I used to have educational ideals, but then I took a recession to the knee.

(Hat tip to CheezePavilion)

I'm one of those people who soapboxes that the role of the university is that of a temple of higher education, where you go to learn how to think and to look at the world more critically. To me university is not supposed to be a glorified trade school, and I seethe when I hear people shame their kids into thinking of it that way.

Nevertheless, the US (can't speak to anywhere else) seems to have developed an entitlement complex around college education... that it's a ticket to the "good life", and conversely, you won't get anywhere in life unless you go to college. The current recession has turned that on its head, but it's too soon for any kind of alternative philosophy to come into play on a national scale. So I've been wondering:

Has your college education made you more resistant to economic trouble, or more vulnerable to it?

How do you feel about your decision to go/not go to college in the first place, after this downturn?

What do you think of the worker retraining programs that are being touted? Should they be trade-school-only, since the point is to help people become employed again, or should university be included?

Do you think the recession has changed people's perception of community colleges and trade schools?

::

For context:

CheezePavilion wrote:
jdzappa wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
The number one mission of a school is to get you a job after graduation. I used to have ideals, but then I took a recession to the knee.

This would make an excellent topic all by itself.

It's amazing how much it seems the status of scholarship has changed even in just the past couple of years. We always heard about how the liberal arts were useless but now we seem to have turned a corner where no one has any confidence in getting somewhere in life using their "critical thinking skills" picked up in college. You seem to need a trade or a skill so you can hit the ground running the day after graduation. It makes one wonder whether there's a bubble in higher education that has nothing to do with football in the first place.

Ideally, college will teach you some set of skills that may or may not be marketable, AND teach you how to learn things. It's the latter that's more important in the long run.

That said, there are many college programs (especially at the community college and state college levels) which are essentially trade school type programs. They usually are for jobs that require some form of testing and licensing - engineering, nursing, medical schools, accounting, etc. Nothing wrong with that.

I think a person's inclinations and talents will define what they expect from higher education. I guess I'd argue that a liberal arts education prepares you for what you want to attempt, but you then have to figure out how to get into position to do it. Career programs give you an earlier, potentially easier entry into the workplace, but may not give you the flexibility (or the ease of failure) of a more general purpose education.

Up to you which way to go.

I hold a bachelor's degree in a field where a bachelor's degree doesn't help all that much. After a few years of bouncing between standard issue college grad jobs, I went back into the family business (construction) and despite the recession am doing surprisingly well. I am also taking computer science courses at a community college, which has caused my (now biased) perception of these schools to completely change.

I have to say I don't understand the need for the extensive art program that my community college offers -- while I am a bit of a bleeding heart and certainly encourage people to enrich themselves beyond career training, I can't shake the feeling that the mission of a community college should be different than that of a liberal arts college or art school.

In Mexico everyone aspires to study something but the harsh economic realities prevent most people from doing so.

The ones who do finish a degree, get it in business, accounting, and other money related enterprises. Then it's probably engineering and science, and stuff like psychology and archaeology or history. I think liberal arts are not very appreciated when you're starving.

The US had the luxury of being able to allow young people to study whatever they wanted, but now that they're in a recession, it's just not realistic to continue like that.

I've always thought it was silly to send all the manufacturing jobs to China... I mean, to me, it doesn't make economic sense in the long term. And in the 80's and 90's, getting something made in America was very special and it ensured quality, today you can only get stuff "designed" in America, but made in China.

You have like 300 million people, how can they all possibly do "service" jobs, you need to produce something, no? I dunno, my economics understanding is pretty limited.

Has your college education made you more resistant to economic trouble, or more vulnerable to it?

How do you feel about your decision to go/not go to college in the first place, after this downturn?

What do you think of the worker retraining programs that are being touted? Should they be trade-school-only, since the point is to help people become employed again, or should university be included?

Do you think the recession has changed people's perception of community colleges and trade schools?


A) More resistant, but not commensurate with the cost of the degree in cash and time.
B) I'm still glad for it. I got a secure job out of college that has remained secure through the recession.
C) I'm in favor of worker training and retraining programs, but I think we've conflated two entirely different types of degrees.
D) Not as much as it should have. Rather, I think it has further encouraged people to view colleges and universities with the ROI rubric with which they judge trade school.

To elaborate:
I highly value liberal arts education, strong core programs, and all of those ideals. I very much appreciate the education I got as an undergrad liberal arts major at the University of Chicago. We laughed about the anti-athletic and anti-practical biases of the UofC while we were there, but we also very much valued that stance, and I'm proud to be associated with the school.

