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College: 'Best Investment' or Big Risk? (The financial return for a 4-year degree may surprise you)
Smart Money ^ | 05/07/2012 | Jack Hough

Posted on 05/07/2012 2:35:03 PM PDT by SeekAndFind

By

College is the best investment you can make, President Obama told students last month at the University of Colorado.

As a metaphor for the benefits of education, that statement is fine. But taken as a claim about the financial returns of a college degree, it poses two problems.

The first is that students and their families still lack sufficient data to estimate long-term returns for specific college degrees the way investors do with stocks and bonds.

The second problem is one of investment risk. Stock investors can manage risk by buying a diverse basket of shares, but a college student bets on a single asset: himself.

That makes it crucial that students and their families understand the factors that affect the risk and return of a college investment in order to swing the math in their favor.

College brings higher pay: $1,053 a week for the median bachelor's degree holder last year, versus $638 for a high school graduate with no college, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last year's unemployment rate was 4.9% for college grads versus 9.4% for those with no college.

The College Board, a not-for-profit association, calculated in a 2010 report (based on 2008 data) that a typical student who enters a four-year college at age 18 and borrows his way through earns enough by age 33 to make up for his costs, including foregone wages and loan interest.

If a bond paid for itself that quickly, the return would be between 5% and 6% a year. That's a handsome payoff; stocks have historically returned around 7% a year after inflation. And it says nothing of college's other benefits, such as enlightenment, fun and higher job satisfaction.

Two big caveats: The College Board math assumes everyone goes to a public college. Those usually cost less than private ones -- often a lot less -- and that skews returns higher. The report also doesn't account for dropouts or extra college years. Only 56% of students who enroll in a four-year college earn a bachelor's degree within six years, according to a report last year by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

PayScale, a Seattle data firm, examines the links between pay and variables like colleges and majors. Its analysis, which also ignores dropouts but accounts for students who take longer to complete their degrees, finds an average yearly return of 4.4% for degrees from 853 schools. That assumes students get financial aid, as most do.

Returns vary sharply; they are negative for more than 100 schools and over 11% a year for ones like Harvey Mudd College in California, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Virginia. Dartmouth, Harvard, Stanford and Princeton are over 10%, but so is Queens College in New York -- where state residents pay just over $5,000 a year in tuition, versus about $41,000 for Stanford.

The worst returns tend to come from schools whose programs focus on nursing, criminal justice, sociology and education, says Katie Bardaro, an analyst at PayScale. The best returns are often from schools with strong engineering, computer science, economics and natural-science programs.

There's a flip side: "It's a lot harder to successfully graduate from those engineering programs," says Ms. Bardaro.

PayScale's analysis doesn't show how a specific degree from one school compares with that same degree from another school. "Until we know that, students, school counselors and policy makers are flying blind," says Mark Schneider, former U.S. Commissioner of Education Statistics and vice president of American Institutes for Research, a think tank.

Mr. Schneider set up a data firm, College Measures, to collect such data, and hopes to report his findings later this year. In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Education is set to release "gainful employment" data as soon as this coming week, including loan-repayment rates and debt-to-income ratios. The information is meant to show which schools are putting federal aid to good use, but it will also provide clues to returns.

Until we can predict college returns more accurately, students and their families should think in terms of reducing investment risk, says Richard Vedder, an Ohio University professor and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a Washington-based advocacy group. After all, outstanding student loans now eclipse total credit-card debt, and even bankruptcy filers don't typically get out from under their school loans.

Start with a frank assessment of performance. High school students with high grades and excellent test scores are likely to go to good schools and earn high returns on their investment, says Mr. Vedder. Middling performers can reduce risk by going to low-cost state and community colleges, perhaps transferring to another school after two years if they do well.

For that matter, anything that cuts college costs reduces investment risk, says Jennifer Ma, a College Board analyst. Living at home for the first two years of school won't do wonders for a student's social life, but it's likely to boost his returns.

Mr. Schneider says students should compare net college costs after projected aid. (They can approximate net costs using the government's College Navigator tool, nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator.) The riskiest investment is a high-cost liberal-arts college that lacks a strong brand name and doesn't offer much aid, says Mr. Schneider. By contrast, a high-cost school with a strong brand and plenty of aid may be a "good buy."

