What the pandemic has revealed about the real value of college

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We've got a moment. We're in crisis. Can we do better. Ron lieber is asking that very question in his new book. The price you pay for college is the author of the new york times personal finance column your money ron for years and years and years. We weren't thinking about the price of college the value of college. Is it worth it. Well i think you have to start by asking yourself what college is right. what is college for. I wasn't sure what the answer to. That question was so i asked you know scores of families and i heard the same things over and over again colleges for getting an education for having your mind grown in your mind blown. It is for kinship. It is for finding the people who will carry you through life. It is for getting a credential whether it's the gold plated one that will open doors or just the degree that will allow you to grasp hold of the middle class and hopefully stay there and so in order to answer. The question of whether college is worth it. You need to find it for your individual family that we as a nation can dictate for any given individual but then how did we get to this place right. My dad worked in the summer and put himself through school and had a tiny bit of debt. After how did college get this expensive. There are so many more things pulling on our household incomes than there used to be. We are entirely responsible in most instances for our own retirement. We're paying more and more out of our own pockets for healthcare. Many people are paying off their own student. Loan debt well into their forties or fifties right so people don't have the same kind of disposable income as they might have earlier states have reduced their subsidies towards higher education which means the price of the state schools has gone up and the private institutions. They've gotten more and more expensive so the middle class. There is being squeezed. This whole idea of i want to go to a liberal arts college and better myself and in the world is will be. My voice. teacher is kind of an antiquated thought. Sure i'd like to enrich myself but not if it's going to put me in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt. I remember when i was a senior in college. I went to lehigh and lee. Could absolutely help you on the career services front. If you wanted to go work in an accounting firm or be an engineer i wanted to work in investment banking so i drove to new york city with my mother and i stuck into the career services office at columbia university and i borrowed these giant binders. That had every piece of information that you needed for every bank every financial institution so you could apply for the summer internships. Now i went to the photocopy machine to start and you needed to have a school. I d to use the photocopier. I got caught. And i got kicked out the reason i bring this up. We send these kids to college but the best jobs are directly linked to only a few schools. So do we need to start looking at. Here's a college. What is the job. My child is going to get on the other side because otherwise they will be sitting here in hundreds of thousands of dollars with a debt. Yes to all of that first of all. That is the most bad ass career services story that i have ever heard your description of this as quote unquote best jobs right. I mean it is true that the best jobs in investment banking very narrow feel from certain institutions. Right unless you beat down the door but are those. The best jobs in america are the best jobs for anyone. Goldman sachs's is hiring. All these people in salt lake city now do not come from columbia and harvard and stanford mit. So then we have to ask ourselves well. These are iconic jobs in in certain social classes but are they really the best jobs out there for any given twenty two year old. I don't think so. Before the pandemic we knew there was a skills gap in the united states. We were at full employment yet. We had millions of americans who are not making enough money to support themselves. We had people who had jobs but good enough jobs. But you hear people making that argument saying you cannot afford to support yourself and your family working in a fast food restaurant but that job was never intended for someone who has a family to support. Is there an opportunity to actually create a real jobs program. A skills retraining program so it's not just about raising minimum wage. It's about retraining. People to qualify themselves for better higher paying jobs yes and that infrastructure already exists we can use the community college infrastructure to provide that skills training but we also have a shortage of qualified instructors to teach some of these skills. Why because the skills are so in demand that the people who would be doing the instructing are making five times as much money being actual practitioners. If you're a master plumber. You're not going to spend twenty hours a week teaching at a community college even though it would be a service to the community if you are a welder with twenty five years of experience right same thing is true. So how are we going to create the budget that allows for more people to be pushed through rigorous training programs. And so we need to do more I think from a state perspective and from a federal perspective not just provides the money but also to ensure equity and access to these programs

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