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A College Degree Does Not Guarantee a Job

by Ryan Guina

Wow. I know the economy is difficult right now, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to read about an alumna suing her college because she can’t find a job. But I am surprised to read about this. Obviously she didn’t put too much thought into the long term ramifications of her lawsuit.

If I were a hiring manager, the first thing I would do after glancing at the resume is run a quick Google search on a potential employee. If the first page of search results listed nothing but a news result about a baseless lawsuit against his/her former school, I would drop the resume in the shredder and never respond. If you are willing to sue a school, you would be willing to sue an employer. And that is an issue most companies are not willing to take – especially for someone who isn’t bringing any special skills to the table.

Why is she suing? Trina Thompson graduated from New York’s Monroe College in April with a bachelor of business administration degree in information technology and is suing her college for $72,000, which covers the full cost of her education, plus $2,000 to cover the stress of her 3 month job search. Why? Because she believes (in her words) the “Office of Career Advancement did not help me with a full-time job placement. I am also suing them because of the stress I have been going through.”

Her chief complaint is that her college hasn’t done enough to help her with job placement. Again, in her words, “They’re supposed to say, ‘I got this student, her attendance is good, her GPA is all right — can you interview this person?’ They’re not doing that,” she said.

By the way, her GPA was a robust 2.7, which should have most employers knocking down doors.

What does the college say? Monroe College released a statement saying that “while it is clear that no college, especially in this economy, can guarantee employment, Monroe College remains committed to working with all its students, including Ms. Thompson, who graduated only three months ago, to prepare them for careers and to support them during their job search.”

My thoughts? I don’t have all the facts, but I am siding with the college on this one. To expect a job simply because you have a degree is naive. To expect a multitude of job offers in a difficult economy, when people with years of experience have been unemployed longer than you have had a degree, is grossly naive. To sue someone because you haven’t been able to find the job you desire shows a sense of entitlement that is disturbing. No one owes you anything. You need to work for it. Simply having “good attendance and an all right GPA” is not enough. You need to bring real skills to the table. You need to show how your skills and experience separate you from the other 100 job applicants, some of whom have decades of practical experience – not just an all right GPA.

A college degree does not guarantee a job. Once upon a time it may have. But not today. Not in our economy.

Source article: Jason Kessler, CNN.


Published or updated August 7, 2009.
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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ChristianPF

yea that seems a little far-fetched to me – which leads me to warn you Ryan – when she does Google her name and this article shows up – you don’t want to be next! ;)

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2 Craig

Forget college degree, even masters degree means very little these days. It’s all about who you know, networking and getting your name out there is the best way to make connections and learn about job opportunities.

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3 Ryan

Very true. It’s more about making opportunity than having opportunity come your way.

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4 Ron@TheWisdomJournal

I agree with Craig. A lot of people get along quite nicely without a degree. I have several friends who are making mid 6 figures in sales and never darkened the doors of a college. Conversely, I know many with a degree that are slaving away at menial jobs. It’s all in what you do with it, and all in how you handle yourself. I finished my MBA a few years back and I can honestly say it did nothing for me professionally (yet?), though I’m still glad to have gotten it.

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5 Ryan

Good point, Ron. That’s why I changed my goals and no longer feel like I need an MBA.

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6 Curious Cat Investing Blog

Yes, this case has no merit. You can help your self by majoring in fields that pay well, and going to a good school, and studying and learning, and having relevant employment experience, etc.. As I wrote today: Another Survey Shows Engineering Degree Results in the Highest Pay.

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7 Meg

Obviously she’s an idiot – not to mention the horrible epitome of the self-obsessed entitlment mentality plaguing our cultire.

You went to a school no one’s ever heard of. You made BAD grades (which is almost impossible to do at US colleges nowadays what with remedial courses, rampant cheating and grade inflation). You graduated only THREE months ago. Oh, and your graduation happened to coincide with one of the worst recessions our country has had in decades.

And you think the reason you don’t have a job is because your school isn’t helping you? This despite the fact that the school never promised to help you find a job so it’s not like they’re in breach of contract or anything else you could sue for.

But good strategy painting yourself as a low-achieving, non-ambitious whiner to all of America through the media. I’m sure employers will be lining up straight away.

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8 Stacy

This is totally ridiculous and makes me a little bit ashamed to be part of this generation.