But that sort of education has very little to do with how good of an employee you will be, unless you're working at a think tank or university. We accept that liberal arts educations are valuable in the workplace because college grads have had better and more reliable employment for a very long time, but that correlation is not as causative as apologists claim. A century ago, the college educated got great jobs because they were of an elite group in many ways even before entering college. They were better educated than most by that point, and were generally well connected and wealthy. If they weren't connected, they became so by spending four years with connected colleagues. It was an Old Boys Club. It got you hired in much the same way as fraternity networking still does, and had precious little to do with necessary skills to perform the job.

College education in the US no longer belongs to the elite. Roughly 30% of Americans now hold bachelors degrees, and the number is growing each generation. There aren't enough fund manager jobs to pass out to that population. The Old Boys network has been diluted, inasmuch as it still exists at all.

Maybe we should change the paradigm to have a 2-year degree be common after college, with the potential of going on to get a liberal arts education after a couple years on the job. Or maybe liberal arts should abandon colleges and fall back into masters programs.

The trouble there is that I really don't like the idea of our nation running that way. Liberal arts educations may not really be useful in the workplace, but they're incredibly valuable in the other 128 hours of the week — those hours where we're talking politics or religion, parenting or pedagogy. These are the places where we want to know about Rosseau, Marx, Kant, Latour, Freud, Chomsky, Kohlberg and Pinker. That's where TED talks apply.

That said, I'd love if every boardroom were full of philosophy-econ double-PhDs.

I dropped out of college after about 2.5 years due to complications of scheduling snafus, stress, and depression. I'd been working part-time at a programming job I got through friends (networking). After I left school, I convinced my employee to make the position full-time and I've leveraged those years of work experience to overcome my lack of degree in every position I got since. I'm now working at a very small dev house with strong job security and I make good money.

At my age, in my field, I have yet to find my lack of degree to be a hindrance. I haven't yet ever been out of work.

I have an English degree, and this fact has never (to my knowledge) directly impacted my employment in a discernible way. On the other hand, the liberal arts education I received has proven generally useful in various ways, even if the degree itself is virtually worthless.

Of course, anything I gained from those classes could at this point be learned using freely available resources on the internet.

From my perspective (as an employee of a relatively prestigious private university), formal higher education has failed to evolve to meet the demands of a society where rapid access to huge quantities of information is becoming a commodity. What exactly is the mission, now? What can they possibly hope to teach that cannot be more easily learned by an individual?

As hoarding individual knowledge becomes a less relevant skill, I assume that higher education in general will become devalued, despite the conventional wisdom that "you need a college degree to succeed."

clover wrote:

Has your college education made you more resistant to economic trouble, or more vulnerable to it?

How do you feel about your decision to go/not go to college in the first place, after this downturn?

What do you think of the worker retraining programs that are being touted? Should they be trade-school-only, since the point is to help people become employed again, or should university be included?

Do you think the recession has changed people's perception of community colleges and trade schools?

To follow Wordy:

A) When i graduated it was during the initial economic collapse. I felt incredibly vulnerable at the time and had no luck getting a job. Partially because i was unemployed being freshly out of my doctorate (the whole "it's easier to get a job when you have one" thing is very true but total bullsh*t), partially because when the economic situation hit one of the first areas to feel it was R&D - pretty much where i was headed with my degree and experience so i was competing with experienced people from within the industry for very few jobs - and partially because every available job was a low-paid call centre position and they took one look at my CV and discarded it (until i learned how to hide parts of my CV without making it look like there were years of gaps in it).

Now i have a job and my position is pretty secure. My degree is something that's making my position more secure as, on paper, my boss looks good for having and keeping me on - not to mention that our company only allows people with doctorates to progress past a certain point on the ladder (something i've not encountered before).

So, in summary: both more resistant and more vulnerable but it depends on the position you were in coming into it.

B) Part of me regrets it - especially when i see how far behind i am in terms of financial stability and "worth" (pension, savings etc) compared to my friends and peers. However, i don't really regret doing my PhD at all. It was in a subject i was passionate about and i feel incredibly lucky to have been able to do it. Just a shame i feel as is my life is a bit f*cked up because of choosing to do it.

