Generation Cupcake goes to college

“We should be doing everything we can to put a college education within reach for every American,” President Barack Obama told Denver college students last week. “College isn’t just one of the best investments you can make in your future. It’s one of the best investments America can make in our future.”

College is a good investment only if students get high-tech degrees, responds Michael Graham in the Boston Herald. The “Everybody gets a cupcake” crowd doesn’t get it, he snarks.

In 2009, American colleges handed out more business degrees than engineering, computer and biology degrees combined. We graduated about the same number of engineers as we did “Visual And Performance Arts” grads.

. . . What the crybabies of Generation Cupcake want — a good paying, white-collar job right out of college — is available . . .  if you’re willing to do the hard work of earning a valuable degree. But because these little snowflakes can’t do calculus, they end up burying themselves under 50K in college debt for a degree in Womyn’s Studies.

Half of current college kids are “mediocre students” who will earn “meaningless degrees” and “wind up working as the assistant manager at a TGI Fridays.”

Who ends up getting screwed? The rest of the students who actually belong in college. Because demand is artificially high, so are college costs — up 8.3 percent in just the past year at public colleges.

And because there are so many more degree holders, each degree is worth less.

Actually, there are very few Womyn’s Studies majors and the average college debt per bachelor’s degree remains under $30,000, though estimates keep rising. Business is a very popular major because students think it will get them that good white-collar job. Mediocre students in math-lite, writing-lite business majors will be lucky to make assistant manager at TGI Fridays.

Update: STEM graduates often take jobs in business, finance, consulting and health care, where the pay is considerably higher for people with quantitative skills, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s Generation Jobless series.

About Joanne


  1. Charley Cowens says:

    In terms of “getting screwed,” think about the otherwise qualified applicants for that “assistant manager at TGI Fridays”-type job who are locked out because they just don’t have the required bachelors degree. This is another part of the problem with the College for All thing.

  2. Charley…indeed, this is a serious problem. Credential-worship is acting as a major inhibitor to social mobility.

    It’s ironic: the vastly increased expenditures on education were justified largely in terms of improving social mobility. Maybe this was the case in the wake of the original GI Bill, but now the phenomenon is operating in reverse.

  3. greeneyeshade says:

    Wasn’t there something on this blog a while ago about how tough things were even for STEM graduates? And for what it’s worth, my paper’s very able economics columnist, Jay Hancock, was an English lit major.

  4. The Duke Power decision certainly has had a chilling effect on hiring decisions; it’s much safer to require a degree.

  5. It’s fun to play with graphs!

    Computer engineering? 7% unemployment rate. $81,000 median salary.
    Business economics? 5% unemployment rate. $71,000 median salary.
    Chemistry? 5% unemployment rate, $59,000 median salary.
    Biomedial Sciences? 7.1% unemployment rate, $48,000 median salary.
    Advertising and Public Relations? 6.1% unemployment rate, $50,000 median salary.
    Computer administration management and security? 9.5% unemployment rate, $52,000 median salary.

    In short, the whole, “STEM careers are the only profitable majors” theory doesn’t seem to pan out. Yes, many of the top paying careers demand advanced technical training. However, they aren’t the only routes to success. The students who choose to major in business rather than Chemistry may be making a rational choice.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Now I’m feeling a little better about my oldest’s future. He’s determined to follow in his dad’s footsteps and major in business or perhaps economics or math.

  6. There are business degrees and there are business degrees. A general business degree will give someone the credentials edge in retail management, etc. over someone who does not have it. These degrees can assist someone who is entrepreneurial in nature who may have an idea or avocation that they would like to make a living at.

    Additionally, there are subfields in business, such as accounting, where these post college employment studies do not differentiate between those who have CPAs (which up until recently required a Bachelor’s degree, but now has a 5th year requirement), and those who don’t.

    But in my opnion, a business degree for someone who has little real interest in it is akin to a fine arts or architecture major who is indifferent toward art or buildings.

    • I can remember when there was no college requirement for a CPA; just study the books and take the exam.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        I just had a conversation with a friend about the qualifications necessary to teach pre-school in NJ. Our boys all attended the local Presbyterian church pre-school. It’s the very traditional 2-3 hours, 3-4 days per week school common on the East coast. Basically, the kids have circle and music time, have a story read to them, play outside, play blocks, trucks, store, and dress-up. They eat a parent provided lunch and that was pretty much it. They did do extra holiday programs like the Christmas story and Halloween parade.

        To teach in such a pre-school in NJ requires a 4 year degree. Really. Not a two year degree with some type of “apprenticeship”, but a full 4 year degree. What complete nonsense.

      • Engineering, or at least the EIT used to be the same way.

  7. Walter E Wallis says:

    How many jobs out there for a Gay Lesbian Woman Studies major?

    • They could always work as community organizers…not a lot of qualifications needed for those.

  8. Mike Curtis says:

    People with all the right credentials wind up as apprentices for the folks who know what they’re doing. Formal education gives students tools to place in their toolbox,; but, it doesn’t give them the talent to use them effectively. Employers who use only credentials for determinants in hiring workers, are guaranteed candidates who have worked hard to get a diploma…not necessarily candidates who know how to get the job done. To make a long story, short; getting a driver’s license doesn’t make the bearer a good driver.