Is a College Degree Still Important?

Anonymous's picture

The unemployment rate of 20- to 24-year-olds with college degrees reached 9.6% at the end of 2010. Maybe it's time to rethink Obama's emphasis on investing in education. New York Times economist Paul Krugman says that advances in technology are gradually reducing the demand for highly educated workers. Computers are getting better at imitating human reasoning, and software has been slowly replacing human decision makers such as tax accountants and paralegals. Since the 1990s, high-wage and low-wage employment has grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs - the kind necessary to sustain a strong middle class - are being slowly replaced by new technologies and outsourcing. 

An educated population is essential to any functioning democracy, but Krugman raises a good point when he says that the government should go from from merely making sure every one earns a college degree, to reassessing and remodeling  education policies so they  accommodate the economic impact of emerging technologies to avoid wasting potential human capital. 

Easier said than done probably, but a first step in the right direction?

Alyssa Sittig's picture

Restructuring Education

As a college senior entering the job world in a matter of months, I can attest firsthand that competition for the best and brightest next generation of leaders is in hyper drive. Ten years ago I would have felt confident that my Bachelor's Degree would be my ticket to a full time job after graduation - but nowadays it isn't at all a sure thing. If my Bachelor's Degree is becoming as impressive as what a high school diploma was 10 years ago - where are we headed? Will my children need Ph.Ds in order to compete for a decently paying job? Don't get me wrong, I think increased job competition and demand for high qualifications is a great thing for our economy -- but that is only if you're in the sector of the population who has access to the resources necessary to compete. For San Franciscans who cannot afford the time or money to go back to school, our hyper competitive job market is handing them the short end of the stick. We need to re-focus our priorities on ensuring that San Franciscans of all educational backgrounds have an adequate baseline of healthcare and access to opportunities for self-improvement. Engineers and bankers may help San Francisco prosper, but we would be nowhere without the personal services provided by hardworking individuals who have earned their degree in hard work and dedication.
harris2's picture

Daunting, but degrees are needed...

Yes, you need a degree. Regardless of technological movements in the job sector, education can't (or at least shouldn't) go by the wayside. To use a personal example, my friend is a talent coordinator for a construction company, and the first filter for applicants is having a college degree. If they don't have one, boom, immediately removed from consideration despite experience. Not that all jobs are like that, but college degrees are huge inidcators of completing something that is inherently supposed to provide a "level-up."
harris2's picture

Daunting, but degrees are needed...

Yes, you need a degree. Regardless of technological movements in the job sector, education can't (or at least shouldn't) go by the wayside. To use a personal example, my friend is a talent coordinator for a construction company, and the first filter for applicants is having a college degree. If they don't have one, boom, immediately removed from consideration despite experience. Not that all jobs are like that, but college degrees are huge inidcators of completing something that is inherently supposed to provide a "level-up."
gcotter's picture

College and skills

Yes.  The requirement for a college degree is increasing and in many fields an application won't even be considered unless the applicant has a college degree.  We must ensure that college is available for all who can benefit from it.

HOWEVER....  We seem to have forgotten along the way that there is a segment of society that is not going to be college bound.  That's OK.  But we need to address the future goals and successes of the non-college bound.  We need more trade schools, more craft schools, more applied technology schools,  Our city college systems handle many of these classes but we need to negotiate with trade unions to provide entry-level positions for those individuals for whom college may not be appropriate.  When the city negotiates with unions, one negotiating point must be an increase in the percentage of entry-level positions provided for San Francisco unenployed who do not have a college degree.

Maria Balilo's picture

Yes, promote trade schools

To aggressively promote "college degrees" as a universal prerequisite to social mobility is misguided, especially considering the current economic situation where there is an oversupply of overeducated and underemployed post-grads. I've met many students who enter college with no reason other than that they think it's what they're supposed to do. Some become academically adrift, eventually end up dropping out after 2-3 years, a waste of taxpayer money. I agree that it's important to recognize that college is not for everyone, and we do need to promote trade schools as another feasible, not lesser,  alternative to a university degree, where people can build important skills that are relevant to an ever-changing economy.

Joshua Romero's picture

Los Beneficios de Colegio para Jovenes en San Francisco

Muchos de los jovenes no saben que para tener un buen futuro, necesitan a ir a un colegio o la unversida. Ellos creon que todo va estar dado a ellos, y no quieren trabajar dudo. La importancia de colegio necesita impactar las vidas do los jovenes. Los beneficois que los jovenes quiren solomente puedan obtener cuando vayan al colegio, especialmente en una cuidad como San Fancisco.

PERO, que son los beneficios que podemos user para motivar a los jovenes a ir al colegio. Muchos pueden decir que un buen trabajo o un casa grande. Tambien la cosa mas importante a ver es la educacion, la inteligencia va a suvir adelante. Colegio puede, en un manera, salver unos de la vida en los barrios. Muchos veces vemos a muchos chiando que quiren un trabajo mejor. El beneficio mas grande es con un grado de una universidad es con eso, puedan obtener un buen trabajo. Especialmente aqui en San Francisco, por que todos son de acuardo que es muy dificil a buscar trabajo en la cuidad, y es mas dificil sin un grado. Aqui en San Francisco, necesitamos a preguntar que, "Es colegio importante?" Y la respuesta es, "Si, es muy importante," no solo para una persona, pero para toda la gente en la cuidad de San francisco.

Phil Ting's picture

College Degrees and Voc Ed

Everyone should have the opportunity to go to college.  We need an education system which gives everyone who wants this opportunity.  However, over the last two decades public schools have almost phased out all the vocational education courses.  Shop, mechanical drawing and auto repair were things you could learn in high school.  Today its harder to find those options because of the focus on pure academics in schools.  Education is there to help us learn but we also need education to help us get a job.  Currently, City College of SF educates on average 90,000 students a year, many of whom are learning how to cook, install solar panels and mostly importantly how to speak, read and write English.  These life changing courses are critical to changing someone's life but also growing our economy.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137