4-year vs. 2-year: Does college pay?

Does college pay? It will for the Stanford engineering graduate, but not for the fine arts major from an unselective college — and even less for dropouts. “With unemployment among college graduates at historic highs and outstanding student-loan debt at $1 trillion, the question families should be asking is whether it’s worth borrowing tens of thousands of dollars for a degree from Podunk U. if it’s just a ticket to a barista’s job at Starbucks,” writes Jeffrey Selingo. Meanwhile, workers with community college degrees in technical fields are doing quite well in the workforce.

Most of the fastest-growing jobs don’t require a degree, but don’t pay well either. Personal care and home health aides average less than $21,000 a year and “helpers” in construction aides average less than $30,000.

It takes a degree to be a file clerk

“The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job,” reports the New York Times.

At an Atlanta law firm, all the support staff are four-year graduates from paralegals, admins and file clerks to the $10-an-hour courier.

“College graduates are just more career-oriented,” said Adam Slipakoff, the firm’s managing partner. “Going to college means they are making a real commitment to their futures. They’re not just looking for a paycheck.”

Maybe they’re looking for a miracle. The law firm’s receptionist, who earns $37,000 a year, graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta in 2011 with a degree in fashion and retail management. “I am over $100,000 in student loan debt right now,” said Megan Parker.

“Degree inflation” is increasing, reports the Times. Many “jobs that didn’t used to require a diploma — positions like dental hygienists, cargo agents, clerks and claims adjusters — are increasingly requiring one,” according to Burning Glass, a company that analyzes job ads.

Requiring a bachelor’s degree is a handy way to cut down on the huge pile of applications for every job, a recruiter tells the Times.

Trendy vs. truth: Can the university survive?

If universities aren’t going to teach truth, beauty, knowledge or reasoning — and they can’t guarantee liberal arts graduates will earn enough to pay their debts — something’s got to give, writes Victor Davis Hanson on PJ Media.

A fourth of liberal arts courses are trendy time wasters, writes Hanson, a classics and military history fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and an emeritus classics professor at Fresno State. Students don’t learn a body of knowledge. They don’t master inductive reasoning and empirical objectivity. They don’t learn to write clearly.

(Trendy classes) tend to foster the two most regrettable traits in a young mind — ignorance of the uninformed combined with the arrogance of the zealot. All too often students in these courses become revved up over a particular writ — solar power, gay marriage, the war on women, multiculturalism — without the skills to present their views logically and persuasively in response to criticism. Heat, not light, is the objective of these classes.

. . .  college is intended as a sort of boot camp for the progressive army, where recruits are trained and do not question their commissars.

Vocational and technical colleges “are upfront about their nuts-and-bolts, get-a-job education,” he writes. They don’t pretend to teach humanities.

 Yes, I am worried that the University of Phoenix graduate has not read Dante, but more worried that the CSU Fresno graduate has not either, and the former is far more intellectually honest about that lapse than the latter.

Federal aid allows colleges to keep hiking tuition, leaving students deeper in debt. Professors complain that “grade-grubbing” students won’t take their esoteric courses. Why should they? Hanson asks.

. . .  does the computer programming major at DeVry take an elective like the Poetics of Masculinity to enrich his approach to programing? Does the two-year JC course on nursing include an enhanced class like “Constructing the Doctor: the hierarchies of male privilege”?

As a young professor, I used to believe in the value of a universal BA that would teach truth and beauty to the masses. I still do, but mostly as instruction apart from the university that now has very little to do with either beauty or truth.

Meanwhile, the economic value of a humanities degree is questionable. Most studies say a liberal arts bachelor’s degree is worth the investment, but how long will that be true? “I am reluctant to make the argument for the humanities on the basis of financial planning, but then the humanities are not quite the humanities of 50 years ago.”

Hansen suggests a national test in math and verbal skills and knowledge for a bachelor’s degree like the bar exams for law graduates. Someone who’d skipped college could take a longer version of the bachelor’s exam.

Most college students pick what they think are practical majors. Business administration is the most popular college major, according to the Princeton Review. Also in the top 10 are psychology, nursing, biology, education, English, economics, communications, political science and computer and information science.

To lead in degrees, focus on two-year credentials

If the U.S. is to lead the world in college graduates — President Obama’s goal — it must focus on two-year credentials, concludes a new report.  The U.S. is second in the world to Norway  in adults with a bachelor’s degree (35 percent), but far fewer U.S. adults have earned an associate degree (10 percent).

U of Phoenix blocks community college degrees

In Arizona, the University of Phoenix worked to stop community colleges from offering low-priced bachelor’s degree programs. That allowed the for-profit chain to continue to advertise that it offers more degrees and options than community colleges.

A 6-foot, 8-inch woman — formerly a man — is playing on the women’s basketball team at a California community college. Gabrielle Ludwig, 50, played briefly on a men’s team decades ago.

Compare college costs: $3,300 vs. $32,000

A Missouri community college is taking on for-profit competitors with an ad campaign that urges students to do the math: It costs $3,300 for a year at Ozarks Tech vs. $32,000 at Bryan College, a Christian for-profit. The cheaper for-profits in the area cost $14,000.

Texas universities are offering bachelor’s degrees for $10,000 or less to well-prepared students with clear goals. But it’s more of a scholarship for students than a productivity campaign, so far.

After university, community college

Unemployed college graduates are heading to community colleges for associate degrees in nursing, medical technology, information technology and other high-demand fields.

In California, a record number of recent four-year graduates are working in food service, retail and clerical jobs.

Community colleges are real colleges

Community colleges are real colleges that provide a low-cost path to a bachelor’s degree, not just job training centers.

Most transfers earn 4-year degree

Most community college transfers earn a bachelor’s degree at a considerable savings in tuition. But only 20 percent transfer, even though more than 80 percent start community college with hopes of earning a bachelor’s or beyond.

An online path to a low-cost 4-year degree

A California community college is partnering with out-of-state universities to offer an online path to low-cost bachelor’s degrees.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Faced with a $15 million budget deficit and the threat of losing accreditation, City College of San Francisco will return more than 60 faculty department chairs to full-time teaching.