Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"How Higher Education Affects Lifetime Salary" - A Response

So the original article is here How Higher Education Affects Lifetime Salary.

So the most useless (or useful) skill that I have attained at graduate school is my ability to research.  Yes, I know most think creative writers just like to write and have "relations" with multiple "authors" (Was Hemingway as good for you as it was good for me?).

And since I have been researching, I would like to introduce some other articles that contrast the original article (useless skill number 3 I think).

So to sum up the article, Brain Burnsed quotes another report (oh how convoluted can we get by  referencing and referencing) The College Payoff.  Burnsed then goes on to show how "much" more money a PhD student makes rather than a high school graduate  (3.65 million vs 1.35 million over a lifetime).  Burnsed also puts up more statistical data showing that education is worth it.

However, when I clicked onto The College Payoff website, I saw this after scrolling down...probably for a half a second:

"In a surprising number of cases, people with less educational attainment earn more than those with more education.  This graphic represents just how much earnings overlap there is, relative to the median lifetime earnings of workers with a Bachelor's degree ($2,868,000)" (bold and emphasis mine).

(Ah, mishmash MLA, how my professors would be angry with me), Anyway, how is it surprising that people with less educational attainment earn more?  There have been a couple of theories...well I'll correlate some theories.

1) An Assumption of How Much a Person Would Make After Graduation 

-- I am in debt (I discussed this last time), but not so much that an entry level job won't help me pay it off  according to How Much Debt is Too Much Debt:

"From strictly an investment standpoint, a college education, even with $20,000 in student loans is a sound investment. The median earnings of a college graduate in the United States is approximately $50,000 per year,"

$50,000 a year huh.  Let's get some facts straight -- a high school teacher averages around $43,000 a year (Payscale Research) but ah, we are missing some variables.  Let's take the variable of an overabundance of qualified teachers. And to further impact the situation let's read this article right here Teaching no Longer a Stable Profession. So you may get lucky and teach at a private school.  But not everyone can teach private school.

And let's not go into the debacle over Tenure Track Position on the collegiate level (even the community college level)...the author of selloutyoursoul.com compiled (wittingly or unwittingly) articles stating the improbability of attaining a tenure track here.  And once again, you might be lucky -- that 1 out of 600 (the odds are rising every year).

Although 50,000 dollars might be attainable if you're a engineer (whoops?) or a nurse (whoops?), but in humanities...not so much.



2)

People with less education probably have less debt

(or at least debt they can get rid of) -- So I'm double dipping from this article,  How Much Debt is Too Much Debt.

$20,000 dollars in debt might not seem much, but there are people who enter a humanities graduate programs with a lot more that $20,000 dollars in debt.  More like an average of $36,917 in debt (even if you are paid all the way through).

It might not seem like a lot...what is $16,000 dollars more in debt?  And besides a PhD will get a high paying job out of college, right.

The simple fact is this more debt = more of your earnings spent on debt rather than retirement or something else.  Debt accumulates through interest (and if you don't pay) through fines (and if you default) until you die.

So who are those PhD's making that money?

"The report did reveal some sobering news for women and minorities. Among minorities, all ethnic groups' career earnings were less than that of Caucasians, save for Asians with master's, doctoral, and professional degrees, who outpaced white workers with degrees of the same level. Latinos and African-Americans with master's degrees earn nearly the same in their lifetimes--roughly $2.50 million--as white workers who have bachelor's degrees" (How Higher Education Affects Lifetime Salary).

Wait, what?  Not to open up a race war or something, but...I'll let the data keep talking.

 "Carnevale, of Georgetown, suggests that women who want to earn more than their male counterparts will either have to attain more degrees or simply select a higher-paying industry, given the unbalanced playing field. "You can close the gap by getting more education, and that does seem to be the strategy, at least implicitly, that women are following," he says. "If you want to make more than lots of men, and you're a woman, then go into engineering""  (How Higher Education Affects Lifetime Salary).
 
How quaint.   Women, come close and take this advice, go into engineering where you'll make as much as men (There are no shortage of Engineers).

I've been trying to figure out how The College Payoff compiled their data.  They have full results posted on the website then I read this on their report "individual’s potential earnings."


So no tracking down people to see how they are doing with their degree like this guy or this guy.  Nope, let's do the basic math of "jobs that require x degree = money graduate would make.  You multiple the money a graduate would make to the equivalent of a lifetime and there you go."

Look there are people that are lucky and make it everyday.  And maybe I'm just a bitter MFA who hasn't found a job yet (even in retail) and falls back on fear-mongering in order to make myself feel better and has no actual proof to back up his claims.

One of the useless (useful) things I learned as a grad student -- research. 

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