"Nothing was delivered," the Byrds sang more than fifty years ago, and "nothing was received."
I have no idea what the Byrds were singing about when they cut Nothing Was Delivered, but they might have been referring to college degrees.
In 2015, the Department of Education posted its College Scoreboard, allowing people to determine the return on investment for thousands of academic programs across the United States. Several think tanks and policy organizations analyzed the data, and their findings are sobering.
According to Third Way, "a center-left, public policy group," people who graduate in electrical engineering and nursing have very high returns on their investment. Most will be earning more than their student debt within five years of graduation.
On the other hand, the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity has terrible news for people getting degrees in the liberal arts. The poor schmucks who study art, music, philosophy, religion, and psychology are likely to end up financially worse off than if they had never gone to college.
If you want to know more about the financial costs of majoring in liberal arts or the social sciences, you can read the various think-tank reports or the articles posted by the New York Times and the Washington Post.
But the bottom line is this. Given the transformation of the American workplace, with its increased focus on technological skills and mathematics, you would be nuts to take out student loans to get a college degree in a major that does not lead to a good job.
Why do so many colleges offer degrees that don't lead to remunerative employment? A couple of reasons. Schools have thousands of tenured professors teaching subjects for which there is falling demand. No one wants to take Professor Egghead's course on Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Soren Kierkegaard. Still, the old gasbag is tenured, and he's going to hang around the university until he is in his eighties.
Second, American universities are not subject to the laws of supply and demand. Enrollments in the humanities and the social sciences have been shrinking for decades. Colleges don't close these programs; they simply raise their prices to cover the growing cost of their bloated overhead and their unproductive faculty.
Students don't complain about rising tuition prices because they take out student loans to pay their tuition bills. Millions of rubes don't realize they've been swindled until they graduate and suddenly realize they're hopelessly mired in college debt and have no job prospects.
As Friedrich Nietzsche observed, "Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed." That's good advice. Maybe Nietzsche was trying to warn people not to major in philosophy.
|Friedrich Nietzsche: For God's sake, don't major in philosophy!