PayScale's Ms. Bardaro says students should research carefully the pay they are likely to secure before deciding how much to spend on college. After all, tuition and fees have increased 184% in 20 years after accounting for inflation, but wages for college grads have risen just 9%, according to Labor Department data.

Mr. Obama's investment tip is well-intentioned, but in college as on Wall Street, returns aren't guaranteed. —Jack Hough is a columnist at SmartMoney.com. Email: jack.hough@dowjones.com



TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: college; investment; risk
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1 posted on 05/07/2012 2:35:16 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Here in the oil patch If you have a degree in petroleum engineering, petroleum geology or petroleum land management and augment it with an internship you are pretty much guaranteed a job after graduation paying up to $100k.


2 posted on 05/07/2012 2:39:57 PM PDT by SVTCobra03 (You can never have enough friends, horsepower or ammunition.)
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To: SeekAndFind
One of the best moves of all would be to get Fedzilla out of the student loan business altogether.

An excellent college in our area (Grove City) has their own group of lenders and don't allow their kids to get hooked on the easy to get into debt terms of Fedzilla. I believe Hillsdale College in Michigan does likewise.

If lenders charged loan rates commensurate with risk, kids would be paying 10% or more to go into useless majors like Ethnic or Gender Studies and 2% or 3% to go into useful majors such as nursing and engineering.

3 posted on 05/07/2012 2:42:41 PM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: SeekAndFind
"Mr. Obama's investment tip is well-intentioned,"

No, it is not. It is intentioned to get more business for the now government student loan business, to get kids more indoctrinated by socialists, to get people to thinking that they are too good to be skilled tradesmen like Plumbers and Electricians who can earn much more than your average liberal arts college hack.

Although I'll admit that it will definitely pay off if you are going for a Government job... Especially if you are also a member of a 'protected minority'.

4 posted on 05/07/2012 2:44:25 PM PDT by LegendHasIt
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To: Vigilanteman

RE: An excellent college in our area (Grove City) has their own group of lenders and don’t allow their kids to get hooked on the easy to get into debt terms of Fedzilla

_________________

It is no coincidence that Prof. Walter Williams ( one of Rush Limbaugh’s favorite subs ) is going to be their 2012 graduation commencement speaker this coming May 19.


5 posted on 05/07/2012 2:48:21 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

I’m just about to graduate with a major on Women’s Studies? Does anyone know what kind of ROI I might get for this degree?


6 posted on 05/07/2012 2:58:18 PM PDT by MNDude
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To: SVTCobra03

Here in the oil patch If you have a degree in petroleum engineering, petroleum geology or petroleum land management and augment it with an internship you are pretty much guaranteed a job after graduation paying up to $100k.

Here outside the oil patch if you are a high school dropout but can program in Java, C++, C# or any other popular computer language, which most 16 year olds can do, you can make over $100k.


7 posted on 05/07/2012 3:03:22 PM PDT by CodeToad
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To: SeekAndFind

“College brings higher pay: $1,053 a week for the median bachelor’s degree holder last year, versus $638 for a high school graduate with no college”

I tend to believe the difference in pay has more to do with motivation and intelligence than it does with “collage”, per se.

I’m a high school drop-out but have worked my way into a $100K a year job.

But that took a lot of work and self-starting.


8 posted on 05/07/2012 3:15:39 PM PDT by Psycho_Bunny (Burning the Quran is a waste of perfectly good fire.)
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To: SeekAndFind

I don’t even have to read the comments to know that there will be some who mindlessly say: “Well, they should major in a worthwhile degree, any of the engineering disciplines.” These ignorant statements assume that everyone off the street can handle an engineering curriculum and that just ain’t so.


9 posted on 05/07/2012 3:20:34 PM PDT by OldPossum
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To: MNDude

Does life experience count?

If it does, then I have been “studying” Women all of my life and I still don’t understand them and I have spent a fortune trying to. :)


10 posted on 05/07/2012 3:21:43 PM PDT by dhs12345
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To: OldPossum

“These ignorant statements assume that everyone off the street can handle an engineering curriculum and that just ain’t so.”

