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More than 1M fewer students are in college, the lowest numbers in 50 years (npr.org)
716 points by Takizawamura 6 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 1127 comments





There are three problems that colleges need to fix.

1) Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs. My kids can make more money with a six month apprenticeship than they will with all but a few 4 year degrees. If you can drive a forklift, you can make $45K/yr... which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes.

2) There are better options than college for many. One of my daughters did a six month digital marketing bootcamp. She made $45k year one, and a year later is the director of marketing at her company making over $100k/yr.

3) College is way over priced. They claim graduates make 40% over their lifetime vs. non grads. JP Morgan Chase did a study two years ago that shows kids that had a job, any job before age 18 make 35% more than their peers over their lifetime regardless of degree.

4) Student loans are a horror that needs to stop. Young people should not be put in debt-bondage. Imagine America's financial health if we let young people start families and careers debt free.


Im very skeptical of this post:

1. Many trades also pay like crap and have a very limited window in which you can do it. In addition many are not welcoming to women at all, regardless even if you take the highest paying trades, do they pay more than the highest paying careers that require higher education?

2. Which boot camp? How many people ended up like your daughter? How much was it? Without these facts no comparison can be made.

3. Some colleges perhaps, smart people can get full scholarships and even without that community college plus a cheap state school isn’t expensive. Link to your study? Did these people not go to college?

4. As you’ve already demonstrated college is hardly required let alone loans.

I’m surprised this is the top post.

Average College grads make more money over their lifetime, period.

https://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2011/c...


The study you linked is over 10 years old. Furthermore, it is using lifetime earnings as the core metric, which means they are pulling in data about people who earned their degrees like 50 years ago.

All the data that currently exists shows better outcomes for students that go to college. One would expect this even if college had no benefit to students because the population of students that go to college is pre-selected. Before they attend, students that go to college, on average, demonstrate better analytic skills than the students that do not go to college. They also, on average, have access to more existing wealth and other resources through their family.

In the absence of perfect data (which is almost always the case in sociology), it is reasonable to look at case studies to try to make sense of reality. It is not bad practice. It is what Harvard Business School does. It's what product managers and UX designers do when creating products. It's what marketing teams do when selling products.

Feel free to disagree with the interpretation of anecdotal data, but statements should not be dismissed out-of-hand because no p-value accompanies them.


You acknowledge that the data is rather clear on this: education is well correlated with income: https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2020/data-on-display/educa...

And while I have sympathy for your story, it isn't much more than what you want to be true. As an example: even a rather stupid medical doctor will tend to earn a lot of money. So, assuming you are capable of getting the degree, it will likely pay well.

Another large group goes into teaching, where income is also set mostly by your degree and tenure, not individual skills.

None of that is definite. I'm just trying to show how you can spin a story either way. But refuting the data which is clear on this across time and many countries requires more than a good story.

The question why you'd want to believe that is rather natural, as are your emotions. The mythological welders with 6-digit incomes are a staple on HN, so it isn't really unusual. I guess it's part of a cluster of attitudes best described as anti-elitism.


Read this:

> "Before they attend, students that go to college, on average, demonstrate better analytic skills than the students that do not go to college. They also, on average, have access to more existing wealth and other resources through their family."

This is a classic example of the concept of "correlation does not equal causation". This is when two things are related, but one does not lead to the other.


Read this:

> "But refuting the data which is clear on this across time and many countries requires more than a good story."

We all know correlation does not equal causation because we went to college. Or have read a single thread here. But it's still empirical data and, as such, slightly better than motivated storytelling.


It's not slightly better if you are trying to determine causation. I'm not sure what you think "correlation does not equal causation" means if you think this is the case.


I'm not sure what story you think I'm trying to tell. My main point was that anecdotal data can be valuable when the empirical data doesn't tell the whole story.

I agree with your point about the doctor. It's a good point that uses storytelling which is the thing you seem to be against.

As for what I believe personally, I think college is still the right choice for most students who want to pursue a STEM field or study business. I went to college, studied a STEM field, and it worked out well.

You say that empirical data is always better than storytelling based on anecdotes. I disagree. Misleading empirical data can be actively harmful and worse than no data at all.

For example, if students assume from the existing correlations that college will automatically raise their income, regardless of their intended career, they might be left with no career prospects, crushing amounts of debt, seemingly no hope of ever owning a home, seemingly no hope to ever support a family, etc. It's very depressing and what many of my peers are facing now.


That is why it may be better to evaluate the statement "college improve your lot using median outcomes" using outcomes for college graduates that do not come from wealth and that are not skilled enough to get into top-tier universities on merit (use median to avoid outlier sub-groups skewing the average).

Basically, if you do not already have a force multiplier is the reward of college worth the huge loan that can't be dismissed in bankruptcy?


There are studies that already do this and show that regardless of your socioeconomic background you college improves lifetime earnings. Check out my post history for the link.

I disagree, the overemphasis of anecdotes is why so much misinformation is running rampant these days.

Nothing is wrong with going to trade school or boot camp or whatever, or even just being a laborer.


Show me the study that shows that people in this thread are taking it personally. Or did you just rely on anecdotes to determine that?

There are a lot of things wrong with doing manual work:

Pay sucks dick.

Unless you bust ass and work overtime/meet management's obscene expectations (you won't unless you're on meth), your pay is going to suck.

If you want a more relaxed environment (residential stuff, "small," few employees, lifestyle biz) your pay is going to be even lower.

Commercial pays better, but it's more soul-sucking and kills your body quicker.

If you're not in a skilled trade (big 3: plumber/pipefitter, electrician, or HVAC; physical IT/wire-pulling) it's even worse.

If you don't have a family/friend connection, good luck breaking in to anything worth anything (that includes a union. If you're non-union, you're basically screwed, unless you're high-skilled/massive amount of certs and can negotiate for yourself).

LUNA (or whatever the labor union goes by nowadays) is pretty decent if you've got a lot of problems in your life, but can come to work sober (and on time), do the work without bitching, and be productive. All the other unions worth anything are, once again, almost impossible to get into (unless you wait years, have a connection, or have a track record). Everyone wants to be an electrician (so much so, that even non-union shops aren't accepting any "apprentices,"---cheap labor---that don't already have experience; this is no different from the unions).

If you get in, it's a golden meal ticket for the uneducated; but pay caps out quickly (and any white collar professional with a shred of ambition will surpass you in pay in their 30s).

Hours are uncertain.

You can sometimes be working 2 hours a day, and sometimes 12. Overtime is cool, but it doesn't beat getting home and having a few hours to do anything at all, instead of passing out on the couch and waking up at 5am to go back to work.

Past that, any other jobs that pay better (tow truck operator, lineman, etc.) have even worse/more dangerous conditions. Your body will start hurting in your twenties, and you'll feel like you're 60. This won't go away unless you stop doing any physical labor for a while, but if you do that, you won't make money, nor gain "hours" (for those sweet union pay bumps after you pass a certain amount of hours -- regardless if you're the most efficient and most experienced apprentice, you'll still be getting paid the same as the bumfuck nephew of the owner who's only there because family takes care of family).

If you're a citizen of the U.S., there's no real reason to do manual labor, unless you really don't care that much about money or starting a family (most people in manual labor). For illegal immigrants, the pay is fucking amazing compared to what they get paid back home. They can work for a few seasons, save up their cash, then go back home where American dollars let you live like royalty.

I work in tech now. I get paid more than 2,000x what I did being a tradesmen, my body feels amazing now, I can fuck around all day doing whatever I want because I'm remote, and---in comparison---I barely do any work. These are my anecdotes.


Another reason why unions are cancer. Why should some suit get to tell me if I can work in a trade?

Question is: did you go to college?

Went. Dropped out for a variety of reasons. Never went back. Don't have a degree.

Definitely made finding a job as a SWE difficult. Pretty hard to break in. I got lucky.

I never had any connections/family worth anything, so I learned how to sell/market myself, and I talked my way into all of my early jobs.

Pretty straightforward once you figure out the process. Took a long time of eating shit to get there though.

I'm also lucky that I was adopted into an upper middle class family, and went to good schools, and interacted with children from successful families.

Even if those relationships have done zero for my career prospects, being surrounded by those sorts of people rubs off on you. If I grew up in a working class area, around working class people, my sense of values and my perspective on the world and so on would be a lot narrower, and less likely to lead to great financial success.

Some people never had a chance. The communities they're born into, and the people that imprint onto them, can snuff out any hope of moving up and out.


Re 1, at least in the US, it's very dependent on market and path.

I have two family members who have been pipefitters for 20 years. Both make more than I do as a software engineer. Another is a doctor, and makes more than they do. But another does boat repair, and makes more than the doctor.

If the last decade is any indication, skilled labor - especially those not afraid to own their own business, are set to make a killing. It's nearly impossible to even get people to come out for normal household jobs anymore - they're all way too busy with more lucrative clients.


I'm sure there are some pipefitters who make a lot of money, but we should go by averages, not outliers.

The average for "Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters" is $56,330 per year, according to the BLS. For "Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers" it's $110,140 per year. For "Physicians and Surgeons," it's $208,000 per year.

We also need to consider that running your own business is a lot of work, and doing physical labor can be hard on the body. One of the benefits of office jobs is that you get high pay, stable hours, relatively low stress and get to work in an air-conditioned room. So I would still prefer that over skilled trades even if the pay was the same.


> One of the benefits of office jobs is that you get high pay, stable hours, relatively low stress and get to work in an air-conditioned room. So I would still prefer that over skilled trades even if the pay was the same.

One of the downsides is your job can be easily outsourced to a country with lower wages, and with remote work here to stay (IMO), that is going to be even easier than before.

There are no remote plumbers.

