Is College Still Worth the Cost?

As a bona fide member of several groups, Baby Boomers, Parents of Adults, AARP, etc., I have come to grips with many matters fairly well I think.

Fewer of my investments are paying off as well, if at all. My numerous college degrees, two undergraduate and one MBA, have become more of a hindrance than a benefit.
Ok. Fine. Things change and the best that one can do is what seems right at the time given the parameters that exist and that one can reasonably foresee.
But Herman Cain’s (remember him?) one of many infamous refrains still reverberates in my now hairless head more than others. He said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, don’t blame the banks, don’t blame Wall Street, blame yoself”.
Even though Cain’s eventual undoing was more about his lack of self-discipline, morality, loyalty to his wife, ability to tell the truth, etc., he was wrong about the above quote as well. Not totally wrong mind you, but wrong nonetheless.

Occupy Wall Street Does Have a Profound Message

Here are some reasons and examples of how and why Herman Cain was so out-of-touch with mainstream America, and why Occupy Wall Street, as incoherent as they may seem at times, is correct.
1. College degrees no longer justify their cost.
Even though the difference between the value of having or not having a college degree over a life time of earnings remains substantial, much larger disparities remain ambiguous depending upon ones chosen field. Different people simply have different natural abilities and/or tendencies.
For instance, if I practiced 23 hours a day for 30 years I simply could not be a ballet dancer. For one thing, I my boys simply require an athletic cup when I’m running, jumping, or carrying ballerinas. That may seem like an insignificant issue, but trust me, it’s not. Additionally, there is no amount of exercise, dietary regimen nor desire that would transform my frame into something suited for the stage.
2. Various surveys, among them a recent Pew survey, found that 1/3 of all college graduates report that they are holding jobs that didn’t require their degree, nor any degree for that matter. Pew also reported that the average indebtedness for a recent college grad is $23,000+. That’s an average of 26% higher than 10 years ago.

Moreover, a full 60 percent of college graduates owe college loans. 50 percent of those report that their college debt is the primary reason that they cannot pay their bills or even make ends meet. 25 percent report that their debt has adversely affected their standard of living affected their career choices or both.

Who is Really to Blame?

As noted above, Mr. Cain suggests that the college grads look no further than the closest mirror to find who is responsible for this mess.
I think we have all had a hand in this mess, but some are more culpable than others.
I vividly remember several instances over the last dozen years:
1. President Bush urging the American Public to “go to the malls, don’t stop shopping”, after the 9/11 attacks.
2. High School Counselors, parents, teachers, marketers, advertisers, et al, espousing the necessity of a college education in order to avoid homelessness, or worse, the inability to purchase the next iPhone model.
3. The deliberate political decision to promote the idea that increasing the middle class meant owning a house that you simply could not afford and subsidizing that dream with tax incentives.
Unfortunately, even if one graduates, the “marginal” student often are less prepared to succeed financially and less prepared by skills than existing students; thereby rendering their hard-fought success in college less valuable than their peers a mere one year into the job market ahead of them.
If it makes you less squeamish to view this paradigm from afar, look no further than the trouble transpiring in the euro zone. The Euro Zone “planners” thought that if they simply redesigned Greece, Italy and Spain’s problems, and pretended that the credit problems were being covered by Germany, they would go away or, at the very least, no one would notice. Better yet, if Germany could simply show the rest of the euro zone how manage high productivity, endear public trust and exhibit fiscal responsibility through sound practices and compliance, they would all find the German model irresistible and follow their example.

I think we all know how that is working out.

Whether people, parties, or countries, America does her best to help those that are having problems. But promising and not delivering on those promises has become the modus operandi of the Congressional arm of the government.

Unless or until that changes, we should cease and desist in making such proclamations to the public at large, and the new generation in particular.

The absolute last thing our “representatives” should be doing is making  promises to the citizens of the country who have faithfully placed their trust in the hands of representatives in Congress, only to have those representatives genuflect to the 1% of the population who merely finance the politicians’ campaigns so that they might remain in their own chosen profession.