For example, the unemployment rate for college graduates is 8.9%, higher than the overall rate of 8.6%! The employment rate is far worse still if you don't major in a hard science or engineering but rather in the social sciences, humanities, or arts.
So if I had a child who was deciding what to do after high school, I'd discuss these questions with him or her:
- Are you excited about learning harder academic material than you're being taught in high school?
- Are you capable of completing a major in a field such as computer science, mathematics, or physics, are you willing to accept the much greater risk of unemployment by majoring in the liberal arts, or would you like to consider non-degree options such as a short-term career-training program at a community college, an apprenticeship, learning a trade in the military, or learning how to run your own business by working at the elbow of a successful, ethical entrepreneur?
- At college, without parents' watchful eyes and without teachers knowing even if you're attending class, are you likely to stay focused enough on academic learning to be among the fewer than 40% that graduate college in four years, just 55% even if given six years? The rate is far worse still for students of color. And of students who graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class and had had sub 40%ile SAT scores, fewer than 1 in 4 graduated, most from a third-tier college and with a low GPA in a major such as sociology or American Studies. That is not likely to motivate employers to hire you for a professional-level job, especially in today's job market.
- Are you more likely to succeed in a career working with your brains than with your hands or body?
- Will you be able to afford the enormous cost of a college education: At a typical brand-name public university in most populous states, the average cost of just four years, after subtracting cash financial aid, assuming you qualify, is approaching $100,000. At a brand-name private college it's approaching $200,000.
For top students and for those who truly enjoy academic learning, college remains a wise choice. But most others would be wise to consider forgoing college, at least until they're eager to learn and can well afford it---Often that isn't until late in life. Many young people would be wiser to consider post-high-school options as those mentioned above.