I firmly believe that if you show up on time, are pleasant, and are competent at your work, running your own business is a slam dunk and you can charge whatever you want (within reason). Because my experience is that it's nearly impossible anymore to get all of those things.


> can be easily outsourced to a country with lower wages

There are shops that specialize in "re-shoring" projects after cheap offshored contractors end up spending the complete project's budget without shipping anything working.

Their salespeople would talk to potential clients, get the project's duration, then quote them a reasonable price for domestic developers, get laughed out of the room as the company decide to go with much cheaper "best cost countries". Then a few months before the end of the contract they would contact the same company again and most of the times (assuming the company was still alive, a lot of badly capitalized startups just shut down at this point after having wasted all their runway) end up re-doing the project.

But hey, this time, it’s going to be different!


Reminds me of when a plumber was installing an RO system in my house, was swearing for half an hour about the PEX, then forgot to shut-off the lines while a PEX fitting fell off and poured 200 gallons of water on my crappy fake wood shaw floor causing it to ripple. He then claimed it was my condos fault for using PEX in the first place. Holy crap you can't be more right.

I'm of the firm opinion that residential tradespeople are the Law of Lemons at this point. If they were better: they'd be doing commercial.

Consequently, if you find someone who doesn't do commercial, beware.

Exception: someone over the age of 55 who continues doing skilled work as a "pro-hobby."


I just want to emphasize your exception. Old tradespeople are the best! I have had nothing but good experiences with them. Young hotheads are everywhere in the trades and they can be so bad you have to call the police on them. Old guys who have survived for many years tend to be extremely knowledgeable and efficient in their work.

Related: Treat them better than you would a normal contractor. Because, honestly, they are probably doing you a favor. Which is to say, they could make more money doing another job with their skills, but are choosing to do yours.

Software has been outsourced since the 1990s and still wages continue to increase.

that will certainly never change.

It won't change until people learn how to write better requirements, which means it will probably never change.

Software development in practice is rarely about how to build a thing, but very much about what to build.

And I have yet to see an outsourced shop that's good at solving that problem. (Sadly)


yeah neither will the skill trade. make sure you go all in.

Do you think we are moving away from needing software any time soon?

One of the downsides is your job can be easily outsourced to a country with lower wages, and with remote work here to stay (IMO), that is going to be even easier than before

Only if PII isn't an issue. Which it still is for a large number of remote jobs. You have to do the work inside US borders because of liability or security issues for an incredibly large number of remote roles. If you don't believe me, just roll over to weworkremotely.com or any of the other remote job boards and check out how many current openings specify "USA only."


"easily outsourced" haha, not it cannot! This is also a skill on its own (to successfully manage an offshore team. And noone wants to do it frankly, too much work, too little appreciation.

Well plumbing has problems as well: cognitive requirements are not especially high so in theory many people can do it if they are trained. Many immigrants to the U.S probably consider it.

A big point is: (1) As an employee X, the employer knows how much X is making and will try to keep that down, while (2) a person X who owns their own business that happens to be a good business can just rake in the money with nearly no one else the wiser who can stop or slow X.

E.g., while I was growing up, a guy in the neighborhood was doing really well. He was in the peanut vending business, you remember, put in a coin, turn a crank, and get out some peanuts. So the customer, how do they know how much money the peanut vendor is making?


Software development is a team sport. It’s as much about having proper work cadence, communication, etc.

It’s really hard to outsource.


That doesn't stop management from trying, though.

If we can get AR/VR into the mainstream I bet there will be remote plumbers that essentially pilot you to diagnose and fix things.

Try pulling a broken cartridge out of a 20 year old shower faucet after the handle snaps off. I'll give you the pliers you need. You get one try and if you fail, you will now need the tools to remove tile or cut drywall, cut pipes, solder, etc.

Heh, so I installed a new faucet in our kitchen sink and thought I’d done a good job, I had hoses snaking all over the place and my wife was like “I can’t even use the pull-out sprayer because it won’t go back in once I pull it out.” So a few months later I call my plumber and ask if he can replace the valves under my kitchen sink because they’re old and the tolerances are outside my skill level for trying to saw them off and replace them. He comes out, spends an hour replacing the valves and then he’s like “oh yeah, I fixed all the hoses under the sink for no charge, the last guy did a horrible job, you can’t even use the sprayer!” I look under the sink and it’s like NASA came in and rerouted everything, tons of room, no crazy hoses hanging down, and the sprayer works!

I had plumbers out recently to replace a water heater.. after they left I went down to find out they had pushed the new one right up against the outlet the sump pump was using so I couldn't unplug that without moving the whole water heater. I'm not usually the one to complain that people don't take pride in their work but... it was a pretty visible and egregious error in a spacious and well conditioned utility room! Still haven't found anyone that goes above and beyond even for simple tasks.

Never mind 20 years old, I use a puller for much younger cartridges. Saves me needing the pull and pray method.

This is one of those things I believe to be more about feel.

That plumber has done this 1000 times and will make it look easy.

They can pass you tools, walk you through it, give you as much help as you can possibly receive, but you'll struggle a ton anyway. Or, as you say, break it.

Practice makes perfect. Sometimes it is still cheaper to get somebody who knows what they're doing. We can't yet remote that in.


Interesting idea, and maybe we already have a step toward remote piloting in the form of Youtube videos that explain how to do various tasks: plumbing, home improvement, auto repair, hvac, and so on.

Maybe for simple things. Have you ever tried to plaster a wall or ceiling? You can watch 100 videos of how its done, if you don't have the motor skills and muscle memories it's not so easy. And even 'simple' DIY might be doable for a sample of the population but there are also people who struggle with putting together flat pack furniture. Are they going to be brazing their plumbing after watching a youtube video?

Personally, I see society going in the opposite direction.

Back in the 1980s there were a lot more jobs in manufacturing, doing things like manual machining; and every driver had to have basic mechanic's skills because cars needed constant tinkering.

We've got many more youtube videos showing how to use a hacksaw - but far fewer people who use hacksaws on a daily basis.


I love all the downvotes for something that is definitely going to happen. YouTube how-to videos are just the beginning.

Just beginning... since 1979.

https://m.youtube.com/c/thisoldhouse


On-demand makes a huge difference. Most people aren't going to memorize how to fix everything that might go wrong. Youtube lets you search for how to fix something when it breaks.

Like a library?

Like a library with free video that's in your pocket and open 24/7. You don't think that makes a little bit of difference to the practicalities of what happens when e.g. your boiler stops working one evening?

Call me delicate, but until AR/VR is advanced enough to shield me from coming into contact with black- and grey-water, I'll stick to paying a pro.

Spoken like someone who is just itching to do their own dentistry.

The downvotes are warranted but being “piloted” over the internet is a really interesting idea. There was a similar idea in the Black Mirror Christmas special.

I guess all the tools in his pickup is not needed then?

They will be but that will be delivered to your home for rental.

At that point, you may as well just get a plumber delivered with the tools too.

Tools tend to be cheaper than trained humans.

In this scenario the trained human is being paid to operate a VR device. Instead of paying a human to send you tools and operate a VR device as you do the repair you might as well pay them to fix the thing.

I imagine that you can guide multiple people at the same time.

From another country, at scale.

Not affiliated but this AR tech seems promising:

https://carear.com/


I'm sure the local governments and their inspectors will have a bit of a say in that.

AR/VR does not make one experienced.


Diagnose and fix things with what? Most people don't own plumbing tools.

There's a lot of misleading information out there. On this site I once saw a carpenter say he was making more than he used to make as a $300k software developer. But I had some carpenters working for me and somehow I figured out they made around a tenth of that. In reality some of the outliers making a ton of money are wearing many hats as sales/marketing people, employing and managing subcontractors and employees, perhaps running their own website and SEO, and to truly get the gravy train running they nail some big sale where they sell some huge contract for an overpaying corporate client.

My dad has run a skylight installation business since 1979, and at least over the past 30 years, has kept a payroll of about 10 employees.

His business grosses about $2M per year, apparently after payroll and supplies he nets $500k. He was claiming something like $300k back when my mom stopped working in the late 90s.

For some odd reason, my folks have next to nothing to show for it, at least not to retire comfortably as he's about to turn 75. They dson't live extravagantly aside from going on a few nice vacations a year that might total $30k. The condo they rent is $3500 month. They mostly eat at home or family style restaurants. They have a couple used Audi A4s w/ lease/insurance/gas maybe $2k total per month. You'd break even making maybe $180k

Even being extraordinarily bad w/ money, there is no conceivable way my father makes more than half what he claims.


My purely anectodical experience with this is that when people that own these kinds of businesses say they make $500k a year they mean in their best year they made $500k. What they don't say is that for every year they made $500k they had 4-5 years where they were just barely scraping by. Construction is incredibly cyclical and there are a lot of lean years. I've also found a lot of them aren't great at managing the financial side of the business. A lot of the time they don't actually know how much they're making.

Maybe you don't know about his drug/gambling/hooker habit?

Possibly :)

I've asked repeatedly for access to financials and to get more insight into my parents' retirement accounts and have met resistance, which is frustrating as I may have financial burden for their care coming up soon.


Maybe your dad can sell the business one day and retire on that?

It's been discussed many times, he's had it appraised and it's not as much as one would think - high 6 figures at best. Would pay for ~5 years at their current spend rate. But yes, that will likely happen and with their retirement savings and social security they'd have to move to a LCOL area.

Basic point is, if my father had truly earned the income he claimed for decades against the lifestyle lived, they should have a retirement nipping at 8 figures; living out retirement in relative luxury and going on fantastic vacations on the regular. Instead they will have to economize and there may be a point where I have to kick in financial assistance.


You want to look at median numbers, not average numbers.

