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   Yesterday, I read an article in the NY Times that seeks to weigh the cost v. returns of going to an elite college. One passage spoke very true to me.

[the authors of this study] concluded that 'job satisfaction decreases slightly as college selectivity moves up.' One hypothesis... was that the expectations of elite college graduates — especially when it came to earnings — might have been higher, and thus more subject to disappointment, than the expectations of those who graduated from less competitive colleges.

    And that's not even considering the elite college graduates who can't get jobs at all. Like the starry-eyed young people with degrees in one of the less-than-practical areas - Literature, Philosophy, Classics - who then decide (for whatever reason) not to pursue a Ph.D. in their esoteric majors. Yours truly is in that category. I wrote a self-parodying sonnet about my plight. I do stuff like that.

Having attained an Ivy League degree,
And forty-thousand dollars deep in debt,
My mind, a ship, hence tossed by stormy sea,
Aggrieved and anxious, since no job I get.
This wound doth smart my heart; it’s so dismaying  
To move back home. What now to do? I’m clueless.
My dad, heart filled with ruth, refrains from saying
“I told you English Lit degrees were useless.”
But while my interests grew, my funds depleted,
A house, stability, far out of reach,
There’re those who tell me: “don’t feel so defeated,  
You’re fed by loving parents; life’s a peach.
And though your future’s hazy, in a fog,
You get to whine about it on your blog.”

   That article, by the way, fails to give any concrete answer to the question it raises and kind of cops out with "it depends."
   The author does suggest, that for those students whose aim in postsecondary education is not so much self-exploration but practical skills acquisition, a large state university may suffice or even be ideal.
   Conversely, then, is an elite university pedigree (particularly) better for those in the liberal arts? I guess it makes sense that when you're searching for jobs in academia, the name of your academy of origin is worth a lot more than it already might be.  
 

Originally posted to mollyclark on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 01:05 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Let's not talk in generalities (7+ / 0-)

    Let's try to help you today.  What's your goal?

    •  My goals (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53

      I'd like to teach communications or liberal arts at a community college. With an MA in English from Penn, I am qualified for it -- except no college around my city seems to be hiring. I'm widening my net and also thinking about upgrading through an MA in Education, although I'm not sure if I could afford it.  

      •  A few things to do. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        theran, ladybug53, Jane Lew, meralda
        1.  Use Penn as a resource.  Talk to the professors with whom you were closest, tell them what your goals are, and see what advice they have.  They know people all over the region and the country who can help you.
        1.  Consider the Master's in Education.  If nothing else, it keeps you out of the market during a lull and may prepare you to be hired as hiring and the economy pick up.  Yes, it costs money; only you can determine how realistic the loan payments would be.  (Well, you and a financial planner.)
        1.  Look wider: you may not get the job you want where you want it.  A good friend of mine here in Philly wanted to teach law school.  Worked his ass off to produce publishable material while practicing law and hit the hiring market.  He has now been at the University of Mississippi for 2 1/2 years, and while it's geographically tough he's found it very rewarding.
        1.  Publish. Make yourself known in your field.
        1.  Go to Distrito at least once in the next week.  You've earned it.
        •  thanks for the advice (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          theran, Jane Lew, meralda

          Except for the Distrito one. I no longer live in Philly and have moved back to the chilly city of Toronto, but there are a lot of things to do here, too.

          •  I'm glad to help (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            theran, Jane Lew

            You may want to head back here for a day or two to accomplish #1.

          •  Are you American? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            theran, Jane Lew

            Check out Democrats Abroad in Toronto. Even if you aren't a voter, I bet they would welcome a Kossack. I found the membership in our prairie group to be a fascinating resource for networking, and for politics too.

            Never separate the life you live from the words you speak - Paul Wellstone

            by meralda on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 03:30:50 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Don't UT and York have zillion CAD holes (0+ / 0-)

            in their budgets or pension plans?  Somebody was telling me this recently.

            •  Sorry, but what's a CAD hole? (0+ / 0-)

              I'm not very up to the moment with some terms.

