Millennials: childless, indentured to student loans for life, and all for nothing.

At Rural Revolution, Mrs. Patrice Lewis writes in Are Millennials in trouble? about a young couple named Nathan and Mandy who graduated from college as a married couple with $60,000 in student loans and haven’t been able to find jobs in their field. They can’t buy a house and they can’t start a family. Mrs. Lewis presents a good discussion about the foolishness of the Everybody Must Go mentality relating to college and then she makes an observation about the Millennial generation:

If I could make some possibly unfair assumptions about Millennials, one of the problems is they’ve never been told “no.” They’ve never been told it may not be a good idea to major in English or Psychology when there are no English or Psychology jobs available. They’ve never been told NOT to “follow their heart” when it comes to studying useless subjects in college and then wonder why they emerge with $60,000 in student loan debt that haunts them for years to come.

One of her commenters, MC, gives an excellent response (highlighting mine):

Unless it’s changed a lot in the last 15 years, it’s not just a matter of not being told “no.”

It’s a matter of being actively, aggressively encouraged to do stupid things like attending college without a plan (“I don’t care what you study, just GO!”), change majors half a dozen times, or study something useless (I recall all those lectures from the English department about all the great jobs for English majors…).

Who’s doing this?? Silly parents, or a predatory banking and/or education industry?? Maybe both…

It’s a matter of more than spoiled kids. It’s also a matter of teaching them to have sense enough (and enough faith in their own common sense) to resist the barrage of propaganda they’re subjected to.

Because, to a frighteningly large subset of society, we are, if not slaves, then nothing more than “human resources.”

The problem is that in our modern society, the job market is more credential-based than it is skill-based, at least for higher status jobs. For example, it doesn’t matter how good a teacher you are, you can’t teach without first getting a four-year university degree and a state teaching license. Skill is secondary to credentials, and our university degree programs prepare people to be credentialed but don’t prepare them very well with actual skills. This is so for several reasons.

First, students have to take a lot of mandated classes in the “diversity” subjects. These classes rarely present a balanced discussion of women’s issues or racial issues nor do they provide students with actual skills. Instead, they are a form of societal welfare for the far left. Radical (usually Marxist) politics is de rigeur for these professorships; you will be hard pressed to find any diversity of social or political thought among most college professors.

Second, degree programs have to prepare students to pass credentialing exams.  The percentage of students who pass these exams reflects back on the program, so naturally there is some “teaching to the test” at the expense of teaching real skills.

And finally, there are simply too many people going to college. The last two towns I lived in were Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti; in both these university towns, nearly everyone with a job has or is working on a degree. Your barista who serves you your morning latte, the secretary at the DMV, your garbage man – they’ve practically all got degrees.

Do you really need a degree to pick up trash? Of course not, so why did the garbage man get a degree? Because he was told relentlessly that getting an education would get him ahead in life, but in truth the only people who are really helped by getting a degree are people with a certain level of intellect and drive. The average person simply doesn’t have that level of intellect and drive nor is that a problem. The world only needs a handful of English professors; it needs far more trash collectors and baristas.

In a clear and concise essay which I recommend reading, Making the University Irrelevant, Henry Dampier explains:

It isn’t so much that the concept of the university is a bad idea. It’s just that what the university has become in the United States has departed from anything which might be recognized as a university in past times.

Most parents see universities today as places that prepare their children for ‘careers’ which in previous times might have been called vocations. The actual methods by which masters taught apprenticeships vocations have been largely made illegal or otherwise out-competed by various subsidies from federal and state governments. University education and vocational education have been conflated for at least the past century, even before the laws that made it more challenging to enforce apprenticeship contracts, dating back to the 1930s.

Professors are ill-equipped to provide vocational training because of the way that markets function. Markets are eternally calibrating to  real-world conditions. If the market participants do not continue calibrating their operations to the conditions of the real world, they are pushed out of the market by stronger hands. Professors, especially when they are insulated from competition, have little incentive to match what they teach to the conditions of reality.

Our children will be heavily pressured to go to college by the media, all their teachers and guidance counselors, and most of their peers. We parents should educate our children about taking an honest look at their skills, the demand for various jobs, and the amount of time and money that a degree costs and then making realistic life decisions.

Further related reading on college, work, and family formation:

When it comes to urban farming and renewal, “left” and “right” are mostly useless political terms.

Good career choices for the family-minded girl.

Christian women should be helpers, not careerists.

The purpose of paid work for women.

