As was discussed in a previous piece, one can study just about anything at the university level, regardless of its utility thereafter. For those who are unaware, the university was once a place where students would go to sharpen their intellectually-bent minds, and to hone their craft before unleashing their gifts on the world after having earned their way with a proven thirst for academic and scholastic advancement. Now, sadly, it is little more than a place to delay adulthood and waste Mom and Dad’s money.

As a result of an ill-advised and equally ill-conceived push for anyone and everyone in the land to receive a college degree regardless of their desired career, the number of classes and majors of dubious market value being offered have surged ever upward. The reasoning, it would seem, is that with more college graduates in the job market, the job market will evolve into a more skilled and generally capable collection. It makes some sense, no doubt, but at the same time it rather ironically leads to a jobs shortage, which in turn leads to a lot of un-, or underemployed, disenfranchised college grads. If only every college major were inherently valuable. If only.

In 2010 there were 20.3 million students enrolled in higher education with an average graduation rate of 50-60%. Assuming the latter estimate, this means there will be about 12.2 million college grads looking for work between the years 2010-2014. As a point of reference, under the present administration, approximately 4.8M new jobs have been created.[1] In any economy it would be a tall order to fill this many jobs. In our present economy, which years after the official end of the “Great Recession” is still struggling to reestablish itself, combined with the influx of increasingly meaningless degrees flooding the market, forget about it. For example, the un- or underemployment rate among law school graduates – a profession one might expect would not experience a shortage of job opportunities – is 26.4%. If one of the most versatile and in-demand degrees is unable to perform better, how well should a less valuable degree be expected to perform?

Because there are so many more applicants for a single position than there are positions to fill, employers can afford to be picky and pay less. The reader must be familiar with the phrase, “Beggars can’t be choosers”? Unfortunately, with every new graduation season, we are creating more and more beggars. On average, new and recent college graduates make anywhere from 8-10% less in the same position than those who graduated just a few years previous. Because of the profusion of college degree holders looking for jobs, it is very much a buyer’s market.

Without much surprise, this path will only lead to more problems. That the cost of higher education only knows one direction (hint: it’s not down), combined with the fact that a college degree is less a guarantee of post-graduate employment than ever points to the eventuality that one’s college debt will quickly become a problem. The yoke of attaining a college degree is not easy, its burden not light.

[1] The 4.8M figure is arrived at only after the economy bottomed out in early 2010. When the ongoing job losses from 2009 are taken into account, the Obama administration has only seen a net increase of 300,000 jobs.