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School Daze, School Daze
June 21, 2011 12:50 PM   Subscribe

PIMCO's Bill Gross, when he's not divesting his bond funds of U.S. Treasuries, takes time to ponders "A mind is a precious thing to waste, so why are millions of America’s students wasting theirs by going to college?"

"All of us who have been there know an undergraduate education is primarily a four year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing, but at least it used to serve a purpose. It weeded out underachievers and proved at a minimum that you could pass an SAT test. For those who made it to the good schools, it proved that your parents had enough money to either bribe administrators or hire SAT tutors to increase your score by 500 points. And a degree represented that the graduate could “party hearty” for long stretches of time and establish social networking skills that would prove invaluable later on at office cocktail parties or interactively via Facebook. College was great as long as the jobs were there. "

"Now, however, a growing number of skeptics wonder whether it’s worth the time or the cost. Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook and head of Clarium Capital, a long-standing hedge fund, has actually established a foundation to give 20 $100,000 grants (previously) to teenagers who would drop out of school and become not just tech entrepreneurs but world-changing visionaries. College, in his and the minds of many others, is stultifying and outdated – overpriced and mismanaged – with very little value created despite the bump in earnings power that universities use as their raison d’être in our modern world of money. "
posted by Rafaelloello (108 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Don't feed the trolls.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 12:57 PM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I went to school for two and a half years for a BA and only learned that nobody expects much from me. I never socialized, I never worked very hard, and I never studied for any test. It cost about $12,000 all told. I look back on it and realize that it was a complete waste of my young life. But the solution isn't not to go to college. The solution is to reform college so it is more difficult and requires actual learning, so a BA is a meaningful qualification again.
posted by Electrius at 12:57 PM on June 21, 2011 [20 favorites]


College vs Entrepreneurship, Round [n]: Fight Meh!

Is Bill Gross in his 20s, maybe 30s? If not, there was no Google to plagiarize, and even Cliffs Notes only get you so far. You can't copy notes from the internet for many classes that provide a real-world advantage over those who don't get education beyond high school. Yes, you can learn many things taught in college through other means, but college is more than learning.

And as was brought up in the previous thread, not many are able to drop out of school and become tech entrepreneurs. If nothing else, the world is a lot bigger than Sparkly New Tech Start-ups.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:01 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


"All of us who have been there know an undergraduate education is primarily a four year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing

If he had paid attention in college, he might realize that one's own personal experience is not necessarily representative of the experience of others. And, if he had realized that, he might have avoided that particularly troubling confession. I hope his alma mater takes his confession of plagiarism seriously and revokes his degree. After all, Google didn't exist when Mr. Gross went to college, so I can only conclude that his own plagiarism (to which he has now confessed) was from other, more scholarly sources.
posted by The World Famous at 1:03 PM on June 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


oooo...bill gross is getting out of treasuries? Doesn't strike me as a very good sign at all.

And bill...college is where you can learn how to take drugs safely and responsibly (plenty of opportunity for peer-supported trial and error)...even if the only drugs you encounter are caffeine and alcohol.
posted by telstar at 1:03 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those kids getting $100,000 grants are going to get into great colleges!

Is the purpose of college really just to get a job, or is it to get an education?

What about the fact that unemployment among college grads is sub 5% and high school graduates somewhere around 25%?

this
posted by Gregamell at 1:05 PM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait, wait, he's not saying don't go to college. He's saying there are no jobs, so people are wasting time and money hoping college is a magical gateway to nonexistent jobs. The solution is for the government to worry more about employment than it does about balancing budgets or whatever it's doing right now.
posted by mittens at 1:05 PM on June 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Undergraduate education is a scam. It's far from useless, mind you, but it's a scam nonetheless.

Most 4-year undergraduate degrees could very easily be whittled down to two years simply by removing all the reqisite courses that have fuck all to do with a student's major.

And that's not even accouting for "foundation year" and pay-to-work internships.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:05 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


America encourages its youth to go to college for two reasons: the first is to learn a trade, the second is to become a well-rounded adult (that is, to take some courses in subjects you wouldn't have otherwise explored, and to meet strange and different people in a relatively non-threatening environment). If you view college as a mechanism for personal and societal economic growth, you don't need to learn a trade (your natural cynicism and selfishness will sustain you), but you desperately need some finishing.
posted by Nahum Tate at 1:06 PM on June 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I too am confident that my reflections on my personal experience are a fine guide for what everyone else should be doing! After all, I'm extremely rich!
posted by serif at 1:06 PM on June 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


The issues around this are somewhat more complex than Gross realizes. He misses the fact that, despite a shrinking economy, people with college degrees are still more likely to gain financial security, with higher-earning jobs and better benefits. Along with increased unemployment pushing people to go back to school, the still-general promise of being able to make a reasonable standard of living maintains the increased demand for higher education. But until the student loan system is reformed to control above-inflation increases in tuition, public and private schools will keep getting more expensive to meet the increasing demand.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:08 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"A mind is a precious thing to waste, so why are millions of America’s students wasting theirs by going to college?"

All the sexing, duh.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:08 PM on June 21, 2011


Does PIMCO hire people with no college degree?
posted by Ad hominem at 1:08 PM on June 21, 2011 [38 favorites]


I think more apprenticeship programs with a guaranteed job for making it at the end of training would be a good idea. And I don't mean eliminating university and further higher ed. altogether, I just mean that would really help add to a better mix. Most people associate apprenticeship with "the trades" and blue collar crappy jobs, but I guess that misconception is why electricians and plumbers are in such high demand now.
posted by banished at 1:09 PM on June 21, 2011


At the U of Oklahoma, I vacationed for three semesters (wonder how many hours I spent playing Final Fantasy 10 and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City), then started working for the school paper as a copy editor, desk editor, and then editor-in-chief, managing a staff of 60. At age 22. I'm not saying I did a great job (I didn't); I'm saying holy crap, where else can you get that kind of experience before age 30?

I learned from a few professors who taught me how to be a better person. I dramatically honed my writing, which is at least half of what I do at work now. And crucially (though it's hard to say for sure or to tease these things out), I took a few Theory and cultural criticism classes pretty much by accident, and now I'm a die-hard feminist.