              •  But the real answers to your questions are (0+ / 0-)

                The Toronto area universities, if a recent conversation with an acquaintance up there can be trusted, aren't so flush.

                The other answer to your question is: if you wanted an academic job, did you actively search when you were a student, tell your advisor, publish and give talks, etc.?  You need to get your name out there.

                It is, I admit, a bit tedious.  On the other hand, you could try my other advice, which is to work at some school with "Phillips" in the name.  (I am a product of one of these.)

                •  Why "Philips"? (0+ / 0-)

                  I've heard from my advisor that a master's in education is not required to teach at private preparatory schools, at least not in the states. Is that the reason behind your advice?
                  And I'm afraid I didn't publish or give talks while I was a student. That's one of my (many) regrets. I barely survived all my coursework as it was. Some extra, name-making attempts outside of the classroom would definitely have helped, regardless of where I wanted to teach.  

                  •  Several reasons (0+ / 0-)

                    (1) There are two of them (http://www.exeter.edu/ and http://www.andover.edu/...

                    (2) The students are pretty high quality

                    (3) I went to the better one in the Clinton era. :)

                    Actually, there are other independent schools in the universe as well, and I'd recommend looking more broadly.  But, yes, the point is you don't need an M. Ed.  You need to be smart and know how to teach.

                    As for:

                    And I'm afraid I didn't publish or give talks while I was a student.

                    Ok, so I am here to give you some bad news.  The academic job market is kind of shitty, and it's filled with more strong people with good cvs than there are jobs.

                    On the other hand, if you want to take a shot, I wouldn't discourage you.  But, as a young academic, my approach is this: before I did academic things, I did other stuff, and I can do other stuff now.  So I don't hang on too tight.  I'd recommend you take the same approach.

          •  I especially like the idea of expanding (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            theran

            your looking. Consider expanding not only to other cities, but other countries or territories.

            We decided after looking unsuccessfully for a long time that there were no jobs in my husband's field in the US. Because of that we looked in other countries.

            We looked at it as an opportunity. We always wanted to travel.

            We looked at the UAE, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, England, Turks and Caicos, and Guam.

            We are going to Guam.

            The economy in Guam is on the upswing because they are moving the military bases from Okinawa to Guam. It means 40,000 more people there. The population is currently 170,000.

            In preparation for moving there my husband asked to speak to some other physicians who had recently come. The second person he spoke with was a graduate of the medical school at my husband's alma mater . It was his first job after residency. My husband got his undergraduate degree from the same institution in '66. They hit it off instantly. After that bit of serendipity, my husband is contacting grads who are living there.

            You have many more places open to you than my husband did because he had licensure requirements to deal with.

            Many places will pay for your transportation and other necessities of life.

            Look at expat sites for information about jobs and living in specific countries.

            Hope this helps.

            "A man abstemious, rigidly upright, inflexibly honest, ferociously chaste. A man with every virtue, except humility and human kindness." -Cadfael mysteries.

            by Jane Lew on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 04:35:19 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Teach english in China/Japan/Korea ,etc? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jane Lew

        Ivy league degrees are highly respected in Asia.

      •  Here is my (unqualified) advice (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jane Lew

        Call up all the schools with the word "Friends" or "Phillips" in the name, and ask about being at a high-end prep school.  

        My general approach to academia is to not hold on too tight.

        •  I find it a little odd that parents in my area of (0+ / 0-)

          Massachusetts spend large sums of money to send their kids to Friends, Tabor, Falmouth Academy, Moses Brown or Phillips of Andover.  It costs about 40k a year and then the kids end up going to UMass for college.  I see it repeatedly in my town and I just don't understand it.  I thought the purpose of going to those elite schools was to get into ivy league schools.

          Live simply so that others may simply live.

          by Ann T Bush on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 06:11:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Having gotten an Ivy League law degree, (9+ / 0-)

    my thought at this point is that it is useful primarily in the early years of practice, when law firms use it to select a higher grade of idiot, unless your goal is goverment ad politics where it is like a frat key. In this market, if your love is sonnets, you do need those higher degrees, even to get work teaching in CCs, because of the large number of such higher degrees. My magna cum laude, highest honors phi beta kappa degree when I got it so long ago got me qualified to work in a library, because of the topic.

