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Old 07-15-2015, 08:26 AM   #1
sundialsvcs
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Thumbs down Would you, today, get a Bachelor of Science degree? I have one, and I say, "no."


In another thread, "Bachelor of Science" is being touted as the degree to have. Well, I have one, and my opinion, thirty-five years later, is quite different.

Thanks to the generosity of the founders of the Brock Candy Company (yes I was one of the first Brock Scholars), I didn't have to pay for it. Looking back, though, I wouldn't pay for it.

When I went to the University, at least for in-state residents the education was quite inexpensive. The total out-the-door dollar amount of Mr. Brock's generosity was about $11,000.00, and I lived (just) out-of-state. In-state, the price was about a fourth that much. For four years. I lived at home with my parents and worked at the University (in the computer center ...) for most of my spending cash, picking up my actual work experience at that job.

It costs an order of magnitude more today. A typical 12-credit-hour course load will cost you $4,178 per semester if you live in the State of Tennessee, and $12,237 per semester if you live elsewhere. (link)

At a competing community college, the pain is almost the same: $1,986.50 in-state, $7,686.50 out. (link)

So, let's do the math ... pretending, for the moment, that you had no other expenses for necessities like food, clothing, and beer.

Assuming a 4-year degree program, 8 semesters, a Tennessee student will incur $33,424 in student-loan debt to go to UTC; a non-Tennesseean $97,896. All before s/he gets her first job armed with this now-very expensive piece of paper. (At UTC, it's not even vellum.) And that's just an ordinary public university that still receives large amounts of external support. (I am not picking on my alma mater. If you want to get a 4-year degree, UTC is a fine place to do it.)

Oh, wait! You need to live on campus? Add another $2,500-$4,500. You have a car? $200 to park it in the "cheap seats." (Bring your bicycle.) Yes, this is per semester, and you haven't even bought textbooks yet. Realistically, add another $35,000 to the cost of your degree, unless you live in town where the 4-year bill might be, say, $18,000. So, now, you've got a $132,000 (about half that for the in-town folks) elephant hanging around your neck, and you don't even have your first job yet.

- - - - -

And what did this money, that I didn't pay, actually get me? It got me my first job, at that University. Beyond that point, no one asked or checked if I had a college degree or not. No one cared. (And, for the most part, no one is allowed to insist upon it, except for certain professional positions.) At no point did I use any of my University training: what I knew, I taught myself and learned on the jobs, working at that University and encountering all the data-processing twists and turns that were used to run the place at that time. (Using breadbox-sized HP minicomputers that we coaxed into doing amazing things.)

So, no. Today, I would not get a four-year baccalaureate degree in any subject.

Armed with only a high school or GED diploma, you can today make over $58,000 a year starting as a commercial truck driver. While on the road you can learn just as much about computers and programming as anyone would get from a college degree, and you can either hang out your own shingle, or put a few projects under your belt and, armed with those references, go apply for a job. Or, just continue driving trucks. You'll learn every turn on the drive into the Port of Los Angeles. You'll be making about as much as someone fresh out of school, but you'll have no debt.

You should also be intensely aware that, even as you come out with 4 years gone by, a brand-new diploma, and an amount of debt that (for an out-of-stater) is not too far removed from what I paid for my first house, you will be directly competing with literally millions of people who are in the USA on H-1B or L-1 Visa programs. Most IT jobs, especially entry-level ones, at major companies are filled using these programs, and there is a constant clamor to increase what limits now exist. US Citizens need not apply: industry has long ago concluded that no qualified applicants exist "here." Thus, armed with a mountain of debt, you will find it very hard to get a job like the one that your degree supposedly prepared you for. (And, if you do get one, you might sit beside someone with several more years' work time who spent his first years driving a truck. He's making more than you do, and he has no debts to pay off. He doesn't have a four-year degree, and nobody gives a damn.)

And, God help you if you go to a private University, or to any of those degree-mills that used to tell you that "an MBA" was the ticket to the boardroom . . .

And in case you're thinking about discharging your student loan debts through bankruptcy, the laws in the US have specifically been changed to make this damn near impossible. You'll find it extremely difficult to get credit, let alone buy a house (formerly known as "The American Dream"), until a substantial portion of that debt is paid-off.

So, you'll be sitting in apartments and still driving shitty cars, while that truck driving friend of yours is in the 'burbs.