College has incredible opportunities, if you are alert enough to take advantage of them. Now, are most 18- to 22-year-olds capable of spotting those opportunities? That is a different problem. I wasn't; I just sort of happened on those opportunities by chance. But they were there.
posted by radicalawyer at 1:11 PM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


The prorblem with college is not that it is useless. The problem is that college costs have risen at 200% the rate of inflation over the last 20 odd years. The ROI on a college education is a much lower number than it used to be. If you are getting a EE degree, or an accounting degree leading to a CPA, the ROI in college is still just fine. But spending $120K to get a liberal arts degree is not the slam dunk good idea that it used to be. When you figure in saving $120K, plus the earnings you could have made for 4 years, it literally costs $200,000 to go to college. If you spent those 4 years learning a trade, or starting your own business, would you be better off? For many kids, with costs where they are today, the answer might be yes. But culturally, we still shove our kids into college assuming it will pay off 4 years later.
posted by COD at 1:11 PM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ad hominem: "Does PIMCO hire people with no college degree?"

That's the thing isn't it? There might not be a lot of jobs for college grads but there are none for non-college grads.
posted by octothorpe at 1:11 PM on June 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


College tuition has increased at a rate 6% higher than the general rate of inflation for the past 25 years, making it four times as expensive relative to other goods and services as it was in 1985.

Does anyone really believe the value of a Bachelor's degree has increased 6% every year? At some point a B.A. in the liberal arts becomes a bad deal, obviously some people believe that's already happened.

There will always be some jobs that require an undergraduate education. The question is if those jobs are worth 4 years and more than $100,000 in debt just in order to qualify.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:12 PM on June 21, 2011


Weren't the founders of Facebook and Google going to college at the time they started their business? And how does that inform the logic here for why people should not go to college?

Also, from the William H Gross wikipedia page, I see that he went to school for psychology and joined a fraternity. I can see why he thought college was a four-year vacation, and believes undergrad degrees to represent an ability to party and establish social networks.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 1:12 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Enough of this bullshit. How is someone going to get a job in accounting without the proper education? Self-taught from the internet? Good luck with that. For the kids who take it seriously, an education can be a valuable thing. Yeah, I know of all the exceptions, but again, how are you going to be an engineer without a degree? I don't get it.
posted by repoman at 1:12 PM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


College maintains a class barrier and develops social capital. It's four years for historical reasons.

"But you can't get a decent job without a college degree" is true, but it's also a further indictment of this stupid system. There isn't really a "good" reason why an office temp needs a four year degree.

I liked college, but the way it's done nowadays is still completely upside-down.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:13 PM on June 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


OK so this graph gives the accurate numbers. My previous statement of 25% was a bit high.

Of course doesn't show causation, like how pumping more and more money into housing didn't exactly result in more people owning homes, in the long run, just going to college doesn't mean you're getting a job.

fwiw I think giving motivated teenagers $100,000 is a great idea.
posted by Gregamell at 1:15 PM on June 21, 2011


An asset is a terrible thing to waste. If we stop sending our kids to college, throw out Obamacare, destroy the EPA, and bust all the unions, we can bring the shitty jobs back to America! God bless the United Corporations of America!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:16 PM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


There isn't really a "good" reason why an office temp needs a four year degree.

True. But, all other things being equal, there's no good reason to hire the applicant without a degree if there's an applicant who has one.
posted by The World Famous at 1:17 PM on June 21, 2011


"Ad hominem: "Does PIMCO hire people with no college degree?"

That's the thing isn't it? There might not be a lot of jobs for college grads but there are none for non-college grads.
"

Gross argues that the resources being appropriated to undergraduate education could more effeciently be rationed to different areas to spur growth. The structural and fiscal defeciencies of the undergraduate education system have been exposed by the recession.

The implicit bargain (I pay you 125k to learn a few things that could have been compressed in a more effecient package, in turn you network me into good jobs and raise my earnings potential throughout my life) between institution and pupil in effect has been severed. He argues that we should look for better ways to deal with the issue. I agree. Vocational studies are better for some. For the rest that should be pursuiting a standard 4 year education, the system should be revised for effeciency and real-world applicability.
posted by Hurst at 1:18 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is Bill Gross in his 20s, maybe 30s? If not, there was no Google to plagiarize

Very true, even into the 2000s. I finished up my BA in 2004 or so and even then the internet was not the most valuable tool for doing research, let alone a source of quality content to steal from. Unless kids are stealing from blogs now, typically the only papers you'd find online would be full of content well beyond what is covered in undergrad courses and would likely set off alarms for any TA evaluating them.
posted by Hoopo at 1:20 PM on June 21, 2011


Talking monolithically about "college" is silly anyway. Trying to come up with universal statements that apply equally to a Big State School, the University of Phoenix, the Ivy Leagues, Engineering schools, Tiny Liberal Arts Colleges, etc is going to be a waste of time. Some college structures are more useful than others. Some types of schools are good for specific things (Want to be a politician? Networking at an Ivy is a really good idea. Want to be an engineer? Better off at MIT or Caltech). And for some people it really isn't going to help much (although if money were no issue, I think almost everyone can benefit -- but given that money _is_ a huge issue, what you plan to do with your life is worth considering).
posted by wildcrdj at 1:21 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's something a lot more sinister in this trend. It goes something like this:

* It's too expensive to hire Americans locally to do grunt work, because they're all too proud, and want to improve their lot, so they all get college degrees. And, hiring people with college degrees still comes at a premium.

* We can outsource, or import uneducated immigrants, but those options have downsides.

* Hey, why don't we wage a campaign to start convincing Americans that they shouldn't go to college at all? Then, we can get even closer to our ideal of a permanent underclass, who we can hire cheaply and locally, by taking people who would have been expensive to hire, and making them cheaper in the long run. It'll take a while to get there, but we're good at playing the long game.


Anyone notice how it's all rich captains of industry who are poo-pooing higher education? You know, the same ones who imploded the economy and are blocking all manner of job recovery by insisting that the deficit is the biggest problem, rather than unemployment?

It all fits together like very simple puzzle pieces.
posted by Citrus at 1:21 PM on June 21, 2011 [32 favorites]


are blocking all manner of job recovery by insisting that the deficit is the biggest problem, rather than unemployment?

someone didn't read the article
posted by found missing at 1:23 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think you're on to something, Citrus.
posted by clockzero at 1:23 PM on June 21, 2011


someone didn't read the article

Hitler?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:24 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does PIMCO hire people with no college degree?

No.
posted by honest knave at 1:29 PM on June 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Bill Gross seems to have made a career out of convincing people he knows what he's talking about, then fucking people over for his own gain. I don't think for a second this guy with a Bachelor's from Duke and an MBA from UCLA is actually telling people not to go to school for their own benefit.
posted by kafziel at 1:29 PM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


* It's too expensive to hire Americans locally to do grunt work, because they're all too proud, and want to improve their lot, so they all get college degrees. And, hiring people with college degrees still comes at a premium.

Solution: Reduce the cost of education.