I am happy with the job that I have gotten with the help of my degree. But I have also had the help of job experience, hard work, applicable skills, resourcefulness and luck. Maybe girl should have looked into some of those things before deciding to sue.

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9 DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad

Unbelievable! This is another example of what this country is coming to . . . disgraceful!

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10 Jane

I find this story interesting, but keep wondering if there’s not more to it. It just seems like if the facts are as simple as the media has been making them out to be, no reasonable lawyer would have taken the case and/or a judge would have thrown it out. I’d be interested to find out what legal issues are involved.

That said, the girl sounds like a bit of a dullard, and I’m surprised that her lawyer isn’t telling her to keep quiet. Maybe she’s hoping for a book/movie deal to go along with her 15 minutes of fame.

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11 Ryan

Jane, She did not hire an attorney because she says she cannot afford one. A quote from the article:

Thompson says she has not hired an attorney to represent her because she cannot afford one. When she filed her complaint, she also filed a “poor person order,” which exempts her from filing fees associated with the lawsuit.

I’m not sure an attorney would touch this case. Most colleges offer job search assistance, but I have never heard of one guaranteeing a job (outside of the military academies and similar institutions).

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12 My Journey

As an attorney, while reading this post…all I could think is what lawyer would take this case on a contingency fee?

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13 Dan

I think this girl is smarter than we think – she’s simply riding the wave of current national politics:

According to our government, we have a right to own a home, a right to health care – so why not a right to a job? Her only problem is that she’s complaining to the wrong people. Don’t sue the school; take it up with the federal government. It’s the government’s responsibility to provide a job for each and every one of us should we need it. It’s the individual’s responsibility to sit back and wait for it.

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14 My Journey

Dan,

Didn’t I vote for change? Doesn’t change equal a job for me, regardless of my GPA, or Degree? Doesn’t change equal a job even though I can barely get my name out on an interview? Doesn’t change mean that I can show up to a job interview in shorts and call my interviewer “dude”?

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15 Dan

Journey,

Of course it does.

Dan

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16 Four Pillars

Hmmm…I wonder if she mentions her attendance on her resume.

ie “Achieve 94% in attendance”. :)

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17 Ryan

Wasn’t it “good attendance.” what qualifies as good? If good is average, and 70% is average, then maybe she missed 30% of her classes. That could account for the “all right” GPA. ;-)

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18 Roger

-“By the way, her GPA was a robust 2.7, which should have most employers knocking down doors.”-

This is my favorite part of the article.

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19 Magnus

i don’t think a university should exist if all they do is churn out unemployable, over educated people. I think it is the responsibility of schools that offer a product like a degree to also provide a disclaimer that the degree is worthless without experience. I was lucky to be chosen to do 3 internships (some mutiyear), busted my ass in student jobs for most of my college career, and did a graduate assistantship during grad school. However, since graduating I have yet to find any job besides working in retail, which I only do begrudgingly. I spent about 7+ years total getting my education and I think with my hard work, nearly perfect attendance, good GPA (3.50 undergrad, 3.79 grad) and experience that I deserve an equal chance of employment to these unseen, unemployed masses. I am still waiting to see soup lines, but I think it is all fake in order to keep people depressed and out of the job market, i.e. controlled. I did learn two things in college: 1. schools are in the business of selling snake oil and dreams, and that they are experts at suckering people out of their savings and future earnings, 2. the united states rewards athletes, politicians, pushy salesmen, drugged out movie stars, and somehow discounts the worth of intellectuals, which in many ways is counterproductive to our civilization’s survival

Magnus

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20 Sean

I graduated with a finance degree in May of 06, but I am still waiting because I am under qualified for degreed jobs due to lack of experience, or over qualified for entry level jobs because I have a degree. Now I am living with family because I am unable to support myself due to student loans, and I feel like my time, money, and effort spent in college was a waste of time. While I don’t believe she should sue the school, I do believe that if schools are selling their degrees based on implying success of their graduates, then they should be held accountable for the success (or lack of) of the students. For instance, they should be required to make public the percentage of students who are underemployed, unemployed, etc.

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21 Sean

Oops!! I meant I am still waiting tables.

