Tag Archives: real life

Corporate Whoredom or Selfless Service?

…is the facile but succinct question that’s on a lot of college students’ minds as the real world looms on the other side of graduation.

Wesleyan is ostensibly all about being a well-rounded individual and helping out the greater world, but college is mad expensive and cashing in with high-paying jobs after graduation is not only tempting, but necessary for a lot of debt-saddled new alums.

As the NY Times noted today, the dilemma of choosing between big money and public service after graduation, or at least putting off the big money in favor of something noble for a little while, seems increasingly pronounced as Obama’s play for the White House (and our hearts and minds) grows stronger. As you might remember:

In his commencement speech last month at Wesleyan University, Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, voiced a similar theme when he sounded an impassioned call to public service, and warned that the pursuit of narrow self-interest — “the big house and the nice suits and the other things that our money culture says you should buy … betrays a poverty of ambition.”

So what’s a well-educated but financially-strapped idealist to do?

The article mentions approaches that different colleges are taking to encourage graduates along the public service path without having to worry about the finance issue. A Harvard education professor is leading seminars to light a public service fire under Ivy League asses. Amherst and UPenn are expanding public service fellowships and internships. Tufts is going to start paying off the college loans of graduates who choose public service jobs. And a lot of schools, including Wesleyan, are making great efforts to decrease the costs of higher education, so students don’t have to worry about paying off loans.

Wesleyan isn’t lacking in efforts to encourage students to pursue public service opportunities – this is clearly an issue that President Roth feels strongly about, and certainly a significant amount of Wes graduates go on to participate in nonprofit programs like Teach for America, or work in jobs related to public service.

But many are insecure enough about their financial ambitions without the additional guilt of lacking a full-time public service commitment.

The NYTimes touched on post-graduation job insecurities in another article this past weekend, about fresh college grads getting used to gainful employment, citing Kai Johnson ’08 as someone who seems to have found at least a temporary balance between public service and apprehension about the future:

Kai Johnson, 22, who graduated from Wesleyan University in May, is working at the Greater New York chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice, a nonprofit, for the summer, and will begin teaching English in France in the fall. “I’m really excited to move on to the next chapter of my life,” he said, “although it’s hard to graduate from college and leave that behind.”

Still, his summer job is part time, so he does not feel trapped, he said, at least not yet. “I’m looking at having a couple of different careers in different areas, with a couple years of commitment,” he said. “I’m not looking to having a 30- or 40-year plan.”

So are we on the verge of a new Obama-ushered era of socially conscious graduates, sacrificing personal wealth for the greater good of society? Is public service reaching a tipping point, from being easily written off as a fringe manifestation of progressive guilt, to a universally-appealing American civic movement?

: Big Paycheck or Service? Students are Put to Test
: Land a Job, Then What? Graduates Adjust to Life With No Going Back

GRE Revisions Cancelled

Er, I don’t know how many of you this affects, but some pretty good (or bad depending on how you look at it) news was released today from the ETS. They’ve decided to not institute the revisions to the GRE they had planned for next year.

OMG I Like so Just Got Poked by the CIA…

The CIA decided to prove how much cooler it is than other federal bureaucratic organizations by creating a facebook group and talking shit about the FBI behind its back. Either that or it has resorted to scraping the internet’s nether regions for recruits:

The CIA’s Facebook page (login required) provides an overview of what the NCS is looking for in a recruit, along with a 30-second promotional YouTube video aimed at potential college-aged applicants. U.S. citizens with a GPA above 3.0 can apply.

Frankly, Society, I’m Pissed

If you’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of being anywhere within earshot of me this year, you’ve probably heard me grumble and moan something about the job market, my lack of health insurance or the impending exams I have to take to avoid the job market (I know, I’m a real hoot of a gal). But the truth is, I’m only a college junior and I’m worried about this shit.

So imagine how pissed off I get when I read comments like these telling Caitlin that’s she’s “ignorant” and implying that she’s lazy, coddled and stupid, especially for not knowing what a Roth IRA is.

Frankly, society, I’m pissed.

Caitlin, like the rest of us, was told that if you go to college, you will get a high paying job. It’s the American Dream. You bust your balls to get into a school like Wesleyan and you should have it made, right?