The pleasure of a quiet evening at home with family and a few thoughts on prioritizing family formation.

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21 thoughts on “Millennials: childless, indentured to student loans for life, and all for nothing.

  1. When was the last time you took a college course? You seem to have a lot of ideas about college, which may or may not be true.

    In any event, I don’t know any parent who spends tens of thousands on college and tells their kid to “study anything but just GO.” That sounds very unrealistic. Most parents I know want their kid to be self supporting.

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    • Pam, if parents are diligent to warn their children away from degree programs that will not pay for themselves, why does Harvard have both $50k or whatever tuition and a college of education? Why do women’s studies, black studies, and the like exist? Ever seen a job ad outside academia asking for a Ph.D. in womens’ studies? Lots of new Ph.D.s in that area are being minted.

      I have personally worked with factory workers who had degrees, including one with a history degree from Gustavus Adolphus. He was earning about $15/hour at best, hardly enough to cover his student loans. Let’s just say that someone owes him an apology for what they did to him.

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  2. I don’t know if it is the sentiments expressed in the post or a result of the publicity stemming from the Rolling Stone hoax but, the University of Virginia has had applications drop off for the first time in a dozen tears.
    If academia is a haven for feminism, this is the first time, that I am aware of, that they have bitten the hand that feeds them.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2015-01-15/uva-applications-drop-in-wake-of-now-discredited-gang-rape-story.html

    Highly reccommended would be Aaron Clarey’s book “Worthless”. I think he may have been the first to sound this bell and he has ben ringing it for a long time.

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  3. College is worthless in practice at very least. My friends and I agree the answer to the question of “what are you going to do with your degree?” is “cry.” Many of my friends still had no idea what they wanted to do well into their sophomore year of college. The only person I know who majored in anything useful I don’t think ever finished because he was hired by a good company. A lot of kids go to college because that is what you are supposed to do next. Including me. Thankfully I escaped sans debt, but my degree isn’t worth the paper it is printed on anyway. Still a loss in the sense that I could have been working instead.

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  4. Our oldest son has received one (so far–he applied to 10 schools, and this was the first one) admission to a STEM degree program (BS Chem E) at a very small Catholic college that no one has ever heard of. It will be a small cost, (this first one pretty much granted him the difference between what we can provide and their small tuition) the Catholic education piece is important to him, and he will be looking for a wife soon. She may or may not be in college with him, and he frankly doesn’t care. I love this article–I will probably write something at the courtship pledge expanding on what you have written and link back.

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  5. It depends on what you want to do with your life. My brother in law dropped out of college when he realized it wasn’t a good fit. He went on to become a plumber’s apprentice.

    Today, he owns a successful plumbing company in a wealthy town, employs 10 men, and does over $1 million in contracts in a typical year. Likewise, my sister who didn’t attend college, makes a salary similar to mine working as a hairstylist in an upscale salon.

    Student debt is out of control though. My friend’s daughter received a pre-med degree with the hope of becoming a PA. Her grades were decent but not good enough to get into most PA programs so, at a professor’s suggestion, she started apply to graduate schools to become an SLP instead. She didn’t win a single acceptance.

    Now, she’s $70,000 in debt and desperately taking some graduate-level linguistic classes in one last attempt at getting into an SLP program. The programs take three years to complete and will probably increase her debt load to $100,000.

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  6. I’m a Millenial and I can strongly relate to the comment you quoted in the post. It’s not necessarily that no one told me “No”, but that no one told me I could ever even possibly think of saying “No” to college. For all that Millenials are rightly criticized for never being told “No”, they are probably far less likely to tell anyone else “No” — cue an avalanche of issues related to that weakness of character.

    The idea just thrills me now, to think I could have told my parents, as I neared high school graduation, that “no, I will not be going to college”. Neither had attended, nor had their parents, and to them, it was the way to all that one could ever need in life. It was very much mythologized, so even when I heard teachers talk about going to college, I had an extreme romantic view of it.

    But now that I know of all these ways of making money (which was what my parents cared about – me being able to support myself and be independent) – if I had known such things then, life would have turned out far differently. And I likely wouldn’t still be paying off my student loans.

    College was such a joke; it was indeed focused on the comparatively miniscule achievements of women and minorities to the exclusion of the Great Satan — white, Christian men — and I attended a small, middle-class, private, “technically religious” college.

