We live in odd times.
Times where almost all the smart people go to college, and most of them take loans. And then the smartest of those are encouraged to go to graduate school, where the loans are often even more intense.
At the end of the process are BAs, MDs, JDs, Ph.Ds, MAs and MBAs and often 10,000; 40,000; 70,000 or over 100,000 in debt.
Is it really smart to have our smartest people leave school with basically a small mortgage and limited work experience?
Kids are told that if they do the right things, and join the right clubs and work hard, some absurdly hard that there will be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and hard work.
Twentysomething with BAs in the humanities and social science from excellent schools like Middlebury, Tufts and Bates find themselves with great expectations, great minds, great amounts of debt, and limited job prospects. If you go to any chain bookstore, you will be shocked at the educations of the booksellers working for $10/hour or less, BAs, MAs, even some Ph.Ds.
It can even be harder when you go to graduate school. I have an MBA from a very good school, Claremont/Drucker in Claremont, CA. I learned quite a bit, but mainly found it pretty easy and still don’t see where the value added would be in the MBA. I think what is graduates are young, smart people who can read a spreadsheet and will follow whatever what is hot in the moment. This causes booms and bust like the dot-coms in the late 1990s and the mortgage crisis of the mid-2000s.
But, when you have this degree and look for an entry level job in a company you may want to work for you get the dreaded title of “overqualified.” I still don’t know what this means. If someone is looking for a job, very talented and willing to work cheap for you and possibly grow into a position, you should hire them. You shouldn’t hire someone who might be underqualified for the job, and that you have to let go in 6 months because they don’t have the head for it.
Universities aren’t meant to be training for jobs. They are meant to teach intellectual pursuits. They always have been, they likely always will.
What this means for companies is you should find good, talented people and train them in the ins and outs of working for your company.
There has never been so many smart people on the bench, who are begging to be trained in a job they can grow into. Junior analysts, can become senior analysts. William Morris trains tons of their agents by starting in the mailroom first.
And learning a company from the bottom up helps you appreciate the plight on all the workers, and know the struggles they work with.
Basically I would like to see the world “overqualified” go away. It’s frankly irrelevant.
So what to do about debt?
For me, the first thing is to make sure you are ready for college, not just intellectually, but emotionally and psychically as well. At 18, when we mainly push fresh HS graduates to college, most Americans have had nothing but in local parentis, ie living with mom, dad or their relatives. I think it makes a TON more sense, to spend sometime either travelling or just working crap jobs. It makes you humble, teaches you a work ethic, and make you appreciate college when you get there, that is if it’s the right decision for you.
We live in a time where a good auto mechanic or plumber will be making a TON more money, then the liberal arts graduate with a fancy name on his/her diploma but little experience. I do believe it should be a goal to do what you are passionate for, but not an expectation.
I think we also need to bring more co-ops back, there is no reason not if you are say a biology major at Rutgers, to not work at J&J for a semester or more, then back to Rutgers, back to J&J or Merck or Bristol Meyers Squibb and have the company help pay for school, and a tighter relationship between companies and universities.
I think we also need to get beyond the idea that everyone should go to college, because it’s frankly just not true.
Colleges for decades now have been pursuing rankings from US News and World Report, the Princeton Review, etc. and catering schools for higher rankings. Having a couple superstar professors who don’t work with undergrads and a dorm that is more like a Marriott does not make for a better education.
To spend $5,000 on a class that the adjunct professor is being paid $3,000 for is patently absurd, but more common all the time.
We need to do better, we must do better.
There is no reason for our smartest young people, to either be rich and debt free or have the equivalent of at best a car loan, and at worst a small or even medium size mortgage.
Would love to hear your stories on this for future blog posts.