Therefore, if you don't want to soon be wearing an elephant that you can't get rid of, and that will never pay for its own hay, don't go to college at all.

Part of me, of course, winces to hear myself "say" such a thing, because when I went to college, the remnants of "GI Bill" thinking, where it was considered important that society offer an advanced education to its children, like me. But I saw one manufacturing plant after another get shuttered and turned into (mostly empty) apartment lofts. Then, while doing a project for the State of Tennessee Unemployment Insurance(!) department, I encountered roomfuls of cubes with photographs of the occupants at the head of each row. (The idea was that, given that you couldn't pronounce their names, you could recognize their faces.)

Yes, you read that right. So far as I could tell, the Department responsible for dribbling out money to unemployed Tennesseans, didn't employ Tennesseans.

Like it or not, this is the future proposition that the United States of America has today prepared for its children. None of them are "left behind," they tell us, but they also have nowhere to go.

Therefore, I say in utter seriousness: "go drive a truck, and learn computers on the side." You can make good money taking trailer-loads of computing equipment from the docks where it has been unloaded, to the shiny glass-walled buildings where people from foreign lands will put it to work.

Wait for the winds to change, but expect it still to take a long time. Typically, when foolish decisions are made, many more foolish decisions are piled-up on top of them before anyone finally says, "the Emperor has no clothes." Don't incur tens of thousands of dollars in un-dischargable debts based on propositions that were true in your parent's day.

Yes, the United States will soon find itself without an entire generation of college-educated young people, but apparently it doesn't need them anyway. Any college educations that it needs, it can import (for two years, then send 'em home) from here. And, I'm quite sure that it does.

Am I "ranting?" No, I am being utterly calm and utterly factual. I am cooly regarding the cards as they have been placed on the table in front of me, and recommending that you walk away from the game. I don't like to say it, but I do.

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 07-15-2015 at 08:53 AM.
 
Old 07-15-2015, 08:40 AM   #2
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I disagree.

I too have had a lucrative career without having such a degree but there have been various points at my life where lack of the degree was a definite show stopper for jobs I would have either continued going up the ladder on or would have otherwise qualified for. Most recently in the IT meltdown after 2001. Back then many people were looking for jobs and I believe employers were using degrees as one way to eliminate the dozens of applicants they might get for every job.

More and more these days I see IT jobs listing 4 year degree as a requirement. To be sure most hiring managers still value experience over education and certification but often the headhunters and HR departments are never forwarding resumes without the degree to the hiring manager.

Don't get me wrong - I don't believe those with 4 year degrees are any smarter (or even as smart) as those without them. (One of the worst accountants I ever met had a Masters in Accounting.) I do believe however that employers by and large perceive them as such though.
 
Old 07-15-2015, 08:47 AM   #3
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There are less expensive alternatives. I know of students who have attended community colleges to start and get very near their Bachelors degree equivalent. Some of them have been able to complete them. Some of them transferred to other colleges because the community college didn't go far enough. However they transferred to state colleges.

I will agree that private Universities are extremely expensive. I further do not regret having gone to Northeastern University, however it was 6k/year when I did go and student loans would cover 5k of that if I needed that amount of assistance. And so as a result I did exit school with a little over 12K in debt, but that was easily covered in a few years.

State colleges in MA costs vary, but they are on the order of 8-14k/year and the better loans, being the federal one ... Stafford?, can cover up to about $7500.

Sorry, but I recommend people who wish to work in technical fields, or be doctors, nurses, something not a vocational field, get a Bachelors degree or higher.

I'm not going to argue that there aren't fields of work where you can make great money. My nephew is a stone worker, walkways, chimneys. His big/huge money is in the parts where he does town and state work doing stuff like making retaining walls to border a roadway, or placing granite curbing on the side of a roadway, or around a commercial site, like a mall, school, or public building. Because obviously those contracts are more extensive than somebody's front walk, they last longer, they're much higher paying, and they usually aren't scrimping on cost because they understand things need to last. I'm sure the crane operators and iron workers make a lot of money too.

All work is about what you like to do as well as reasonably something that you "can" do and also make money doing it.

I've always said that anyone can go pump gas, make donuts, or run a cash register. What you do beyond that matters though, because if you get to be 50 or 60 and you're still there lamenting that you get paid $12/hour pumping gas or checking out customers' groceries, well then you've not done much in your job. Maybe you ought to have considered becoming a supervisor, or a mechanic and not just stayed with the remedial level of job function.
 
