Degrees of Value

I like the initial premise of this piece by Kevin Carey, the policy director of a think tank named Education Sector, in The New Republic—the idea that media outlets like to post sad stories about college graduates who are unable to find jobs in their fields of study so they end up accepting work that doesn’t necessarily require a college degree (i.e. bartending, barista-ing), which ultimately devalues what a college degree is worth these days. Trend stories aside, data shows that the unemployment rate for college graduates is half of what it is for workers with no more than a high school diploma.

Carey says the same kinds of stories popped up in 1982—graduates from Yale who ended up bartending and volunteering to fill up their time—but many of these graduates moved on to have fine careers. And yet, one very important point is missing from Carey’s argument about how we should consider the value of a college degree: the high cost getting one in an age where tuition is rising scarily fast as states cut funding for higher education. College graduates may be in a better position to become employed than those with a high school diploma, but we should consider what it means if those college graduates spend the majority of their working lives paying off the education loans they had to take out to get that degree in the first place.

Photo: Rennett Stowe

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