Up the education creek without a paddle

Opinion G logoBy Alyssa Menard | gargoyle@flagler.edu

“Where are you going to go after this?” “Have you thought about graduate school?” “If so, where would you go and what would you study?”

Well, in the five minutes I have to spare, I’ll explain to you the woes that come with being asked these questions and why I don’t want to deal with it quite yet.

It is a growing reality is that a bachelor’s degree doesn’t hold the prestige that it used to, at least not in the job market. We are out of the generation where bachelor’s degrees were highly respected and are now in a world where thousands of job applications are filled out daily by people who are entirely more qualified than the job they are applying for. I want to attain a master’s degree, but the more I learn about them, the more I wonder “is this even worth it?”

College is expensive, really expensive. So as the market continues to putter along without any real growth, public college tuition rates are rising by about 5.2 percent annually, according to CollegeBoard.com. Here’s the problem with that: if I choose to not go to graduate school I risk spending at least 7 months looking for a job, and if I fail to find one, 6 months after graduation the student loan payments start coming in the mail. If I immediately go to graduate school after finishing with my bachelor’s, I risk spending a gargantuan amount of money on a degree I can’t be sure that I need. So what is a master’s worth? And how can I put a monetary value on a degree if I don’t know its worth going in?

Rebecca Felico, a Flagler College senior studying Psychology, Sociology and Criminology, thinks graduate school makes a significant difference for people in those lines of work.

“In my field, being a Sociology and Psychology majors with Criminology minor won’t get you a job with just a bachelor’s degree,” she said. “The money spent on grad school will balance out in the end because I will be able to go further in my career.”

For a two-year graduate school program, the average cost comes out to roughly $60,000 and not only is that number low, but it doesn’t begin to estimate the costs of the some of the best schools that are available. It also doesn’t consider degrees such as law or medicine.

For Flagler senior Morgan Pack, studying Accounting and Business, the investment isn’t her biggest concern. She plans on putting off graduate school until she finds something she is passionate about.

“Before I go to graduate school I need to do some soul searching and figure out my passion,” she said. “For me, it’s not the money that’s the issue. It’s needing to be 100 percent on what I want to study. I don’t want to be stuck at a job I hate, especially after I’ve invested thousands of dollars for a specific career path.”

For many graduating students the future is murky and they will have a difficult time deciding for themselves what a masters degree is really worth. My dream is law school, which in theory sounds like it will lead me down a successful job path after I attain a degree. The scary part? People who study law commonly don’t pass the bar exam.

According to a study conducted by Jane Yakowitz at UCLA’s Law School, around 150,000 law school graduates do not pass the bar exam. Of those who don’t pass, it usually takes about five years after graduating for them to adjust into a different career, put their degree to use and ultimately be better off than college graduates who didn’t attend law school at all.

So where does that leave me? Like many future graduates, still struggling with it. Still knowing that right now graduate school, in any field of study, is a risk. And still knowing there is no great way to measure what a graduate degree is worth, or whether it will all be worth it.

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