If it was easy, everyone would do it would not pay so much. What’s ignorant about that?


11 posted on 05/07/2012 3:30:39 PM PDT by beef (Who Killed Kennewick Man?)
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To: OldPossum

Q: How does an engineer get an artist off his front porch?

A: Pay him for the pizza!

Bada-Bump!


12 posted on 05/07/2012 3:34:31 PM PDT by beef (Who Killed Kennewick Man?)
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To: OldPossum; SeekAndFind; SVTCobra03; Vigilanteman; LegendHasIt; MNDude; CodeToad; Psycho_Bunny; ...

Spending $495 to $895 and three days here would probably do more for your youngster that $400,000 and 4 years of college ever will:

http://www.tomhopkins.com/boot_camp.shtml?Screen=boot_camp

My late father grew up during the depression (he was born in 1925) and many times told me that most salesmen had money and enough to eat while most other people were unemployed and nearly starved.

If they or you feel they must go to college, here’s a school that doesn’t require tuition, every student is a work/study:

http://www.cofo.edu/


13 posted on 05/07/2012 3:36:40 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (Ich habe keinen Konig aber Gott)
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To: dhs12345

Lol! You’ve been snookered! Mystery is the unbreakable part of a woman’s genetic code! ;)


14 posted on 05/07/2012 3:43:16 PM PDT by skr (May God confound the enemy)
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To: OldPossum

My undergrad degree was in engineering. To obtain it you had to do multi-disciplinary studies in other 300 level engineering courses. The toughest for me was machine design, under mech E. I worked my butt off and still got a C-. Some people just have the brains for it. I don’t consider myself dumb, but some of my classmates just had a knack for it.


15 posted on 05/07/2012 3:47:34 PM PDT by boop (I hate hippies and dopeheads. Just hate them. ...Ernest Borgnine)
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To: SeekAndFind

I have a sister who has a masters degree in material science engineering from a brand name U. She sure did get a high paying job right out of school but then life happened and she got married and started having kids. When the kids were all in school she went job hunting for a part time gig found a town clerk job and then went to the state labor board to get her pay raised to minimum age. Right now she is back in school to get an RN. Those engineering degrees need upkeep and cont ed along the way. I have told my college age kids to skip all the drama and get their RN right out of high school at the local comm college then they can go pretty much anywhere get a job if needed. I think they both would really rather have businesses to run but the RN is a good back up just in case.


16 posted on 05/07/2012 3:50:25 PM PDT by scottteng (Tax government employees til they quit and find something useful to do)
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To: MNDude
I’m just about to graduate with a major on Women’s Studies? Does anyone know what kind of ROI I might get for this degree?

Depends. Are you going into pimping or pandering?

17 posted on 05/07/2012 3:52:48 PM PDT by LoneRangerMassachusetts (The meek shall not inherit the Earth)
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To: SVTCobra03

“Here in the oil patch If you have a degree in petroleum engineering, petroleum geology or petroleum land management and augment it with an internship you are pretty much guaranteed a job after graduation paying up to $100k.”

Patch being located where?


18 posted on 05/07/2012 3:55:05 PM PDT by truth_seeker
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To: scottteng

I have a degree in computer science. I’ve been a SAHM for 16 years. I would like to go back to work, but I don’t know what I could do at this point.

We’re in California, and the economy sucks here. A few years ago, I think I could have gotten a job, but not now.


19 posted on 05/07/2012 3:59:10 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: boop

My husband and I both have our engineering degrees. Our son is graduating high school. He has no interest in being an engineer. He’s brilliant at math, but doesn’t like science. He even has told us that the kids that are going into engineering like to figure out how things work and how to build things, and he does not have that interest.

My husband and I know he’s right, so we are not pushing engineering.

Right now, our son wants to major in economics with a minor in statitics and maybe a minor in accounting. He thinks he’ll need to get his master’s at some point.


20 posted on 05/07/2012 4:03:05 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: SeekAndFind

Bachelors $1,053 a week. What crack is this author smoking. Ill be lucky to get that for an MBA when I graduate. I have 20 years employment history..


21 posted on 05/07/2012 4:07:43 PM PDT by goseminoles
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To: OldPossum
These ignorant statements assume that everyone off the street can handle an engineering curriculum and that just ain’t so.

