In this economy, “education is basically worthless”*

stack of books

Books have never seemed so useless. (I was a comparative literature major, natch).

In what should be one of the most depressing articles of joblessness to date (a far cry from last year’s perky portrayal of blond twins performing on subways while pursuing the American Dream in New York), the NYT profiles a woman known as a “99er”: a poor soul who has exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits without any luck in finding a new job. And before Republicans Ben Stein anyone starts claiming that it’s her own lazy fault, take note: almost 1.4 million people were out of work for 99 weeks or more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I really hope the Times at least took her out to dinner during the interviews, because, damn, her life seems to be one week short of turning tricks on the street. Let’s recap:

  • Facing eviction from her Tennessee apartment after several months of unpaid rent, Alexandra Jarrin packed up whatever she could fit into her two-door coupe recently and drove out of town.
  • Her two checking accounts now show negative balances (she has overdrafts on both). Her cellphone has been ringing incessantly with calls from the financing company for her car loan. Her vehicle is on the verge of being repossessed.
  • Lining the shelves underneath the television are her food supplies: rice and noodles that Ms. Jarrin mixes with water in the motel’s ice bucket and heats up in a microwave; peanut butter and jelly; a loaf of white bread.
  • She has been struggling with new obstacles, like what to do when an address is required in online applications. She is worried about what will happen when her cellphone is finally cut off, because then any calls to the number she sent out with her résumés will disappear into a netherworld.

The lesson to be learned? Don’t waste your money on schooling.

It is a sickening plummet, considering that she was earning $56,000 a year in her old job, enjoyed vacationing in places like Mexico and the Caribbean, and had started business school in 2008 at Iona College.Ms. Jarrin had scrabbled for her foothold in the middle class. She graduated from college late in life, in 2003, attending classes while working full time. She used to believe that education would be her ticket to prosperity, but is now bitter about what it has gotten her.

“I owe $92,000 for an education which is basically worthless,” she said.

So…who’s excited about those college applications, eh? Dust off those old books everybody! They’ll be great for burning when you can no longer afford to pay for heat.

*To be less funny and fair, most of the 99ers are those who only have a high school diploma which seems to counteract the hilarious conclusion of the piece, but suffice it to say: it’s probably not the best time to invest in an education that will most likely leave you drowning in debt. And if anything, this just shows that the unemployed are in a Catch-22: those with higher educations are more likely to keep their jobs yet have ginormous loans to pay back (with or without a steady paycheck) and those who saved their money by skipping out on college degrees are more likely to get laid off.

Thanks, economy! You’re screwed no matter how you look at it. Kids, better starting hoarding cups ‘o noodles like NOW.

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10 thoughts on “In this economy, “education is basically worthless”*

  1. Pingback: Unemployed men are one apron string away from becoming real housewives « Ivy Leagued and Unemployed

  2. i know..i almost feel like diplomas should be handed out for free now. going to grad school feels like such a high-risk gamble these days! (or so i tell my parents…)

  3. College debt sets up graduates for economic enslavement! MY $100k degree has so far earned me $0 in payoff. Yes, we need to change our economic crisis, but I think we really need to change the education system! not only was my degree expensive and worthless for getting a job, I’m not quite sure that they taught me anything important either!

  4. There are a lot of Gen Y casualties crashing onto the rocks of life that bought the media’s motto “Just do what you love, and life conspires to support you” hook-line-&-sinker.

    If what you love is not USEFUL to other people then why did you ever expect to easily find work doing that? I have a friend who has two degrees in cinema history and is amazed that nobody will pay him to watch movies all day. I remember internally questioning virtually all of my friends’ degree selections as a young adult. All of these people openly admitted at the time that they didn’t know what they would/could do with the degree. It would all “just work out” in the end. It can be a tough ‘welcome’ to the real world for some.

  5. “There are a lot of Gen Y casualties crashing onto the rocks of life that bought the media’s motto “Just do what you love, and life conspires to support you” hook-line-&-sinker.”

    Well, that actually did work out just fine for the Boomers and Xers because back then companies would train their entry level employees. Now companies can expect the future employees to pay for their own training AND still get entry level wages.

    Career centers used to just keep lists out for students to sign their names on to get interviews on campus. Good luck getting anything like that kind of help nowadays.

  6. Pingback: Avoid these schools unless you have at least $400 million in the bank « Ivy Leagued and Unemployed

  7. I graduated with a worthless degree and 1987 and have not been able to keep my head above water. I am now unemployed and cannot even get interviews,while I am told I’m worthless with an worthless degree. I am so grad Jeff has all the answers, however there are people out there with the rights degrees Jeff is referring to who have been out of work for over two years.

  8. Education isn’t worthless, but one need not spend $92,000 to get it. If Miss Jarrin had earned an RN in two years, she’d have people fighting over her. She bought a new car just before she lost her job and has managed to hang onto it all these years. She has been in a motel for over six months and is always one day away from being homeless. If you talk to her family, you’ll find there is much more to the story.

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