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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

College as a Business

~  We're all college students and our major is FUN!! WooHoo.. Go Gators...

The cost of attending a 4 year college or university is more expensive than ever.  And it is also more difficult that ever for a person in their early 20's with an undergrad degree to find any kind of real employment that doesn't involve saying "Welcome to McDonalds.. can I take your order?"

I wanted to spend this time looking at post-secondary education, its role, and the cost/benefit of attending and pursuing specific degrees.

When you think of a college or university, do not think of it as a bastion of finer academia, providing quality education to help propel young minds into achieving financial and societal greatness.   Think of it as a business because that is exactly what secondary education is- a for-profit business.

Once you apply for entrance and are accepted, the #1 concern a college or university has regarding you, is that you pay your tuition on time and that check does not bounce.  Beyond that, there is no concern whether you choose a productive major or something that no prospective employer respects, like History.  There is no concern whether you attend classes and no judgments are passed on any student that make take five, six or seven years to complete an undergraduate degree.  There is minimal to no guidance offered as to what realistic career opportunities there are if you pursue one field vs another.  You're on your own to sink or swim based on your choices, and god help you financially if you choose wrong.

I could have used any college or university to make my point, but chose Princeton University.  From their website:

Estimated cost of (undergrad) attendance for 2010-11 is $52,180 and includes:

Tuition: $36,640
Room charge: $6,467
Board rate: $5,473
Estimated miscellaneous expenses: $3,600

This is undergrad education..  tuition for Masters or Doctorate would be higher

In a previous post a month or so ago, A&G showed how much you are really paying if you take on four years of student loans at an expensive, prestigious school then pay it off over ten years from graduation..  This time we'll focus more on what you're getting for the money.

Here are a listing of the undergrad degree programs offered at Princeton which you would find in any school of higher learning across the nation.  I am going to mark in Bold the majors I believe a person with that degree would have a Very Difficult time finding employment with in this current recession--

Art and Archaeology
Astrophysical Sciences
Chemical and Biological Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Comparative Literature
Computer Science
East Asian Studies
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Electrical Engineering
Engineering and Applied Science
French and Italian
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Molecular Biology
Near Eastern Studies 
Operations Research and Financial Engineering
Plasma Physics
Public and International Affairs
Slavic Languages and Literatures
Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures

Personally, I respect and admire anyone seeking to educate themselves for the joy and enrichment of learning.  But from a practical dollars and cents standpoint, ask yourself..  after spending $208,000 in tuition and expenses (usually through interest accumulating student loans) to learn Slavic Languages or Near Eastern Studies, what type of job would you expect to reasonably find in this difficult job market?

And yet Princeton offers this nonsense.. and charging top-dollar with zero thought or concern as to how many of their academic offerings will not translate into any future career allowing a person to pay back the loans and have financial success and security in their lives.  College is a business.   And if a school thought it could bring in additional revenue offering undergraduate degrees in pop culture and basket weaving, it sincerely would do so.

Like I said, this isn't a Princeton bashing- pretty much every 4 year institution offers the same assortment of hopelessly waste-of-time majors offering no realistic chance for the possessor of that degree to Ever get hired.  The only difference may be other schools would offer this silliness at a lower tuition than Princeton does.

If you choose to go to college and desire any kind of productive employment future, you best choose your major intelligently.

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