C) I can't speak about the USes training programmes but in the UK it seems like they're moving (at the behest of the tories) to primarily an industry-backed education in general. Whilst i'm not sold on industry-backed education, i can see some positives in it IF it is just one alternative. What the government seems to be pushing now is industry-funded universities (newly built, of course) which i completely disagree with. Primarily because universities were much more involved with businesses and industry in the past before previous governments reigned in individual power and effectively put a stop to it through "initiatives" by making it uncompetitive and cost-prohibitive. Secondly because doing this will destroy what is left of the traditional universities (i believe that they should work back to where they were in the past and allow individual departments and groups to interface with industry without all the rules and burdens that are currently imposed upon them through central university and the government) and reduce the ability of the UK to develop technologies that might not have any direct pay-off (time-wise), reducing our competitiveness and also hindering scientific advancement.

In summary, i believe a balance of all things is required. Some trade/apprenticeships, some academic, some in between stuff. Prioritising one over the others will just lead to a situation like we have now where "a degree" is required to get noticed.... regardless of what that degree is or its relative worth.

D) Not enough, i would say. The same people who were always wanting to do those things will be looking at them and wanting to do them. The other people who are stuck in the "must get a degree" loop are still there from what i can see.

Liberal arts educations may not really be useful in the workplace,

Actually I feel liberal arts teachings are drasticaly undervalued. If I were a CEO, the first thing I would do is make my management team (CFO, CIO, VP's) take beginning drama. Why? Because you learn essential skills for leading and dealing with and speaking to people. These skills are:

learning how to focus and lessen hypertension = if you can't calm yourself, how do you expect to manage you employees in crisis situations?
learn how to breath and put breath behind your words = reach more people more effectively for longer periods
learn how to walk and talk on stage = manipulate and identify body language, first with self then with others
learn to read critically = understand subtext, strengthen your empathy

I am really tempted to start teaching/offering workshops. It should work really well with the corporate environments that do morale/team building exercises.

clover wrote:

Has your college education made you more resistant to economic trouble, or more vulnerable to it?

To a certain extent yes, but only by virtue of the fact that my college degree (Masters in Avionics) is in the same field as my career (Propulsion Engineer), and my career choice is pretty resistant to recession because (a)I lucked out picking a career in which there's fewer qualified candidates than there are jobs and (b) a recession tends not to hurt commercial aircraft sales much, so my employers are in relatively rude health.

clover wrote:

How do you feel about your decision to go/not go to college in the first place, after this downturn?

I have no regrets, but then again, I went to college in the UK, right before college got significantly more expensive there. I graduated with about 10k GBP in debt, which is paltry. And again, due to the nature of my skillset, I've never been out of work since. And it pays pretty good.

clover wrote:

What do you think of the worker retraining programs that are being touted? Should they be trade-school-only, since the point is to help people become employed again, or should university be included?

If it's worker-retraining, then it needs to be just that. That's a different beast from "university" in general. If the goal is to equip people with employable skills, then a degree in Klingon shouldn't be on the table.

clover wrote:

Do you think the recession has changed people's perception of community colleges and trade schools?


Absolutely. And so it should. A college education that costs you $10k is a very different proposition from one that costs you $200k. The one that costs you $200k needs to be an investment, and given that the recession means that there's not a guaranteed return on an expensive degree, that changes the value of it to the prospective student.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
I dropped out of college after about 2.5 years due to complications of scheduling snafus, stress, and depression. I'd been working part-time at a programming job I got through friends (networking). After I left school, I convinced my employee to make the position full-time and I've leveraged those years of work experience to overcome my lack of degree in every position I got since. I'm now working at a very small dev house with strong job security and I make good money.

At my age, in my field, I have yet to find my lack of degree to be a hindrance. I haven't yet ever been out of work.

Who you know is always far more important than what you know.

I got an internship with the company I'm still working for via my roommate, who'd had the internship the summer before and recommended me (he had gotten it in the same way from an earlier college roommate of his). I did finish my CS degree, which I'd imagine was a good thing as I don't think I'd have had much success convincing such a large, bureaucratic organization to overlook my lack of a degree since it wouldn't be hard for them to get 1000 other applicants for the position. Though apparently finding one who can actually write code might be a bit of a problem, even in such a large set of applicants.

1) Has your college education made you more resistant to economic trouble, or more vulnerable to it?
2) How do you feel about your decision to go/not go to college in the first place, after this downturn?

3) What do you think of the worker retraining programs that are being touted? Should they be trade-school-only, since the point is to help people become employed again, or should university be included?

