Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

College is a scam

If you’re trying to land a job, look past the required college curriculum
Ana Pietrewicz / Daily Collegian

College is a big, fat scam. I come from a family of educated people, and my relatives with doctorates and masters outnumber the obsolete bachelor’s degree-holder. That same degree that once promised a leg up is now worth job security at best. I see first-hand, at family dinners and networking opportunities just how much my college education is being put to use; spoiler, it’s not much.

I should mention that while I’ve had some great professors at the University of Massachusetts, very few have prepared me for the type of work I completed at my corporate internship in New York City. It’s a different culture in “the real world” and what makes sense here means nothing there and vice versa. One thing is shared though, and it’s that success is not hinged on doing what you think you should do.

My gut tells me that I should be going to college, earning perfect scores and landing just the right internships so I can leave my four-year degree with an exemplary education and enough job experience under my belt to land the perfect position. My gut, however, is often wrong, and that’s become more apparent as I’ve worked my way through each of these stages.

Here’s the thing: I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. I’ve held a 4.0 for five semesters, I’ve formed meaningful relationships with my professors and I’ve even landed some incredible internships, but nowhere along that road was I told that I had done it right. Most students don’t decide to attend college because they’re able to easily recognize the way their performance over those four years of higher education helps their future prospects; instead, they attend college out of normalcy. If everybody else is doing it and you can afford it there’s no reason not to. The key part of that sentence is affordability.

College being “the time of our lives” is the case only for those who can afford it. The total cost of in-state attendance at UMass was just over $10,000 in the 2000-01 academic year. The cost of attendance for in-state students increased by more than 200 percent one decade later in 2010 and has since continued to skyrocket. For a student wishing to attend UMass in 2021, they are expected to afford $30,000 of in-state tuition and fees including room and board. If this trend continues, 18-year-olds wishing to attend UMass in 2030 will be charged the equivalent of a 2022 Audi A4 sports car every year.

Despite the price tag, we rarely see college graduates talking about how much they regret attending college. You may hear some explain their college wasn’t right for them or that they hated their sorority but very few will admit that college itself was not worth it. If we rephrased the question and asked college graduates if they believe their institution prepared them to land a post-graduate career, I imagine that would elicit a much different answer.

Landing a career, from what I’ve gathered as an undergraduate student in search of a career, is much more reliant on connections than on classes and relationships with professors. If a majority of high school seniors decided that their main priority after college was landing a job rather than “having a good time” we would see a much larger shift from humanities majors to business – and there’s a reason for that too.

UMass’ Isenberg School of Management prides itself on high job placements among their undergraduate populations, so much so they’ve begun the process of limiting UMass students from internally transferring. Isenberg, like many professionals today, knows how important networking is for landing a job. The school has provided students with “The. Networking. & LinkedIn. Guide.” with tips on how to properly network. Networking is arguably one of the most important skills business students are taught and it’s because it works. Knowing the right people makes all the difference in getting your foot in the door, which for many students is the only thing stopping them from landing jobs.

While connections can help you get a shot at a job, they don’t guarantee you a permanent spot at the company. Neither the best business courses nor the perfect connection can do is tell you how to act once you get the job. I’m fortunate enough to have been in that position where I connected with the right people and landed the interview, but it was my character being tested once I actually began talking to the recruiters and the CTOs. Did I need to go $30,000 in debt every year to land these interviews? Absolutely not. Am I fortunate to have been talking to the right people? Absolutely. But what we shouldn’t be doing is pretending that my required college curriculum is what got me here.

Going into debt is bad, but a necessary evil in attending college. Attending college, if done right, will be about coalescing what you’ve learned in your classes with a mix of networking opportunities. The modern college curriculum has its positives, but much greater value lies in using this collegiate platform to connect with the people who will get you where you want to be. I’ve learned some skills in my classes that have helped me, no doubt. But what I’ve learned most about landing a job experience lies entirely in what college hasn’t taught me and completely in what I’ve needed to teach myself.

Max Schwartz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @maxwschwartz.

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  • R

    Robert LeChefAug 29, 2022 at 7:55 pm

    A few points…

    1. The original mission of the university was never career training per se. It was education of the human person through the liberal arts (as opposed to the servile arts; the word “school” ultimately comes from the Greek word for “leisure” which classically meant something like the pursuit of wisdom, not sitting by the pool as it does today). The whole point of education was the pursuit of wisdom, virtue and intellectual competence — in short, liberation through the pursuit of the truth (even prior to university; see the trivium and quadrivium). In this sense, the modern university is a colossal failure. At best, it produces technically savvier savages.

    2. As a job training center, universities are also of dubious quality and preposterously expensive for what you receive. Students are an afterthought in general because pedagogy is second to publishing (read: resume padding).

    3. The notion that everyone needs to go to college is very recent. You may argue that circumstances have changed, but this would be a non sequitur. What we need is high quality and cheap occupational training and a shift toward trade schools and apprenticeships (countries like Germany do something like this). By trying to fill this job training niche, universities sacrificed their original mission while offering mediocre career preparation, rendering themselves irrelevant, useless and expensive. The market is noticing and unless major reforms take place, universities will fade into the past (look at the colleges that have closed their doors permanently in the last two years). Universities can flourish once again by returning to their original mission. We’re already seeing some of that in the form of, e.g., small Catholic colleges that preserve the original mission while also helping them with career preparation as a secondary concern.