When I was in high school quite some time ago the guidance counselors would identify the students that they didn't feel were college-bound and point them in the direction of a trade school. These students would go to regular high school for the first half of the day and then spend the second half at what we called "vocational tech" learning skills such as auto mechanics, welding, plumbing, etc. Many of these students were able to make good money right out of high school.

For some reason, schools have done away with "vo-techs". I think the conventional wisdom is that all kids should aspire to go to college and many of the trades that were taught were geared towards males. Can't have that!

22 posted on 05/07/2012 4:09:49 PM PDT by Drew68 (I WILL vote to defeat Barack Hussein Obama!)
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To: luckystarmom

MOVE and by God don’t bring any California with you.

North Dakota, Wyoming and even parts of Idaho BOOMING

We have plenty of Californians in Texas ... pretty sure we have reached our quota

TT


23 posted on 05/07/2012 4:12:08 PM PDT by TexasTransplant (Radical islam is islam. Moderate islam is the Trojan Horse.)
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To: Drew68
I feel bad when I think of what the vo-tech students were doing. I thought they were the "dummies" in HS, only aspiring to be plumbers, electricians, carpenters, auto mechanics, etc.

Who's the "dummy" now? Me. I stupidly went into medicine. I make about what a master plumber makes. And if he owns his own business, he's doing very well.

He's not going to get sued by a disgruntled patient/client.

And if a customer doesn't "feel" like paying him for his work, he can tear out the sink he just installed.

24 posted on 05/07/2012 4:18:04 PM PDT by boop (I hate hippies and dopeheads. Just hate them. ...Ernest Borgnine)
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To: dhs12345

“If it does, then I have been “studying” Women all of my life and I still don’t understand them and I have spent a fortune trying to. :)”

It’s easy. Women want what they don’t want, except when they change their mind.


25 posted on 05/07/2012 4:23:36 PM PDT by pieceofthepuzzle
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Salesman is a dirty word to a lot of people but they are the people that drive the economy. I forget which sales/business guru first coined the phrase but we all live by it “Nothing happens until first the sale.” I consult with a lot of people doing startups and 9 times out of 10 all my advice is on sales and marketing because so many people with great ideas, great products, really innovative and killer business can’t sell and so nothing ever happens. When I talked to you young people about jobs, careers, college etc I always point out that if money and job security are most important to you then you should learn to sell. Good salesmen out earn the management, the engineers, and all the other workers in most industries. Here’s a fun a example that shows what most people don’t understand about where the money is in jobs. - I know 5 guys in the orthopedic business. One is an engineer. He has 5 years of college, works 50 hours a week and makes 55k. One is a machinist. He has no college, works 50 hours a week and makes 75k. One has an MBA and works in HR at the same firm as the first two and makes $45k. One is an Orthopedic surgeon. He has 11 years of school/residency. He works 50 hours a week and is on call another 24 hours. He makes $220K. THe last guy is an independent sales rep for the orthopedic products the other four guys deal with. He works 40 hours a week, half of it in tropical places with his clients and he make $350k.


26 posted on 05/07/2012 5:05:19 PM PDT by azcap (Who is John Galt ? www.conservativeshirts.com)
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To: TexasTransplant

We want to, but we want to wait a few years. Our daughters have medical issues, and we want them to finish up high school here. Plus, my husband was recently diagnosed with cancer.

We’re hoping to move out in 3 years.


27 posted on 05/07/2012 5:07:07 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: Drew68

Yes, I can remember the same thing at the high school I attended. There, they divided the students into two categories, one “college preparatory” and the other not that (I don’t remember the term they used). Again, the males in the latter category were often guided into voc training.


28 posted on 05/07/2012 5:16:17 PM PDT by OldPossum
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To: SeekAndFind

College degrees aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on unless it’s a specific professional degree. And even then, it’s suspect. I hire attitude and work ethic, degrees dont mean sh!t anymore. Sad but true, most kids have zero work ethic. It’s refreshing on the rare occasion that you find it though.


29 posted on 05/07/2012 5:19:58 PM PDT by Paco
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To: TexasTransplant
We have plenty of Californians in Texas ... pretty sure we have reached our quota

There is plenty of room in Texas for more. I fact, I'm hoping at least 5 million more go there.