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  7. Pingback: College, red-pill truth for teen boys, parents past history, and real vs. fake repentance — courtshippledge.com

    • It came through but I have to manually approve pingbacks. I don’t usually have time to look in at my blog while I’m at work, so I didn’t have a chance to approve this until this evening. And now I’m going to read your post. 🙂

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  8. This was all true for us 20 years ago. My husband was going to get his physics degree. No one asked what he planned to do with it, nor did he ask anyone with a physics degree what they are doing with theirs. Same with me. There was never a thought that I wouldn’t go to college and never a question of what I wanted to major in. “Just Go!” We both had scholarships and grants but still ended up with 30K of loans. When I was in my second year and married I finally talked with a woman who was doing exactly what I wanted to do – helping her husband. For the first time it dawned on me that there is no reason for me continuing college when I had every intention on becoming a mother and staying home with my children. (Pam will get the vapors to find out we made $8000/year when I stopped working and had our first child).

    Though our children’s education will be free at any of our State Universities (due to Ben’s disability rating), our daughters will still need to have a plan before going. Our son was just accepted to the university where he’ll pursue his combined degree, physics/engineering. He’s a welder by passion and will continue to weld during the summer and get certified.

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  9. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2015/01/28 | Free Northerner

  10. Pingback: The utility of correction and the death of credentials. | Dark Brightness

  11. “The problem is that in our modern society, the job market is more credential-based than it is skill-based, at least for higher status jobs”.
    Note the word used is “status”, not higher skilled or higher paying.
    That is a part of the problem. I’ve done contracting mainly because on a “temporary” job (some have lasted for me over 5 years), they don’t care about credentials. In my current job which became permanent, I did things the credentialed people said were impossible (saving the company lots of money).
    My (top paid skilled trades union) Father was worried when I dropped out of College until my paycheck was larger than his.
    It is about rejecting the official game and the official rules, where you can be king of the virtual hill with your English degree (and not really even English, considering the grammar and spelling and ignorance of the great literature) – and be stuck at Starbucks.
    Most STEM learning is available online, but most degrees in STEM are shallow, see http://twit.tv/show/coding-101/51 about 8 minutes in:
    And I was talking about maybe software people I had hired, he started talking about hardware people, and how out of university, he was interviewing kids who similarly didn’t really understand what it was they had just learned. As part of his hiring test he would say “draw me a multi stable multi vibrator.” And he and I could both do that. Basically its two inverters cross coupled with some capacitors in order to make it go. But none of the kids that came out of engineering with a fresh degree where the ink was still wet, could answer that question. And it turns out that unless he set them up at a workstation with all of the same software helpers, the same software IDEs and CAD programs and exactly what they knew how to operate and how to select components from menus and drag them in and then look for somewhere about how to wire it up from some application notes, that was the world that they understood today. Again, lacking the basic understanding in the fundamentals of where this stuff came from. They were operating several levels of abstraction above that. And I guess I understand that the world has become abstracted to the point where nobody really is wiring things up with resistors and diodes and transistors anymore.
    It isn’t as easy, getting Arduinos, wires, and learning how electricity actually works and writing programs in C that crash and you have to figure it out yourself, Or anything else, but once you’ve mastered things and understand them, you can fix everyone else’s mistakes.
    Now with 3D printers, things are getting mechanical. A “Maker” is more valuable than someone with a piece of paper.
    Do you want to actually understand a subject, and be able to do things? The information is out there, easily accessible, as are all the parts and tools. And they cost far less than a degree.

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  12. I was one of those kids whose parents were thinking “just go to university” and things will work out. I studied history and political science with a concentration on the Middle East along with some courses on the holocaust. I left in 1998 depressed, paranoid and with a deep sense of distrust about..pretty much everything and everyone (All the war criminals were/are all in on it together and we’re all going to die again!). I guess I already had tendencies toward that because of seeing what WW2 did to my grandfather but the degree kind of cemented it.

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  13. Going to college boosts parental status as well. Never mind the pointless and unplayable debts the kiddies run up.

    I went to college and worked a lot of hours to emerge with minimal debt. Twenty years I deeply regret going at all. The learning was minimal and only creeping credentialism made it even vaguely justifiable. Even the job I have now in no way requires a degree.

    Clarey nailed it years ago with his book Worthless. I gave my nephew a copy of the book on his graduating school. Apparently he didn’t appreciate it and went to college anyway. Now he works in a supermarket with few prospects in his field and a five figure college debt.

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  14. Many jobs in the Stem field are being ruined by equal opportunity. Smart white men are overlooked by mediocre women with no interest in a long term career.

    Another triumph of hr recruiting strategy.

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