Mike Rowe Says Four-Year Degrees Are Now Shameful

Source: Wikimedia / Unsplash/EyeEm

TV’s Mike Rowe says that four-year degrees are no longer the source of pride they once used to be, and most people consider them “shameful.” He sees it as a PR problem for colleges that they should seek to address. His comments came on “The Bottom Line.” Let’s see why he says this about colleges.

Bottom Fell Out of the Perception Market

Rowe’s estimation of the situation is that the bottom fell out of the perception of how good a four-year degree is. Rowe funds a non-profit, Mike Rowe Works Foundation, where he sponsors trade school scholarships for kids who want to pursue that over a college degree.

Source: Flickr/Berry College

He noted that when he was a kid back in the 60s, higher education was much more well-respected. This came from a PR campaign that heightened the viability of someone’s prospects for a college degree.

Colleges Bump Out Other Forms of Higher Education

College’s PR campaign in the 60s got more recognition and led to thousands of students coming to the doors of universities. It was also affordable and convenient, as many colleges offered evening and weekend classes for working people.

Source: Flickr/Berry College

Unfortunately, the PR for colleges was just too good, leading to people abandoning other higher-learning schools. Trade schools especially suffered as kids who came out of high school saw them as the road to less prestigious professions.

Trade School Seen as a Second-Class Discipline

The push for college didn’t begin in the 60s and 70s; it was built on something that was present an entire generation earlier. At the end of World War II, the GI Bill funded tertiary education for those who fought, prioritizing college over trade school.

Source: Wikimedia/City of Boston Archives

Naturally, when that generation’s kids had a chance for tertiary education, they also saw trade school as the second-best option. Luckily, college was still mostly affordable for these kids.

The Pandemic Worsened Things

One of the things Rowe pointed out was how the pandemic affected things, especially at the country’s most prestigious universities. With the pandemic, quality control of these degrees went out the window, and the employers had to suffer the consequences.

Source: Flickr/Asian Development Bank

Now, if everyone graduates a class with an A, is the grade worth anything? As an employer, you don’t know if your Harvard graduate is the cream of the crop or if they’re just the last scion of a generation that paid their way through college.

Student Confidence In Universities is Flagging

A Gallup poll conducted in 2022 surveyed many students from prestigious universities about how they saw their higher learning institutions. Only 17% of students had “great confidence” in their universities.

Source: Flickr/CollegeDegrees360

19% of surveyed students said they still had quite a lot of confidence in their universities, while 40% said they only had some confidence. 22% of respondents noted that they had very little confidence in these institutions.

A Sea-Change in Political Support

Decades ago, when a political candidate said that they had the support of the college-education population, it meant something different. It meant they had the support of the intellectuals and thinking people in society.

Source: Flickr/Adam Scotti

However, today, this is no longer the case because of ideological conditioning in colleges. Having the support of the college-educated population counts for a lot less since they are already politically conditioned to support one party over the other.

No Longer The Wise, Prudent, and Critical Thinkers of the Population

Rowe stated that in his day, the college-educated were wise and prudent, making their decisions based on critical thought and understanding of a situation. However, today, that’s not the case in most situations.

Source: Flickr/jef thomas

According to Rowe, the college-educated population doesn’t approach problems or issues like they did a few decades ago. Instead of critically figuring out the stakeholders’ problems and motivations, most listen to whatever someone tells them because it aligns with them politically.

Non-College Voters Propelled Trump to Victory

There’s something to be said for non-college voters as well. According to the stats of the 2016 elections, most of the people who came out to vote for former president Donald Trump were non-college-educated voters.

Source: Flickr/Matt Johnson

A similar situation is occurring in this presidential race. In the New Hampshire primary, Trump was victorious over Nikki Haley, and most of the voters in that crowd that handed Trump the win were from non-college-educated backgrounds.

Education Reform is Necessary

While Rowe’s statements might be heavily leaning towards supporting trade schools, he has a point. College tuition costs have steadily risen over the last few decades, and students are not getting anything for the money they put out for a degree.

Source: Flickr/US Department of Education

Many college graduates leave school and can’t find jobs in this economic climate. Despite the lack of employment, students are still expected to repay their college loans. Without a job, that becomes problematic.

