The educational investment part 2

In the past few weeks, I have received many emails from parents concerning that their children are graduating from college but could not or have not found a job yet. They are worried whether current education is worth the money and the time. I have written about this subjects many times previously but on this blog, I would like to raise some issues.

A college education is a major investment for both students and their family. It can be the best or the worst investment depending on the desired outcomes. The problem is many students are going to college without any direction or career plan so they do not know what to do after receiving the degree. To some students, the degree is the goal, not what happened after that and many will regret this decision but by that time, it is too late.

Many parents should also share the blame as they are willing to send their children to college without a clear purpose and a career plan. While getting the degree is a proud moment for the whole family, many graduates will leave school without the chance of getting a good job. Basically, parents are sending their children on a journey without a map, without a destination, and without a goal but still hoping for the best.

Today a degree does not guarantee anything unless the students select the right fields of study and having the right knowledge and skills. The problem is many schools do not even provide career planning activities but let students select whatever they want to study and students often select which area that is easiest to get in, not too difficult to learn as they want to spend more time to enjoy their time in school. The schools also want to fill all classrooms regardless of the subjects. One administrator told me: “Our job is to educate, what they study is up to them.” Of course, students can study many fields that have nothing to do with the job market and there are many schools who will provide a degree in any subjects if there are students who want to learn. To them, education is an “open market” and they know that the desire for a college degree is important for the family as they are willing to pay the cost.

A few months ago, after the career fair where hundreds of companies came to school to hire our graduates. I asked my students what is the most important question these companies are asking for the job interview. All students told me: “No one is asking what degree do you have but do you have the skills to do the job that we are hiring? If I am asking all companies that are hiring today, the answer is the same. They are looking for people who have the skills that they need, no one is asking about the degree anymore.

Why are students still focusing on getting the degree, instead of acquiring certain skills? Why are students still selecting fields of study that has no demand in the job market? Why are the schools still providing degrees in areas knowing that their graduates will have no chance of getting a job? If education is an “open market” than why continue to offer these fields of study instead of focus on fields that have high demand? Why are family sending their children on an educational journey without a clear plan, without a clear destination and goal? Unless we have answers to these questions, things will not change much.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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