4) Do you think the recession has changed people's perception of community colleges and trade schools?

1) I'd say my specific education made me more resistant to the recession. I had taught myself some of the CS basics prior to starting taking college classes, but it's hard to imagine that I'd have learned enough on my own to get a stable job in the field, and I have no clue what I'd be doing if not software engineering.

2) Going to college was the best decision I've ever made. Since I did all 4 years at a private university, I graduated with ~$35k in loans. Because I ended up in a good job that pays decently, that debt was paid off within 3 years. Plus, I met my wife there, so it's hard to complain too much. She graduated with much less debt thanks to a rather large swimming scholarship (I also had one, but it barely made a dent). Luckily for her, nurses make decent money - far less than they should IMO, I can't believe all of the BS they have to put up with - so she had also paid off all of her debt within a few years. However, the friends of mine who got generic business administration or communications degrees have had a much harder time paying off loans and keeping steady employment.

All of that said - if I wasn't interested in swimming in college and didn't already know what I wanted to do, I'd have done what my brother is doing instead. He's getting an AA at the local community college while he figures out what he's interested in. Once he's done with that, he'll transfer to a 4-year school for the final two years of his bachelors.

3) No clue.

4) Not enough. There are still thousands of people racking up huge debt getting generic degrees and then landing jobs that don't pay nearly enough to cover the debt. Looking at the data here, it's hard to miss the reason that people continue to get ANY 4-year degree that they can. It'd be interesting to see that data further split up by type of degree. I think, however, that this is something that will slowly change over time. I heard a report on NPR late last year that was discussing how there are very few degrees that are actually worth the cost of 4 years at a university - basically, technical and healthcare fields. I'd imagine as these studies become more well known, we'll see more people doing something like my brother. Rather than spend $25k per year for 4 years, they'll do 2 years at a CC (or trade school or whatever) and then, if the correct financial incentive exists, they'll go get a bachelor's from a university.

I got my first job and my current job through friends. In between I was a contractor.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
I dropped out of college after about 2.5 years due to complications of scheduling snafus, stress, and depression.

No college degree? I guess you weren't aware of Pod6's requirement for a bachelor's degree or higher.

Funkenpants wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:
I dropped out of college after about 2.5 years due to complications of scheduling snafus, stress, and depression.

No college degree? I guess you weren't aware of Pod6's requirement for a bachelor's degree or higher.


You're trying to tell me that Swampy has an education?

(doff of the cap to clover)

It's interesting to see so many people talk about getting jobs through their friends considering another part of the original discussion touched on how a college's alumni network can be just as important as its academic reputation.

wordsmythe wrote:
The trouble there is that I really don't like the idea of our nation running that way. Liberal arts educations may not really be useful in the workplace, but they're incredibly valuable in the other 128 hours of the week — those hours where we're talking politics or religion, parenting or pedagogy. These are the places where we want to know about Rosseau, Marx, Kant, Latour, Freud, Chomsky, Kohlberg and Pinker. That's where TED talks apply.

This especially is what makes me a sad panda. There's a 'tragedy of the commons' element to losing liberal arts educations. Not to mention if not for a Reed College class in calligraphy, we might not have had Apple as we know it. LINK

In fact, I think this has come up in a previous conversation of ours--the 'arts' (and these days it seems the humanities, and even the social sciences) are like venture capital funding, where most fail but the few brilliant successes are worth the high failure rate in terms of net wealth (both monetary and aesthetic). The problem is the culture enjoys socialized benefits from the successes, and increasingly the costs are privatized to the individual students.

fangblackbone wrote:
Liberal arts educations may not really be useful in the workplace,

Actually I feel liberal arts teachings are drasticaly undervalued. If I were a CEO, the first thing I would do is make my management team (CFO, CIO, VP's) take beginning drama. Why? Because you learn essential skills for leading and dealing with and speaking to people. These skills are:

learning how to focus and lessen hypertension = if you can't calm yourself, how do you expect to manage you employees in crisis situations?
learn how to breath and put breath behind your words = reach more people more effectively for longer periods
learn how to walk and talk on stage = manipulate and identify body language, first with self then with others
learn to read critically = understand subtext, strengthen your empathy

I am really tempted to start teaching/offering workshops. It should work really well with the corporate environments that do morale/team building exercises.

Those are all worthwhile lessons, but I wonder if drama class is the most efficient way of teaching them.