Also you want to look at real earnings, which take into account cost of credentials, tooling, ongoing education, things like that.

In particular, pipefitters make a significant amount more money than plumbers, so I'd gather that that number is skewed downwards.


> doing physical labor can be hard on the body.

otoh sedentary labor can be hard on the body

> One of the benefits of office jobs is that you get high pay,

you get high pay for a high paying job, and low pay for a low paying job. office or not is independent.

> stable hours,

maybe, but it again is down to the job itself, not just where you do it. the most stable hours i've ever gotten was working in a fab shop.

> relatively low stress

well, depending on the job. also, tge sedentary nature of the work in an office can be, besides hard on the body, a huge source of stress, and one that might be hard to identify until you've separated yourself from it.

> and get to work in an air-conditioned room.

thinking back to shitting in a portapotty at a quarter to six in the morning in winter-- i can't argue with this point!


> We also need to consider that running your own business is a lot of work, and doing physical labor can be hard on the body. One of the benefits of office jobs is that you get high pay, stable hours, relatively low stress and get to work in an air-conditioned room. So I would still prefer that over skilled trades even if the pay was the same.

On the flip side you stay in better shape, and therefore are healthier. When you work a physically demanding shop you exercise all day every day. With your typical office job, we’ll I have health issues from sitting too long.


I don't think that for this specific leaf of this thread that averages are what we're talking about actually. The immediate grandparent was referring (naively imo) to the differences between the highest possible reaches of academic financial performance. Otherwise I generally agree, except that my friend went from having zero prospects to being a pipefitter with a good enough salary to support a family of 2 and a house in a very short time. That's what seems most relevant. Who gives a shit about highest theoretical financial output.

> but we should go by averages, not outliers.

Or to be a little pedantic, by mean, not average. When Bill Gates walks into a dive bar the "average person" is temporarily is a billionaire.


Median?

That was my intent, but looking back on that post I really mangled the text when editing it. (Just look at that "is temporarily is".)

Well, too late to fix it now, I suppose it's a lesson on the perils of inadequate sleep and the risks of video-conference calls with people in wildly dissimilar timezones.


The average and the mean are the same thing.

Correct, "average" usually implies "arithmetic mean". I just accidentally the words before coffee enough sleep with meeting.

But I'm perfectly fine now, ossifer.


No worries, I know I could easily make the same mistake.

It's kind of a political meme that welding is the key to everyone getting a middle class lifestyle, because good welders get paid a good amount.

The joke ofc being that there is a 'shortage' of welders because it's actually very hard to become a good welder. If, somehow, we got a bunch of people to become really good welders, it would just go to being a low paid profession.


its very hard to be become a good welder and it usually takes about a decade to master that craft, so 10 years gone. Very similar to medical school except you are making money during that decade instead of paying it to schools and residency.

And you can fail to get a residency even after $300K to get through medical school.

The best people in any field make the most money in general, and it takes a lot of experience and work along with intelligence and natural ability to be among that group.

sounds just like programming ... I know! let's invent object oriented welding to lower the barriers to being able to make a weld that holds.

If you're welding without regard for the objects or their orientation you're probably going to have a bad time.

It probably won't be proper functional welding either.

How old are you and how old are they? If we’re talking anecdotes I guarantee I know people that make more than all the people you’ve mentioned combined and went to college. It doesn’t mean anything. Let’s talk medians here.

We're all within 7 or so years of age, except the boat repair who is considerably older.

This isn't a contest IMO, we all do more than OK. But it's definitely not fair to say that college pays more than trades. Both have huge swaths of pay ranges, from effectively zero, to millions. But if you're optimizing for making as much money as possible, I'd argue you're doing it wrong anyways.


The details matter - 7 years is medical school and some residencies for example.

To not take into account the age is silly. And the entire point of the original post is arguing about earnings, so…


Median income and age don't paint the whole picture, though, either -- you need to take into account things like student loan debt, or benefits, or even taxes (because it is not uncommon for trades, even for those personally pulling in 6+ figures, to be paid a good chunk of their compensation in cash that's not necessarily recorded anywhere).

Learning a trade and going to college for a white collar job are two different routes entirely, in my opinion. Even assuming that the skillsets were interchangeable, a lot of trades people would never trade their job for an office job and vice versa.


> taxes (because it is not uncommon for trades, even for those personally pulling in 6+ figures, to be paid a good chunk of their compensation in cash that's not necessarily recorded anywhere).

some good points, but I wanted to call this out specifically. when we're discussing at a high level what career paths should be encouraged, possibly via policy, I don't think we should price in the ability to evade taxes.


Oh, I completely agree we should pay our taxes– but this swings the other way too, for stocks/equities, which themselves under long-term capital gains can be taxed at much less than income (which a certain segment of US population would consider a form of legal tax evasion) or at a certain point borrowed against ad-infinitum without paying taxes, and the fact that tradespeople will often pay much more in sales tax than office workers. What is legal and what is not in terms of paying taxes _is itself_ a high level policy decision meant to incentivize a certain way of work/living– just look at the tax policies around W4 employees versus 1099 contractors, or NSOs vs ISOs, filing jointly vs married, child and education tax credits, or really anything the IRS makes a decision on ever.

My point is it's just not at all a 1-1 comparison when determining "total compensation" across sectors like this, and that median income is a bad metric to use on its own to determine whether someone would be better off going to college or learning a trade.


"It's nearly impossible to even get people to come out for normal household jobs anymore"

Yup, residential clients are bottom feeders - avoid them at all costs - nothing but a hassle. The good money, and work, is with commercial clients.


What then should a residential client do? (Assuming they haven't yet found "their electrician" that they have rapport with.) Get a recommendation, overpay if necessary, pay promptly, then hope they'll take your call and not overquote next time?

Two of my tradies (painter and gyprocker) I actually found by having them do work at my office building, and then contacted them for work at home.


As a self-employed painter (and a good list of other trades prior to), I'd say that references work both ways -- You, as the client, want the tradesman to have good references, but in my little neck of the woods, everyone knows everyone -- And we also use references to 'feel out' if we even want to work for someone.

Who do I want to work for? Someone who appreciates the end result, but is reasonable about timelines and a 'structured but not fully firm' timetable.

In the trades, we are usually doing a fine dance between other tradesmen doing their thing, then it is our turn to do our thing. So many phases in the process of a new build or remodel effort requiring all these different trades to line up correctly, usually between at least a few projects going on at the same time. When the plumber is 3 weeks behind, it bumps the insulators, which bumps the drywallers, which bump the painters, which (can) bump some finishing details, etc.

So, I'd say honestly, the understanding of things being delayed (within reason) is my primary "will work for them again" metric. Obviously we all work to get paid, but being paid isn't the reason I do what I do. Taking pride in work done is how I'm able to 'stare at walls' all day, and be fine with it.

That being said, throughout the thread I see people stating that no one wants to deal with the residential work. I primarily focus on residential work. It's probably easier to bill to the moon and skip some corners in the commercial world (ie. 'make more money') but as mentioned above, I've zero interest in that - It's a combination of being compensating fairly and pride in the work.

Find someone that does good work, for a fair price, and be civil -- It will be remembered. I'd dare say that most trades people that I know/knew have no problems with the 'stress of work', but the interactions with over-demanding clients are what cause them never to be willing to take a call again.

OR bill out the nose, hoping they don't even get the job, as it's just not worth it. (irony is, most of these stories end up with them getting the job, anyway).


The last time I used "my" painter, he was a day short of finishing the job and had to duck off for a charter fishing trip for a friend's bucks party. He came back and finished the job when that was over. Fine by me! He's a great guy, does the job, quotes fairly and is easygoing - happily recommend him to anyone.

That's a tough question. A recommendation from a friend is probably the best bet. And when they do come and do the work, offer them drinks and snacks, make them comfortable. They will remember that since 90% of customers don't do that. You can also give a tip. I do all of those things and its worked out well.

This is why the GP linked a source with the national average for college graduates and non-grads. Certainly there are tradespeople who make a ton of money, but usually they make less than degree holders.

Average isn't useful though. Your expected pay after med school is very different from a music degree. Sure a few in music make millions per year, but most struggle to make anything, and a significant number who do get a good income are not in anything related to music.

There are many different trades, with different income expectations. And of course if you are willing to own the business (not easy) is a factor, some business are more conductive to owning your own business.

We need to be honest with kids: it matters what degree or job you presue. While I can't predict the future perfectly I can look at trends and say some engineering jobs are better than others. Med school looks really good too. Music on the other hand should be a second major or a minor if you study it at all. Likewise in the trades some are better than others, though I'm not sure what to get into.


Med isnt immune to automation or remote work as well (telemedicine)...its surprising a bit. I would be really surprised if there isnt tons of automation 10-20 years from now. Nurses are pretty well protected though.

>Certainly there are tradespeople who make a ton of money, but usually they make less than degree holders.

I wonder how much of this isn't also driven by the reduction in private union membership. I've worked white collar jobs in organizations with strong unions and I'm willing to bet the blue collar workers were probably almost surely, on average, more than the average white collar workers elsewhere. And when I worked in areas with weak union membership, the converse was true.

The difficulty in the former was that it was hard to get into the union, but once you did, you were probably making many multiples of the average household income for the locale.


This is what some people call a never getting old story of a builder who arrives to fix up your house in a Ferrari. It's a myth. Sole traders are sole traders. Some will pull in more,some will do less. Fantastic incomes aren't happening that often. If they start employing people- that's a business, exactly the same as if some dev would get a bunch of others under his ltd corp.

> If the last decade is any indication, skilled labor - especially those not afraid to own their own business, are set to make a killing.

It's almost always been this way. I remember a reading a quote from a prolific 19th century author (whose name I can no longer find online, thanks to broken phrase searching in Google) complaining about enterprising carpenters earning more than his government salary.