Old 07-15-2015, 09:02 AM   #4
sundialsvcs
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The fact is, even though they list a 4-year degree as a requirement, they are legally required to consider only qualifications. Except for licensed engineering or medical positions, a requirement for a 4-year degree is not enforceable. You have to state what the work is, and consider whether the person being considered could do the work.

This is definitely on the rise as more and more high school students opt-out of college and go directly to the workforce. I recently had the privilege of working alongside an extremely bright young man who had obvious skill and talent as a programmer and who also had a work-ethic that wouldn't quit. (Although my involvement in the project has since ended, you're damn right I kept his contact-info!) He started in college but then opted-out with only a few thousand dollars in student loan debt. Another friend of mine decided not to get a Master's degree.

Those of us of, shall we say, the "parent generation," remember when a college education was affordable, and when there also were jobs ... for American citizens ... fairly close to home. It was a very good value-proposition for us, but it is not so for our children's generation, being (I know) most of the people I was speaking to above.

I am, frankly, repelled by what I have written. It leaves a very sour taste. But, I'll stand by it anyway.

Maybe, enough of us will actually start to become politically active, to start turning this blundering ship of state around. I remember when you could go to college without bankrupting yourself, and you could go to a hospital without bankrupting yourself. But, in 1981, I detected the first scents of permanent change in the winds. I never dreamed how bad it would become.

And, by the by, if you follow that hyperlink, don't subsequently brand me as being of any political-party persuasion, or decide that this is a rant. I read the cards as they lay before me.

The changes that begun in that year were to throw financial caution and discipline to the four winds, and with it, the American Dream for our children. (And I would have perfunctorily added "and our children's children," except that many of our children are finding that they can't afford to have children of their own. Our financial foolishness is not only costing the dream of our children, but the constituency of the much-reduced generation to follow. Eerily like what happened after 1929.)

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 07-15-2015 at 09:06 AM.
 
Old 07-15-2015, 09:09 AM   #5
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Being a life long tradesman. I gotta agree with your out look. I know others won't.

My 2 nieces got their degrees. Are in debt. Working as hotel clerks. For years now.
My wife. Who has no degree. But goes to specialized classes paid for by the city govt here.
She started as the Head Animal Control Officer. Now is the City Building inspector.
Has a hell of a retirement package also.

Plumbing, Electrical, Welding, Pump repair, Prison Maint, Hospital Maint, City Water Service, etc......... make good money.

My younger brother paid for his house and lives well repairing and maintaining power
washers on oil rigs. Has his own service truck and travels extensively. He is the main
foreman of a crew now.

Back when I punched a time clock. Working as a gas station pump repair and doing pump calibration and trouble shooter. I made good money also.

Oil rigs out here are paying ridiculous paychecks to uneducated kids.

College bosses are not on the rigs. More like a Top Sargent setup on trade jobs when it comes to management than a officer setup. You work your way up.

Desk jobs are not all they are cracked up to be if you like to stay fit and trim.
I am a happy camper having lived life with a GED life style.

As always, depending on your location and country. YMMV from mine and my friends.

I do OK now just fixing motorcycles. Living comfy and cool in my central air conditioned crib.
No college debt to speak of and own 2 properties with homes and land 200 miles apart from each other.

But go to college in America or one of those advertised shyster educational centers that don't mean nothing.

Quote:
"DeVry's tuition for an associate degree is 10 times higher than at community colleges; it has a dropout rate of 50 percent".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeVry_University
 
Old 07-15-2015, 09:13 AM   #6
sundialsvcs
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rtmistler View Post
I've always said that anyone can go pump gas, make donuts, or run a cash register. What you do beyond that matters though, because if you get to be 50 or 60 and you're still there lamenting that you get paid $12/hour pumping gas or checking out customers' groceries, well then you've not done much in your job. Maybe you ought to have considered becoming a supervisor, or a mechanic and not just stayed with the remedial level of job function.
In this popular mythos, there is a stigma attached to jobs that actually produce, make, and serve things. You're taught that you need that college sheepskin in order to "move up and move out," as Billy Joel put it. But, "it's a lie we don't believe anymore." (Sting.) You will naturally move into a management role if you show aptitude for it, and a college degree won't help you if you don't have that aptitude (and desire). If you have the skill and interest to lead people, you will be placed in the company of people whom you will lead.