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22 Magnus

Sean, you make a good point. I would venture to guess that the majority of graduates in most degrees are either underemployed or not employed in their field. Sure, the myriad of choices of degrees are great, but they could stand to have fewer, such as practical business, paralegal/law, law enforcement, computers, teaching, and engineering. Those are all well-paid careers with many employment opportunities. Also, since there are tons of jobs in retail then have another department that specializes in short courses in retail sales or restaurants: cooking, management, customer service, and maintenance. The rest of the degrees are mostly esoteric, or they require that you buddy up to an influential/active professor that can get you an internship while you are in school. Otherwise you have to make do in retail or restaurants with low wages and hope that someone takes you seriously in the job market with your degree and the fact that most of your experience is in retail rather than that subject. Being in school does expose you to what academic jobs are like in your field, but those are mostly few, low paying and dull. I also found that most of my professors were completely cut off from the actual non-academic job market, except for the tiny, well-protected niche that they had carved out for themselves.
The whole affair is frustrating in retrospect. I blame myself alone for doing honest work, seeking an improved, honest profession, and wanting a better life. I think it all links back to the adage that my parents often repeated in our house: “You need to go to college if you want a good job.” In their day people with degrees were rare and formed the elite in society, but today the market is flooded with degreed people and few actual jobs for them. I think the job market is geared toward internal promotion of the educated/skilled jobs and a large labor force of unskilled workers.

Honestly, my goal is to be debt free, self employed, and self sufficient. I can put up with a little abuse in the job market, but that will always be my goal: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. This is better than unemployed or working a crap job and being bitter and frustrated. It is also ideal to be in control of your life and not hand that control over to an abusive employer or government official. In the end, my education and mental freedom are things no one can take away from me.

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23 Magnus

as to the subject of this blog entry, I would guess that a class action suit involving millions of dissatisfied customers (students) and thousands of educational institutions concerning false advertising and misleading statistics would make most schools liable and ultimately look like idiots.

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24 ers

Sadly this news item is pointing to deeper economic and educational crisis in this country indicating that our whole process of education, training and employment as well as suicidal trade laws are long overdue for an overhaul.
Example: I took a six month course at a computer school in Calif. that the state government had paid 9k$ for each student laid off from aerospace or other jobs. (regular cost 15k$). The requirement was that the school had to re-employ graduates at good paying jobs and get them back into the working economy. Sadly the school did not achieve the min. limit of graduates re-employed at good jobs after they graduated. The state pulled funding and th e school went bankrupt.

There are many reasons you could find for the failure, but you have to acknowledge that all the groups of people required to work together; government, labor, management, business owners do not work together in this country. Whereas countries like Japan all of them work together, and even have 10 yr plans to take over world markets. They have already done so with cameras, electronics, consumer items and almost the car market.

In the USA corporations will not even take on an R&D product to design, develope and market and distribute unless they can make a profit in 6 months (US corps. more controlled by the stock market and taxes rather than long term innovation.)
WHAT IT PROVES IS WE HAVE TO CHANGE HOW WE DO EVERYTHING IN THIS COUNTRY OR OUR ECONOMY WILL DIE. Countries like Japan and China know this, but we do not have a clue… REMEMBER THE BIGGEST CAUSUALTY IN THIS ECONOMIC WAR IS THE MIDDLE CLASS, IF WE DO NOT LEARN TO CHANGE AND PUT EACH AMERICAN’S BEST INTEREST FIRST OUR ECONOMY WILL COLLAPSE. I GUARANTEE YOU NO AMERICAN WANTS TO LIVE IN A RUSSIAN STYLE OLICHARCHY BUT THIS IS WHERE WE ARE HEADED. FIRST REPEAL NAFTA AND GET US OUT OF THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION AND ELIMINATE ALL SUICIDAL TRADE POLICIES. WE ARE IN AN ECONOMIC WAR.

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25 Jamie

Good for her. At least she might bring some awarness to the problems of higher education, which there are many.

So if her grades were 4.0 would that change some of you people from snickering? I doubt it.

Self-obsessed entitlment for her may or may not have anything to do with but its nice to see you decided to make that assumption (another mentality that plagues our culture).

I’m in a similar situation to her, yrs of school and can’t get a job even though my grades are much better than 2.6, and I went into specialized field that is supposedly hurting for employees even in the recession.