I feel like I am a fringe case to this argument.
Got a scholarship to go to a good state University and graduated with no debt and a degree, which while a Liberal Arts degree, is technical enough that employers on large did not balk at it.
Now I work with a bunch of people with engineering degrees. My main issue with their outlook is that they are too willing to accept things as a black box which provides the right output. I don't know. Obviously my degree is less useful, but it promoted a certain ability for abstract thought.
I think the question should be do we want better employees or better people?
I would rather have better people.

In a community college environment the drama course covers that in 7-9 weeks at 2.5 hours per week. (the other 9 weeks is working on scene that is your final) So that totals 17.5-22.5 hours and that is padded with a lot of annecdotes and asides. So I bet you could do it in two 5 hour workshops or three 4 hour workshops.

boogle wrote:
I feel like I am a fringe case to this argument.
Got a scholarship to go to a good state University and graduated with no debt and a degree, which while a Liberal Arts degree, is technical enough that employers on large did not balk at it.
Now I work with a bunch of people with engineering degrees. My main issue with their outlook is that they are too willing to accept things as a black box which provides the right output. I don't know. Obviously my degree is less useful, but it promoted a certain ability for abstract thought.
I think the question should be do we want better employees or better people?
I would rather have better people.

Did your course cover cognitive dissonance much?

The very concept of a black-box is a textbook case of abstraction.

Jonman wrote:
boogle wrote:
I feel like I am a fringe case to this argument.
Got a scholarship to go to a good state University and graduated with no debt and a degree, which while a Liberal Arts degree, is technical enough that employers on large did not balk at it.
Now I work with a bunch of people with engineering degrees. My main issue with their outlook is that they are too willing to accept things as a black box which provides the right output. I don't know. Obviously my degree is less useful, but it promoted a certain ability for abstract thought.
I think the question should be do we want better employees or better people?
I would rather have better people.

Did your course cover cognitive dissonance much?

The very concept of a black-box is a textbook case of abstraction.

I know, that's what I call it. They have no, I don't know how to say I'm a f*cking math major, desire to know how things works. The abstraction comment comes from some of them not realizing that by me programming general solutions it allows me to solve all the specifics that those general sets include.

I know, that's what I call it. They have no, I don't know how to say I'm a f*cking math major, desire to know how things works

This happens in every field. It is especially so when computers are present. There are so many biologist and geologist PhD's that have to call me over to save a file in MS Word 2007, every day. There are so many electricians who can solder circuit boards that can't open CD Rom drives. There are untold millions that don't know how to archive their email in Outlook. People don't even want to look anymore at what the basic UI (file, edit, view, tools, help) menus contain in ANY program.

It seems like we are becoming more and more addictively curious about ridiculously trivial things versus functional things. I was about to use Snookie and dark matter as contrasting examples before realizing they are probably one in the same.

fangblackbone wrote:
I know, that's what I call it. They have no, I don't know how to say I'm a f*cking math major, desire to know how things works

This happens in every field. It is especially so when computers are present. There are so many biologist and geologist PhD's that have to call me over to save a file in MS Word 2007, every day. There are so many electricians who can solder circuit boards that can't open CD Rom drives. There are untold millions that don't know how to archive their email in Outlook. People don't even want to look anymore at what the basic UI (file, edit, view, tools, help) menus contain in ANY program.

Well me and those untold millions have fundamentally different world views.

Has your college education made you more resistant to economic trouble, or more vulnerable to it?

How do you feel about your decision to go/not go to college in the first place, after this downturn?

What do you think of the worker retraining programs that are being touted? Should they be trade-school-only, since the point is to help people become employed again, or should university be included?

Do you think the recession has changed people's perception of community colleges and trade schools?

I have a degree in applied mathematics and a masters in economics. I also have my CFA and will be getting my CPA this year. I feel that I'm pretty much recession proof and have a lot of options on what I want to do. I can do consulting, portfolio management, teaching all sorts of things. I went to two top tier universities so I'm lucky. I think for a lot of people who go to get their liberal arts degree they treat college as a 4 or 5 year party and I'm against that. I think college is there for hard work and study and if someone wants to party, it's cheaper just to give them $25,000 and let them take a year off and party like they've never partied before.