Seriously. If people's expenses are lower, what's the problem if their wages are lower? Lower wages would mjean employers could employ more people, which means less unemkployment, which means less 'permanent underclass.'
posted by Sys Rq at 1:29 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It all fits together like very simple puzzle pieces.

Fortunately, they're working very hard to weed out people who can put puzzles together.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:30 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I majored in Mjean Unemkployment, incidentally.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:30 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]



Seriously. If people's expenses are lower, what's the problem if their wages are lower? Lower wages would mjean employers could employ more people, which means less unemkployment, which means less 'permanent underclass.'


Alternatively, employers could earn greater profits allowing for the development of greater automation and labor displacing technologies.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:36 PM on June 21, 2011


Seriously. If people's expenses are lower, what's the problem if their wages are lower? Lower wages would mjean employers could employ more people, which means less unemkployment, which means less 'permanent underclass.'

Having a huge rich-poor disparity is a problem for a number of reasons, chief among them that it creates a "who cares?" mentality among the "rich" when it comes to providing government services for the "poor." For a real-world demonstration of this, look at Latin America. Even though nearly everyone in, say, Lima, Peru or Caracas has enough money to buy food, gas, clothing, housing, etc., their existences are pretty unpleasant because of the high crime, terrible public schools, and myriads of other problems.
posted by Electrius at 1:37 PM on June 21, 2011


"All of us who have been there know an undergraduate education is primarily a four year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing"

Maybe for the buttholes that dropped out of engineering for B school, it was.

Our penchant for focusing on high tech value-added jobs should be modified and redirected, he claims, to mimic the German path, which allows people with good technical skills but limited college education to earn a decent living.

We used to have this. It was called Union apprenticeships. But all the Union jobs are getting smushed...
posted by notsnot at 1:37 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a good job with good benefits, and I'm probably the only person in my office who doesn't have a college degree. I have lots of college education...I just never finished to get a degree. And with all the self-studying I'm pretty sure I have an equivalent of a bachelor's in liberal arts (as if that's hard anyway). But here I am, pulling in a professional salary at a global firm doing work I enjoy with good health benefits and lots of vacation time and a nice retirement plan.

So on the one hand I feel pretty smug knowing that my high-school guidance counselor was wrong, and on the other hand I'm also motivated to finish my schooling because now I'm not worried about getting a job so I can go back and get a degree in something I actually like. Because learning is fun!

Also it should be noted, and this is totally blinkered, that hiring managers routinely use the "i can haz diploma?" check-box as a way to sift through mountains of applicants. So either you play the game and get the damn paper or you start a new game (i.e. un/self-employed, YMMV).
posted by jnrussell at 1:39 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well he is pretty much calling for a second CCC, I think he should put his money where his mouth is. I have no college degree, I will take the CRM/Analytics Lead position in the PIMCO New York office for low six figures, C'mon Bill, I could be the success story you write about in your next blog post. MeMail me.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:39 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, the same ones who imploded the economy and are blocking all manner of job recovery by insisting that the deficit is the biggest problem, rather than unemployment?

90% of the text is him insisting precisely the opposite of this. In fact, if you took the bit about undergraduate education out, then Krugman could have written this.

Of course as a European I think the idea that everyone should go to university is, like so many other things, an idea which speaks well for the American capacity for idealism but poorly for your connection to reality.
posted by atrazine at 1:41 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nahum Tate: "the second is to become a well-rounded adult (that is, to take some courses in subjects you wouldn't have otherwise explored, and to meet strange and different people in a relatively non-threatening environment)."

Would that I'd had time to do that. Eng. school has so many pre-reqs, reqs, and just the sheer volume of classes that there's not much room for personal growth. You get your eight semesters, take whatever you can in summer session (with no scholarships, so it's pure student loans), and hope the Fortran and Pascal classes don't bog you down with too much busywork.
posted by notsnot at 1:41 PM on June 21, 2011


I bet 3/4 of the commenters on this thread did not read the article, or if they did they are not following his thinking.
posted by H. Roark at 1:41 PM on June 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Having a huge rich-poor disparity is a problem for a number of reasons, chief among them that it creates a "who cares?" mentality among the "rich" when it comes to providing government services for the "poor." For a real-world demonstration of this, look at Latin America. Even though nearly everyone in, say, Lima, Peru or Caracas has enough money to buy food, gas, clothing, housing, etc., their existences are pretty unpleasant because of the high crime, terrible public schools, and myriads of other problems.

What? Who said anything about cutting services? If anything, higher employment would free up some money (not to mention raise more in taxes) for more services.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:44 PM on June 21, 2011


What? Who said anything about cutting services? If anything, higher employment would free up some money (not to mention raise more in taxes) for more services.

Nobody said anything about cutting services, but it seems to be the case that if the elite don't use a service, then it tends to fall into disrepair, since only the elite can fix up a service. Case in point: in Washington, the regional transit authority is constantly running into trouble because the board, which is comprised of members of the elite, don't use the public transport services, especially not the bus system. My point is that a large rich-poor divide leads to service cuts.
posted by Electrius at 1:49 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Concurrently I see arguments like this claiming that college has a lessening value, but anecdotal evidence says that more jobs are requiring a degree. Either the degree has some value or employers are en-mass believing a lie.
posted by dgran at 1:49 PM on June 21, 2011


I read it, but there are two problems (at least!) with it. First, he derails his own article with the line "All of us who have been there know an undergraduate education is primarily a four year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing" which is by no means universally true (and says more about him than college). Even though the rest of his article is not really predicated on this, it was a terrible idea to lead off with this.

Secondly, it's slightly misleading when he says "the high tech paragons of the 21st century – Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook et al. – never were employers of high school or B.A. college graduates "

Sure, they mostly hired B.S. graduates. But a BS is a far cry from a "skills-based degree:, it still involves humanities and liberal arts curricula (even at a crazy-sci/eng-focused school like Caltech) and is more focused on knowledge than skills. For example, a Computer Science degree isn't a technical/skill degree, it's a knowledge one (as opposed to learning to be a mechanic, or something). You don't really learn how to do the job skill (programming), rather you learn general background that will help you learn the actual skill (mcuh like how a BA should work).

I do agree with him that government should take a much larger role in job creation. Unfortunately the public is squarely against that idea right now.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:49 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I bet 3/4 of the commenters on this thread did not read the article, or if they did they are not following his thinking.

The solution to that is to reduce education rates. If we put Americans to work in menial jobs instead of teaching them to read and write, then people like me won't be able to write meaningless comments on the Internet.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:51 PM on June 21, 2011


My point is that a large rich-poor divide leads to service cuts.

