Only College Graduates Need Apply


You shouldn’t need a BA to be someone’s secretary. A few days ago, the New York Times published an article by Catherine Rampell headlined “It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk.” The article focuses on the law firm of Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh in Atlanta, which exclusively hires people with bachelordegrees – even the $10/hour courier. Rampell calls this phenomenon “degree inflation”: bachelor’s degrees are the new high school diplomas in the job search. She only briefly mentions the steep price tag that accompanies this newly required credential. The average student now graduates from college $26,000 in debt, and some owing amounts far greater. Why should students be forced to shell out to learn about Moby Dick if they’re just going to be ferrying documents between a law firm and a court for a barely livable wage? As Rampell observes, with higher than ever numbers of college graduates, and few job openings, employers are increasingly able to make these kinds of demands on their applicants. The solution is, of course, that fewer people should go to college.

The Times article made me think of “In the Basement of the Ivory Tower,” a controversial article written by the anonymous Professor X that has since been published as a book. Professor X teaches introductory English classes at a community college and many of his students prove woefully unprepared for even the simplest tasks. Generally, his students need college credit to advance in their jobs or obtain raises.

Why should these students be forced to slog through tasks they don’t enjoy and may not be qualified for only to go on to jobs where the skills they obtain will be irrelevant? There is certainly an intellectual reward in being able to read and analyze great books, recount obscure historical facts, or any number of the engaging but impractical things one learns in college. These should be a joy and not an obligation.

To make college accessible and affordable to everyone is a noble goal, and one I wholeheartedly embrace. But we should not force people who might not be suited for the experience to take on debt to do so, for fear of never finding a rewarding career.

21. February 2013 by Ginia Sweeney
Categories: College, The New York Times | Leave a comment

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All content copyright Ginia Sweeney.