Education: When Business and Education Collide — The Good, Bad, and the Ugly

Recent grads entering the workforce have gotten accustomed to hearing bad news about their prospects with increasing frequency. The rising costs of higher education means graduates pay for college much longer than four years. Young adults are more dependent on their parents than ever before. Specific job skills being taught now might not be applicable for the next generation of workers. And the list goes on and on....

So what to do? Alma maters are increasingly lending a helping hand, with more and more colleges and universities hiring career advisers specifically for alumni. The most valuable services: reintroducing alumni to their school network and helping them build their contacts. Next in line to extend the generosity should be the institutions that partnered with private lenders to "help" students and wound up making them even more desperate for a well-paying job.

High schools in several states are also stepping up their career prep, this time by requiring students to "major" in a career field. On the plus side, it jump-starts students' consideration of their futures and motivates them overall in their schoolwork. But on the minus side, not many ninth-graders know what they want to do tomorrow, let alone in eight years. Of course, exploring legal studies in high school doesn't mean you're on a fast track to becoming the next Johnnie Cochran. It means nothing, actually, about your eventual career path — which is why, from a career prep standpoint, the requirement isn't that beneficial. The annual career fair will do.

Then there's the ever-looming problem of being able to shell out the cash once you actually have figured out your career path. Loans once held the promise of lifting undue financial burden off the shoulders of people with ample determination but limited funds for college. But private lenders squandered that promise with abysmally high interest rates and got rich in the process. This prompted Congress to reduce subsidies to lenders in attempts to reform the educational loan process. Now the business of college finance looks a lot less enticing, as indicated by the failed Sallie Mae acquisition. Whether or not this upheaval will benefit students and graduates in debt is another story. There will probably always be a fresh supply of i-bankers and consultants who aren't interested in their chosen careers nearly as much as paying off those loans.

So, as education and business go increasingly hand in hand, I'm left with two questions. How much influence does your field of study have on your actual career? And will the increasing debt incurred from financing higher education cancel out college's benefits one day?

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