In an ongoing public debate about whether college is worth it, Anthony Carnevale, research professor and director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, accuses journalists of casting doubt on the value of a college degree.
That’s because every time the recession rolls around, he can count on reading stories about college graduates who can’t find good jobs. Carnevale said these stories reinforce the idea that college may not be worth the time and effort — despite evidence that for most people, it is.
“What happens is, if you’re an editor and someone brings you a story about someone who went to college and picks up trash, you run the story,” Carnevale said, recalling the title of the 2010 article. a Chronicle.
The article profiled Sam Fanning, who graduated from Eastern Michigan University in December 2009, just months after the Great Recession officially ended. When Fanning couldn’t find work with her degree in network and information technology management, she took a night shift as a custodian at her alma mater.
Fanning said she was grateful for the job, which started at $13.01 an hour (about $17.79 today when adjusted for inflation) and offered sick and vacation time, a 401(k) and tuition. But scrubbing toilets and worse was not the future she envisioned for herself.
Chronicle recently caught up with Fanning, now 35 and working in software quality assurance. He still lives in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Fanning admitted that as an undergraduate, she didn’t take school as seriously as she should have. While working full-time as a janitor, Fanning pursued graduate school with the intention of networking.
His strategy paid off: One of his classmates took him on an internship, which eventually led to a job where he could apply what he learned in college.
“I’m the type of person who tries not to go too far with things,” Fanning said of her tenure as janitor, which lasted less than two years. “You know, when I really thought about it, I probably wasn’t very happy. I mean, I was working midnights and there were a lot of reasons to be unhappy. Still, Fanning says, the job paid well and allowed her to continue her education and meet more people, which was crucial “to get a real job, unquote”.
“I mean, they’re all real jobs, right?” Fanning said. “But something that aligns with my interests.”
Fanning took out about $35,000 in student loans to put herself through college and set herself the goal of paying off the loans by the time she turned 30. He was able to pay off his loans the year he turned 30.
Fanning said she is happy for those whose student loans will be forgiven under President Biden’s recently unveiled plan to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loans for people making less than $125,000 a year.
“Government subsidizes a lot of things, right? Like we subsidize wars, we subsidize beef… we subsidize everything, every industry,” Fanning said. “But for some reason, there’s obviously some programs in terms of education, but I think they’re pretty lacking.”
If we don’t help the younger generations, Fanning said, “I think we’re setting ourselves up for failure in the future.”
Years ago, Fanning felt she needed to go to college to get a good job. But today, he said, you don’t necessarily need to go to college to be successful in some industries, such as technology, where alternative paths can include boot camps and other types of training.
But Fanning doesn’t regret her decision to take out student loans to attend college, nor does she regret working as a janitor.
“Looking back, I’m glad I did it,” Fanning said of her first job out of college. “At the time, I was probably less grateful, but still aware that I was doing better than a lot of people.”