The issue is that it's not an apples to apples comparison. Small business owners who provide blue collar services can make significantly more than salaried white collar workers. However, runnig a small business requires a completely different set of skills, and the percentage of blue collar workers who can do their trade and run a successful small business is far lower than the percentage of people doing blue collar work.


My dad owns a business (one man shop) adjacent to the construction industry. He makes as much as I do, and I work for FANG with a PhD. My dad trained a family friend to do the same thing in under a year. He now makes substantially more than I do. Nine extra years of school is a pretty substantial opportunity cost, debt or not.


> 1. Many trades also pay like crap and have a very limited window in which you can do it.

I'm not sure what you mean by limited window unless we are talking about professional athletes and some categories of manual laborers.

> In addition many are not welcoming to women at all, regardless even if you take the highest paying trades

This is rapidly changing. Also, there are also skilled trades that are mostly women (e.g. cosmetologist, many medical roles).

> do they pay more than the highest paying careers that require higher education?

When we factor out jobs that require 8-12 years of education, in general, yes the trades aren't a bad deal.

> 2. Which boot camp? How many people ended up like your daughter? How much was it? Without these facts no comparison can be made.

I'm not turning this into an ad for the school my daughter went to. Cost was literally 1/2 of he first year salary over $40,000. It was capped at a maximum amount. She ended up paying about $6k, but it was contingent on her getting a job that payed better than $40k.

3. Some colleges perhaps, smart people can get full scholarships and even without that community college plus a cheap state school isn’t expensive.

I have five kids. My first was straight As, great test scores, and we still ended up with $6-8k of expense per semester after the full ride scholarships paid for tuition at a small private college.

Ok, here is the biggest community college in the US: Ivy Tech. $2,400 per semester for 12 hours, plus fees. It's not that expensive, but they also have less than 20% of students complete their degrees...

> Link to your study? Did these people not go to college?

It didn't matter what education level they attained, across the population the outcome was consistent. Having a job while young made a huge difference - almost as much as having a degree.

4. As you’ve already demonstrated college is hardly required let alone loans.

Yep.


With regards to 1

A lot of the trades are hard on your body. By the time you are 45-50 your knees could be wrecked and that makes it hard to do service work like electric/HVAC.

There are an argument that desk work isnt healthy either but that is a different discussion.


As a 46 year old I agree, but I'll say that most tradesmen I knew have either moved on to owning/managing or have switched careers. Overall they've done very well.

Also, IME, tradesmen always have the nicest houses regardless of income because they or someone they can trade with will do top quality work for barely any compensation.


> As a 46 year old I agree, but I'll say that most tradesmen I knew have either moved on to owning/managing or have switched careers. Overall they've done very well.

Suvivorship bias?

I imagine that those that are still in the trades are managers/owners. Those that have blown out knees, but don't have the skills to manage/own/washed out a decade ago... Are not.

There's not enough room in the trades for every person who did work in their 20s to manage/own in the 40s, unless you have a lot of attrition.


Isn’t that covered by “switched careers?” Anyway, just to add to the anecdata here, my wife was a hair stylist in a nice part of town. Women/men would trade a weekend at their beach house (concert tickets, private jet access, etc) for hair cuts and color. She’s now “just a kickass mom.”

Point is, for a time, we had access to some 0.1er% shit that’d I’d never get to utilize in my “office job” while my wife would trade for some truly spectacular experiences with the spouses of CEOs and CTOs. Heck, she’s half the reason I got the network I have these days. There’s something to be said about someone saying nice things about you to a captive audience :)


Suvivorship bias?

Definitely. There are a lot of young guys in the trades who no one should hire under any circumstances. They do drugs, drink, and even start fights on the job site. They get fired frequently and just move to the next job. There are so many of them that it makes for a toxic workplace for anyone getting into the trades.


And what about all the 40-50 year olds who are on SSA disability because of 20-30 years of manual labor?

alot of engineers(and other tech employees) are forced out of the field due to ageism by 45-50 so its a wash.

Not unless they're dogmatic about the language they're developing in, they aren't. I ran into people ALL THE EFFING TIME as a recruiter who refused to train in another language or environment because they were going to make less money if they moved on, even as the market for their current skillset dwindled to nothing.

That's a completely different issue from having injured your back or shoulder or knee so often that you need surgical corrections just so you can remain functional at a resting state.


My neural network was ground down to a nub for a variety of reasons. I could not leave the cozy confines of this react and typescript stack until winter had ended

Do you mean software engineers specifically? It seems like other engineering domains are kinder to oldies

I’m an aging engineer. Have not witnessed this.

If you're unable to work "in the field" as a trades(wo)man, you can always switch over to supervisory or inspection works or go the fully office job route (=planning, architectural offices).

You definitely can (and you should if you have the ability!) but there are by their nature fewer supervisory roles available and the skill sets, at least my experience, don't overlap that much.

> This is rapidly changing. Also, there are also skilled trades that are mostly women (e.g. cosmetologist, many medical roles).

As a woman who likes trades like manual work as hobby - a lot of those do actually depends on physical strength. At hobby level it does not matter that much, but to achieve actual commercial productivity is simply much harder without all those muscles.


When I did longshoreman for the summer there were but 2 women in the bull pen.

One was a heavier older lady, imagine a burly dinner lady and you’ve probably got her. The other woman was maybe in her 30s and looked trim, but she had arms gnarled like branches and you could see a six pack through her tshirt.

Mad respect for women who choose a profession like that, but it needs to be a lifestyle and it will consume you. As an untrained man with a normal (assumed) amount of testosterone, my body adapted over two shifts of swinging 70lb metal bars around.


> I'm not turning this into an ad for the school my daughter went to. Cost was literally 1/2 of he first year salary over $40,000. It was capped at a maximum amount. She ended up paying about $6k, but it was contingent on her getting a job that payed better than $40k.

You already have. I want to see the graduation stats.

> It didn't matter what education level they attained, across the population the outcome was consistent. Having a job while young made a huge difference - almost as much as having a degree.

Where’s the link?

Sorry but your point is way too centered on your anecdotes. Fact remains that college graduates make more money.

https://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2011/c...


I can provide hard data on this if the original commenter doesn't want to. I went to a bootcamp called Hack Reactor.

My salary immediately doubled and has since quadrupled in the 5 years since I attended. It isn't be a great option for everyone, and not every attendee has had a great outcome. But it can work for those with an affinity for analytical work and willingness to work 70-hour weeks for 12 straight weeks.

Hack Reactor has made their outcome statistics public. https://www.hackreactor.com/outcomes


Do you like to argue just to argue?

I'm pretty sure not, I'm pretty sure this person is going to argue until someone helps them justify their education expenses to themselves, or their teaching profession. They're fishing for a "you're right, college is the only thing that's worth it."

As opposed to the other person, who laid out their anecdotes to make themselves feel better by not providing sufficient information to refute it?

Come on. The stats support colleges. You need to provide more than anecdotes to be taken seriously. I could just as easily blurt out that I make more than all of his 5 kids combined because I went to college and boom, anecdote refuted. This isn’t how it’s done in conversations worth having.


If the stats supported colleges you wouldn't have this huge nationwide movement of people looking to make college free because they're burdened until retirement by debt they can't pay off. That's not anecdotal, that is a major political platform point.

This isn’t really relevant. You can make more money and still be burdened

Which is the problem with your presented stat. "People with degrees make 40% more over their lifetimes on average" is useless because it tells us nothing about whether it's worth the capital expenditure. Just making more money isn't the point, having a better life is the point.

So it is very relevant, and your statement here is basically an admission that your 40% stat I keep seeing in these threads is equally irrelevant. "You can make more money and still be burdened" equates to "making more money won't necessarily make your life better." If that's true, what the hell is the point of going to college? To make 40% more?


We are talking about salaries, not some philosophical discussion. If your goal is to maximize lifetime earnings college is worth it as shown by college vs non-college graduate earnings - including the cost.

I’m not sure what your point is.


We are talking about whether college is worth the investment in unearned capital and time, we are focusing on the capital expenditure. "Paperclip optimizers are great if you want to optimize for paperclips" is not a strong selling point for paperclip optimizers in the real world. Is college worth the investment? It's not purely philosophical at all, it is very practically relevant. Will my life be better for doing it?

If it's worth it, they can pay for that burden themselves.

Yes, and most college graduates fully pay off their debt. The issue is overblown. The average student debt is 30k

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-co...

It’s not some insurmountable number.


The typical horror story of insurmountable college debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars comes from people who go to grad school, where the loans are uncapped, so that they can reach as high as fifty grand a year or more, as opposed to undergrad, where loans are capped to around ten grand a year. Colleges for that reason have to be more generous with financial aid to undergrads.

Unfunded grad school is pretty much never worth it for that reason, especially for non-STEM fields (but even for STEM, it's still pricey enough that it probably isn't worth paying full price). Med school is also pricey, but high salaries make up for that, and what I've heard of law school is that it isn't worth the cost if you aren't going to a top 20 school.

But as for specifically undergraduate education, I do think the financials make it worth it in many cases, but it's misleading to generalise across all majors. 30k of debt for a computer science degree is likely worth it, sure. Is it worth it for an English degree? Debatable, but 30k of debt at least isn't going to financially hobble someone for the rest of their life. Is it worth paying full sticker price (if e.g. the student doesn't qualify for financial aid) for a sociology degree? I think that would be dubious.


The degree obviously makes a difference but, regardless of the degree what’s more important is what you’re trying to do.

Many college grads complete degrees without a strong reason for it nor have they explored the potential opportunities.

