The big promise of widening access to higher education in the 1970s was that people would get better jobs and make a lot more money. The leftist politicians who pushed for weakening standards to make sure that Tyrone and Jamal can get their B.A. in B.S., however, seem to have not realized that the number of well-paid jobs is limited. Furthermore, they normally depend on skills. Buckle down and study a hard subject, and you will be sufficiently rewarded. Of course, Petronius II who went to Eton and then entered Oxford to study PPE or even History will do a lot better in life than some lowly serf who had to make it through an engineering degree. It would be naive to downplay the importance of social class, er, nepotism and corruption in much of the public sphere.
Yet, the central claim has been that getting more young people educated was a universal good. Who wouldn’t want to have smarter people? Well, a good claim can be made that universities are in the business of corrupting minds and infesting them with socialist ideas instead of turning them into law-abiding and productive members of society. Thankfully, the free market will eventually take care of the largesse of university education. Right now, everything is fine and dandy because we simply shower young people with student loans. Just think of all the Nobel Prize winners that are bound to emerge from bottom-tier universities! Wait, they are not?
By now it should be clear that you’re essentially wasting your time and money if you go to a bottom-tier university. The payoff just won’t be there, but your degree at Yolo U will cost you just as much as one from a reputable institution. You could think that the better universities would be safe, but that seems to be changing. I was thus more than surprised when I heard of an initiative by King’s College London, which is by any standard a very good university. A couple of years ago they set up the “Talent Bank”, which is a portal for students and graduates to gain part-time work experience. On their alumni portal, I found the following:
How does the Talent Bank help King’s alumni?
If you’re a recent graduate, you might be looking to get flexible, paid work experience. King’s Talent Bank is an initiative that provides opportunities for you to enhance your employability, learn more about specific departments, develop skills and earn some money.
In case you are a high school student applying for university, or a current student, this should make you sit up and pay close attention because if you cannot get full-time work after getting your undergraduate degree, you have essentially wasted your time and money. Money is indeed quite an issue. Currently, you pay up to £9,250 in tuition per year as an undergraduate in the United Kingdom. To use some round numbers, let’s say the total cost of a three-year degree at King’s College London, or any other university in London, is £60,000, which I’d consider a more conservative estimate. This is an awful lot of money.
You should also look up salary data of King’s College London alumni. In some subjects, the median is as low as £22,000 per year, and that is before taxes. The plausible conclusion to draw from this is that some King’s College London alumni may never break even as I can’t see how there would be much, if any, money left over after covering basic expenses.
I think that doing any kind of unpaid work, part-time work, or an internship after graduation is an admission that you do not have a marketable degree. This may not necessarily be due to the case that the degree itself is worthless. Maybe there are just too many people in your field. For instance, there is increasing competition in fields like law. Law degrees are still valuable, but just not for everyone who holds one. Yet, there are also degrees that are supposed to “educate” you, but which do not lead to any kind of job. Those poor souls may have to do internships and lowly paid grunt work for years before they establish themselves in supposedly sexy industries.
What I hope we will see is a dramatic downscaling of higher education. This would already have happened if high school students weren’t showered with easy student loan money. Meanwhile, plumbers make £50,000 a year or more. Then again, they may drop their aitches, and who would want to be around that kind of crowd?
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