Fair enough. I guess what I'm not understanding is how that has anything to do with the thing I wrote that you quoted.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:51 PM on June 21, 2011


That just screams for a MF tagline.
posted by found missing at 1:53 PM on June 21, 2011


Having a massive underclass allows for lower wages than you would have given an absence of such an underclass. If there are fifty other people wanting your job, then you better do it at the price you get paid because the alternative is at no real cost to your employer. This is not the case when unemployment is near zero, however, it is then, and really only then that firing you is to the detriment of your employer. The one thing worse than having to filter a hundred resumes is having no resumes on the pile. Now, of course, this is usually the ideal scenario for professionals as it secures their employment. So the SEO Manager gets himself an SEO Certification and claims that only people who have their certificate are worthy. This makes HR's job easier because now the pile is smaller, and secures the SEO manager's job. It has so far been the case that the deskilling of workers, and more unemployed workers there are the greater the role certifications play. As for reaching some idealized symmetry of labor relations, that is not so easy. Such a harmonious relation is certainly not found in cutting the cost of education. That won't do anything but spontaneously develop a new minimum of certifications for the labor market.

The solution you are looking for is a radical combination of universal minimum income and no minimum wage. Education will watch itself.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:55 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fair enough. I guess what I'm not understanding is how that has anything to do with the thing I wrote that you quoted.

You originally wrote: "If people's expenses are lower, what's the problem if their wages are lower?" The problems created by an income gap are the problem if their wages are lower.
posted by Electrius at 2:03 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


How does Bill Gross expect to pay for his revived CCC if he is going to still try to keep a budget surplus? If he raises taxes in direct proportion to the spending, then it's a one for one exchange. Having the money go to the bottom of the economy is an improvement since it will probably be spent on consumer goods.... but there will still be less money in the system...
posted by wuwei at 2:10 PM on June 21, 2011


Well, if we're basing this all off personal experience, I got a (rather well paying) job in Silicon Valley with an MA in Classics, purely because I could proofread. And write grammatically correct sentences. Based on this personal experience, I feel every college student should spend their entire 4 years learning Latin and Greek. And learning the ability to read instructions and textbooks.

I kid! I kid! (Mostly.) Money for technical subjects is important, but they're expensive to teach, which is why institutions steer away from them unless they're prestige subjects as well. Liberal arts courses, on the other hand, are very cheap to run; the BA is not running up the cost of university education, as in most places it has been stripped down to its bare essentials. The belief that if you axed the Humanities as a subject at universities you'd save money is nothing more than an illusion, based on no understanding of how universities fund themselves. Whatever is swallowing up the cash, I can bet you it isn't Philosophy 100.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:10 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rock on dewd!

If Capitalism should teach Mr. Gross anything it's that hard work and creative thinking will let people achieve greater things. American Universities are not socialistic institutions where every graduate is guaranteed an equal slice of the pie. People who work hard and put in 60+ hours/wk will benefit from that investment. Underachievers will waste a good chunk of their parent's life savings and be guaranteed a job cleaning the restroom at Starbucks. In life, underachievers will be underachievers even if they are given $10,000 grants.

Damn near every university in the country has many competent professors that would love students who put intellectual effort into their homework and papers. A student only wastes their time going to college if they are wasting their time at college.
posted by JJ86 at 2:26 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bill has the right idea! That now takes care of 20 people this year...as for the others, well, who cares.
NY Times article the other day: those with college degrees much more likely to stay married ten or more years than those without the degree. Wonder what that means?

Some wise ass once said: you go to college to have fun. You go to the library to get smart.Sure, libraries can be found in your town. But more goes on than we sometimes imagine.

My case: Was a bit older than most undergrads, having come out of the army. Found dorm life too noisy and got permission to move into grad dorm. Met serious students. That made me get serious about learning. And it worked.
posted by Postroad at 2:30 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone on PBS was saying "these stories write themselves" and then went on to describe the exact trajectory of this article. (This guy was a proponent of college, of course.)

Opinions on this, like mine, are a little too complex to explain on this, the longest day of the year, when it's nice out and I've got better things to do. (One thing I did this morning, by the way, is sell an ounce of gold to help pay for my daughter's college education.)

College is fucking expensive, but you need it for a lot of jobs. That's simple enough, isn't it?
posted by kozad at 2:40 PM on June 21, 2011


It's so nice to see that I don't even have to think up something new from when we did this a week ago (although that thread went much better than I expected).
posted by rtha at 2:44 PM on June 21, 2011


College is fucking expensive, but you need it for a lot of jobs. That's simple enough, isn't it?

It's simple, but also not simple. The need is artificial and self-replicating, except in certain fields where there really is a BA/BS worth of knowledge you need in order to get a foothold. The rest comes down much more to cultural norms and the trajectory of certification creep than anything more substantive.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:46 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd agree with Electrius that universities must exist to challenge students, otherwise the students never really get inspired, making the education worth significantly less. Yet, we must also understand that people expect some insurance for their major investments, meaning high graduation rates for most universities.

American doctors, engineers, etc. are largely selected by university admission offices with faculty merely ranking them internally by GPA. Conversely, European professionals are selected primarily by the actual professors, who simply fail out the weak ones.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:48 PM on June 21, 2011


College is fucking expensive, but you need it for a lot of jobs. That's simple enough, isn't it?

Except that it's only so fucking expensive because you "need" it for a lot of jobs--that is, it's required for employment even when it has no bearing on a candidate's potential performance.

Demand goes up, price goes up just because schools can get away with it. Consequently, individuals' debt goes up, and then...
posted by Sys Rq at 2:50 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also it should be noted, and this is totally blinkered, that hiring managers routinely use the "i can haz diploma?" check-box as a way to sift through mountains of applicants. So either you play the game and get the damn paper or you start a new game (i.e. un/self-employed, YMMV).

Good point. That's one reason.

Another reason for me was learning how to grow up. Because I had clingy parents who weren't so cool with the idea of me growing up in the first place, thank god I had college as a reason and a motivator for moving out. (Also thank god that my parents did not insist that I go to the local junior college, because the one in my town seems like an island of inertia. I am not kidding when I say that I've seen people who graduated the year I did take 8 years to transfer out.) Because that way I eventually had to learn how to do my own laundry, get myself places (did not have a driver's license and lived too far out in the boonies at home), eventually figure out how to get myself an internship and a job, how to do dishes without a dishwasher, how to handle landlords, how to date, how to hang around with super weird people without getting in trouble, how to drink without puking, stuff like that. College was great training wheels for learning how to go from the parents' house to the real world. Had the expectation of "everyone must go to college and it must be a 4-year" not existed, I'd probably still be at home with mumsy, going out of my mind. So there's that.