30 posted on 05/07/2012 5:20:09 PM PDT by dragnet2 (Diversion and evasion are tools of deceit)
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To: beef

Nice joke, but I wonder whether you might be an engineer making fun of those who didn’t major in one of the engineering studies.

If only everyone majored in engineering, huh? All they had to do was switch majors...


31 posted on 05/07/2012 5:22:11 PM PDT by OldPossum
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To: beef
If it was easy, everyone would do it would not pay so much. What’s ignorant about that?

You missed the point I was trying to make. It's beyond engineering just being more difficult. Handling the math involved in all the engineering studies is simply beyond the capabilities of most students. Some Freeper, quoting a professor, said that only 15 percent of students could handle the math. So, what the hell do you want the other 85 percent to do?

32 posted on 05/07/2012 5:26:24 PM PDT by OldPossum
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To: boop

As it happens my son in law is a plumber and I am related to two physicians. My son in law earned about 80k last year, the Dr’s a multiple of that.

Now it is nice to have some quick MD advice and a prescription called in, but when something serious happens, like a broken water pipe, you know who I call.

The best is they all work steady and enjoy their work.


33 posted on 05/07/2012 5:28:15 PM PDT by DUMBGRUNT (The best is the enemy of the good!)
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To: azcap

“Salesman is a dirty word to a lot of people but they are the people that drive the economy.”

Ain’t that the truth! I am an engineer at the top of my game, did consulting for 15+ years, and found the truth in business the hard way. Those “business weenies”, as I used to call them, make the money. A great engineer can make a product and earn millions, billions even, but on whole it is the sales people that can earn the big bucks.


34 posted on 05/07/2012 5:29:54 PM PDT by CodeToad
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To: MNDude
I’m just about to graduate with a major on Women’s Studies? Does anyone know what kind of ROI I might get for this degree?

I studied women in college too.

35 posted on 05/07/2012 5:33:29 PM PDT by central_va ( I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
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HUDDLE UP!

The Place for Conservatives
We have some elections to win!



36 posted on 05/07/2012 5:35:12 PM PDT by RedMDer (https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org/default.aspx?tsid=93)
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To: scottteng

“the RN is a good back up just in case”

The RN requires upkeep, too. You can’t just enter the workplace again after being out for years.


37 posted on 05/07/2012 5:41:28 PM PDT by webstersII
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To: Psycho_Bunny
I’m a high school drop-out but have worked my way into a $100K a year job. But that took a lot of work and self-starting.

I have worked with a lot of talented people like you who did not have degrees. They really pay for it in a corporate environment.

38 posted on 05/07/2012 5:55:25 PM PDT by Doe Eyes
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To: SVTCobra03

Many of us went to school for lucrative degrees; once you can command $50K forces are at work to either send the work elsewhere (which wouldn’t apply in the oil patch) or simply bring foreigners in to do it (even if they are educated here as part of the package). In any case, what happened in tech and finance is surely at work in other high-wage jobs; Asians are being trained to do the work for a lot less, often in American universities. I work with one of the larger CPA firms, and of the four people I deal with the partner is the only American. One is Indian, one is Filipino (he said he was recruited from the Philippines for $65K, with no CPA and limited English - better-qualified Americans would kill for that job), and the last is a Canadian national who said the process took her five years to work here. All three of these foreigners took jobs for which there is no shortage of qualified Americans, and their company is probably looking for ways to replace them as soon as they become full citizens and want such things as sick days and Sundays off.

It is frightening; I couldn’t imagine what decisions a fifteen year-old faces today.


39 posted on 05/07/2012 6:02:08 PM PDT by kearnyirish2
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To: luckystarmom

Would your son like robots? Would he be interested in AI? There is alot of math and probabilities involved in these areas.

I have recently been doing some online learning, for free, from this site: http://www.udacity.com/ They are on their second six week list of courses and it is interesting and demanding.

They even have a cryptography class. I just took the Cs101 basic programing class in Python. If not for your son, maybe for you.

There are other free online learning places on the net.
Look into it. It could be a way to update your skills.

And prayers for your husband.