Even an English degree is fine if you have an understanding of what you’re trying to do and set yourself up properly, e.g journalist, technical writing, marketing track vs the degree and no clue


Sure, but if we go back to the initial statement:

> Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs.

Well, it's hard to tell whether this is true for 'most' bachelor's degree track jobs (this depends on what one means by 'skilled trades' which I don't believe there's an objective definition for), but I would say it's probably true for at least some of them. It seems that electricians, for instance, have higher starting pay than English degree holders, as well as higher median mid-career income. So in that respect it's misleading to say that everyone should go to college because going to college raises their income by 40%.


I’m not telling people to go to college, I’m saying that college grads make more money than non grads

Discovering an asset’s value is marked down is tragic for the owner, but the reality of a free market. A college degree is the new taxi medallion.

It's beyond a taxi medallion. Before uber you had to have one. With college that's never been true. The thing that propped up the whole industry was high school counselors scaring kids into thinking they'll be burger flippers and ditch diggers for the rest of their lives without it, and that's never ever been true. The number of young people I've known who had existential dread at the thought of not going, beyond reason, peoples lives were destroyed by all this.

There are a lot of companies out there that mandate a degree for roles that don't require one. That creates artificial demand for an expensive credential, and of course a loan industry happy to issue debt for said required credentials (it's a racket). I put forth that if you exposed companies to the cost of that credentialing in some way (a tax of some sort on roles that mandate higher education), those roles would suddenly not require a degree, or on the job training would replace it.

The taxing of credentials is an interesting concept I haven't heard before. What do you think some potentially unintended consequences be?

It made me think of the way some professional licenses work. The payment to keep the credential is essentially a tax. Some employers won't list the credential on a job description because then they'd be required to pay for it. But they only hire people with said credential, essentially shifting the tax on the individual and creating a kind of shadow job hiring process where the people being turned away may not be sure that getting the credential would open the door for them.


That's true, but it's largely the result of a glut of degrees in the job market, as well as high unemployment. As people start figuring this out, and as demand for work outpaces supply (both are starting to happen) you're going to see the smart employers drop these shenanigans and the dumb ones go out of business or start paying degrees what they're worth if they insist on it.

Is it arguing to ask for sources now? LMAO

> post random fact

> source?

> no source, but here's more random facts


Nah, but I don’t like claims without evidence. That’s how misinformation spreads. I’ve already laid out my source for believing college grads make more money than non college grads.

Sounds like Lambda School.

> Average College grads make more money over their lifetime, period.

Stop this. The most accurate predictor of a person's lifetime income is the income of their parents. Children of wealthy parents are more likely to go to college. It's like saying "People who drive expensive cars in high school make more money over their lifetime, period".

I question the statistical literacy of people who make the argument that going to college has a significant causal impact on future earnings.


> Stop this.... I question the statistical literacy...

Ugh. Why?

You asked for a statistically grounded conversation, so let's do that.

Let's start, for example, with pdf page 25 (and surrounding context) of https://davidcard.berkeley.edu/papers/causal_educ_earnings.p...

The analysis done in that paper is a good starting point for a productive conversation. We could discuss the bounds on various coefficients and decide whether the conditional statements about those coefficients made in the paper have clear answers in either direction. Or we could critique the various modeling assumptions. Etc.


Section 3.6. "Family background" of the pdf you linked to discusses the impact that parent's educational attainment has on how much money someone earns as a result of going to college, not whether they attend college. It's not used as a control in a way that's relevant to this discussion.

Do you have another study?

Either way, it's a fact that parental income is the best predictor of future income. Not educational attainment.


> best predictor

But why? What are the CAUSAL relationships between parental earnings, educational attainment, and child earnings? The children of doctors are more likely to become doctors, but saying that educational attainment is therefore less related to doctoring than parental occupation is obviously a bit absurd. Just because a parent paves the path doesn't mean that educational attainment is irrelevant to walking that path. And anyone who makes it through med school and residency has the option to enjoy high earnings, regardless of parental income.

The MD example, for the curious and humble reader interested in Truth rather than Winning, makes it abundantly clear why section 3.6 of the linked paper asks a question that's directly relevant to untangling these causal links.

> Do you have another study?

There's an entire literature base on exactly this question. "lifetime earnings parental earnings education" returns 130K results on Google Scholar. But, to be blunt, I don't think you're interested in learning anything. I think you're interested in Winning the thread. So I'm not posting for your benefit; that would be futile. I'm posting for the benefit of intellectually curious readers.


This is a particularly pernicious misunderstanding because it leads people to believe that they have to take out loans to go to college or they will earn less money. Saying "People who do X make more money" can have consequences if that statement isn't necessarily true.

What you want is a study that shows that people from lower income quintiles that go to college have a higher lifetime earning than people from the same quintile that didn't go to college. Maybe that exists? if it did, I'd imagine the pro college people would be waving it around everywhere.

Using Google Scholar to find relevant research is a great habit. but you really have to read it to make sure it says what you think it says


> What you want is a study that shows that people from lower income quintiles that go to college have a higher lifetime earning than people from the same quintile that didn't go to college. Maybe that exists? if it did, I'd imagine the pro college people would be waving it around everywhere.

Yes, there is a large college wage premium for students in lower income quintiles. The most that can be said is that it's smaller, but still quite large.

I assumed the point of contention was a more nuanced question about causation, since the above is just a simple factual question that can be checked without any sort of analysis.


I agree "people who go to college make more money" is not a helpful thing to be telling kids, but I think it would be much more fruitful to pose the question as comparing the outcomes of different fields of study (which could also include specific trades), rather than questioning the utility of college entirely.

> What are the CAUSAL relationships between parental earnings, educational attainment, and child earnings?

Social network, safety net, family experience with college, etc.... There are plenty of reasons why class mobility is imperfect. [Edit: I, for example, had access to summer jobs in highschool through my parents' professional network that were not as easily available to other people.]

> There's an entire literature base on exactly this question. "lifetime earnings parental earnings education" returns 130K results on Google Scholar.

Yes, but you chose a specific article to post to refute a specific claim. The article doesn't address that claim, so it is entirely reasonable to ask for a citation that does actually back up your argument. Your response here amounts to: "just go read the all the literature until you see I'm right" and is not constructive, even without the name calling.

Edit: You seem to have substantially edited your comment. Thanks for removing the name calling but generally ghost edits like this are frowned upon here.


> Yes, but you chose a specific article to post to refute a specific claim.

Yes it does! I think you're misreading OP's post.

What was OP's claim?

>> The most accurate predictor of a person's lifetime income is the income of their parents. Children of wealthy parents are more likely to go to college. It's like saying "People who drive expensive cars in high school make more money over their lifetime, period".

OP's assertion about "best predictor" is true but irrelevant. The interesting question is why?

OP asserts that the answer to that question is literally "for the same reason that rich kids drive BMWs".

OP is asserting that college has the same causal effect as a parent purchasing a BMW for a child. I.e., none at all, it's just a proxy for parental wealth.

That strikes me as an unlikely causal hypothesis.

Could there perhaps be a reason other than parent income that the child of an MD drives a BMW to school? Probably not.

But could there perhaps be a reason other than parent income that the child of an MD does well in their premed program? Seems likely.

And indeed, the above article establishes a causal link that's directly relevant to falsifying that assertion, that college == bmw in terms of causal effect.

Elsewhere, OP asks if the college wage premium persists across family backgrounds. I think perhaps something related to that question is what you perhaps read into their post. But that's not actually the claim they are actually making in that post.

(BTW: CWP and PEP are positive for students from low income backgrounds... these are just numbers you can look up... why am I the thread secretary for basic statistics?)


I simply do not see a anything in that study that refutes that college is just a proxy for parental income. The study only discusses parental background in terms of parental education and I don't see any controlling for parental income (though those two factors are clearly correlated, but are not identical and conflate them in several places.)

In reality, a significant part of the correlation between of college and is indeed due to college being a partial proxy for parental wealth. At the same time a significant part of the correlation between parental wealth and child income is to the that same proxy.

Even when you control for parental wealth, there are large heterogeneities in the effect of college on income in different groups. This makes it hard to argue for a simple, direct causal link between college and income.

While I think you and me tend to agree on this subject, I think you should focus less on being the "thread secretary" and more on understanding the opposing argument and clearly explaining your argument rather than posting dense statistical papers with no analysis and using abstruse acronyms.


Let's say there's a social norm to "go to college if you are smart enough or hard-working enough" for lower income families and "no matter what" for the wealthy (since all you need to be successful anywhere is wealth). If that were the case, they would be self-selecting into college on the basis of their own perceived ability to succeed there, confounding other related measures.

I'd guess that the why is irrelevant too.

Why? The parent got their child a tutor. Why can't poor kids have that? They're parents can't afford it.

Over and over again, better food, better housing stability, not having to work while doing school, etc.

The cause still comes back to some parents being wealthier than others.

It's classist to think wealthier parents are more virtuous in some way than their poorer peers


I think focusing just on resources misses part of it.

Upper class parents know how to raise children to present as higher class because they have the benefit of having been raised and lived in that class.

Being able to spend time on my kids helped, but they also entered school at a high level in math and reading and with the diction of a higher class because I knew how to teach this to them.

Some of the knowledge of how to succeed in education and develop children's minds is unevenly distributed, and it's not something easily fixed by just committing resources. (Though committing resources surely helps).


Just have to say, what a shitty way to end your comment. You've poisoned the conversation, and I think you read into something that wasn't there. The other commenter took the high road by ignoring it.

> Either way, it's a fact that parental income is the best predictor of future income. Not educational attainment.