As for job training, well, I was a English/artsy person, so useful job training only works so well for those of us who can't do math and science anyway. (I saw this link the other day and debated posting it here.) Realistically I probably should have gone to cosmetology school or something if I wanted an actual trade that might not be too hard or too smart for me, but I haven't the faintest where the nearest cosmetology school is anyway. I've managed to stay employed somehow (except for a few months/weeks in between jobs) since graduating, so there's that. My first job out of college related to one of my degrees. My current one does not, but it's not in a dying industry, so there's that. Do I need a degree to do it? Probably not, but the college experience I have has helped me to do it, or at least I have a lot of relevant background knowledge that I use.

But then again, I had parents who could afford to shell out for all 4 years, I only took 4 years to get out, and while I graduated during a recession, I didn't graduate during the massive fee increases. That might change anyone's tune as to whether or not it's worth it to go to college (other than for the resume filter, can't underestimate that) if you don't have the smarts in fields that pay good money. If your life's earning potential is low because you're good at writing and art rather than engineering, hell, it might not be worth it to rack up the debt for the degree otherwise if you may never be able to pay it off.

But I don't know. College didn't necessarily train me for getting a job, I had to figure that out for myself and hit the internship and career center for that focus anyway. In the end, everyone's gonna have to cover that base for themselves and not expect school to do it for you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:53 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"All of us who have been there know an undergraduate education is primarily a four year vacation interrupted by periodic bouts of cramming or Google plagiarizing..."

Speak for yourself, Bill. At my college there were an AWFUL lot of Psychology majors (Bill's major at Duke), and there were two kinds of Psych majors: people who were interested in psychology who wanted to move on to therapy and/or social work, and people who figured it was a soft option to get some sort of "science" degree. Let me guess which one Bill was.

I'll be the first to admit I under-applied myself in school, but not everyone spent their undergrad years partying in a frat (cf. Bill's wikipedia page), and choosing a soft option major.

Some people major in things that they're genuinely interested in, and wish to better themselves by selecting a degree program that they find fulfilling. Strange, that. Fulfillment in college?

Bill was obviously an undermotivated, overinebriated Frat Boy who didn't give a shit about college, and by normal rights should've ended up some third-rate sales manager at some small local company, except somewhere along the way he discovered his drive, which was to manipulate statistics to make a shit-ton of money rather than actually MAKING something. (Whoa, check out that broad brush! I can paint with one too Bill!)

College isn't for people like him.
posted by chimaera at 3:00 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ad Hominem : I will take the CRM/Analytics Lead position in the PIMCO New York office for low six figures, C'mon Bill, I could be the success story you write about in your next blog post.
I know you meant this in jest, but I would be shocked if they actually deigned to even interview, let alone hire, some schlub who applied online.
posted by dr_dank at 3:02 PM on June 21, 2011


The meta narrative here is interesting. If Bill Gross thinks this, other Wall Street types will come to think it.
posted by Diablevert at 3:02 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I tried going to college as soon as I graduated high school and ended up being too undisciplined for it. I lacked direction and motivation. Plus the fact that traveling an hour and a half each way sometimes just for one class didn't help matters at all. So I got a job instead. Nothing special. Just entry level IT. And I worked my way up from there. Within a few years I was part of a support team for a media company helping out people with journalism degrees who made $30,000/yr before taxes and had $100,000 student loans to pay off. Yes, you may get a well rounded education and learn something useful, but will the job you get after college help pay any of it off?

If you're going to go to college just go to a local community college. You'll get a degree, the costs won't kill you, and you may just learn something useful. Or, if you're in it to learn some actual skills and gain experience, consider going to a trade school. There are a lot of physical jobs out there that require brains and that will be in short supply soon. Plus it doesn't hurt knowing how to fix things around the house and having the tools to do it.

Just my two cents.
posted by enamon at 3:05 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Forgot to mention that, at some point in the future, I'm looking forward to going to college. But only once I'm financially secure enough that I have the time to really focus on getting some sort of an engineering degree.
posted by enamon at 3:07 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


As someone who both works in Higher Ed and functions as a grad student, I definitely think there are people who are getting undergrad and even grad degrees not so much to learn something but to advance their career objectives. The various cohort and executive MBA/MIS programs seem to be the worst out of these programs. Basically you are paying x dollars to get y benefit at the end of that period.

However the huge glut of people getting undergrad and even grad degrees are beginning to realize that perhaps that implied contract isn't quite delivering the expected returns.

If you go into the contract realizing that the primary output isn't necessarily going to be a guaranteed higher standard of living down the road I think people make more rational decisions concerning their education dollars. For myself (working on a PhD) I understand that at the end of the journey I probably won't get a job as a professor in my field but I can apply the concepts (public policy administration) in my day to day job and be a more effective administrator than some of my co-workers. Perhaps that will lead to increased wealth but perhaps it won't. If I'm unrealistic in my expectations though I will tend to over-invest and be willing to put myself into debt with the expectation that debt will suddenly disappear several year from now when I'm done with my program.

If for no other purpose I think having a 4 year (or even a 2-year) degree on your resume is a short-hand to employers that a) the person can learn, b) they can be trained and retrained, and c) they can stick with something for an extended period of time. When you have a bunch of applicants for a job and limited funds to spend on training them after the fact the ability to assume that you can provide them some training (self-paced or otherwise) and that they can probably absorb it into a functional work environment is fairly reassuring.

However, the thing that I'm beginning to notice is that due to the proliferation of colleges and universities there seems to be a steady erosion of what the end product of a college will be expected to know. It used to be that you might be able to expect a certain set of important skills to be part and parcel of an education (such as research ability, the ability to think critical, the ability to write a coherent paper, the ability to prioritize and manage your time) that seems to be missing from the newer crop of students. I'm not saying that every recent grad is worthless but that more and more you can coast through college without really exerting yourself much.

I think that's why more and more jobs are looking for grad degrees in the expectation that if you managed to get a Masters you actually had to do work. I'm not sure that is 100% accurate either.
posted by vuron at 3:13 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know you meant this in jest, but I would be shocked if they actually deigned to even interview, let alone hire, some schlub who applied online.

I'm sure they don't even look at resumes submitted online. It was funny that position was even listed on their site.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:16 PM on June 21, 2011


For those who think the whole anti-college movement is a conspiracy by the rich to screw the lower classes over, remember this:

College is a business. Most colleges are private institutions. They make money off their students. The more students enroll the more money they get. Professors, teaching supplies, lab equipment, etc. are all expenses. Liberal arts classes require the least equipment and funding. Thus, liberal arts classes are preferred over science and business (I'm talking about accounting and other such courses) courses and they are marketed more.