Well, yeah, they did when they graduated twenty years ago.

I don’t want this to sound like a fatalistic rant and say none of you guys will ever find a job after college. No, my point is that the economy is so fucking different than when your parents went to school that it’s not the same game anymore. The rules are different. And fewer people are winning.

What upsets me most is that we as a generation have let them define us as lazy, coddled and stupid. We buy into their explanations that the reason 48% of college graduates move back in with their parents after college is that we’re spoiled and conditioned to entitlement. We let them convince us that despite busting our asses to earn a college degree, we are unambitious because we cannot get a job.

This is horse shit. All of it. Our parent’s generation had the reigns of power long before any of us knew what college was and were playing with transformers under the kitchen table. They voted in Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush again–none of whom were particularly suited for building the economic foundation that would encourage job growth or financial independence for the young. Each congressional administration thus far has done nothing to alleviate the unbelievable hike in college costs. The maximum Pell Grant has remained at $4,050 all four years of my college education, while nearly every college in the goddamned country has raised its tuition each successive year. In fact, each year, it seems, they do their best to make sure that students are completely dependent on loans instead of grants for education costs and make it harder and harder for graduates to declare bankruptcy if these costs become too much.

The facts don’t lead me to believe that college students and graduates are lazy, coddled and stupid. Just the contrary. But the value of a college degree is declining each and every year as the costs to go to school keep climbing. Now, jobs that used to require only a BA now want a MA. Entry-level job wages have remained stagnant as housing, health and food costs have continued to rise with inflation. Many jobs you can get out of college no longer provide health insurance or retirement benefits and the job security you can expect from such a position is minimal.

But our parent’s generation, they want you to believe that you’re not working hard enough. That you’re unmotivated. That the jobs are there, you just aren’t looking in the right places.

It’s bullshit, all of it, and I’m sick of hearing it. Your movies, your sitcoms and your culture spoonfed us with a promise that knowledge is power and now we’re coming to terms with the reality that our education means little in the world they created. Frankly, society, I’m pissed.

Some facts from a book a completely recommend anyone and everyone to read called Strapped by Tamara Draut:

  • By 1994, males 25-24 without college degrees were earning roughly the same amount as their similarly educated grandparents earned in 1949.
  • The maximum Pell Grant award, the nation’s premier program for helping poor kids pay for college, covers about one-third of the costs of a four-year college today. It covered three-quarters in the 1970s.
  • Three-quarters of full-time college students are holding down jobs.
  • In 1972, a young-adult male with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned on average $52,087 (2002 dollars). In 2002, young male college grads earned $48,955.
  • In 2002, Gen Xers worked on average 45.6 hours a week, nearly three hours more than young Baby Boomers worked in 1977.
  • Roughly 33 percent, or one in three, of those aged 18 to 34 are without health insurance, the highest percentage of any group.
  • Since 1992-93 the average college grad’s student loan debt has grown from $12,100 to $19,300 in 2003 (inflation-adjusted dollars).
  • Between 1995 and 2002, rents in nearly all of the largest metropolitan areas rose astronomically: Median rents in San Francisco ballooned 76 percent; Boston, 62 percent; San Diego; 54 percent; even median rents in less costly Denver shot up 49 percent.

What the future holds

This Newsweek column came out way back in November, but somehow we missed it. Recent grad Caitlin Petre ’06, a Philosophy major, wrote a piece called “The Lessons I Didn’t Learn in College”.

Summary: Taxes suck, we’re screwed.

Bonus: If you roll over the UPS ad, you get to watch an enthralling commercial about international shipping featuring the first 30 seconds or so of Such Great Heights by the Postal Service. Ha! Ha!

All this raises a disturbing question: when I spent a ton of time and money on my fancy degree, what exactly was I buying? The ability to think, some might say. OK, fine, that’s important. Still, my résumé would look odd if it read, “Skills: proficient in French, word processing, thinking.” The thinking I did in college seems to be of limited utility in the “real world.” The fact that I wrote a 30-page critical analysis of the function of shame in society did nothing to ease the sting when I spilled beer on a customer at the bowling alley.