Economists offer stark advice for college grads
For inspiration, turn to Oprah Winfrey or Steven Colbert. For hard truth, check out these wonks' dry words of wisdom.
This year's graduates don't really want yet another reminder about their punishing pile of loan debt, which the U.S. government turned into a $100 billion profit. They don't need more experts telling them that 284,000 of the grads who came before them are making minimum wage. They already know that The Center for College Affordability & Productivity reported nearly half of the class of 2010 hold jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree and that 38% have taken jobs that don't even require a high school education. You don't need an economist to explain why these trends have helped drop the median wage for college graduates significantly since 2000.
Still, today's grads are far better off than their less-educated peers and just want a day to celebrate that fact before life does everything it can to dampen their achievements. Stay away from the University of Virginia, Paul Krugman. The graduates coming to commencement are more than happy with Steven Colbert.
However, National Public Radio doesn't believe in coddling the nation's future workforce. The network -- whose idea of a good time is an old-timey quiz show featuring esoteric celebrities torn from the pages of the New York Review of Books -- decided it would force-feed this year's graduates their medicine and ask a bunch of economists to provide some unsolicited advice for them.
With lots of time on the economists' hands and no commencement invitations arriving in their mailboxes anytime soon, here's the wisdom NPR's good-time gang of econo-wonks had to impart to the Class of 2013.
Justin Wolfers of the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy reaches out to the kids through the universal language of awkward metaphor:
Approach your career ambitions the same way you approached your romantic ambitions at college. Sure, you're looking for "The One," but the only way to find that is by going on a lot of dates. And you should think about your first job as a good first date. Try it out. If you like it, stick around for another year. But if not, ask another employer out. And keep playing the field until you've found the job you want to stay with.
Professor Emily Oster of Chicago's Booth School of Business gets a bit less chummy while espousing the virtues of soul-deadening compromise:
Economics works great for planning your life when you don't have a work passion, since we tend to assume that your job delivers only money and you trade off job hours with leisure hours. If you think your job will just be a job, pick one that pays well per hour and leaves you some time off, even if the activity of the job is boring. Since the world is full of people looking for a job that feeds their passion, if you are willing to do something which most people are not passionate about (accountant? Tax attorney?) there's an arbitrage.
Financial Times columnist Tim Harford, "The Undercover Economist," finishes up with some strong joy- and dream-killing:
Economists have found that if you graduate during a recession, your career prospects are stunted long after the recession itself is finished. The economy is recovering now, but slowly. A year's delay would do no harm – might I suggest signing up for a master's degree?
Happy graduation, folks! Now get to work. That latte isn't going to pour itself.
I think that a lot of these kids completely lack financial literacy. It's as if they don't see these loans as REAL money that they are legally obligated to PAY BACK. They act surprised that they are over their heads in debt on graduation day. I think it's a genuine disservice to them that they aren't learning this stuff in high school, or better yet, from their parents.
"The economy is recovering now, but slowly. A year's delay would do no harm – might I suggest signing up for a master's degree?"
If you're already thousands of dollars in debt, why would you want to pile on more debt pursuing a master's degree? Get a job, or better yet, two jobs, and start paying down your student loans. Live frugally for as long as it takes to become debt free. Excessive debt, especially student loan debt, which won't go away even if you file for bankruptcy, is a form of slavery.
After paying down your student loans, you can go back to school to acquire skills valued by the job market, if necessary.
So if you can't find a job after you graduate, you should go back to school and rack up more debt?
That sounds like an educator talking. Teachers apparently don't live in the real world. it used to be that you got paid for what you did. Then it was you got paid for what you know. Now it's you get paid for what you do for your company, and the more you know - the more you can do... for them.
WTF happened to America?
A College degree is not a ticket to wealth and happiness. It is an opportunity, nothing more. Those
who think otherwise will soon find that the road can be long and hard and that they are not as entitled as they think they are.A grad needs to work hard and be lucky with no assurance that their dreams will be fulfilled.
What is going to school worth today? Not much, I say.
I got off school after the 12th grade, had no debt, I got a job, learn to work hard, learn not to spend a dime I didn't have, start my own business, then start another one then another one and now just about to retire. I did very well and I thank my parents for a great education.
I can also say I wasn't brainwashed by the left in College.
Now, graduates only know how to text and drive while texting. Most of them have been spoiled, however there is a very small minority who gets it, having learned from real parents and a real family. I wish them good luck, I just don't want to wear their shoes though. Reality check is coming!
I call it the "Friends Syndrome". You know the sitcom from the 90s. Six young people, most of them working odd jobs and living high on the hog with plenty of time and money to spend .
It doesn't have to be the show "Friends" to see this on TV. Fabulous houses/apartments, nice cars, lots of free time, lots of money to spend, even though you are a waitress in a diner. This is what young people think their life should be like. As if if the TV character can have this wonderful life as a waitress, and since I have a college degree I should have an even better lifestyle.
Anyone ever ask why colleges teach dead end courses? The politicians claim the country needs engineers and scientists. Then only loan money for college to students who study in those fields. Guess that would stop the gears of the ever growing size of the college/monuments that politicians hold so dear.
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