Heads up, youths: Graduate pay outlooks for Harvard versus South Dakota

posted at 4:41 pm on September 18, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

By at least one measure, the young-people (aged 18 — 29) unemployment rate for the past summer hovered just under thirteen percent. That means that more than one in ten members of last May’s whole new crop of graduates spent the summer looking for jobs in our already-contracted labor market, without success — and President Obama has been touring college campuses, capitalizing on their fears of being unable to pay off the loans they took out for their skyrocketing tuition prices. (…I wonder if these youths realize that President Obama’s more-people-should-go-to-college and lowering-loan-rates goals are only pushing educational costs higher? Supply, demand? Anyone?)

While a lot of this mainstream educational wisdom tends to lead today’s kids into thinking that they absolutely must go to college and that they need to do whatever they can to get into the very best, most well-known conventional four-year institution they can, here’s an interesting look from Bloomberg about the high-paying boom going on in the mining industry — and implicitly about making sure that when you’re deciding upon a major investment in your future, be sure to do your research and make sure that the juice is worth the squeeze:

Harvard University’s graduates are earning less than those from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology after a decade-long commodity bull market created shortages of workers as well as minerals.

Those leaving the college of 2,300 students this year got paid a median salary of $56,700, according to PayScale Inc., which tracks employee compensation data from surveys. At Harvard, where tuition fees are almost four times higher, they got $54,100. Those scheduled to leave the campus in Rapid City, South Dakota, in May are already getting offers, at a time when about one in 10 recent U.S. college graduates is out of work. …

As many as 78,000 additional U.S. workers will be needed by 2019 to replace retirees, the Society of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration said in a report in January. In Australia, the largest shipper of coal and iron ore, there will be a shortfall of 1,700 mine engineers, 3,000 geoscientists and 36,000 other workers in the five years ending in 2015, the report said.

Demand for mining-school graduates is exceptional in the U.S., where the unemployment rate for 20-to-24 year olds with Bachelor’s degrees was 11.8 percent in July. The jobless rate across the economy held above 8 percent for a 43rd month in August, government data show.

I am not in any way knocking Ivy League or big four-year institutions, not in the slightest — and clearly, in the long run, there are plenty of industries that will value a high-profile degree under the right conditions, especially if you’re willing to wait some decades for the major returns. But is it worth paying hundreds of thousands of dollars more for an education, and carrying that big ol’ chunk of debt and the interest with you into your life, when there are comparable opportunities to be had if you do a little searching off the much-less-expensive, beaten path? That’s an individual choice, but you really shouldn’t go crying to the government if your $100k liberal arts degree in Women’s Studies doesn’t help you land a great job — the government’s (and, specifically, President Obama’s) furthering involvement in the student-loan industry (and entire economy) is only helping to take those opportunities away.


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