I have always been very high on trade and community colleges. If someone wants to be an electrician they can make a very good living and have a lot of demand for their services. I think what is having a change of perception is that we are now getting a lot of these liberal arts graduates who came out of school with the expectation that they'd be making $50,000 and it's not the case. One of my good friends graduated from the film program at USC and he works full time at the apple store making $15 an hour, he and his friends have this expectation that they are owed things because they went to college. I'm a little weird when it comes to liberal arts because I used to get a hard time from those kids in college for not being a fun enough guy.

wordsmythe wrote:

Those are all worthwhile lessons, but I wonder if drama class is the most efficient way of teaching them.

Indeed. As much as I appreciate what my liberal arts education brings to the table, I often wonder whether 4 years of actual work experience and independent learning (assuming a modern internet, anyway) would have given me even more. Yes, the degree is possibly worth something in and of itself, but to me that seems like an outdated way to assess somebody's capabilities (and it's not even applicable in my current line of employment).

I think it's important to understand the basic elements of how society functions, and has functioned in the past. I think that it's crucial to learn how to communicate with others, both in writing and through speaking. I even think that it's useful to have some appreciation of art, at least in a basic sort of way, as a worthwhile human endeavor.

I do not, however, think that a formal institution is the only - or even the best - way in which a person can acquire such skills now.

To be frank, almost every actual piece of information that I still remember from my formal education could be looked up on Wikipedia now. Furthermore, almost all of the "soft skills" I learned as a side effect of that education could have just as easily been learned in a real world environment.

On the whole, I think our ancient factory-worker era strategies for dealing with education are completely outmoded, and that holds true from primary school all the way through university. Educational systems are designed and run by old people, who cannot appreciate how the pervasive access to all forms of information is going to change humanity.

In many respects I feel that higher education is a dinosaur of an industry whose day of reckoning is finally near at hand. There's a shared hallucination in our society that going to school for X more years necessarily makes somebody that much more qualified. As long as that perception persists the market for school will thrive, but that doesn't necessarily mean that anything of intrinsic value is actually being imparted on people who buy into that system.

The piece of paper is only worth something so long as we as a society agree that it's worth something.

I'm a little weird when it comes to liberal arts because I used to get a hard time from those kids in college for not being a fun enough guy.

Ok, I need to speak up as a liberal arts major (double majored in journalism and international studies with an emphasis in East Asian studies). I hate this perception that liberal arts degrees are for stupid jocks or party animals. Yes, in some of my earlier communications classes you'd have plenty of hungover kids or the football team goofing off in the back. By senior year, I had taken the following:

1. macro and micro economics (not to the same level as an econ student but I took them)
2. political science courses
3. rigorous historical classes, including a few where I was reading historical documents in Japanese
4. international affairs courses, once again reading some of the material in Japanese

I was doing all this while interning during the summer at the Seattle Times, one of the best newspapers on the West Coast.

I also wanted to say that in IT I've met my share of programmers and engineers that slide by. Sure, they put more work in than the trustifarian "artiste," but they still have little aptitude or interest in their job. They just went into the field because that's where the money supposedly was at. Not suprisingly, these guys bounce around a bit and are the first to be let go.

Final rant - maybe the problem isn't the degrees but rather the "winner take all," funnel all the money to the top nature of modern American society. There are plenty of out-of-work college grads in corrupt Third World countries too. College grads in other first world countries don't seem to be struggling as much. There is also better income equality and more opportunities for the middle class.

jdzappa wrote:

Ok, I need to speak up as a liberal arts major (double majored in journalism and international studies with an emphasis in East Asian studies). I hate this perception that liberal arts degrees are for stupid jocks or party animals. Yes, in some of my earlier communications classes you'd have plenty of hungover kids or the football team goofing off in the back. By senior year, I had taken the following:

1. macro and micro economics (not to the same level as an econ student but I took them)
2. political science courses
3. rigorous historical classes, including a few where I was reading historical documents in Japanese
4. international affairs courses, once again reading some of the material in Japanese

I was doing all this while interning during the summer at the Seattle Times, one of the best newspapers on the West Coast.

As fellow graduate from a liberal arts university, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I too took macro and micro economics, statistics, business ethics, and more as well as had semester long internship at a publishing house.

My communications classes were a joke like they pretty much are everywhere, but having one of my 400-level political science courses conducted in Oxford debate format taught me much more about how to communicate effectively (as well as speak in public). I had to read yards of books (many original sources) and wrote some 500 pages of papers in my senior year alone.

Those things--the ability to hoover up lots of information quickly and make sense of it; to think logically; and communicate effectively--are essential skills for business and a world where the march of technology changes things constantly.

