Colleges’ Role in Income Inequality

I’m still reading Most Likely to Succeed by Ted Dintersmith and Tony Wagner. The book has a chapter that focuses on college and its role in education as a whole. One of the subtopics that I found most relevant but not widely discussed is higher-education’s negative impact on the income inequality gap.

The high cost of college and the lack of effective career-readiness training leaves college graduates with little to moderate skills and tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
What’s a philosophy major to do when he didn’t realize that he doesn’t know how to market his philosophy degree to nonphilosophy-related employers? What’s a philosophy major to do when all he focused on for the last three semesters was writing philosophy papers, reading hundreds of pages worth of philosophy material each week and working a part-time job as a barista but failed to realize there isn’t a sustainable philosophy career path that doesn’t require him to add onto his five figure debt?

It baffles me that colleges aren’t required to truly help students asses

  • possible career options based on desired majors,
  • various pros and cons to a students interested major(s) and
  • provide internship opportunities to students while they are attending school, so that students can test those learned skills colleges claim they help students hone.

Generally speaking, college students areyou’d adults who may name have the support and (both emotional and financial) to make decisions that would truly benefit them in the long run.
We’re told a college degree will benefit students, but what’s so beneficial about working a non skilled job at a wage that can barely begin to pay off the student incurred during ones college career? What’s so great about being in debt for the rest of your life and not doing what you love, say expanding on philosophical theorys, because you need a job that will allow you to start paying off the lifetime of debt, live and save for the future?

How is it fair that we tell our kids that a college degree is a great accomplishment that will make them successful but we don’t clarify which degrees have the potential to alleviate some of the financial burden that schools leave you with? Students aren’t informed about what their potential employers are looking for in a candidate and therefore can’t act accordingly. What is happening in colleges that students can’t find jobs that can help them both follow their passion and survive? I think colleges aren’t realistic about job prospects for their many degrees. Schools spend so much time and effort to get students to go to their institutions, pay their high tuition and fees, but don’t really help students make sound decisions about what to do with their degrees. We live in a society that thinks it’s okay for schools to boast about their hundreds of degree offerings and not warn kids about how it makes no financial (as opposed to social) sense to study most of them, if the student is expecting a financial return on their education investment.

Schools need to be honest and say, “I’m really selling you an experience, one that will more likely than not leave you in financial straits depending on whether you’ve chosen to study (and excel) in a tech-related major or not.”

Colleges must do more to assist students on the real value of their degree and debt realities. If they don’t, colleges will only continue to deeper the income inequality gap. For institutions that claim to be a positive force in society, it be wrong to say that further, more thoughtful and more individualized development is not their problem. Folks who think that this kind of development should not fall on colleges’ laps probably also see nothing wrong with for-profit schools.

Wouldn’t it be nice for schools to adjust tuition based on a students projected income?…I need to think this out some more.

I’m also trying to reimagine the role of the professor. Should professors be vocal about career prospects when they are in direct conversation with the folks who are using their field of expertise, as a starting point? More on that in a later post.
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