  •  My husband with 2 Ivy League degrees (10+ / 0-)

    just signed (last night) a 2 year contract after long term under employment and unemployment.

    He is grateful to be again among the employed.

    "A man abstemious, rigidly upright, inflexibly honest, ferociously chaste. A man with every virtue, except humility and human kindness." -Cadfael mysteries.

    by Jane Lew on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 01:18:42 PM PST

  •  I will tell you that if you want to work for a (3+ / 0-)

    top company, then you need that Ivy League degree.  Those are also the companies that are still paying top dollar.  These days so many companies will not even consider you unless you have an MBA(or other) from a top university(read that Ivy league).  

    "New TSA slogan: can't see London, can't see France, unless we see your underpants."

    by lakehillsliberal on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 01:26:26 PM PST

    •  Just my experience (0+ / 0-)

      Depends on the industry you are in.  Computer, internet, telecom industries really didn't care where the degree was from.  They just wanted people that had a track record of doing a good job.  Banking and finance industries, HSBC and probably others, would often go Ivy league only-which was insane. Manufacturing and health really doesn't care either about the Ivy league degree.  Just my experience from a variety of industries.  

  •  I found that an ivy league degree helped me get (10+ / 0-)

    my foot in the door early in my working life. With a history degree, I went into banking first, and then into higher education administration. I think Mr. Marleycat, also an ivy leaguer, would agree. He has a degree in Philosophy and went into non-profit fundraising. Now that Mr. Marleycat and I have had our own retail business for 13 years, where we went to college, or even that we went to college, plays little role in terms of getting ahead. In the end, you still have to prove yourself, either to your employer or to yourself.

    A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. -Greek proverb

    by marleycat on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 01:37:15 PM PST

  •  Be happy it is only forty-thousand dollars. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AllisonInSeattle, ladybug53

    That's only one year at a state school.

    Live simply so that others may simply live.

    by Ann T Bush on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 01:37:52 PM PST

  •  Not all English majors have employment problems.. (4+ / 0-)

    LOL, Henry Paulson (of all people) was an English major at Dartmouth.

    "I told you English Lit degrees were useless."

    "A man abstemious, rigidly upright, inflexibly honest, ferociously chaste. A man with every virtue, except humility and human kindness." -Cadfael mysteries.

    by Jane Lew on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 01:40:29 PM PST

  •  My observation (7+ / 0-)

    is that Ivy League degrees cemented their reputation as keys to the treasure room at a time when Ivy League colleges were clubs for privileged boys; lots of those folks got rich because they either started out rich or made rich friends while at school. When admissions policies started to change, less advantaged students and parents thought the college itself was the magic, but it never was.

    In my experience, the college name buys you something early in your career, but it's not magic. I unknowingly did some empirical studies in the early 80s, when I decided that the careers open to someone with a BA in American Studies weren't for me and I went to a short course in what was then called "computer programming". At the end, my classmates and I marched around lower Manhattan together, with the identical top part on everyone's resume. I got a callback sometimes when no one else did, and I chalk that up to the Yale name further down the page. Sometimes it can get you in the door, or past the HR department somewhere. After that, it's back on you personally, and if there aren't nearly enough jobs to go around, it's a complete crapshoot who gets hired.

    Talk to nice Adam B -- his advice will probably help you a lot more than the name of your alma mater can.

    Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

    by belinda ridgewood on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 01:40:32 PM PST

  •  Yeah, it used to be that you could (6+ / 0-)

    graduate from a top school in an esoteric subject and corporate America would snap you up because they knew that you were smart and could rapidly learn to do whatever. Nowadays, I think they have much less need for generically smart people, and more more for people who can perform highly specialized, highly technical specific functions. For that reason, an Ivy League liberal arts degree doesn't probably do you as much good as a non-name technical degree in terms of actual utility in the job market. It's still a lot of fun to get though!

