Is a college education worth it?

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Will today’s graduates find employment?

While the average college student graduates with over $14,000 in debt, Sept. unemployment averages in the United States were 5.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

“Whether college is worth it or not depends on whether the employment you are going to qualify for after your degree is going to make you enough money to pay off student loans,” according to Jon Wolf, economics professor at Central Oregon Community College.

Wolf, who holds a Master’s degree in economics from Claremont McKenna College, has worked at AT&T, GCI as well as the State of Oregon as an economist.

“There are plenty of jobs, you just have to be qualified for them and you have to be mobile enough to go get them,” Wolf said. “You need a different set of skills then you once did and education is one way to get those skills.”

Jobs in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics industry have seen growth, according to the United States Census Bureau. However, only 26 percent of college graduates with a STEM degree actually find work in their respective fields.

“There are plenty of really bright students who become lawyers by going out to get history of philosophy degrees but that doesn’t mean you can’t become a pharmacist with a history of philosophy degree, but you do have to take the science curriculum. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need a STEM degree as long as you have the background,” Wolf said.

Another misconception is that the shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service based economy was not caused by the free trade agreements of the 1990’s, but by technology and the further mechanization of the work force, according to Wolf.

“It is almost an urban myth that ‘my job got sent overseas, it was outsourced,’” Wolf said.

For example, bank tellers have been replaced with ATM’s, grocery clerks have been replaced with self-service equipment, and farm workers with mechanical equipment.

“One-hundred years ago, a ship would come across the ocean and it would take dockworkers a week to unload the ship,” Wolf said “Now it takes one person, a crane, and a whole bunch of connexes and they can do that much work in a day.”

Entry-level jobs now requiring college degree

Despite ever-rising tuition costs, more than half of the jobs in today’s market, require a college education Wolf said.

“If you want to [do] the kinds of factory jobs available today, you need a two-year or four-year degree to do them because it’s quality assurance, it’s operational IC computers, it’s writing software,” Wolf said.

On the other hand, even some entry-level job postings require years of work experience before an applicant can be qualified.

“The other thing employers are saying is important, and is lacking in job seekers overall, are soft employability skills,” said Tracy Dula, Dula, career services coordinator at Central Oregon Community College.

These skills include professionalism, how to dress in an interview, how to represent yourself on paper, communication skills, phone skills, work ethic, according to Dula.

For more information on career services contact the CAP center at 541-383-7200.

 

Michael Gary | The Broadside

(contact: mgary@cocc.edu)

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