Dear Graduate: Welcome to the Real World

May 21, 2013

Dear graduate.

Your education is just beginning.  Welcome to the real world.

As you begin your job search, you’ll notice that there are few jobs for people with your lack of experience.  If you have a liberal arts education, you’re ill-prepared for a real job anyway.

The college that provided you with your degree in journalism or women’s studies may make money off of it, but you won’t.  Now, don’t you wish you chose a major that was a little more challenging?

Lord knows, you don’t know anything about math or science.  In one study, U.S. students ranked 25th among 34 countries in math and science, behind China, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Finland and many other countries.  America is improving, but students in countries like Latvia, Chile and Brazil are making gains three times faster than American students.

To our knowledge, no one has ranked countries based on their proficiency at “liberal arts,” but I’d guess that America would rank first.  You can also be proud that the U.S. has the world’s most powerful teachers’ unions.

Of course, none of this will help you find a job, but if you’re lucky, you may be able to land a paid internship.  You may be wondering why your employer doesn’t offer you a real job.  Didn’t you just graduate from college, where you had your share of internships?

Well, graduate, in the real world, internship is code for “job without benefits.”  Your employer can’t afford the high cost of health insurance, which is about to become much higher thanks to ObamaCare, so take your internship and be thankful.  Many of your classmates will be working part-time flipping burgers.

If you can’t get a real job and have to work part-time, at least you’ll help bring the unemployment rate down.  Heck, plenty of laid off people in their 50s and 60s have been working part-time for years.

The unemployment rate for young, recent college graduates averaged of 8.8% between March 2012 and February 2013, according to the Economic Policy Institute. That's down from an average of 10.4% in 2010, but still much higher than 5.7% in 2007.  Exclude part-time workers and it’s probably closer to 20%, but jobs are jobs.

You may be wondering … wasn’t President Obama supposed to reduce unemployment?  Didn’t the government spend trillions of dollars to fix the economy?

Well, guess what, graduate.  It didn’t work.  You voted for him.  I didn’t.  Again, welcome to the real world.

A bit of advice, graduate.  Be good to your parents.  You’ll be relying on them for food, clothing, shelter and health insurance, possibly for years to come.

Whether you land a part-time job or a paid internship, good luck paying off your student loans.  In my day, my working class parents were able to pay my way through the University of Massachusetts.  As recently as 1991, only one in 10 American households owed a student-loan debt.  Today, it’s one in five – and in many cases, the debt is in six figures.

Why, you may wonder, do so many students need student loans today?  The answer is, “Because they’re there.”  Federal student loans are up 60% over the past five years, while Pell grants and other grants in aid have tripled in value over the past decade.

You’ll soon discover that the availability of all of this federal money didn’t really help you.  Hopefully, you took at least one economics class in college that wasn’t taught by a Marxist and understand that all the federal funding that got pumped into student loans and Pell grants only made college more expensive.

Former education czar William J. Bennett, who first made the connection between federal loans and the cost of college, notes in his latest book (Is College Worth It?) that the cost of attending a four-year college has increased at four times the rate of inflation since 1990.  The average cost of attending a public college will have doubled in 15 years by 2016, while the average salary of college grads has fallen by 5% since 2007.

There’s no money back guarantee with college.  Your college education may not help you get a job, but you still have to pay off your college loan.  On top of that, your college will be asking you for donations for the rest of your life.  You may want to consider donating elsewhere.

At this point in your life, when you’re not thinking about how you’re going to get a return on your college investment, you may be wondering where all the money you contributed to your college goes.  The cost of college tuition is at an all-time high.  Colleges are typically organized as non-profits and are tax exempt.  They fleece their alum for life-long contributions for their endowment funds, which, in some cases run into the billions of dollars.  They typically get discounts from vendors.  And they still increase tuition costs every year.

Imagine the public good that could be done with Harvard University’s $30.4 billion endowment fund!  That’s not what it’s there for, though.  Endowment funds exist so that the money can be reinvested to make the endowment fund even bigger.  It’s a marketing tool.  The college that can say, “mine’s bigger” wins and everyone loves a winner.

So where does all of that money go?  For starters, the average pay for a college president, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, is $441,392.

So, graduate, what are you going to do with the liberal arts education?  You’re qualified for only one non-retail job – becoming a college professor.  You don’t even have to be a good teacher, as long as you know how to get published.

You may have heard the expression, “If you're not liberal when you're young, you have no heart. If you're not conservative when you're older, you have no brain.”  The real expression is, “If you're not conservative when you're older, you have no brain and are only fit to teach college.”

So, if you’re liberal, teach college, where you’ll have an opportunity to be as useful to your students as your professors were to you.  If you’re conservative, maybe you should move to Finland.  By the time you have kids, Finland will be advanced to the point where your kids can get a real education.



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