The pursuit of a degree does not make sense anymore!

By Askmelah

“There’s been a shift in the value of college in recent years – one which I’ve been reluctant to acknowledge, especially as a father of three, but the reality is that (1) Recent college graduates are currently experiencing the highest unemployment rates of any group, and (2) The ones who do manage to find employment aren’t making much more than their colleagues who have lesser (or no) degrees.”

Many years ago, attending college was somewhat exclusive – you either had to have excellent grades for acceptance, or you had to have significant cash available to buy your way in. Today that’s no longer the case… clever financing and loan deferments have made absorbing the cost of getting a college education easier to swallow, and as a result, more people are graduating than ever.” –Ron Rule

Askmelah could not agree more, in fact last night’s Channel 8 news reported that Hong Kong’s new university graduates were facing increasing pressure in finding jobs. Not only that, their average salaries have decreased by 20% if inflation is factored in and down a whopping 60% if property price rises are also considered. This phenomenon kind of mirrors what Korean and Taiwanese graduates have been facing over the last few years. Even mainland China is facing increasing pressure with regards to finding employment for their new graduates with millions coming out from universities every year. Thus the relentless push from their central Government towards entrepreneurship in a bid to create more jobs of late.

Closer to home, Singapore is not doing much better. The number of universities has increased from TWO to SIX now in a span of 20 years, even for those who could not make it to local universities, the parents can easily afford to send their children to overseas universities. Like Hong Kong, the salary increase has not kept up with inflation and property price increases, the only thing that has kept up with the inflation is the tuition fee which has more than tripled compared to 20 years ago! To top it all, as the local universities need to maintain the “quality” of their graduates, the Government has been generously giving out scholarships to Asean, China and Indian students to attract them to study in local Universities, so that upon graduation these foreigners will continue to live and work in Singapore (perhaps even securing permanent residency or local citizenship). Naturally this exacerbates the difficulties already faced by locally born Singaporean graduates in finding a job that is commensurate with his/her qualification. As a consequence, not unlike China, Singapore has been encouraging entrepreneurship in the last few years in the hope that startups can help to create employment opportunities for these graduates. Alas, the problem is our sheltered young graduates have neither the resilience nor the enterprising spirit to strike it out on their own and hang in there, thus the rare success stories so far. To top it all, high rents, high labour costs, limited talent pools further places us at a severe disadvantage as compared to the likes of startups from China, India and Indonesia.

So if you are a parent thinking of splurging your hard earned money on your kids for a college education, mark my words don’t waste money unless your kid can excel in or has a keen interest in study, else its better to ask him/her to follow his/her passion and talents in taking up a trade that they can truly embrace. That will be in fact a far greater gift of love as compared to simply forcing them down the traditional route of “study hard, get a degree and you will be set for life” which by the way is fast becoming a myth these days, the exception being your child has been awarded a generous scholarship (the narrative might be different). Those good days are over, sadly.

“If they cannot find jobs, what is the point? You own a degree, but so what? That you can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless… Can you have a whole country where 100 per cent are graduates?”- Khaw Boon Wan

“Like all things, the more there is of something, the less valuable it is, and we’re starting to see that with degrees. Simply having one used to open doors, guarantee a good paying job, and was a good indicator you’re versed in the material you need to know for the job. Today, outside of a handful of sectors, it no longer does any of those things.

Let’s take a classic marketing degree, for example. Who do you think brings more value to an employer today? A person with a marketing degree they earned ten years ago (or ten months ago), or a 22 year old who’s a self-taught expert at driving traffic, engaging consumers, managing marketing campaigns, building sales funnels, and knows how to read and understand the specific analytical tools your company uses?” – Ron Rule

This article first appeared on Askmelah's blog on 25 July 2016. It is reproduced with permission.


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