Colleges, as they stand right now, are a scam. Everyone loses. Sure, it may be hard to get a job without a college degree but so is getting a job with a college degree. There are so many applicants with BA degrees that, in lots of cases, experience tends to win out over a degree.
posted by enamon at 3:20 PM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Actually I'm not sure that liberal arts classes are really favored over science, engineering and especially business degrees.

Think of it from this perspective, there are several monetary inputs into the average university. Tuition, Fees, Room and Board, etc are critically important but increasingly universities are looking for professors to bring in research dollars as well.

What programs bring in research dollars? Science and Engineering programs with other programs like Nursing and Education also bringing in pretty good money. Guess what tends to get pretty small grants? Liberal Arts.

Business programs do seem to bring in a good amount of money as well, especially in the form of academic partnerships and other revenue streams. I suspect at many schools business grads also tend to give heavily as alumni (another important revenue stream).

At state schools particularly the pursuit of research dollars and thus generally higher funding from the state seems to be driving a large amount of decision making. Yes training engineers and scientists costs a lot of money but the dividends seem to be worthwhile.
posted by vuron at 3:28 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I actually agree that America's institutions of higher learning would be much better off without people like Bill Gross in attendence. I worked hard in college and learned a lot. But there were a ton of chairs being warmed by assholes like Bill Gross which could have been put to better use. We could have had more time with the professors, or we could have brought in students who actually gave a shit. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:33 PM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


College is a chance to grow up in an environment where you are unlikely to get in serious trouble. Most people aren't capable of handling any serious responsibility at 18 (heck, even 25), so a couple of years spent in a maturity holding tank is a pretty good idea. Of course not everyone needs or wants that.
posted by miyabo at 4:00 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Colleges are important. Try drinking underage in your home town! Problems. Go to college and party on each weekend and the people in charge say tsk tsk and on to the next party and hookup...worth the expense.
posted by Postroad at 4:04 PM on June 21, 2011


Does PIMCO hire people with no college degree?

While I have no clue as to the answer, I would bet that Pimco would have no issue whatsoever hiring someone without a degree who showed an incredible aptitude for the financial services industry.

I think that we're missing the larger point of Gross's message, and that is: the vast majority of kids who go to college squander the four years, get little out of it and become desk drones for which a college degree really isn't necessary, along with the tens of thousands in debt they end up with.
posted by tgrundke at 4:11 PM on June 21, 2011


How depressing. There is nothing that the government can ever do to truly improve the education crisis in America so long as our main aspirations for our highest centers of learning are that they should serve as extended daycares.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:15 PM on June 21, 2011


Anyone notice how it's all rich captains of industry who are poo-pooing higher education?

Actually, again, I think people are misreading the recent articles that are questioning the value of higher education. Higher education has become a bubble industry, similar to housing, and people like Bill Gross are particularly good at noticing these trends and exploiting them (for better or for worse). If you read carefully, what Gross is pointing out is that Americans have been sucked into believing the only path to success is an overpriced, debt-induced education that likely will not pay you back in the future.

It's all similar to the belief that "housing never declines in value" and "everyone should own a home". Higher education is a grand thing, but most kids frankly don't take enough advantage of it and far too many indebt themselves excessively for the privilege of becoming debt slaves.
posted by tgrundke at 4:17 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


College is a privilege and a very good indicator of class, whether it's because your parents have $100,000+ to spend on you, or you grew up in a solid enough household (in a good enough school district) to have done well enough to quality, and take out loans.

I find the cost depressing and the escalation of "starting position requirements" maddening, but it's the stark divide between the haves and have-nots that's worst. College requirements are just another way of the powerful ensuring that the poor will never climb out of poverty.
posted by maxwelton at 4:25 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


COD: "The prorblem with college is not that it is useless. The problem is that college costs have risen at 200% the rate of inflation over the last 20 odd years. The ROI on a college education is a much lower number than it used to be."

The costs of college haven't changed a whole lot over the years; we've just shifted who pays for it all, from the states to the students. We just approved a 4 percent increase in tuition, which will offset losses from state and federal aid next fiscal year. From a macroeconomic standpoint, nothing much has changed. The question you have to ask is, why are all these bond people taking up the cause now?

It matters to them because before, they were making loans to states who are barred from defaulting by law. Now, student loans are also non-dischargable, but it's a lot harder to squeeze payments out of an unemployed English major than a state with tax revenues even in recessions. It makes sense to me to assume they speak because they plan to profit from it somehow (options? CDOs?)--now that they've pulled their sled up the hill, it's time to start enjoying the toboggan ride down. Perhaps they simply plan to talk prices down and make a profit from a bailout later.

"Now pwnguin, aren't you forgetting that blah blah illegal blah blah foment markets?" Good luck proving it. If Mad Money can stay on the air without legal problems, these bond vigilantes don't have much to worry about.
posted by pwnguin at 4:26 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay here's the thing. I think college is probably invaluable for a technical degree, like computer science or electrical engineering or something. Especially for fields that require labs. You're not going to learn how to do genetic recombination in your basement, even if you might learn to program. It's also fun and makes you 'college educated' which is still socially important.

But here's the thing. Dollar for dollar, is it worth the cost? Increasingly the answer may be no The job market totally sucks for recent grads, and you have to pay a fortune in college loans that you can't get rid of through bankruptcy.

The student loan system has lead to massive inflation in the cost of school, just in the past decade. When I was in school tuition jumped 19% twice in two years and then another 9% jump. Why were prices going up? Probably because everyone could pay them, thanks to student loans. (one nice thing is that the government finally got rid of the stupid, pointless private loan companies that did nothing but skim off the system and advertise loans to students. The legislation that did this was actually the 'Obamacare' affordable healthcare act's "patch", btw)

So because of a perverse incentive system college has become unaffordable. Without the loan industry, colleges could only charge what students could afford, by definition. On the other hand, poor students wouldn't have had the opportunity to go to school.

What I would say is get rid of the guarantees. Schools should bare the risk if students can't pay loans, based on the salary they make after they graduate. That way, schools would have an incentive to make sure students don't take loans they can't pay back.

Another option would be for the government to straight up pay for school for students with a minimum GPA. That's how it is many countries. Why not the U.S? Or the government could build schools to educate people, a sort of 'public option' or give schools block grants on the condition they educate X students with it.

But right now you have the same situation as with Healthcare. No one wants to say people have to go without healthcare. But if you say yes to everything, prices skyrocket. So you need cost controls or public competition.
What about the fact that unemployment among college grads is sub 5% and high school graduates somewhere around 25%? -- Gregamell
How many of those 'college grads' are baby boomers or Gen-Xers who went to school cheap and still have jobs they've had since long before the recession.

