24 May 2013

Is A Bachelor's Degree Worth It? -- Other Factors & Considerations

In addition to the key arguments for each side, there are other factors, thoughts, and considerations that ought to be taken into consideration. These include:

  • Pressures to succeed from family
    • Economic motives, such as "do you want to end up poor and/or homeless" 
    • Pressure from affluent families to get a college education to perpetuate familial status
    • Many parents (usu. from disadvantaged and/or low-income backgrounds) want the children to do better and use opportunities that they themselves either never had or never took advantage of
  • Pressure in secondary schools: as we noted earlier, many school districts in those areas really seek to push for higher university attendance in the hopes of bolstering their own academic reputations as trendy "college prep" districts--
    • This is particularly true in states that allow for open-enrolment between public school districts and allocate public funding based on enrolment figures
  • Peer Pressure
    • High School: this often manifests differently
      • In affluent areas (often suburban), other peers are going to college and thus the idea of going to college can partially be attributed to "my friends and peers are doing it and I don't want to be seen as an outcast or stupid" 
        • In addition, collegiate prestige sometimes comes into play (such as Harvard or Stanford versus the local community college or "State U" campus) 
      • Other areas can vary between positive and negative views
        • On the positive side, pressure to go to school indicates an urge to "break the vicious cycle" and escape from lack of socioeconomic mobility and social decay
        • On the negative side, and particularly in some sections of minority communities, going to college implies that someone is "selling out" to society (usu. the "white man") 
    • College: success in college is often subject to peer pressure at various points and methods
      • Pressures to socialise and "have fun" at the possible expense of academic performance
      • Dorm life and dealing with different roommates
      • Greek life, particularly social fraternities and sororities
      • Pop culture depicting college as little more than a multi-year party, often fuelled by large-scale consumption of alcohol 
        • Animal House
        • Van Wilder
      • Collegiate rankings by measures unrelated to academics, such as 
        • being a top "party school" (notoriously put out by both the Princeton Review and Playboy magazine)
        • being an athletic powerhouse (usu. in football and/or basketball and especially so in NCAA Division I schools)
        • sexual attributes of the campus student body
          • attractiveness (often, but not always, implying female students)
          • reputation for promiscuity
  • Political Motives
    • Politicians
      • Education always pops up in the politically-charged atmosphere
      • Few politicians are going to support rollbacks to education
      • Even if the policies are bad and/or don't really do anything, they're often convinced that they need to stand behind something--anything
      • Despite this, cuts to state-run university systems still happened so that monies could be paid for other popular spending programmes (including those for taxpayer relief) 
      • A few use anti-intelligentsia populism and the related theme of "intellectual elitism" in their campaigns; a notable recent example is former GOP candidate Rick Santorum 
    • Interests of the financial services industry
      • Student loans are lucrative, and many of them are backed by the federal government, thereby lowering the aggregate credit risks the banks would have to take
      • Banks such as Wells Fargo and Chase provide private loans; there are plenty of "nonbank" service firms for both federal and private loans. 
      • Prior to the Obama administration takeover of federal student loans, bankers saw high demand for the loans and thus opportunities for short-term profits 
        • It's worth noting that lenders are prohibited by federal law from denying approval for Stafford and Perkins loans (both are federally-backed loans) even if the borrower has bad credit or a spotty employment record; this usually means guaranteed approval for the loans provided the borrower meets federal criteria for financial aid
        • The reason for the statutory prohibition of denial was that the federal government was backing the loan enough to shoulder much of the risk off of the banks
    • Interests of people working in higher education
      • Cynically speaking, few people who work at colleges and universities are going to openly support policies that may in turn render their jobs useless; in other words, their support for increased access is more out of self-interest than anything
        • Some argue that more work means more money in their own pockets
      • College financial pictures benefit from having more paying students in the classrooms, even if those students aren't really progressing much and/or earning degrees
  • Effects of Business & Industry
    • "Advisory Committees" on campus
      • Often, individual departments or divisions will have these committees
      • Typically have a combination of faculty and related-field business and industry leaders
      • These have a role in determining curriculum and specific course settings
      • Ostensibly, they're meant to ensure that the degree programmes are in sync with public and private sector employers
        • In turn, this theoretically ensures that the college's graduates are employable and desirable for employers by making sure the education is tied to employer demands
    • Trends that push for "job skills" in the collegiate/university setting (as a possible means for companies to offload most training costs to the colleges)
      • Companies like this arrangement because it means less of their money has to be spent on training new hires and they can expect to "use" people right away instead of having to spend extended probationary periods to ensure the new hire learned the intricacies of the job
  • Immigration Policy
    • Criticism of H-1B and L-1 Visa programmes and allegations of corporate abuse 
      • The chief complaint is that multinational corporations (such as Google, Microsoft, and IBM) are allegedly misusing these visas to hire foreign workers to work for these corporations in the US and then refusing to hire and/or retain American-born workers
        • It's thought this is because said foreign workers can be paid less in wages and benefits compared to an American-born worker; that cost savings ends up as pure profit to the company
        • This process would thus appear to limit job opportunities for American-born college grads to obtain gainful employment in their fields of study
    • Criticisms of many universities' attempts to aggressively recruit foreign nationals to attend their schools on student visas
      • With regards to public (i.e. state-run) flagship universities, the foreign nationals tend to pay much more in tuition compared to in-state residents
      • They can also try to recruit the best-and-brightest from their countries to attend their schools and pay the fees
        • This can also be seen as trying to increase the university's prestige on a global level
  • Social Status
    • University education as a status symbol
      • Collegiate prestige plays a major role
        • Socially speaking, a graduate of a world-class institution such as Ivy League schools, Stanford, MIT, etc. typically tends to be seen with higher status than a graduate of a generic state school when all other things are equal
        • Degree holders tend to be seen as having higher social status than those who do not
          • Likewise, holders of a higher-level degree are often looked at as being "higher-status" than those with lower-level degrees--for example, a master's degree often implies higher status than one with just a bachelor's degree
    • Romantic Prospects
      • This is often anecdotally cited with men seeking relationships with women
        • The premise is that as a woman rarely (if ever) "marries down" by choosing a husband with lower status (esp. educational attainment), one can assume that a given woman expects her husband to at least have the same educational attainment as herself
        • Thus for men, it could be argued that a motivation to get a degree and a decent-paying job is to keep his options open for finding and marrying a woman


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