Clover Asked wrote:
Has your college education made you more resistant to economic trouble, or more vulnerable to it?

How do you feel about your decision to go/not go to college in the first place, after this downturn?

What do you think of the worker retraining programs that are being touted? Should they be trade-school-only, since the point is to help people become employed again, or should university be included?

Do you think the recession has changed people's perception of community colleges and trade schools?

1 - I believe my college education has made me more resistant to economic trouble. I entered the workforce in 1997, so granted the decade+ of experience prior to the recession was also instrumental. But my education taught me soft skills that have helped me navigate the down economy. At one point I was out of work for a year. And the lesson from college was to never stop learning. So I started learning new tech (I'm a software engineer) and I kept myself busy with a startup until another full time job landed in my lap.

2 - I actually feel better about my decision to go to college with the downtown. I feel that I solidly learned skills that translate into being nimble and capable of surviving the current economy better than if I hadn't gone to school. I studied English. Doesn't strictly translate into the work I do. Except that I learned how to study, I developed a love for the process of learning and I have never stopped. I feel like this positions me pretty well.

3 - I don't know that I'm honestly qualified to talk about worker retraining programs. The problem is that I'm already in the jobs they would theoretically be training people for. And in my opinion you can't just take an lifetime auto worker and make him/her a programmer or a project manager. The soft skills and side skills required for doing the "jobs of the 21st century" (as politicians often say) require more than just trade school training.

4 - I don't know that it has. We're still telling everyone they should go to college and that the entire economy will be composed of white collar jobs. That's just not reality. The economy needs to be more diverse and it's inevitably going to include trade jobs such as electricians, plumbers, machinists, etc. There just aren't enough jobs for them either in a down economy.

boogle wrote:
I feel like I am a fringe case to this argument.
Got a scholarship to go to a good state University and graduated with no debt and a degree, which while a Liberal Arts degree, is technical enough that employers on large did not balk at it.
Now I work with a bunch of people with engineering degrees. My main issue with their outlook is that they are too willing to accept things as a black box which provides the right output. I don't know. Obviously my degree is less useful, but it promoted a certain ability for abstract thought.
I think the question should be do we want better employees or better people?
I would rather have better people.

I would agree with this. Both parts.

#1 - That there is virtue in having an educated populace. So getting a Liberal Arts-style education can be good for anyone so you have an informed citizenry. Making it seem mandatory to hold a job in today's world vs. pushing it as simply a virtue of well-rounded society has seemingly been a mistake. But overall I think having better people is valuable.

#2 - I agree completely with technical vs. Liberal Arts degrees. Most pure engineers I've worked with are really difficult. They don't generally communicate well in an office environment and they aren't terrible adaptable. They tend to be prima-donnas and often rude to those of us without an engineering degree.

There are exceptions, but for the most part I much prefer to work with software developers in my field who studied history or english.

jdzappa wrote:
I hate this perception that liberal arts degrees are for stupid jocks or party animals. Yes, in some of my earlier communications classes you'd have plenty of hungover kids or the football team goofing off in the back.

Too right. The members of my graduating class in the Department of Electronics were split approximately 50/50 between uber-nerds and party-animals.

fangblackbone wrote:
I was about to use Snookie and dark matter as contrasting examples before realizing they are probably one in the same.

Commander Shepard disagrees.

DSGamer wrote:
#2 - I agree completely with technical vs. Liberal Arts degrees. Most pure engineers I've worked with are really difficult. They don't generally communicate well in an office environment and they aren't terrible adaptable. They tend to be prima-donnas and often rude to those of us without an engineering degree.

I don't think it's fair to conclude that your co-workers are jerks simply because they never had the fortune of studying Proust or Nietzsche or the Crimean war in a formal setting.

Maybe they're jerks just because they're jerks.

gore wrote:
DSGamer wrote:
#2 - I agree completely with technical vs. Liberal Arts degrees. Most pure engineers I've worked with are really difficult. They don't generally communicate well in an office environment and they aren't terrible adaptable. They tend to be prima-donnas and often rude to those of us without an engineering degree.

I don't think it's fair to conclude that your co-workers are jerks simply because they never had the fortune of studying Proust or Nietzsche or the Crimean war in a formal setting.

Maybe they're jerks just because they're jerks.

Exactly. If they have poor communication skills and aren't adaptable, it sounds like they're sh*tty at what they do. I firmly consider communication skills and adaptability to be essential to an engineering skillset.