Bachelor's degree weak in educated workforce

Hello again. Welcome back from break, hope you enjoyed it and that you were happy with your grades. With the holidays over I can proceed to bring you back to reality with all the grace and civility of an elephant high on Acid.

With more and more people going to college, those undergraduate degrees that many students end up in debt for are becoming less valued in the work environment, mainly because there are so many of them now. According to Time magazine, “In 1973, a bachelor’s degree was more of a rarity, since just 47 percent of high school graduates went on to college. By October 2008, that number had risen to nearly 70 percent. For many Americans today, a trip through college is considered as much of a birthright as a driver’s license.”

Unfortunately, as Time notes, “That piece of paper no longer means very much, and employers know that. Everybody’s got it, so it’s watered down. What’s not watered down is the tab. The cost of average tuition rose 6.5 percent this fall, and a report released on Dec. 1 by the Project on Student Debt showed that the IOU is getting bigger. Two-thirds of all students now leave college with outstanding loans; the average amount of debt rose to $23,200 in 2008. In the last academic year, the total amount loaned to students increased about 18 percent from the previous year, to $81 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Education.”

So what’s a college student to do? Well, you might not like it, but you still need that undergraduate degree, but now you also need more. Education, that is. More internships, studying abroad and graduate school. Being able to sit still and listen in class are important aspects of life, but so are other things inside and outside of the classroom. Being able to think and communicate clearly and concisely are just as important as understanding the world outside your hometown and knowing how to use a library.

It’s also why there’s a Learning Beyond the Classroom requirement in the Gen Eds. If the degree itself is going to be worth less, than the activities done and learned beyond the class and into real life are also vitally important.

As the Time article also suggests, jobs that are difficult to outsource are worth looking into. “Right brain activities” as the article names, like “design, seeing the big picture, and connecting the dots” are the kinds of things that can’t be automated like building a car can. So at least there will always be a need for political science majors. Health care is also cited as another area with job growth and lack of outsourcing.

An actual bachelor’s degree might not mean what it used to, but it is still an important part of the career process, it’s just that now employers need more to know your right for the job. And with opportunities like internships and studying abroad, it shouldn’t be too hard to adapt. It had to be done when more people started going to college, and it can be done again.


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