Look at the unemployment rate for recent grads. It's brutal.
Secondly, it's slightly misleading when he says "the high tech paragons of the 21st century – Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook et al. – never were employers of high school or B.A. college graduates " -- wildcrdj
You mean except for Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg? All college dropouts.
... then it's a one for one exchange. Having the money go to the bottom of the economy is an improvement since it will probably be spent on consumer goods.... but there will still be less money in the system... -- wuwei
If it was a 1-for-1 exchange, then the amount of money in the system would stay constant. But the thing to understand is that if you view money as a stand-in for human effort then more labor = more money. Unemployment is essentially the destruction of value because it wastes man hours that can never be reclaimed. People get trapped into thinking of money as some 'substance' of which there is a fixed amount. That's not how it works.
Underachievers will waste a good chunk of their parent's life savings and be guaranteed a job cleaning the restroom at Starbucks. In life, underachievers will be underachievers even if they are given $10,000 grants. -- JJ86
Except this guy partied through college, got a psych degree and now he's a billionaire fund manager. So obviously you're wrong.
I'm sure they don't even look at resumes submitted online. It was funny that position was even listed on their site. -- Ad hominem
Actually, it's likely that you need to apply online even if you know someone in order to "get in the system." HR people don't want to enter that stuff by hand.
posted by delmoi at 4:30 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


enamon: College is a business. Most colleges are private institutions.

Is that even accurate? If I had to guess, I'd say the public community colleges would win by absolute number, and the public state colleges would win by attendance.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:32 PM on June 21, 2011


Try to say PIMCO without it sounding like PIMPCO. It's impossible. Coincidence?
posted by diogenes at 4:34 PM on June 21, 2011


That was a bold statement, delmoi.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:35 PM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a great article in the New Yorker recently on this very subject.
posted by diogenes at 4:37 PM on June 21, 2011


Oh, and I really hate the 'everyone should be an entrepreneur' mindset. It's like saying everyone should be a professional athlete. The world doesn't really have room for that many successful entrepreneurs, and it's a fierce competition to be one; if you aren't naturally talented and interested enough to work like a madman, you will fail and fail badly.

From what I've seen, successful entrepreneurs come in three varieties - people who are masters at their fields and good at business, people who are good at their fields and masters of business, and people with extreme natural charisma who lie and scam their way through. It's pretty obvious that this doesn't describe that many people, and it really doesn't describe many young adults (almost none of them will be masters of their field and very few will even be good at them yet.) Trying to push people who are basically untrained and inept at mostly everything into running their own businesses is only going to result in pathetic failure and a pile of debt with nothing to show for it. And those people who are either naturally talented or business masters? They're probably going to be ok even with the student loans.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:43 PM on June 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Try to say PIMCO without it sounding like PIMPCO. It's impossible. Coincidence?

I actually did used to do work for PIMCO, they were a client of a company I worked for. We used PIMPCO data so often the inevitiable happened and we started calling it PIMPCO, new hires even thought the company really was called PIMPCO. They had to send around a memo stating we were not to refer to it that way anymore, on the off chance one of them was wandering around our office and overheard us. Of course, that just made all the IT guys shout PIMPCO! when we ran one of their jobs.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:55 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


You mean except for Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg? All college dropouts.

I'm so tired of this. These guys would almost certainly have gone on to do amazing, inventive things even if they'd stayed in college. Bringing them out in arguments like this is like saying "The only way to become the founder of a multibillion dollar company is to drop out of college!" and that's just...no.

They had the knowledge and discipline to know what they needed to do, and they didn't need college to do it. Millions of undisciplined, lazy, and ignorant kids drop out of college every year for a lot of reasons - they run out of money; they're bored; they flunk out; they're not mature enough to take advantage of the opportunities they have. They do not go on to be Steve Jobs et al.
posted by rtha at 4:56 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bob Dylan said something similar in the 60s, but I can't remember the exact wording.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:00 PM on June 21, 2011


Bob Dylan said something similar in the 60s, but I can't remember the exact wording.

"20 years of schooling and they put you on the day shift"
posted by Ad hominem at 5:02 PM on June 21, 2011


Nah it wasn't a lyric. It was like "More minds were ruined in college than by anything else", only said much better.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:09 PM on June 21, 2011


"Gross argues that the resources being appropriated to undergraduate education could more effeciently be rationed to different areas to spur growth. The structural and fiscal deficiencies of the undergraduate education system have been exposed by the recession. "

In the same way that resources being appropriated to social spending, the post office, health care, state governments, science research and the public service could more efficiently be spent elsewhere. For example, subsidies to corporations can demonstrate very good returns for government office holders!
posted by sneebler at 5:24 PM on June 21, 2011


Schools should bare the risk if students can't pay loans, based on the salary they make after they graduate. That way, schools would have an incentive to make sure students don't take loans they can't pay back.

Huh?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:37 PM on June 21, 2011


Plutocrats to middle class kids: please don't get an education, you might become dangerous to us.
posted by indubitable at 6:04 PM on June 21, 2011


if you aren't naturally talented lucky and interested enough to work like a madman, you will fail and fail badly.

Luck has an amazing amount to do with how well entrepreneurs do. You can probably add networking somewhere else in there.
posted by ryoshu at 6:26 PM on June 21, 2011


Huh?

He's suggesting that colleges should underwrite the loans themselves, rather than have government fund the loans, so that way colleges will be more selective in who they give them to. They wouldn't be quite so keen to push kids on unproductive courses of study if they knew they were going to be holding a multi-hundred-thousand-dollar bag if and when Junior defaults.

It's not an idea totally devoid of merit, but I suspect that it would have a number of consequences that some might see as undesirable: (1) liberal arts undergraduate education would once again become the exclusive province of the idle rich; (2) loans, regardless of major, would be very difficult for poor students to get, since students from rich families are far more likely to become wealthy and pay back the loans than other students; (3) high school performance would probably be a factor in loan decisions, putting students into "executive" or "ditch-digger" tracks even earlier in their lives than they currently are. (Bomb that 9th-grade Algebra final? Sorry, kid, that shit goes on your credit report, good luck getting Harvard to look twice at you now.)

It's entirely possible that all of those things combined still wouldn't be as bad as the current system, but it's certainly debatable.