Computer programming, as it is defined today, is not "a profession," although I think it should be. It is "a craft," although it is beginning to transform itself from a craft-industry to production. As the Managing the Mechanism book that I have spoken of (now available, by the way, on iOS as well as Kindle, and Nook very-soon I think) puts it, we are building software machines. Your ability to do that is measured in your experience doing so, not particularly by a degree. Nor is it particularly conferred by or augmented by a degree.

You get, or got, a degree, because people (from my generation) told you confidently that it was the thing to have. But it it is not a $150,000-in-debt "thing to have." None of us would have the degrees that we have, if it had been.

The government of the USA could reverse its stance and re-create the opportunity that we took for granted. It could make higher education affordable. It could forgive billions of dollars in student loans. (Remember, the government "borrows from itself" about $3.5 million dollars a minute, so it can do this at the stroke of a pen.) It could reverse its immigrant-favoring position to make it unfavorable to import people (and hold them in quite-wretched positions, actually, which are hardly fair grotesquely unfair to them). (I once saw seventeen young men, neatly dressed in business suits, pile out of one Nashville apartment and get on a mini-bus. I glimpsed sleeping bags on the floor. Illegal as hell, but, there they were.)

It could do all of these things. But, until these changes are made, the second generation after the Baby Boom is not going to be college educated, and many institutions of higher learning can ... and frankly, should ... be closed down to save public money.

Sell all of the public land-grant Universities to private interests who will charge what they please to the rich men's scions who will attend them. The rest of the land can be sold off for parking lots or to real-estate investors. Yes, "pave Paradise." Go right ahead and do it.

If this is the future "American dream" that America really wants, then it is well on its way to securing it. (Now, pardon me while I go vomit ...)

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 07-15-2015 at 09:21 AM.
 
Old 07-16-2015, 07:58 AM   #7
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My education was paid for with either the Army LRP or GI Bill and I've never had anyone ask they're not even on my resume even when I paused my federal employment. I would have not gone back to of finished school without the money being there and now fortunately I'll never have to make the decision again.
 
Old 07-16-2015, 08:56 AM   #8
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Something that some folks are doing in your neck of the woods Chris. But many do not know about it.

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/ed...y-free-college
 
Old 07-16-2015, 09:06 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rokytnji View Post
Something that some folks are doing in your neck of the woods Chris. But many do not know about it.

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/ed...y-free-college
It was brought up on another place I hang out too and had I known about it prior to re-enrolling in a U.S. university I'd probably just gone to Nurnberg. At this point I have no desire to further my education. I helped get my wife finalize hers so so could teach at the university and within days of her defending her thesis I started grad school. I've been done now for 18 months and it's been the most relaxing 18 months of the last decade
 
Old 07-16-2015, 09:18 AM   #10
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While much of what is written here has merit, ie college is expensive, the ROI is questionable for many careers (though I doubt statistics actually back that up), foreign outsourcing is destructive to US education and graduates , I cannot actual agree with any of it.

What is advocated by the OP will only accelerate the destruction of an educated electorate that can actually make the changes desired by the OP. It is a counsel of despair. Yes, think about the costs. Choose wisely. But go to college, and to graduate school. Education is not just about making a dollar, and self instruction can never replace learning from your peers and seniors. Remember: the word college is about a community of colleagues, not about serving your personal ambitions.
 
Old 07-16-2015, 09:26 AM   #11
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To me it used to be whether or not one should spend the money and time to get a masters. These days it almost seems like an MS is highly desired for many top technical jobs. At least in Engineering and/or Software.

Forget the costs of education, I wonder how my kids will ever be able to afford to buy homes.

An interesting perspective. I have a friend who is just over 60 and exploring retirement. Their house is not paid off, but they stand to get money if they sell it. His comment at one point, and he has two kids; was that he considered selling his house, seems that he'd get about 120k doing that. He figured he'd give each kid about 50k to help pay off their student loans and/or get them going for whatever amount went above and beyond the loans. He wasn't bragging, we were just talking, and he's not sure it'd happen like that anyways. He was just expressing that he'd like to help his kids out. Clearly it would put he and his wife in a different retirement situation, if not keep them working for some additional years.