Sure, but they are interrelated factors and they way they effect the distribution is complicated. This study was linked elsewhere and does control for parent's income: (I didn't vet the methodology or data, just looking at what their reported results say.)

https://research.upjohn.org/empl_research/vol23/iss3/1/

One of the reasons that parental income is such a strong predictor of child income is because parental income has a strong effect on how much college will increase your income.

Interestingly enough, that effect is quite disparate based on more than just parental income.

The study says that low income whites see only a 12% boost to income from college while high income whites see a 131% boost to income from college. Interestingly, blacks show an even higher boost to income from college, 175%, and parental income had no statistically significant effect on this boost.

Also interesting is how those effects play out when you look at different parts of the income distribution. Parental income increases the average effect of college, but doesn't significantly affect the median effect. Thus a lot of the increase to the effect of college on average incomes [edit: for children of higher income parents] is from gaining access to the long tail of very high income outcomes.

So the answer is if you are a poor white male, college is far less valuable than if you are female, rich or black (in increasing order of college effect size.)


I didn’t say there’s a causal impact, I said that average college grads make more money.

The kid that's driving a new BMW at age 16 will make more money than everyone else too. Do you suggest that kids buy BMWs in order to increase their lifetime earning potential?

I don’t see the relevance - even among the poorest college grads have higher lifetime earnings:

https://research.upjohn.org/empl_research/vol23/iss3/1/

again, college grads make more money across all demographic groups. Not sure what you’re arguing


Yes, but is this causal?

Is it the college education itself that explains all of the earnings difference?

Or is it that the most adept of each income block are more likely to complete college education, and some of the later income difference is because of intrinsic ability rather than the benefits and signaling advantages of a college degree?


> 1. Many trades also pay like crap and have a very limited window in which you can do it.

Which is why the parent comment specifically mentioned "skilled trades". If you're not familiar with the term, think plumber or electrician instead of roofer or outdoor landscaper. The working window for skilled trades is also far greater than software engineering.


There are skilled trades that don’t pay well. In any case there’s no canonical list of “skilled trades” to begin with.

I fail to see how you can be an electrician longer than a software engineer, but even if that was true there are far more careers a college degree enable that pay more.


imo a "skilled trade" involves a hard to learn skill that is in high demand. Consequently, the demand yields a higher salary than a commodity "non-high skilled" trade that is not high in demand.

> I fail to see how you can be an electrician longer than a software engineer

Because electrical components and systems do not evolve and change as fast as software constructs, neither does plumbing.

> but even if that was true there are far more careers a college degree enable that pay more.

That's debatable when you account for student loans paired with less marketable degrees. Otherwise, I feel that student debt wouldn't be an issue.


Many skilled trades are not that hard to learn, those who know it just pretend they are hard to keep people out.

Of course with an engineering background I know how to read all the different tables and understand where the numbers came from. That might give me an advantage, but I can learn to do most of them pretty quickly if I want. (they are faster than me because they tend to have the tables memorized)


> Many skilled trades are not that hard to learn

If they're not hard to learn, then imo it's not a "skilled trade".

> those who know it just pretend they are hard to keep people out.

> Of course with an engineering background I know how to read all the different tables and understand where the numbers came from.

If you're an EE and you're referring to electricians, I would argue that electrical work is not an easy concept for most of the population which is one reason for its market demand.


Most "skilled trades" are gated by some form of licensure, not actual difficulty.

It’s “gated” to ensure that the individual actually possesses those skills and can perform theses tasks safely and comply with safety standards. As someone who's immigrated from the developing world, I can tell you horror stories when it's less regulated. I'm not a fan of regulation, but there is a minimum level needed to ensure trust.

That is half true. It is gated, but the difficulty of getting a license doesn't match the difficulty of the work. Years of apprenticeship before you can go on your own. Of course some need those years, but not everyone.

There is reason for a license, but they have a system to ensure only so many get one thus keeping supply down


There's a great Milton Friedman test: if license requirements benefit consumers you would expect to see consumers at the statehouse demanding legislation. But this is not what you see in the modern day. It's true very instrumental organizations like the FDA were funded based on public outcry, but now most lobbying done to or affecting those organizations is done by people already in the market.

You must not have never interacted with something like, say, AC install. It's regulated and you're not supposed to buy the parts yourself. You can, but some stores shut you out, they won't take your refrigerant back that legally needs to be disposed of, and so on. Recently I fixed some AC units that just needed a soldering touch up where "real repair companies" wanted to do a full new $10k install.

Similar stuff for locksmithing.


> if license requirements benefit consumers you would expect to see consumers at the statehouse demanding legislation

They are. You're just living in a bubble were regulations have already been set.

https://thediplomat.com/2020/01/the-bigger-problem-behind-ca...

https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/geip/WCMS_614394/lang--en/...

> Similar stuff for locksmithing.

https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/22797-bbb-scam-ale...

https://www.gvlock.com/blog/how-to-spot-avoid-a-locksmith-sc...

I agree that over regulation is not a good thing, but I strongly feel that there's a need for basic licensing


How are those links at all relevant? With experience in two licensed things -- HVAC and locksmithing -- I say the current red tape is red tape.

In the first set of examples, you have unlicensed work by unlicensed contractors killing people. Survivors are then angry enough at politicians to demand either more strict regulations or better enforcement. It’s a response to your freidman quote

The 2nd example highlights what happens when you have a bunch of unlicensed individuals posing as locksmiths ripping people off because they don’t know how to properly deal with locks. Instead of picking them, they use a drill to destroy the lock and overcharge their victims with new locks. It’s a big problem.

Ie Some regulations are useful.


I've seen unlicensed and licensed work by licensed contractors kill people. Contractors aren't structural engineers and all of them will try to cheat you.

Locksmiths in my area have a proclivity to drill locks because it's cheaper than picking, save very cheap locks. Some locks can't reasonably be picked even by most locksmiths -- they have other things to do than teach themselves how to pick 1 specific type of lock.

You don't really understand the markets for these things and think you can regulate them.


Regardless it passes the Freidman test.

Also not enough people have the time or inclination to pick locks or learn enough about a trade to discern good vs bad contractors. My points still stand.

I feel that you need to live outside of the bubble of a developed country to get a better perspective of things.


The drill to destroy locks is proper security theater. If people knew how easy it was to pick a lock they wouldn't trust security. Drilling takes time and makes the lock look better than it is.

The same thing is true of many high paying white collar jobs. Lawyers, physicians, CPAs, PEs all have to pass exams to become licensed. Many of these are gated by non-optional schooling. E.g., in most jurisdictions, you cannot just pass the bar and become an attorney. Others, like physics and architects, are additionally gated by mandatory apprenticeships.

Gatekeeping is not some thing that just the scare quotes skilled trades do.


> without that community college plus a cheap state school isn’t expensive.

UCLA is 13k per year, *if* you are from California. Classes are likely impacted (even upper division) so even if a person goes to UCLA just for the last 2.5 - 3 years they could easily owe > 30k

The real cost

- rampant corruption (in california, if they ever opened the books on the non-profit entities it would be a major stunner and awakening for many people). Last I saw there was ~100 non-profits serving ~20 campuses . You can read more https://www.calstate.edu/csu-system/auxiliary-organizations/.... But what they don't tell you, those books are private and not shared with the public. Rest assured, they are money laundering machines.

- rent seekers like Pearson and Mcgraw Hill (fun fact, did you know the 2 joined forces to run a company called Follets that runs most campus bookstores (how is that allowed?)

- administration bloat


I think 30K is quite a reasonable cost. Parents have almost two decades to save the money, plus they can do so with a 529 plan and avoid capital gains taxes. Even saving $100 dollars a month invested in the market will net 42,000 after 18 years (assuming 7% return).

European here — that is an insane cost for college fees from my POV. I attended one of the most highly rated courses for my profession in Europe and only paid about €3K per year.

But your taxes are also much higher. You would pay more than 30K over 18 years most likely.

You'd be surprised at how in some places in Europe the differential in taxes compared to the United States is not as significant as you would expect. When you factor in state and federal taxes it's not that unusual to pay upwards of 35-40% in annual taxes. The difference is at least a lot of the European countries have something to show for it (subsidized education, universal healthcare, etc).

I’ve lived in Germany for a number of years. My taxes were around 42% if I recall correctly. Plus 400 euros a month for health insurance. Oh, and don’t forget 25% of capital gains.

I do agree with you though: you get your money’s worth in Europe.


Yeah, I live in SF now after moving from Europe. The tax difference is not really that different for me (high earner), but what you get in return in really depressing. Good weather and astronomical wages make it worthwhile.

Taxes don't just go to one thing... We spend more on healthcare and education than European citizens and that's not counting better public transit.

> assuming 7% return

Tuition has been increasing at 8% per year.


You don't have to go to UCLA or the UC system.

You can also go to the Cal State system. SDSU, for example. You can also put in two years at a community college and then transfer across.

Graduating from an ABET accredited engineering school is just fine.

Pitt and CMU engineers used to have this debate back at Westinghouse and the general consensus was the primary difference between the engineers was 10 years extra to pay off your student loans.

> - rent seekers like Pearson and Mcgraw Hill (fun fact, did you know the 2 joined forces to run a company called Follets that runs most campus bookstores (how is that allowed?)

This makes me furious. ALL of the universities I know lost their really nice bookstores that you could browse through.

The problem is that the bookstore has two spikes of book profitability and the rest of time the books are a waste of space. That's "inefficient"--so everybody outsourced and now the "campus bookstore" is just a gift shop with a small wing to shuffle online book orders at the beginning of the term.


It's even worse. You're only counting tuition there: https://admission.ucla.edu/tuition-aid/tuition-fees

The current total cost for UCLA is $36,297 per year for California residents, $28,408 if you're living with relatives. That is for the 9 months per year fall/spring session, so summer school/housing/etc is not included. This is also only for your direct educational expenses. In that budget your "personal" expenditures are set at about $5/day which includes entertainment, recreation, clothing, etc.

