In the recession, does advanced education really pay off? Slate’s Emily Bazelon asks 20somethings how they’re planning their futures.
“College and graduate school are generally a good bet,” she starts. “But it doesn’t tell you that every single degree pays off financially at every single point in time.”
As Jonathan, a college graduate in North Carolina who had been working at a used-book store, puts it, “I have a B.S. in sociology, and its value bears a strong similarity to its initials.”
She cites a Chronicle of Higher Education story, which advises would-be graduate students in the humanities: Just Don’t Go. Hide out in grad school to avoid the recession and you’ll emerge in your 30s with no experience and no money, Thomas Benton advises.
Even those with practical degrees are hurting in the short term, writes Bazelon.
Gordon, who is 29, has an undergraduate degree in computer engineering from Boston University, three years in IT, and an MBA and a master’s in information systems. How much more sturdy and practical can you get? But after a year and a half, he lost the job he got after graduation. He has $60,000 in student loans even though he had full scholarships for both undergrad and grad school (living expenses). That comes out to $500 a month for the next 10 years.
He fears that his degree is “underwater.” Experts say the educated will do fine once the economy recovers, but when’s that going to be? And will an MBA bounce back to its previous value?
My daughter’s earning a law degree from the University of Chicago in a few months. She thought her class was the last to get seats on the gravy train, but the train has derailed. The law firm that offered her a very well-paid job, starting in the fall, has now offered her six months’ pay to defer her start for a year. She plans to do Legal Aid work without pay to gain experience. (The non-profits that used to pay a minimal wage to new lawyers have realized they don’t have to.) If the law firm job has vanished by then, well, she’ll cope. She doesn’t expect a return to the cushy days of yore.