Schools for Scandal

A few students are suing Trump University for breach of promise. They have every right to try. And if they’re successful, perhaps all the disenchanted, unemployed, and underemployed graduates of other universities should do the same. In fact, many institutions of higher learning, such as the Ivy League schools, lay claim to being far more prestigious -- not to mention expensive -- than Trump University. All the more reason to resent dashed hopes.

I figure there are a lot of potential lawsuits out there -- not just from the standpoint of the big bucks tossed to the fickle winds of academia by disappointed parents, but in terms of the unwieldy numbers of students whose expectations, judging from their present lifestyles, have not been satisfactorily met.

Things may have been different in “the good old days” when the general job market was more robust. Or when women college graduates were not necessarily presumed to participate in the workforce. Sure, there has historically been a cast of perennial slackers, among them jocks, playboys and social yokels who “did the school for the most.” But if they emerged from the hallowed halls of ivy woefully unprepared for anything other than their already-privileged status, so what?

Now, however, an increasingly competitive world has messed things up for thousands of college graduates. It’s not that the demographic doesn’t consistently earn more over the long haul than, say, their high school graduate counterparts. But the dismal state of their immediate prospects has thrown a wrench into the equation.

Speaking of wrenches, it is possible for a competent non-college graduate with specialized training skills like plumbing to do extremely well. But for the elites in ivory towers, such practical options are too ludicrously lowly to deserve recognition. Instead, college curricula have become top-heavy with an increasing number of “identity” and “group think” classes and even new academic “majors,” that offer narrow, highly-competitive, and often nonexistent career paths for students after they graduate.

Self-serving profs seem unfazed by such realities. Keeping their own lucrative workload afloat with subjects like Black, Chicano, or Women’s Studies, and offering esoteric topics like avant-garde film genre and gender identification, result in more opportunities for entrenched academicians at the expense of their charges, who end up after graduation chasing fewer and fewer viable employment options.

Instead, mentors are understandably fond of “encouraging the dreams” of young people to become stars in whatever personal firmament turns them on: writer, actor, political guru, TV talk show host, cinematic filmmaker, publicist, adman, etc. The result is that the competition for unpaid internships in these attractive fields is fierce.  

“Follow your heart” is the rallying cry for college commencement speakers. Of course, it is wonderful for educated people to aspire to success in something they profess to love. But in this technological age, if they do not also possess the presumed knowledge and skills to initially get a foot in some door, they can never hope to get a leg up later.

Yet the plethora of socially conscious, unhelpful-to-the-resume college coursework continues to mount. In so doing, it limits the number of sections offered in classes that are actually required for graduation. This contributes further to the growing problem of students unable to complete their public college degrees within the traditional span of four years. In turn, this increases both the cost of a college education and the accumulated burden of student loans, the average of which – grad school included -- is said to be in excess of $30,000.

Ironically, in their disappointment at not finding suitable employment, many graduates opt to return to college campuses for more advanced degrees. The only guarantee that comes with such a decision is greater debt

A recent Newsweek article titled “Millennial College Graduates: Young, Education, Jobless” pointed out that millennials have already overtaken the baby boomers (age 51-69) as our nation’s largest living generation. It was estimated that 28 million university grads would enter the U.S. workforce with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees “just when America’s unemployment rate hits its lowest level in nearly seven years.”

According to a Georgetown University survey, the millennial generation makes up about 40% of the unemployed. That’s close to 14% of 18-29 year olds who are out of work, compared to the national jobless rate represented at around 5%.

Most of these young people resent their reputation as a “lazy” generation that seeks entitlements or the perfect cushy position. In desperation, thousands of them take jobs for which they are overqualified. The population of Portland, Oregon, makes no bones about having the greatest number of baristas with PhDs. Now, that’s a “brewed awakening” for you!

Even entry-level jobs are often denied to recent college graduates, and given, instead, to experienced applicants. As a result, the word is out that graduates feel “let down” by their universities. More and more people are reluctant even to go to college, which raises the question of whether the teaching of marketable skills shouldn’t be right up there with “enlightenment” as a higher educational goal.

Added to the general frustration are the skyrocketing college costs and the rising number of student loans that often force grown children to return to their parents’ homes. When my kids went off to college in the ‘80s, we immediately converted their bedrooms into dens or guest quarters. Even had we kept the old arrangement, they would not have wanted to move back in. What parents seek most for their children – aside from their happiness – is a sense of independence. And the two have been found to be inextricably linked.

Democrat socialist Bernie Sanders finds the answer to happiness in free public college tuition. His ardent millennial supporters approve this message. It would make the university administrations and faculties happy, too, since they could hardly be held accountable for the failures of a college education if nobody had to pay directly for the privilege.