The Trap of Student Debt

As Rowe points out in his discourse, many students in the ’60s and ’70s were able to make payments for their degrees with part-time jobs. Unfortunately, the cost of education has skyrocketed while the payment for part-time employment has not.

Source: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski

This led to an ingenious solution by banks, which would offer students a loan to pay off their college tuition and expenses. The idea is that when they graduate, the students will earn enough to pay off the debt comfortably.

Student Debt Rises Year After Year

Recent research into student debt has shown that the average student loan debt for a college degree sat at $38,290 in 2022. As of the third quarter in 2023, Americans owed as much as $1.74 trillion in college debt.

Source: Flickr/Eric Wagner

Private loans tend to carry the heaviest debt burden as they have the most significant interest rates and strict repayment criteria. Federal loans are what most students opt for since they are much easier to pay off after getting them and completing a degree.

The Decision To Enter Debt for A Degree is Getting Harder

COVID-19 positively impacted student loan numbers since the government paused repayment on federal loans. Yet, it has had the complete opposite effect on the finances of Gen Zs, who are considering college as an option.

Source: Flickr/Sander van der Wel

Amidst the pandemic in 2020, the Pew Research Center found that most Gen Zs were neither working nor in school. This is known as the “disconnection rate,” and it sits at its highest rate in the US since 1989.

Just Not A Profitable Decision

Most Gen Zs, when asked if they wanted to go to college, weren’t very enthusiastic about the idea. Their view of the economy and the job market has driven many of them to consider college an unsustainable expense.

Source: Flickr/Jean-Luc Pourroy

The generation gap between Gen Zs and Gen X is more than their ages. While Gen X still believes that The American Dream is reachable, Gen Z has a more pragmatic approach to the world. Many of them are opting to become entrepreneurs instead of workers.

Gen Z is Choosing Trade School Over College

College has a particular place in most people’s lives. Many Americans have fond memories of going to college, and most had an idea that they would be going since their parents had it planned while they were still young.

Source: Flickr/Canning Town Caravanserai

Most of Gen Z is looking at trade school as their best option to earn a living instead of college. Most Gen Zs have heard the complaints of millennials and are avoiding college as a debt trap, leading them back to trade school as a viable option.

A Higher Demand for Skilled Trades

Rowe notes that there is a much higher demand for skilled tradespeople than for college-educated graduates. Students who want to find a job are more likely to get one that’s fulfilling and pays well as a trade school graduate over a college-educated person.

Source: Flickr/Province of British Columbia

Part of this is the large number of people in trade jobs retiring. Since most people have a college degree, they aren’t suited for entering a trade job, meaning there’s more demand for skilled trades workers as a result.

Trades Suit This Generation’s Goals Perfectly

Gen Z usually gets a lot of flak for their attitude to work, but that’s mostly because employers at certain jobs see their vocal nature as a negative. In a trade job, being vocal and honest about what they want is a positive, not a negative.

Source: Flickr/zoghal

Additionally, trade jobs touch on the three things that Gen Z desires most in jobs. They offer the financial security of a regular paycheck. They also provide a diverse work environment and schedule flexibility. All of these align with what Gen Z wants in their jobs.

Mike Rowe May Be Right About College

Rowe has been quite outspoken about four-year college degrees for quite some time. His establishment of the Mike Rowe Works Foundation is his attempt to do something to rectify the problem. However, this generation of kids seems to understand what he’s been saying all along.

Source: Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region

More Gen Zs opting for trade school may signal a shift in the US’s job market in the coming years. It will also signal a decline in the student debt the US has to deal with and potentially a happier workforce. This could be a game-changer for everyone and a death knell to college’s domination of the tertiary education market.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

Sally, a dynamic and viral writer, has taken the literary world by storm with her exceptional storytelling prowess. With an uncanny ability to tap into the collective consciousness of her readers, she crafts narratives that resonate deeply and linger long after the last word is read.

Born with a creative spirit, Sally honed her writing skills from a young age, cultivating a unique voice that blends emotion, wit, and social insight. Her work spans a wide spectrum, from poignant short stories that tug at the heartstrings to thought-provoking essays that challenge conventional thinking.

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