To give you the basic background, this story tells us that the number of students taking the GRE has dropped this year, and there's all sorts of concerns about this. Dean Dad and many of his commenters take the position that this is GOOD news because it means that fewer students are getting led down the garden path of academia only to find themselves un- or underemployed in the long run.
The way I see it, there are two separate sides to this whole issue involving getting advanced degrees and getting paid. There is the master's and other comparable degrees side, and the PhD, PsyD, JD, and other comparable degrees side.
Based on my experience in the "real world" of work, a master's degree is generally a good investment, the all-too-common and too-easy-to-get MBA not included. A Bachelor's degree generally isn't enough to get you a job - a master's puts you in a much better position. A PhD, (in my humble opinion) is fucking useless unless you want to go into academia. If you want to work in the private sector, a master's is generally more than good enough. (Flame away, dissenters.) And I don't care what field we're talking about.
Let's make a comparison, shall we? A psychology major, fresh out of undergrad, who wants to work with people has a few options available to them - the PhD or PsyD in Clinical or Counseling psych, a master's in Social Work (MSW), or a master's in counseling. All 3 of those degrees qualify them to take the state licensure exam that allows them to counsel the community. If you could complete a degree in 2-3 years and have the same end result, why the hell wouldn't you take it? Granted, the pay is slightly higher for a licensed psychologist (PhD or PsyD only), but it's not enough to justify the additional 2-3 years of grad school plus a 1 year internship.
Now Clinical is not my area. But I considered it at one point as a specialty still with academia in mind. Clinical psych is THE MOST competitive area for grad school admissions. Why? Because it's the default option. It's for the people who major in psych because they want to "help people" and that's as far as they've thought about it. There are a lot of well-qualified applicants for clinical programs who really understand what they're applying for and what they'll be doing who get booted out by applicants who don't have a fucking clue, and they just know they want to be called "Dr." someday. These are the same people who think that a PsyD is "less than" a PhD.
And that is where the distinction is made between the two degrees - it even says it on the program websites - the PhD in clinical is for students who want to pursue academia, the PsyD is for students who want to "help people."
Okay I've gone a little off-topic. Back to the issue.
I WANT the number of applicants to grad programs to drop. I WANT more men to pursue doctoral degrees in psych because women are the vast majority in this field and I hate that, because I'd rather be a token than a stereotype. (I know, I know......)
There was a time, in my lifetime, that a HS diploma was enough to get you a decent-paying job that would allow you to care for a family. This was back when we had a "middle class." People with undergrad degrees went to work in suits, made really good money, and were looked up to. There was a push for everyone to go to college, and suddenly you became worthless if you didn't have a 4yr degree. The undergrad degree has become the new HS diploma.
So now it's moved on up the ranks. Now the grad degree is looked to as the ultimate accomplishment, attainable by anyone and everyone. Don't believe me? Take a drive through New England and count the number of billboards advertising for MBA's available "in your free time" or all the online colleges charging premium tuition dollars for unaccredited programs. 5 minutes from my house is a college that offers an MBA in a saturday-only class format that gives you a degree in a year and a half. While I applaud the convenience, a flood of MBAs into the market doesn't help anyone - it just pushes the bar up higher. Supply and demand, folks.
We actually have TOO MANY lawyers in this country. And law school costs a FORTUNE. But still, shitloads of undergrads every year are applying to law school as their "default" option. What no one tells them is that even if they get in, unless they work their ASSES off to be in the top 2-5% of their class, they are not guaranteed a job anywhere.
Just to be clear, I am a huge fan of education, especially higher education. But sending a ton of people off to college where they will amass huge debts just to end up as a manager at Starbucks is not smart. This whole higher-education-for-profit shit is killing everyone, because they'll hand out advanced degrees to anyone who can pay the tuition or is willing to strap themselves with student loans. Those degrees used to be reserved for the most ambitious, most talented students who would go on to high-power positions where they could reap the rewards of their effort. Not so anymore. Do you know how hard it is to get a fucking scholarship or "real" financial aid these days??
And the aspect of the problem that really hurts academia? They're not hiring more professors. You'd think that with increased demand for education, there would be more tenure-track faculty positions available. But there aren't, because that would hurt the bottom line. Instead, they hire adjuncts and lecturers in the best cases, and don't hire anyone in the worst. This is why we have overcrowded classrooms, stressed-out profs, and why it's so fucking hard for an undergrad to find a mentor at a university. It's bullshit.
I WANT to work in academia. It's what I've always wanted. I WANT to be a scholar in my field. But if we keep going on this track we've been on, I'll need a PhD just to have the fucking job I have now.
We have been lessening the meaning of higher education while simultaneously widening the class gap. Because college is getting more expensive, we continue to tell underprivileged populations that the almighty degree is something they can't have, trading the ability to afford it for its worthlessness. I might be an idealist, but I want to see a bright, talented first-generation college student earning a degree on scholarship over a fucking overprivileged, c-average, prep school brat buying a piece of paper so they can go work for daddy's company.
The fucking GRE should be FREE. It cost me over $1,000 to apply to 9 grad programs this fall. The ETS charges $20 PER COPY of your official score reports to be sent to schools ELECTRONICALLY. I wonder how many lower-income, super intelligent students don't make it into advanced studies just because they can't afford to apply. Shit, I couldn't really afford to apply, I can't imagine how they could.
Wow, this turned into a rant. My bottom line points: Grad school needs to MEAN something again - intellectually, not financially. In order for that to happen, we need to stop giving away degrees based on who can pay for them. We need to do a better job at educating undergrads about their options after graduation instead of providing grad school as a default. I want to see the best and the brightest moving on to advanced degrees, regardless of their financial status. That's how it's supposed to be, goddammit.
And you know what I REALLY want to see?? Our K-12 teachers getting paid as much as full professors. Because they're the creators of the best and the brightest, not DNA and trust funds.