These are unfortunately "tough" questions when the desired situation of having a college degree, is NOT a tough choice, but the fact that the society situation makes it such that the decision is tough due to cost.
 
Old 07-16-2015, 02:46 PM   #12
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Mostlyharmless, someone who followed your advice would have about $175,000 in debt after he completed both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree. That's more than I paid for my second house.

(And, yes, unlike kids today, I did "own a house.")

RTMistler's friend is talking about giving-up much of his retirement income in order to give his kids a chance to get out from under their own "cross of gold." Debts of over $50,000 each, incurred just because they went to school. What are the odds that this man won't be able to afford to retire?

It simply isn't worth it. Forget "conventional wisdom" that was true when the GI Bill was new and the idea of "Land-Grant Universities" was a big thing. Today, in the USA:
  • You do not have a right to health care. You are not guaranteed access to the medically best or even necessary treatment. I-f you can afford it, you are only entitled to whatever treatment a for-profit hospital can profitably give you, if a for-profit insurance company will profitably pay the bill. (The price of my father's life was a couple thousand bucks. When we walked into the finance office and handed them a certified check, the accountant called the doctor and authorized the doctor to administer the antibiotic that cured him. The insurance company obviously felt it would be cheaper for him to die, just as his brother had, and for the same reason. They sent a brochure describing "post-death benefits" before they realized he wasn't dead yet.)
  • You do not have a right to higher education. All public Universities should be immediately closed down and the land sold, because it is a travesty to provide any public money in support of anything that sends kids (and their parents) to debtor's prison. Private companies can buy up these lands and run them as schools if they wish to, although no public money should be available to them. "The rich man goes to college, the poor man goes to work."
If we cannot profitably provide education, then we should simply stop providing education above the high school level. Maybe we should save more money and stop at eighth grade. If you are Rich, you get high school.

To the extent that we need engineers, doctors, and so forth, we already have a simple solution: Visas. They come here already college-educated (or, so they tell us ...), do the work and then we send them home. We were told that this is necessary because there are no American citizens qualified to do the work, and, very very soon, that just might turn out to be the case.

We'll just do the work that requires professional certification "off-shore," and import the result. We don't need engineers to run our factories because it's cheaper to manufacture elsewhere. We know that the world will always accept the US Dollar and that they will always permit us to create millions of those dollars every minute, night and day. You have everything we need and you will supply it to us, because: We Have Dollars.

The generation that is coming-on right now will simply consist of high-school graduates, none "left behind" but with no place to go. They'll be full of a sense of entitlement, having never actually been allowed to fail at anything. They'll maybe attend vocational schools and so on to try to learn a little bit about programming, if they seriously want to try to compete ... which, seriously, they really can't.

They could become soldiers ... we'd really like them to become soldiers ... but we're also gonna privatize the VA Health System, making it part of the private sector so that it won't continue competing for profits, and we're definitely not going to do another GI Bill. So, if they go to battle and get shot up, maybe their parents can help take care of them. That sounds profitable, doesn't it?

And if it upsets people to think about this ... who think that, y'know, maybe this isn't a good thing for a country to be doing ... well, they should just poke their heads back under the sand until the feeling goes away.

Last edited by sundialsvcs; 07-16-2015 at 03:00 PM.
 
Old 07-22-2015, 07:40 PM   #13
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Well I'm going for an associates degree in computer forensics. Not a waste of time because I enjoy learning. Maybe a waste of money, but no. Not the first time I rolled the dice. Back in 2000 I took a c, c++/Windows development course for a year and graduated just in time for the dotcom bust when everyone stopped hiring rookie programers. I believe that if you roll the dice and take the chances then you take what comes good or bad. Even if a degree doesn't help I don't think that it will hurt.
 
Old 07-22-2015, 09:30 PM   #14
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When I went to college, "Sports Management" was not a major.

That is now considered a discipline worthy of a degree says all that I think needs to be said about the state of college education in the United States today.
 
Old 07-23-2015, 09:20 AM   #15
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I knew we were in trouble years ago when there was university course to go over just the films of Keanu Reeves.

http://www.people.com/people/keanu_reeves/
Quote:
In 1994, a professor at the Art Center College in Pasadena, Calif., introduced a course called "Films of Keanu Reeves." Each week the students studied the "cultural nuances" of his then 16-film body of work.
 
  


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