4 in 10 grads don’t need college degree at work

Four in 10 college graduates don’t need a degree to do their job.

I can’t pass algebra

Javier Cabral wants to study the humanities at a university, but he can’t pass algebra. After failing algebra in high school, he failed seven times in 4 1/2 years at a community college before dropping out. Diagnosis with a math disability got him more time on tests, but that didn’t help. Should algebra-less students be barred from pursuing a university degree?

Apprenticeship + college = opportunity

Apprenticeships are making a comeback, but these days young people want a college degree too.

In Washington state, Jesica Bush earns nearly $25 an hour as an apprentice iron worker while taking classes at Bates Technical College. After four years, she’ll earn a journeyman’s card and an associate degree.

College remains a good investment

College remains a good investment, concludes the Hamilton Project. College is 50 percent more expensive than it was 30 years ago, but the lifetime earning gains — $450,000 more than a high school graduate’s earnings — are 75 percent higher.

Today’s jobs — and tomorrow’s — require more education and training, say human resources professionals.

Movin’ on up

Eighty-four percent of Americans — and 93 percent of those in the bottom quintile — earn more than their parents in inflation-adjusted dollars, concludes a new Pew report, Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility Across Generations.

Yet 43 percent of people who start in the bottom quintile end up there, notes Education Gadfly. Nearly three-quarters remain in the bottom 40 percent.

A black-white mobility achievement gap is present as well: Half of blacks who were raised on the wealth ladder’s bottom rung stay there as adults, compared to a third of whites. The “stickiness at the ends” phenomenon affects America’s wealthiest as well: Sixty-six percent of those with parents in the top quintile stayed among the elite (earning at least $164,000 a year). As Pew explains (and Charles Murray concurs), this “stickiness” is partially caused by marriage patterns. High earners are forming unions with others in their quintile, further bumping their family wealth and income.

For those raised at the bottom of the family income ladder, college provides a way up: Only 10 percent of college graduates — and 47 percent of those without a degree — end up at the bottom rung.

Republican pushes STARS instead of DREAM

A Republican alternative to the DREAM Act creates a path to citizenship for children brought illegally to the U.S. — if they complete a bachelor’s degree. But the STARS (Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status) Act, introduced by Florida Rep. David Rivera, doesn’t have broad Republican support.

Half of new grads are jobless or underemployed

Half of recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, according to an AP analysis of government data.

While there’s strong demand for graduates with bachelor’s degrees in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities graduates are working in jobs that don’t require higher education. Median wages are down since 2000.

“I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.

Initially hopeful that his college education would create opportunities, Bledsoe languished for three months before finally taking a job as a barista, a position he has held for the last two years. In the beginning he sent three or four resumes day. But, Bledsoe said, employers questioned his lack of experience or the practical worth of his major. Now he sends a resume once every two weeks or so.

Bledsoe, currently making just above minimum wage, says he got financial help from his parents to help pay off student loans. He is now mulling whether to go to graduate school, seeing few other options to advance his career. “There is not much out there, it seems,” he said.

I majored in creative writing in the early 1970’s, but worked on the college newspaper to qualify myself for a job in journalism. All creative writing majors — and all English majors — knew that opportunities wouldn’t just open up for us. And what sort of graduate degree is he considering?  

“You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman, noting the growing risk of a debt bubble with total U.S. student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion. “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.”

The fastest growing occupations are in retail sales, fast food and truck driving, reports AP. A huge demand for home health care aides is projected. Only three jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher — teacher, college professor and accountant — make the government’s top 30 list of fast-growing occupations. 

Smart people, stupid choices

Why Should Everyone Else Pay for Other People’s Dumb (and Hedonistic) Career Choices? asks Barry Rubin on PJ Media.

He starts with a hard-working 28-year-old man who is “puzzled and increasingly bitter that he cannot make a good living” with a degree in linguistics — to which he’s adding Oriental philosophy studies.

He cannot make a living because the market for people with degrees in linguistics and in Oriental philosophy is limited. He should have known that. Someone should have told him that. The calculation of practicality should have been made. It wasn’t.

Young people need to be taught “the world doesn’t owe them a living,” whatever politicians may say, Rubin writes.

If you have a profound passion for art, literature, or other such things, go for it. But be aware of what’s likely to happen afterward.

. . .  Studying the social sciences and humanities, not to mention all of the phony degree programs that have sprung up, does not make one employable, nor does a degree have written on it “hire this person at a high salary.” Even as they charge more, universities — especially certain departments in them — are creating neither qualified professionals nor serious intellectuals.

“Get a useful education, a job, and a hobby in that order,” Rubin concludes. “And don’t expect the hardworking people, who have had to make compromises in their own lives, to pay for you to do whatever you want.”

More schooling doesn’t always mean more $

A college degree is the “gateway to the middle class,” but more education doesn’t always mean more money.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Redesigning adult ed to combine basic skills with job training.

The overeducated bartender moves up

Don’t listen to doomsayers who knock the value of a college degree, writes Ed Sector‘s Kevin Carey.  The college-educated bartender will move up; workers with only a high school diploma keep falling farther behind.

Also on Community College Spotlight: The skills gap.