Tags: Reich | College | Grads | jobs

Reich to College Grads: You're Screwed

Monday, 21 May 2012 07:06 AM EDT

A college degree still means a bigger salary down the road, but not for everybody, says economist and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

Many jobs and even industries have moved abroad and are not coming back, while tuitions are rising and wages aren't.

"As a former secretary of labor and current professor, I feel I owe it to you to tell you the truth about the pieces of parchment you’re picking up today. You’re f*cked," Reich writes in commencement-style blog post.

Editor's Note: Sept. 18 Cover-Up Is a Final Turning for America

College grads today are still battling a dismal labor market with improving albeit weak hiring.

Those who do find work won't enjoy hefty salaries the predecessors did just a few years ago, as with the Great Recession notwithstanding, college grads today earn 5.4 percent less than they did in 2000.

"Don’t get me wrong. A four-year college degree is still valuable. Over your lifetimes, you’ll earn about 70 percent more than people who don’t have the pieces of parchment you’re picking up today," says Reich, now a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

"But this parchment isn’t as valuable as it once was. So much of what was once considered 'knowledge work' — the kind that college graduates specialize in — can now be done more cheaply by software. Or by workers with college degrees in India or East Asia, linked up by Internet," says Reich, who served in three national administrations and was a secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, a combination of high unemployment, lower wages and rising tuition can only lead to one conclusion:

"College is no longer a good investment," Reich warns.

That's bad news for the economy.

"You see, a college education isn’t just a private investment. It’s also a public good. This nation can’t be competitive globally, nor can we have a vibrant and responsible democracy, without a large number of well-educated people," Reich concludes.

"So it’s not just you who are burdened by these trends. If they continue, we’re all f*cked."

Student loans topped $1 trillion two years ago, more than what Americans owe on their credit cards, according to the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

"Take it from those of us on the front line of economic distress in America: this could very well be the next debt bomb for the U.S. economy," the organization's president William Brewer tells the AFP newswire.

"The reason: Students and workers seeking retraining are borrowing extraordinary amounts of money through federal and private loan programs to help cover the rising cost of college and training."

Editor's Note: Sept. 18 Cover-Up Is a Final Turning for America

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Monday, 21 May 2012 07:06 AM
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