A College Degree and a Dollar Will Get You Four Quarters
A Texas prison inmate wrote me recently asking for a free copy of my book after reading about it in a newspaper column on the importance of soft skills in the job hunt. He justified the request with a claim that he achieved a 3.7 GPA in getting his associate's degree and "acquired a lot of academic knowledge" but was not ready for the workforce when he completes his prison term soon. I hear this comment frequently from college graduates and current students everywhere from community college to the Ivies, and none of them are in jail.
It reminded me of what a professor said to me 40 years ago with respect to my doctorate, "A college degree and a dollar will get you four quarters."
This statement seems counter-intuitive given the fact that people with an undergraduate degree make twice as much over their lifetime as people with only a high school degree ($2.1 million versus $1.2 million). But it is not.
Less than 30 percent of Americans over the age of 25 have a bachelor's degree. Many of them are doing just fine. Plenty of cabdrivers have their bachelor's, master's or doctoral degrees. More than 60 percent of college graduates end up living at home for at least a year. Moreover, economists report that the gap between wages earned between undergraduate degree holders and those who have no degree college degree has reached a plateau.
The key to career success is to have a strong work ethic and the skills employers want: oral and written communication, people, research, computer application, number crunching, analytical and problem-solving skills. Employers rank "work ethic" the highest because all the skills and knowledge in the world will be of no use without hard work and continuous self-improvement.
Will a college education help students develop the skills they need for rewarding job opportunities? Employers and researchers answer, "not exactly." A survey of 450 employers in 2004 by Duffey Communications reports that only 20 percent of the respondents said yes when asked. "Are schools preparing students to meet employers' needs?"
Reprinted with the permission of College Parents of America. © 2007 CollegeParents.org
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