40 posted on 05/07/2012 6:04:19 PM PDT by TruthConquers (Delendae sunt publicae scholae)
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To: OldPossum

“what the hell do you want the other 85 percent to do?”

What does the 99.999999% of us who can’t shoot golf like Tiger Woods do? We make less money doing something else that the world needs. Let them get their hands dirty and learn a trade. Competent welders are in great demand. And while we are at it, let’s quit subsidizing do-nothing majors. The US is rapidly coming to the point where we can no longer afford that luxury


41 posted on 05/07/2012 6:20:23 PM PDT by beef (Who Killed Kennewick Man?)
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To: azcap
Sales is a talent, not something just anyone could do. I've always admired good sales people. They are fun to be around. On web sites that cater to sales reps posting anonymously though they give off the impression the typical sales rep never matured out of high school. Their spelling and grammar and the subjects they talk about are juvenile. The business world needs them though and they can make a lot of money. Most CEOs come out of the sales ranks.
42 posted on 05/07/2012 6:22:18 PM PDT by Reeses
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To: webstersII

here in Fl it is 40 hours cont ed every 2 years


43 posted on 05/07/2012 6:30:54 PM PDT by scottteng (Tax government employees til they quit and find something useful to do)
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To: OldPossum

“I wonder whether you might be an engineer”

Yes, 34 years in the field, and proud of it.

“All they had to do was switch majors”

No, all they have to do is learn to do something that people need. My neighbour is no intellectual giant, but he makes a pretty good living for his family doing backhoe work. And there is NOTHING wrong with that.


44 posted on 05/07/2012 6:36:07 PM PDT by beef (Who Killed Kennewick Man?)
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To: SeekAndFind
public college. Those usually cost less than private ones -- often a lot less -- and that skews returns higher.

Government schools do not cost less, they cost more when all the various taxpayer subsidies are added in. The price is cheaper, not the cost. We'd all be wealthier and better off without them.

45 posted on 05/07/2012 6:41:35 PM PDT by Reeses
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To: CodeToad
Here outside the oil patch if you are a high school dropout but can program in Java, C++, C# or any other popular computer language, which most 16 year olds can do, you can make over $100k.

A great many people find programming as complicated as learning to speak Sanskrit or boring as hell. You have to have a certain kind of mindset to program for years without your head exploding.

46 posted on 05/07/2012 6:47:04 PM PDT by SVTCobra03 (You can never have enough friends, horsepower or ammunition.)
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To: truth_seeker

If you don’t know the locations of the headquarters of the major oil companies in the US, you need to get out more.


47 posted on 05/07/2012 6:49:20 PM PDT by SVTCobra03 (You can never have enough friends, horsepower or ammunition.)
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To: scottteng; webstersII

“here in Fl it is 40 hours cont ed every 2 years”

Try getting a job in nursing if you haven’t worked in 3 years and all you have is your continuing ed...you won’t get an interview, let alone a job. Not in Arizona, where my RN/BSN wife is threatened with being fired every few weeks.

She’s trying to get training in a specialty so she can find work elsewhere. As a med/surg RN in Tucson, she has applied at the other hospitals and let’s just say the phone isn’t jumping off the hook...


48 posted on 05/07/2012 6:53:41 PM PDT by Mr Rogers (A conservative can't please a liberal unless he jumps in front of a bus or off of a cliff)
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To: SVTCobra03

“If you don’t know the locations of the headquarters of the major oil companies in the US, you need to get out more.”

Lighten up.

I worked in the “oil patch” and grew up in the “oil patch.”

Was hoping you were simply friendly and neighborly enough, to reveal which oil patch state or location you had in mind.

BTW a lot of the petroleum engineering work and geology work does NOT occur in the “headquarters” and some of it does NOT require a four year degree.

It occurs in field, regional offices.


49 posted on 05/07/2012 7:17:35 PM PDT by truth_seeker
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To: MNDude

No ROI, but you do get issued a Victim Card with the diploma. It can come in hand if a big, mean conservative ever expects you to accomplish something.


50 posted on 05/07/2012 7:17:35 PM PDT by Gil4 (Sometimes it's not low self-esteem - it's just accurate self-assessment.)
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