The Endth Degree

By Bill Maher

Is going to college still even worth it? College grads are coming out with degrees, yes – and herpes – but also with student loan debt totaling $60,000, $80,000, $100,00. These kids haven’t even gotten started in their careers and they’re already saddled with what’s tantamount to a full mortgage. In this sucky economy, graduates find themselves back in their old bedrooms at their parents’ homes, taking jobs in the service industry that they could have gotten without a college degree.

The cost of higher education in the US has soared in recent decades while median incomes have stagnated. The California State University schools raised their tuitions for the second time in less than a year, making this year’s tuition over 23% higher than the previous fall’s. And those are just the most recent increases. Attending a Cal State school now costs twice what it cost just back in 2007. And that’s not even counting the price of weed.

The old canard is that people with bachelor’s degrees make twice as much as high school graduates over their careers. But average starting salaries for college graduates just fell 10% and, if you take into account the higher income taxes paid by college grads and the four to six years they spend out of the job market getting their degrees, is that $60,000 to $100,000 in college loan debt really worth it?

And is the degree really worth it? A new comprehensive study of college grading over the decades finds that just about everybody who pays their tuition bills is deemed exceptional. 43% of letter grades awarded today are A’s as compared to just 15% back in 1960. By 2008, A’s and B’s represented 73% of all grades awarded at public colleges and 86% of all grades awarded at private colleges. It’s Lake Wobegon, “Where all the children are above average.” And that’s in spite of studies that show college students spend far less time studying today than they did decades ago.

If everybody is a genius, aren’t you paying $100,000 to $150,000 just to get your ticket stamped? You’re not buying an education so much as you’re buying a degree with a commendable GPA. Has the college degree with a B average become just a consumer product you can buy with a $100,000 loan? Wouldn’t a bright, industrious kid be better off in this economy to just jump into the job market and try to excel through merit?