    •  Was that really the case? (0+ / 0-)

      The only people I know who fit the bill were blatant nepotism cases, but perhaps I'm not old enough to be around for that kind of thing.

    •  I think it's more a symptom (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BachFan

      of what I call 'education inflation' and the decline of the middle class.  

      A generation ago and beyond, there used to be a lot of 'good jobs' ie those that have a chance of providing a middle class level of prosperity.  These included many jobs that didn't even require college.

      Now, thanks to globalization, deregulation, mechanization, and a bunch of other macro forces, most of those jobs are gone.  So in order to have a shot, many more people are going to college.  But since the pool of 'good' jobs keeps shrinking, employers can start to be even more picky.  Now college means nothing and you need a graduate or professional degree.  Pretty soon even that won't be enough, and the minimum qualification for foot in the door will be graduate degree plus several years of internship.  And so on.

      •  Believe me I know (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fizziks

        I'm the managing attorney of a legal services office. I've had graduates of the best law schools in the country volunteering for months on end, trying to get experience to help them obtain a paying job. It's ridiculous.

  •  One of my best friends (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, Futuristic Dreamer, meralda

    Got her Ivy League undergrad degree in something she loved (history), then went to law school. She's been the most financially successful of our cohort.

    Signed,

    Ivy League Dropout

    Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

    by milkbone on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 01:58:57 PM PST

    •  Mine was in Anthropology (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SingleVoter, milkbone

      and when our small department announced at graduation that I had a summer job at an archaeological field school and medical school in the fall, my parents were proud. It helped then.

      But after moving away from New England, I realized a lot of people were completely unaware of Ivies other than Harvard and Yale, making the degree from my school a lot less impressive. In fact my Ivy League medical diploma, written in Latin, has repeatedly caused headaches because of licensing bodies who cannot be easily convinced that it is from an American medical school.

      Never separate the life you live from the words you speak - Paul Wellstone

      by meralda on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 03:22:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think the real problem is this: (5+ / 0-)

    A bachelors degree of any kind really isn't the ticket to a career anymore.  One aspect of the erosion of our middle class society is that a bachelors degree today functions like like a high school degree was 30 years ago - a very minimum certification of competency.  

    If you want a professional career today, ie one of the ever decreasing number of 'good jobs', then you need a graduate degree.  A masters in something, or a professional degree of some sort.

    Our expectations have not caught up with this new reality.  People go to college thinking it is the ticket to gainful employment, but that propaganda is 30 years out of date.  So what you really have to do is work hard in high school, work hard in college, then work hard for a graduate degree, emassing whatever debt, then you get the keys to a middle class life, maybe.  It is a shitty situation.

    Ivy League or no, a bachelors degree itself really isn't worth much.  The advantage of an Ivy League (or similarly elite) undergraduate degree, IMO, is that it helps for getting into graduate and professional programs.  

  •  Eh. It's more 2 things... (0+ / 0-)
    1. Bigfishsmallpond syndrome, and
    1. People at Ivies aren't really, on average, all

    that much brighter than folks at regular schools. Rather like Notre Dame players thinking their awesome just because they're at ND. Then they go play a real football team.

    So all in all, it's just that those Ivy kids believed their own press and thought they really were specialsnowflakes, but turned out not to be.

    That would bum me out too, but there's no zomguberlesson to draw from it.

    who then decide (for whatever reason) not to pursue a Ph.D.

    I know why they don't.... lols

    I'm gonna go eat a steak. And fuck my wife. And pray to GOD - hatemailapalooza, 052210

    by punditician on Wed Dec 22, 2010 at 03:51:18 PM PST

  •  Many, perhaps hundreds of (0+ / 0-)

    thousands of American college graduate, of all fields, have moved to China or to many other industrial and/or prosperous countries where the demand for education far outstrips the demand for ignorance.

    Here in America now the demand for ignorance is greater than that for education.

    You may consider the situation.

    •  Mainland Chinese graduates (0+ / 0-)

      are having a hard time finding work.

      They are often looking at $3,000/year jobs if they get lucky.

      The New York Times had an article about their predicament about two weeks ago.

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