And perhaps the biggest problem of all is that it is intentionally made exceptionally easy to take out additional loans, generally just clicking an extra button while setting up your schedule/financing for the next semester. As most college age individuals (let alone those attending a decent university) expect they're going to be millionaires at some point, it is an exceptionally exploitative system feeding off widespread completely unrealistic life expectations. It's easy to rationalize how much nicer $xxxxx would make your life today, while how little value it will have tomorrow. But for most, tomorrow will never come.


> In addition many are not welcoming to women at all

Economists are now finding that as more women move into a profession, the pay goes down. Similarly, when computer programming moved from a female dominated profession (early days) to male dominated (now) the pay went up. Medical fields that have higher proportions of women have lower pay. Along these lines, as college skews more female (college grads are like 60/40 female/male now) the "college grad" professions are having a declining wage premium compared to non college grad jobs.


Would love to read more about this phenomenon, do you have links to articles or places to start?

Edit: Found an article[0] that links to a study[1]

[0] - https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/upshot/as-women-take-over... [1] - https://academic.oup.com/sf/article-abstract/88/2/865/223534...


Correlation is not causation. It's possible that as fields pay more, they attract more men (because due to gender roles imposed on men, men lose more status from low income than women do) and conversely as fields pay less, men abandon them for other higher paying fields.

Economists are now finding that as more women move into a profession, the pay goes down

How much of this is just labour side supply/demand? If you have an all-male profession suddenly open up to women then that effectively doubles the pool of candidates. You would expect wages to go down (a lot) in that case.


Source on programming starting out female dominated? Also, I'm curious what a programmer's job looked like in the beginning.

Back in the 1930s - before computers existed it was considered boring women's work (sexism intended). There wasn't much demand because of course computers were a room full of people running this by hand. In the 1950s when computers were invented males discovered programming was interesting and took over.

As such it is more the image is programming will be women's work than a reality because the reality is there weren't many programmers.


https://www.history.com/news/coding-used-to-be-a-womans-job-... is a bit superficial but gives a decent summary

I don't know of a solid source, but I've heard anecdotally that computer programming and operation roles in major corporations of the '60s and '70s tended to be dominated by women, partly because the kinds of tabulation and collation that big business wanted were extensions of existing secretarial work, but also for the more immediate practical reason that the average female office worker of the time was far more likely than her male colleagues to already be an experienced typist.

“Programmer” used to be the name of a job turning flowcharts into punch cards, because hiring someone to use a keypunch was much cheaper than computer time. They were replaced not by men but by compilers.

“Systems analyst” used to be the name of our job.


Not in direct answer to the question, but as an interesting aside, the conditions of space didn't allow for normal memory implementations in the Apollo missions back in the 60s. An alternative form, called core rope memory [1], used the placement of copper wire along a rope to encode ROM-style instructions into blocks of memory. This memory was literally woven by a team of older ladies for the purposes of use in the guidance systems. Great anecdote from the annals of comp sci history.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Core_rope_memory


A women (Ada Lovelace) is "often been cited as the first computer programmer" [1]

Also the term "Computer" was actually an occupation (that was dominated by women) before the modern usage [2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace#First_computer_pr... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_(occupation)


Is there any evidence for a grammatically feminine version of “computer?” “Computress?”

Edit: https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/computress


I've met many trained by IBM COBOL developers.

1. Trades are overwhelmingly what people do when they don't go for a BA, and often have houses and children far before college graduates. Many more mechanics, plumber, hvac, electrical, welders, pipfitters, etc than we give credit for.

3. Scholarships are not based on intelligence. They are based on access to resources. Many good scholarships require references, achievements, good writing, and lower income. Hard to do that in a city school, if at all. Those that get the scholarships come from parents that know how to game the system. This leaves first generation students far out of the equation. To add to that, judging students based on their high school is a terrible method of educating.

4. A degree has become more required if you don't have the resources to already live in a major city for your work. For example, you can work in software if you live in cali cities far easier than if you live in Utah. If you're coming from Utah, you have to pass the "I'm a drone" test of getting a degree. Many people would like to work in something other than trades, hence university.

University no longer functions like we think it does. Large amounts of it are now online, auto-graded, with instructors barely doing any work other than showing up. Housing and tuition costs have skyrocketed with far less scholarships than ever before. I recall a 40,000 scholarship 8 years ago that simply doesn't exist anymore, along with a number of others. Many of these are funded by various communities or collaborations of companies, and over time the over corporatization, lack of funds and lack of community have lead them to just not offer scholarships anymore. Why give away free money? A really easy way to upset a number of teachers, especially high school teachers, is to tell them to try to locate applicable scholarships for their students. They can't. Perhaps a couple that maybe add up to $800 one shots. Half of that being a local scholarship. They get very hand wavey and think 1 of 3 scholarships from Microsoft or Google is reasonably obtainable, yet realistically it would be similar to winning the lottery.

There are many bright and hard working students I meet daily that simply cannot get the support they need and cannot devote their time to learning what they need to. It is absolutely brutal the number of hours some of these students are working just to survive. We give the largest amount of support to students whom are already well off and tell those that have to work for what they have to go away. That's American education as I see playing out as we speak.


>Trades are overwhelmingly what people do when they don't go for a BA, and often have houses and children far before college graduates.

Having a house and children as soon as possible isn't a win. It's what happens when you lack imagination. There's so much more to life than pumping out kids at 21 in your 3/2 in fly over country.


Not for most people there isn't, degree or no degree. Most people lack imagination, live boring lives, and want financial stability and a rewarding family life. Your last statement is very condescending.

If your goal is generational wealth, leaving your kids better off than you, return on capital investment and things like that, owning property as early as possible that you can afford to own puts you miles ahead of people that don't do it, again degree or no degree.


I don’t think it’s condescending at all. It’s a tough pill to swallow at best. I’m not saying those things are wrong to want or that they have no value, only that doing it as soon as possible will have you miss out on a lot of experiences and opportunities that may not be present after you settle down. Therefore, doing it earlier is not a win, as implied in the original comment.

Edit: This is an example of the classic marshmallow test.


Yes it is an example of the marshmallow test, but not in the way you think. You failed the test, and the people you mock passed it. They are willing to make sacrifices in the present in order to create a better future, while you chase instant gratification.

You’re making a lot of assumptions about me knowing nothing about what I do or will do in the future. For the record, having kids is not a noble deed and does not automatically result in a better future. Overpopulation is a burden on society. Having kids is a mostly selfish act because most people would rather have their own kids than for someone else to have more kids and they have none. Besides, who is going to finally enjoy this better future? Or are we just supposed to perpetually kick the can down the road until climate change kills us all?

If everyone thought like you then there would be no future as humanity would go extinct. It only takes one generation of everyone subscribing to your philosophy to kill us all versus the uncertain future of climate change, where there is no scientific evidence that we will all die. Unfortunately, too many people in the West think like you, which is why overpopulation isn't a problem in the West; in fact, the reverse is and governments are covering it up by increasing immigration. If you're concerned about overpopulation on a global scale, you better be prepared to address it (possibly violently) in Asia and Africa.

Unless you are an Einstein-level genius (who by the way, had kids), the best contribution you can make to society is to have kids. Kids are multipliers as their achievements can not exist if they are not born. There is no "experience" that is worth dooming humanity to extinction, and I also doubt you can name any experience that a parent has not had at some point in their life.


"Flyover country" is very condescending, belittling and arrogant.

What exactly are they missing out on? Perhaps you're missing out on what they have as well?

Telling people what their priorities in life ought to be is absolutely condescending. It's not a marshmallow test. It's a question of personal priorities and values. Looking down on people because they have different priorities and made different choices than you, telling yourself they missed out in doing it, it's really just a way to convince yourself you're happy with your choices and nothing more.


Having children as soon as possible may not be a win, but having a house surely is. How could owning a valuable and necessary asset not be considered a win?

Because owning a house makes you reluctant to move to pursue great life opportunities, some of which are career based that would earn you more money over your lifetime. Of course that has changed with the adoption of remote work but let's be honest, no one saw that coming.

Owning a house doesn't necessarily make you reluctant to move to pursue other opportunities somewhere else. Renting or just re-selling the house is always an option.

Also, anything good in your life would make you reluctant to move somewhere else. But you wouldn't say, for example, that having a significant other is bad because it makes you reluctant to move.


Both renting and re-selling are major sources of friction. I'm a first-time homeowner and I find the prospect of moving today far more daunting than when I was still renting, because of these factors. The risk feels much higher, so I need a much greater promise of reward before I'm willing to take it.

Sure, but would you prefer to have your house or to not have your house? Selling your house for free (or more realistically, way under market value) would not have as much friction.

Having a house and children only happens when you have the resources. People burdened by college debt can’t do these, or at least not usually in the fashion they want. For those people who even want houses and children, the sentence was directed at trades being a quicker route. Perfectly possible to live alone and waste income on rent with trades, and if you’re not heterosexual you’re not usually “pumping” out kids regardless. Digital nomad and similar lifestyles, not so much, but I’d argue that’s preference as much as imagination. Some people like family and community.

“Flyover country” is readily considered condescending. Might be an accurate description, but accuracy is not what makes it condescending.


>Having a house and children as soon as possible isn't a win. It's what happens when you lack imagination. There's so much more to life than pumping out kids at 21 in your 3/2 in fly over country.

Really??

Just as a counter-example, if you have your kids in your young 20s, then they are out of your house when you hit your mid 40s.

In your mid-40s, you tend to have much more money and a much better sense of what you want out of life.

So assuming you have children at some point, when is the best time to be child-free, in your 20s or in your 40s?

