Post Grad: Who's Using Their Major in the Work Force

by Eric Garneau

Who's Buying?

According to a recent survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a full one-fourth of college graduates who make less than $50,000 annually consider their degree a 'bad bargain.' That doesn't yet signal the apocalypse - especially since earlier this year CNN reported that college graduates' starting salaries now average $50,034. However, educators worry that such dissatisfaction might mount into more significant disenchantment toward higher education, especially if schools don't step up their game.

career training college education

Yesterday our blog discussed the financial difficulties burdening colleges. A significant increase in the number of students enrolling (spurred on by the recent recession) coupled with declining funds has made some schools seriously stifle their educational offerings. The question becomes whether what remains after massive budget cuts is anything that students will feel is worthwhile.

Job Training vs. Life Training

Some in the educational industry might see those cuts as a good thing. Consider the National Governors Association (NGA), whose Center for Best Practices recently published a report that emphasizes more job-specific training at the expense of, to put it bluntly, the fat of a liberal arts education. According to the NGA, schools need to pare down their curricula to those skills specifically required in the labor market. One might imagine doing so could assuage students' fears about the relevancy of their degrees.

Yet other professionals protest that a college education needs to be about more than utility. It's the general skills students garner in a college education, they argue, that really make a difference in their lives. It seems both employers and employees might agree. The New York Times recently reported that most employers don't really care what degree an applicant holds so long as they have basic skills. Looking at it from the workers' side, The Chronicle noted that most respondents in their survey thought a college degree was less important than work ethic, personal adaptability and skills learned on the job.

Could College Become Obsolete?

Of course that last bit of data might also be taken as an indication that more workers don't feel their degrees help them with their jobs at all. Though the specific skills/general education debate has existed for decades, perhaps all the recent attention being paid to the relevancy of higher education will force both sides to some innovative compromise. Clearly many students still feel as though college is worth attending, but for how much longer?

Read more about what the National Governor's Association wants to do with college education.

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