes in the economy” is largely a matter of certain character attributes, such as (1)taking responsibility for one’s own actions, (2)staying aware of what’s going on in society and in the economy, (3)ability to think about how things will play out over time, (4)avoidance of excessive “follow the herd” behavior. Some of these attributes may be developed in college; on the other hand, the prolonged adolescence associated with college (especially for those who go to grad school) may act in the opposite direction.

  8. bernalchemist says:

    I remember an article Joanne wrote at the Merc (during my own college dropout years) where she said a candidate’s four year degree shows an employer that the candidate can tolerate tremendous amounts of mediocrity, which is itself a valuable job skill. I immediately recognized the absolute truth of those words.

    And, of course, what a tragedy–economically speaking at the very least. The four year degree needs at least as much educational reform as the high school diploma. Universities provide a service that they charge dearly for, and give back mostly crap. In a sense it’s entirely correct for students to take their business elsewhere until the universitities reform.

    I hope the college drop-outs open up their own businesses or learn a vocational trade that will compensate them very well indeed for their labor.

    That said, I took a degree in the physical sciences and I’ve done well for myself. I also took on a debt load of $20k (in principal) that, with interest, I’m still paying off ten years later with a relatively well-paying job. What a depressing, awful burden my debt would be for someone with an English degree looking for a temp job after college.

    If I could do it over again, I’d do the first 2-3 years at a community college and save the remainder for the university. There is absolutely no benefit to be had by taking calculus and general chemistry at an expensive university that you can’t get for a better price at city college. None.

    I know because I see the resumes and I will tell you a 4.0 from Harvard won’t get you in the door for an interview in my industry if you don’t have some practical experience backing it up.

    So, my advice, to college drop-outs or those contemplating college: minimize your exposure to medicority and debt. Get the AA degree first and spend only the $ you absolutely have to at the university. You’ll be much happier when you turn thirty.

  9. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Of course therre is the other aspect of a diploma – it indicated you were from the class that could support you through 4 unsalaried years.

  10. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Given the leftist dogma effluing from most universities in the social “sciences”, a college degree is less remarkable than ever before. (The hard sciences and math are far more academically demanding of the student, so a degree in those areas gets less scrutiny from me).

    i agree with Walter and others…for many students, college just prevents them from growing up and being productive citizens in society for 4+ years. I knew people at UCLA who spent their undergrad years either in a perpetual drunken haze or bedhopping. My favorite story was a guy who was a 6th year senior…to get out of midterm exams, he told the prof. that his father was very ill…..during finals week, he told the same prof that his father had died! (None of it true). He was able to drop the class without a penalty to his record. LOL!
    At many Cal State universities, there are remedial classes for students who don’t even have high school -level reading or writing skills. Gimme a break! And we won’t even talk about colleges admitting illegal aliens with full scholarships!

    Many college students should really have taken vocational ed….the problem is that the elitist snobs in our society look down upon learning a trade, instead of going to college…there is nothing inherently nobler about being a lawyer or ethnomusicology professor than being a plumber or mechanic.

    It’s time to rethink the true value of the university.

  11. Actually, employers look on a regular high school diploma as superior to a GED because the diploma shows the graduate can put up with routine and get with the program. Employers hiring college graduates tend to look for skills, not just a degree.

    College graduates earn much more on average than non-graduates, but earnings vary a lot depending on the course of study and career choice.

    People who earn a vocational certificate at a community college, which typically takes six months to two years of study, earn more than people who go to college for several years but fail to graduate.

    Illegal aliens don’t qualify for public scholarships or for most private scholarships; some states let them pay in-state tuition if they’ve lived in the state for a certain number of years. Most illegal aliens don’t make it to college.

  12. Reginleif says:

    nailsagainsttheboard: Many college students should really have taken vocational ed….the problem is that the elitist snobs in our society look down upon learning a trade, instead of going to college…there is nothing inherently nobler about being a lawyer or ethnomusicology professor than being a plumber or mechanic.

    Precisely. The same people think it’s better to be a “barista” with multiple degrees who makes $7 an hour but who reads Derrida and watches arthouse movies…than to be a carpenter with a high school diploma who makes $100,000 a year and enjoys NASCAR in his spare time.

    If you point out this snobbery, however, they’ll accuse you of “caring more about making money than about being ‘well-rounded.'” As if the only well-rounded people are those who share their cultural tastes.

    Tom West: there’s no way that the survival rate in university should anywhere near 100%. University is supposed to challenge even bright students. And what challenges bright students, will wash out mediocre students.

    Some pol — from Marxachusetts, unsurprisingly — announced last year IIRC that it was his goal to send every kid to college. The Globe, of course, thinks he’s a hero…largely because they’re the same sort of educational snobs described above.

    Photon Courier: Avoiding “vulnerability to changes in the economy” is largely a matter of certain character attributes, such as (1) taking responsibility for one’s own actions, (2) staying aware of what’s going on in society and in the economy, (3) ability to think about how things will play out over time, (4) avoidance of excessive “follow the herd” behavior.

    I’ve done all these things, and I’ve still experienced unemployment and underemployment. I’ve probably come out ahead over people who haven’t done these things, but crap does happen.

  13. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    LOL. @ “The Barista Who Reads Derrida”…I think I see a screenplay here!

  14. For those so down on English majors, I must note that those I knew in college have done very well for themselves. They are smart, and they can write. Turned it into careers developing the content for web-based corporate training. Had no computer skills from college, but that technical stuff would have been out of date five years past graduation. They are the people that the technical people hire so that the bells and whistles can actually be used for meaningful training.

    And, no, I wasn’t an English major.

    Then again, these were smart kids and would have done well no matter what college major they chose.

  15. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    I’m certainly not down on English majors in college…just down on wastrels and slacker students and professors, not to mention the utter lack of intellectual diversity in the social “sciences” at most universities.

  16. Jack Tanner says:

    “You get there and you start to struggle,” and start drinking like crazy and smoking dope all the time

    But they don’t know that maybe what the student needs is to hear them say, ‘Stick it out just one semester.’ and stop drinking so much and smoking so much dope.

    If college is post high school extended adolescence a lot of kids are going to drop out because it’s like the same thing with no studying involved.

  17. I’m old enough to remember the early 1970s. Gas and oil prices were at an all-time high, the troops were in a war that kept dragging on with no resolution, the president was a corrupt liar, the economy was on the skids, career prospects were gloomy, pollution will doom us, etc. etc.

    Does all that sound familiar? It should. Ph.D.’s were driving cabs, as web-based developers are now. Detroit was losing jobs to Japan; as Silicon Valley is being outsourced to India.

    History repeats itself. In order to succeed – study history, real history, not the PC crap at school. And don’t listen to fads and empty promises. Nothing good ever lasts, and that is doubly true with the economy.