Somewhat relevant, earlier today I was talking to a young man who happened to be starting a summer job, working as a mate on a fishing boat on the Chesapeake (a very demanding, but potentially lucrative, job for a high-school student). He seemed like a very smart and generally squared-away kid, significantly more so than I think I was the summer before my senior year in high school. I happened to ask him where he was considering going to college. His response was interesting: he said that he had always assumed he'd go to UVA or VTech, but that recently he'd changed his mind, and decided that he'd go to a trade school and then into an apprenticeship program for marine welding instead. It was his (very considered) opinion that there were more jobs, more flexibility in location and lifestyle, and better salaries available to a skilled marine welder than another schmuck among thousands with a bachelor's degree.

I don't know a whole lot about the job market in marine welding, but I suspect he might be right, and it's suggestive of a trickling-down of uncertainty in the whole higher-education scheme that someone that motivated and bright had specifically decided to forgo college.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:35 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I went to school for two and a half years for a BA and only learned that nobody expects much from me. I never socialized, I never worked very hard, and I never studied for any test. It cost about $12,000 all told. I look back on it and realize that it was a complete waste of my young life.

Why didn't you work harder at getting something out of college?
posted by jayder at 6:44 PM on June 21, 2011


It's unfortunate that this thread was pitched, both from PIMCO and here, as an insult to anyone who ever got anything good or useful out of college.

About halfway through the article it gets much more interesting, starting at the paragraph that begins:

"Both parties, in fact, are moving to anti-Keynesian policy orientations, which deny additional stimulus and make rather awkward and unsubstantiated claims that if you balance the budget, “they will come.”

Additionally and immediately, however, government must take a leading role in job creation. Conservative or even liberal agendas that cede responsibility for job creation to the private sector over the next few years are simply dazed or perhaps crazed.

Economist David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff sums up my feelings rather well. “I’d have a shovel in the hands of the long-term unemployed from 8am to noon, and from 1pm to 5pm I’d have them studying algebra, physics, and geometry.”
posted by the Real Dan at 6:54 PM on June 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why didn't you work harder at getting something out of college?

A lot of reasons, none of which are relevant. The point is that I should not have been awarded a BA because it doesn't reflect anything.
posted by Electrius at 7:34 PM on June 21, 2011


It's also kind of silly to talk about college as if it was one single monolithic experience. You can come out of college with anything from an associate's degree in communications to a doctorate in materials science. You can't just speak of the job prospects of a 'college graduate' as if they were all the same, or even similar.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:37 PM on June 21, 2011


I started this FPP because I lament the demise of the bargain of a college education. By bargain, I don't mean an implicit exchange of monies now for promise of future earnings. I mean the absolute no-brainer investment that a 4 year college education was at one time. The returns were immediate and easily quantifiable. In 1977 a full year of education at Rutgers was $2600 (in-state). That wasn't tuition, that was room, board (19 meals per week), and as many credits as you wanted to take. That's not even one semester, that's two semesters at $1300, add $100 for books and lab fees per semester and a couple bucks for spending money and you were way done for well under $3000 per year. There was no such thing as a kid with a credit card, you learned to manage your sub $100 balance in your no-fee student checking account and ATMs didn't exist yet. You withdrew your precious funds with a sober (mostly) brain during daylight hours and apportioned it accordingly. The drinking age was 18, so you had a college pub with happy hours and $1.75 pitchers of Michelob, $1.25 for Budweiser. Pot (Herb, ganga, you get the picture) was universally $40 per OUNCE and "Aculpulco Gold" was $50 per ounce. Hard Liquor was just too expensive and rarely surfaced except at frat parties (grain punch) and you would know better (especially girls) before you wandered into such places.

If you skipped all of the above paragraph, and unless you care about nostalgia, you probably should. Here's the simple econimics you need to take away:

Degree Cost Starting Salary
BSEE $12,000 $26,000
All other degrees $12,000 $16,000-$18,000

Bottom line: your gross earnings used to ecclipse your cost of education in 1-2 years. Most kids graduated without any loans at all. On top of that, the RICH kids had parents that were smart enough(not mine) to MAKE their kids take out LOANS and park them in 13% CDs with deferred interest. At graduation they payed off all the loans in one fell swoop and gave all the interest to their kids as a graduation present. Compare these numbers to now.
posted by Rafaelloello at 9:48 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


In the same way that resources being appropriated to social spending, the post office, health care, state governments, science research and the public service could more efficiently be spent elsewhere. For example, subsidies to corporations can demonstrate very good returns for government office holders!

What? If you're trying to imply that Bill Gross believes this, then maybe you should have read the article.
posted by atrazine at 10:54 PM on June 21, 2011


delmoi:
If it was a 1-for-1 exchange, then the amount of money in the system would stay constant. But the thing to understand is that if you view money as a stand-in for human effort then more labor = more money.

But it is. There is a fixed amount of money in circulation at any given time. Some of it is government spending (required, by law to match 1 for 1 with Treasury security issuance) and some of it is created by banks when they make loans. This is what is termed M0, M1, M2, etc. The problem is that money created by banks when they make loans also pairs with a debt on the balance sheet. In other words, Bank One loans me $100, which I deposit in my bank account. However, I now owe $100 to Bank One, _along with interest_.

I do agree that unemployment is a waste of resources, since that human time sitting on unemployment never comes back. This is why the USA should have a jobs guarantee, as advocated by Bill Mitchell.
posted by wuwei at 11:21 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Additionally: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/10/the-decline-of-pimco-macro/
posted by Citrus at 6:22 AM on June 22, 2011


delmoi, I can't favorite your post hard enough.

Higher education sure seems to me like the housing bubble all over again:

- Just about anyone with a pulse can get financing for an education

- The popular mindset is "get your degree now, or work at Wal-Mart forever"

- Demand is pumped up via the easy financing and price ratchets up to match it

- None of the parties in the process except the student and the final debt bagholder (Government) has any interest or responsibility for the final outcome of the process.

Metafilter isn't the first place I've encountered this discussion. Lots of people are asking themselves the question if the current price of education is justified.
posted by de void at 10:19 AM on June 22, 2011


The Government needs to create more jobs, somehow?

I know that it will be regarded as subversive and anti-American, but why doesn't the Obama Administration create some semi-socialist program to service some unexploited corner of the American economy -- passive solar-panel creation and installation? Proper banks for poor people, etc. ?
posted by vhsiv at 11:17 AM on June 22, 2011


I know that it will be regarded as subversive and anti-American, but why doesn't the Obama Administration create some semi-socialist program to service some unexploited corner of the American economy -- passive solar-panel creation and installation? Proper banks for poor people, etc.?

It's a great idea, but no one's as socialist as Eisenhower anymore.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:22 AM on June 22, 2011


When I read these attacks on Higher Ed all mysteriously springing up at the same time I feel like we're getting played by some shadowy conservative think tank.
posted by mecran01 at 4:30 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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