James Smith, a 2015 graduate of the University of Texas, continues to live at home while working as the manager of a local dry cleaning establishment. He struggles to make his monthly $282 student loan payments, a significant portion of his biweekly take home pay of $807.
With a B.A. in history, James expected to find a job with a research organization or large corporation. He had been reassured by college counselors that history majors were in demand because businesses needed employees who could read and write with critical thinking skills. To his dismay, neither school interviews nor extensive mailings of his resume have resulted in any realistic job offers.
Chris, James’ best friend, disliked school and had no interest in college. With rising oil prices driving up the demand for oil field workers, Chris quickly found work as a roustabout for $18 an hour after high school graduation. Four years later, he is making $60,000 on a drilling crew. Chris has an apartment, a new pickup truck, and money in the bank.
Today, James wonders if college was worth it. He hasn’t found work in his chosen field and still depends on his parents for room and board. He is stuck in a job with few benefits and no prospects for advancement.
Students today are paying more to attend college and earning less when they graduate. Is it still worth the money, effort, and time?
Cost of a College Education
According to The College Board, the average cost of an academic year in an in-state public college in 2015-2016 was $24,061 including room and board. An academic year at a private university averaged $47,831. According to the Complete College America Alliance of States, the number of students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in four years ranges between 19% and 36%, depending on the university.
The average graduate spends an extra half to a full year to graduate (4.4 to 4.9 years), adding to the base costs of attendance. As a consequence, the typical cost of an undergraduate degree is well over $100,000, not including the lost income for the extra years spent in school, or interest incurred in paying back loans.
It’s imperative to determine if the exorbitant price tag is worth it.
Aptitude and Commitment
While college is ideal for some people, it’s not for everyone. In 2015, almost 30% of graduating high school seniors decided not to attend college. Of those who choose to attend, only half graduate within six to eight years, according to the Department of Education.
The loss of American jobs has become a potent political issue. Politicians promise to reverse the trend of offshoring and to restore American workers to their previous position as the premier workforce in the world. Many tout new reshoring initiatives, claiming that jobs will return as wage differentials shrink, the quality of foreign goods falls, and shipping costs increase. Others propose new punitive legislation with penalties for moving jobs to foreign countries while erecting trade barriers to ensure that domestic products can compete with lower-priced foreign goods.
Unfortunately, their promises are empty and fail to consider the underlying causes of offshoring, the probable consequences of trade barriers, or the increased pace of technology. In efforts to gain public favor, existing and wannabe office-holders vow to turn back the clock and return American manufacturing to its heyday in the 1950s. Simple, quick fixes for public consumption ignore the relentless expansion of globalization and the economic interdependence of world economies.
Manufacturing’s Role in the American Economy
According to the Center for American Progress, manufacturing is critical to the American economy, and its success or failure affects the economy as a whole, our national security, and the well-being of all Americans. In his book “Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?,” Thomas Geoghegan goes further, claiming without a strong industrial base, democracy dies.
According to Manufacturing.net, “Manufacturing was the primary reason for post-World War II growth of the middle class, and they are still inextricably linked today.” American manufacturing provided middle-class workers good paying jobs, and their factories were the main employers in American cities throughout the northeastern United States.
The area once referred to as the “Manufacturing Belt” or (“Factory Belt”) is now known as the “Rust Belt,” as job losses significantly impacted cities such as Detroit, Gary, Youngstown, Buffalo, and Toledo. Even companies whose names are synonymous with the towns and cities where they began (such as Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Kohler, Wisconsin) have offshored manufacturing jobs to the detriment of their communities. The collapse of the sector increased unemployment drastically in the forsaken communities, leading to urban decay, deteriorated services, and ghettos.
According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, one in five workers was dissatisfied with their current job in 2012. A Jobviate survey also taken in 2012 found that three out of every four workers are actively seeking new positions, suggesting that even those who may be satisfied in their current employment will move to a “better” job, given the opportunity. If you are currently looking for the next position in your career, you have a lot of competition.
An understanding of an employer’s mindset and how it affects their decision to hire one candidate, rather than another, is critical if you want to be successful in your search. Employers hire those candidates whom they believe will bring the most value to their company relative to their cost just as you select which car, computer, or phone model and make to purchase. The product that best fits your criteria of features at the lowest cost is the product you buy. Your challenge as a job seeker is to convince potential employers that you are a better fit and can deliver superior results as compared to the other candidates.