In my situation eventhough there was no guarantee I feel like I was sold snake oil I’m not asking for my money back, but if they can’t even help me and others that have graduated why should they continue to be allowed to provide false hope to prospective students who could quite possibly be worse off then me by the time they graduate?

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26 Karma

I am also in a similar situation. Graduated with double major undergraduate degrees, 3.43 GPA, participated in internships, plus I quit a very good job 3 years ago to get ‘experience’ in the field. College degrees are no better than the paper they are written on. I made triple the annual salary in a field without a college degree. Sadly, I will be going back to that field. To stop any doubt, I am attractive, well groomed, well mannered, and have excellent work ethics and attendance. My college professors rave about my abilities and have given recommendations. I am not goving up yet, but I am very disappointed.
My advice is that unless you are specializing (i.e., nursing, doctor, etc.) in a degree program it makes no sense to finance a college degree. However, if you are getting a free ride through scholarships or grants then it will be a great experience.
One last piece of advise, unless unemployeed do not go to college past the age of 35 because that adds to the difficulty of getting a good job.

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27 Mark

First off… College for the most part has become a financial racket. I have a BS in Info Tech., but to be honest the campuses I went to both at real locations and online were extremely disappointing. Employers realize this and considering the economy we are in they are being forced to look through higher numbers of applicants and what college grads are learning are that those with experience (especially with college backgrounds) trump those fresh out of school. When you have to streamline your operations, you can’t afford to have both those in the know and those fresh out of school which require on-the-job training. I don’t care what university you attended, this is going to be the case. The ones at the top of the list especially are those with a combination of college, experience, and military background. These are proven individuals that have been tested and generally are of great value to employers. That’s the reality, and personally, I think the lawsuit does hold merit. Many of you are being ripped off. If you look at every aspect of hold higher learning institutions are being run, you’d be a fool not to conclude they are squeezing every penny from students, their families, the government, that they can. There is no reason college should cost what it does, especially considering how unprepared it leaves most grads to be able to walk into a job and go to work without further training by the employer.

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28 Loretto

If college doesn’t get you a job, then what is college for? Why do you get BAs and MBAs that you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for, if ultimately it does nothing for you? Why in the world would you even waste four years of your life, on top of the money you pay, going there? With all due respect that is the stupidest comment that I have ever heard “College does not guarantee you a job” what does it guarantee you then! “To better yourself” ? ok fair enough, but you know what ,NO! In this planet MONEY is essential, and if you don’t have it, you cannot live and you cannot better yourself, period, that’s the way it is. You need a job to get money, WORKING is a necessity to survive, do you realize that? And when you pay $80,000 for a college degree, it should work for you!!!!! there is no excuse, experience, what experience?!!! I could do your job with the tip of my finger that’s how easy your job is for me, because that is what college taught me very well, it taught me how to be a WORKER, and be mentally agile, you’re saying you didn’t have to go to college to get six figures bbla bla bla babble babble say whatever you want, I embody my college degree, and I could do what it took you to do your whole life in the matter of SECONDS if it wasn’t for the employers WHO LIKE CHEAP LABOR…guess what NO I DO NOT WORK FOR FREE!!!!!!

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29 Matt

The article echoes my own sentiment on the subject matter. I really don’t blame the person in question for sueing. What is college suppose to guarantee? I’ve been out of college for two years with loan debt and no job prospects still. It is basically a catch 22 argument. I’m overqualified to work some jobs because I have a degree. Or, I don’t have the necessary experience to perform another type of job. How do you acquire that experience if you aren’t given a chance? If the career services department at a university isn’t helping a student, what is the point?

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30 observant

The people who are scoffing at this girl for suing are no better than the employers who refuse to give college degree holding individuals a chance. I graduate from Hunter College with a degree in English and a 2.5 GPA. Yes, it could have been better but with my parents dying while I was in college, it affected me deeply. I went for my masters, hoping it would make a difference and I have yet to receive a job offer.

What’s the point in obtaining a college degree then? If education means nothing, then why the hell do we have universities/graduate schools then? There’s people out there with degrees and experience and yet can’t find work.

I always though college was to prepare you for entry-level work. How the hell you’re going to gain experience when you’re not given a chance?

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31 Dan

Observant: Perhaps the reason you’re having trouble finding work in an English related field is because your written English skills are atrocious.

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