    There’s no reason for us to remain fixated on the current broken paradigm. There’s nothing special about it. It is a recent historical experiment at best, and it has failed spectacularly, and much like the Ponzi scheme that is the suburb, it is financially unsustainable for all parties involved (simply making them free would be a lazy bandaid that only masks the pathologies and scamming that that have put it on a death spiral). We need to think outside the box. We need reform so that colleges can educate one again and we need to look for new ways of facilitating job training.

    Oh, and cut the administration.

  • N

    NinaNov 4, 2021 at 10:34 pm

    Did you need to go into debt to land those interviews? Unfortunately, yes. It’s tough out there for college grads, but it’s also very difficult trying to exist in this economy without a college degree. College used to be the safe option. Now it’s a risk, but it’s also a risk not to go at all. (And hint: The business school isn’t the only one with networks. Don’t assume your other profs and TAs can’t help you). Good luck! Young people need it, whether they go to college or not.

    • V

      Varghese JacobNov 5, 2021 at 10:41 am

      You can compare the cost of US education vs education in India and China. The top universities in India (for example University of Delhi/ Mumbai or even JNU) charge 10,000 INR for 1 year, which is equivalent to US$134.76 (for 1 year) in exchange rates as of today. Even in China (PRC), education costs are low. Few degrees are exceptions here and there. But the public university system both in China and India is hugely subsidized by the federal/central government.

      The cost of US education is insane. This insanity started with Ivy Leagues who are private universities and charge anything they like. Everyone graduates with debt and are in payment modes for atleast10-15 years. The citizens of the USA should think if the Chancellor/President of a university should earn US$500k salary and compensation. They are not CEOs of companies but non-profit organizations.

      Other things that drive US education up are fancy football stadiums at universities, huge athletic programs and insane fees of coaches, and more..

      US education sector basically needs reform and that is being done by a few specific universities. Like Gies College at UIUC offers their MBA and MSc at 22k and 11k. This is because of the unique partnership with Coursera. Platforms like Edx, Coursera can change the education costs upside down.

      • N

        NinaNov 7, 2021 at 6:32 pm

        Yes. Education should be public and completely free, but MA didn’t vote for either of the Democratic presidential candidates who agree, and neither did South Carolina, so here we are collapsing as an empire. TBH, China deserves to win. Any country who empowers itself by educating its people deserves to win.

        • R

          Robert LeChefAug 29, 2022 at 7:58 pm

          This is a superficial treatment of a deep problem that needs urgent reform and complete new solutions. What you propose will merely mask the problem.

          And as frustrating as our Western predicament is, I would rather not have China “win”. I am not fond of tyrannical governments.

          I would also add that any country that refuses to at least maintain its birth rate deserves to be replaced.

    • J

      James RoscoeDec 24, 2021 at 11:21 pm

      I don’t think debt is needed at all for interviews. Neither so I believe that college is necessary at all. All the skills and knowledge I have acquired I have done so on my own . Granted it did take longer than if I had a degree and required me to take some attentive approaches. College education is too slow and the classroom environment bores me. Nothing is worth that amount of debt.

  • V

    Varghese JacobNov 4, 2021 at 8:23 am

    I am an international student at UMass Amherst. Max Schwartz, the author is totally wrong. The mindset that has been portrayed in this article is the main reason why a lot of white Americans don’t have a college degree and because of this end up as low wage blue collar worker.

    The mindset of education is totally different in Asian and even Africa . China even though the richest country on the planet now, send most of its citizens to schools and colleges. This goes for India as well. It is pretty much mandatory for Asians to attend college and get a degree rather than sit at home and complain about life and circumstances.

    The purpose of college degree is to learn, network, meet people, take courses and get skills. No university ever claimed that 4 year college degree will teach you everything for the next 60 years. This goes for post graduate degrees like MD, MBA, MSc, Engineering and what not. Just because someone has a MD doesn’t mean he know everything on medicine and what his job will be like for next 30-40 years of service.

    It is necessary in 21 st century to be a life long learner. Learning every day as you live your life. College is important because that is how people on average qualify for a job on proven earned skills.

    Just imagine a US Supreme Court Justice who is a high school drop out. Most Judges go to Harvard Law and other top schools so the court runs well and decisions well taken. Professional jobs need professional degrees. Don’t expect a professional nurse to be middle school dropout.

    • R

      Rónán FitzgeraldApr 25, 2022 at 10:32 am

      I would take a high school dropout over Brett Kavanaugh

    • R

      Robert LeChefAug 29, 2022 at 8:12 pm

      This is just a confused response littered with completely false information.

      First, most Indians and Chinese (much less Africans) do not attend college, so I’m not sure where you came up with these preposterous notions. Rates in China are lower than the US. India isn’t even on the OECD list.

      Second, the purpose of university education is EDUCATION (please see my reply for a brief explanation), not job training per se. By trying to be everything to everyone, universities has become mediocre centers of education and worthless at job training. The costs a certainly unjustified.

      Third, most people aren’t supreme court justices. This is a very elite position that requires only a handful of people, so this is completely irrelevant with respect to the question at hand which concerns the majority of people. University education used to be reserved for a tiny elite when the mission of the university was truly educational (think liberal arts in the classical sense). We need a robust culture and market of affordable trade schools and apprenticeships for most people, not a $200k party with crappy beer and a lifetime of debt slavery.