And what about the joy of grandchildren?

When society tells you to wait until you are 35 to have kids, how is having kids at 21 "lacking imagination"? Going against the crowd requires imagination.


> There's so much more to life than pumping out kids

I think it's pretty hard to argue this is true while literally making "life." Yeah you don't usually get a shiny new car and an unnecessarily large house having kids at 21, but the life you're talking about is a negative for humanity.

What does it matter when you're happy and have everything you need to survive and provide anyways? That's what a "win" is.


>Yeah you don't usually get a shiny new car and an unnecessarily large house having kids at 21, but the life you're talking about is a negative for humanity.

This is so far from what I’m talking about that it’s closer to what I’m arguing against than for it. I am not talking about materialistic things. I am talking about experiences, relationships, and outlook-defining memories.

> What does it matter when you're happy and have everything you need to survive and provide anyways? That's what a "win" is.

Eating buttered potatoes for the rest of my life isn’t a win to me even if it will technically sustain me.

You can do more. You can be more. You can experience more. And most people don’t even try. Sad.


> I am talking about experiences, relationships, and outlook-defining memories.

And "pumping out kids" as you put it does this for many people. Sorry it doesn't for you, but saying that it isn't a "win" for some people is short sighted.

> You can do more. You can be more. You can experience more.

Many would say the same of those in their 30s and 40s with kids.

> Sad.

Again, many would say the same about your aspirations. Insulting, isn't it?

My point being, what makes you happy, doesn't make others, so don't cast someone who has kids at 21 with a home and ability to provide for them into a bucket of not "winning" at life.


>And "pumping out kids" as you put it does this for many people. Sorry it doesn't for you, but saying that it isn't a "win" for some people is short sighted.

Who says it doesn’t for me? I’m not against kids. I want kids, I’m going to have kids. But I’m going to finish getting some bucket list items out of the way first, when they’re possible and practical to do.

>Many would say the same of those in their 30s and 40s with kids.

Some things are either not possible or not responsible to do once you have kids. And once they’re adults, you’re too old.

>Again, many would say the same about your aspirations. Insulting, isn't it?

Not at all! I’m okay with that. Everyone’s living their own life and others can have an opinion on it if they want to.

>My point being, what makes you happy, doesn't make others, so don't cast someone who has kids at 21 with a home and ability to provide for them into a bucket of not "winning" at life.

Again, I started a more involved discussion, but the original comment strongly implied that earlier is better and I disagree. Sorry you’re taking it so personally.


"You can do more. You can be more. You can experience more. And most people don’t even try. Sad."

I had a lot of experiences before I had kids. Traveled the world, great jobs, career, friends.

But those all seem pretty empty by comparison. I'm glad I did all that, but a lot of it (while very exciting at the time) I see as been-there-done-that. (Though I still get a lot of satisfaction from my career.)

But at some point I realized that human relationships are just a lot deeper than a trip to a faraway temple. And, though I like my friends, marriage and kids is just a much deeper relationship, full stop.

Also, I figure it's time to let the next generation experience things for the first time. I'd rather share those experiences with my kids then do another experience for myself and my friends for the Nth time.

I suspect that you are young, and you might also change your mind at some point. For me I just got to the point where I realized that I could go pretty much anywhere I wanted -- enough vacation time and money. And I just didn't want to.

Professional accomplishments are also great, so I don't criticize you if that's where you find meaning. But retirement might be pretty painful if so.


>But retirement might be pretty painful if so.

There are many careers that don't require or even suggest retirement. I've heard of professors dying mid semester. That's how I'd like to go - in the midst of doing what I live for.


>Eating buttered potatoes for the rest of my life isn’t a win to me

Speak for yourself!


> Average College grads make more money over their lifetime, period.

And yet incomes have held stagnant through the entire rise of college attainment. That contradicts the notion that there is more money to be made.

Within a given population, those who are born more capable will earn more than those who are less capable. Those who are born more capable are able to go further in school and be more productive in the workplace for the same reasons. Someone born with a crippling disability that forced them to drop out of high school also struggles to find gainful employment for the same reasons.

However, over time, those in similar standing seem to end up making the same amount of money no matter what. If the existence of college and everything associated with it were to magically vanish, those born more capable would still earn more money over their lifetime than those born less capable.


> However, over time, those in similar standing seem to end up making the same amount of money no matter what.

Cool claim, have any supporting evidence? Personally, I don’t believe that. The opportunities that you have as a result of the skills that you have can create great divergence in lifetime earnings. You’re making a pretty extraordinary claim.


Supporting evidence that incomes are stagnant? The aggregate data that is compiled from tax return information will naturally be your most accurate source, although I'm sure you can find thousands of articles that distill that further into a more digestible form as it seems to get reported on regularly.

I quoted the part I’d like a source on.

Which you will find by looking at the income data, or any news article that covers income stagnation if you want the distilled version for easier reading.

Why don’t you post the data you’re referring to so we’re on the same page?

Something tells me you won’t show any that supports the quoted assertion.

By the way the quoted assertion has nothing to do with income stagnation.

> However, over time, those in similar standing seem to end up making the same amount of money no matter what.


> Why don’t you post the data you’re referring to so we’re on the same page?

Like, you want me to link to it? I wouldn't know the URL off the top of my head. That is an oddly specific thing to memorize.

> Something tells me you won’t show any that supports the quoted assertion.

No doubt. You can tell someone is just looking for a fake argument when they start asking for someone to have memorized an arbitrary URL that is likely a deep path structure and not reasonably memorizable.

> By the way the quoted assertion has nothing to do with income stagnation.

Especially when they think they have it all figured out, free of misinterpretation. The intent of what I said has everything to do with income stagnation. If you have interpreted it differently, I'm not sure what to tell ya.


Lol ok - so you got nothing. A shame I was interested in reading. Thanks for clarifying.

I do not have URLs memorized, no. If you are legitimately interested in reading, you can easily find what you are looking for on Google, I'm sure.

No time to waste looking up claims other people made unfortunately - especially when I don’t believe then to begin with. Good luck.

Feel free to find the link for me and edit the post though if it’s legit.


Should I be concerned that you don't believe me? You've mentioned that a couple of times. I guess I'm not clear on what value you are trying to add to the discussion.

1. So does many degrees (ie: Art and Humanity?). At the upper-level with Skilled Trades, you usually go by your own company/name and then you can make substantially more.

2. Probably a little. These boot camps are mostly a scam like many colleges today.

3. You can do college cheap. You can also get a scholarship if you qualify. You can do college the expensive way if your parents will pay for it. Taking a $100-200k loan for it is stupid.

4. Yes.

Which leads me to the conclusion: College degrees used to get you higher pay, people overbought that and someone filled the market, people now can't sell their college degrees for money. Worse, many of them have raked up debt to get that college degree.

Sounds familiar? This is like people buying the top in a crypto, realestate, stock-market bubble. But you add a few steps and the thing sounds legit. (Did you ever wonder why people buy MLM and not go directly and buy a Ponzi Scheme).


What? you slam that post for not supplying the information and yet state >[trades] are not welcoming to women at all / last time I looked at ANY trade, they are begging women to come WORK. Maybe that's what you meant though

What do you mean by "last time I looked at ANY trade, they are begging women to come WORK."? By looking at trades, do you mean look at a website claiming to want women to work in them? The PR/advertising spins on jobs don't always align with the working conditions driving anyone with standards or a family away. See how "essential" workers have been treated during the pandemic. If you listen to the radio, they are being begged to work. But that work is conditional on bad pay and conditions often.

Edit: I'm not trying to claim there aren't good trades, just that the "word on the block" about how easy it is to get a job doesn't always reflect reality.


"cheap state school"...

The state school where I live charges $18K/year for tuition and housing. That sure isn't cheap, especially for a mediocre school. Graduating with $72K in debt from this school would be a waste of money if you aren't doing a STEM program, and if you are, there are far better schools.


> 1. Many trades also pay like crap and have a very limited window in which you can do it. In addition many are not welcoming to women at all, regardless even if you take the highest paying trades, do they pay more than the highest paying careers that require higher education?

Exactly.

These types of post often ignore the actual work being done.

A graduate student might make a comparable hourly rate to an amazon warehouse employee, but he or she can also go to the bathroom and sit down.


Working in an Amazon warehouse would not be considered a "trade" by most definitions. It doesn't require much if any training and amost anyone in normal physical condition can do it. It's more of a pure "laborer" job, these have always paid less than skilled trades.

You've missed the point. Very obviously working in an Amazon warehouse isn't a trade. The point isn't that working at an Amazon warehouse is a trade, nor the job's actual wage...

The point is that two jobs with superficially equivalent wages can be far from equivalent in things like the toll it might take on one physically...

The same could be said for the starting salary of graduates with undergraduate accounting degrees and entry level plumbers ($40k-$50k annually)... Similar in terms of wages, far from equivalent in terms of physical demands...


I don't know man - graduate student might be the only job that's more demanding that amazon warehouse employee.

"Average College grads make more money over their lifetime, period."

Your "period" makes me think about more questions, not less.

1) Will that still hold in 2070? Kids who are now 18 are likely to be working at least until then. How do the developments over time look like? Won't the increasing shortage of tradespeople drive up their compensation?

2) How does a finer division by majors look like? I would be surprised if every major out there made more money than, say, an electrician.

3) Lifetime is a very long timespan. College grads are deeply in their debt in their 20s and 30s, so they can afford starting a family less. They will be better off when they are 50, but in the meantime they possibly sacrificed a an unborn kid or two to their tuition debt. This is a nasty tradeoff.


It is obviously a bogus statistic. You would need to compare those that went to college vs vs those in the exact same situation but didn't.

"On average, smarter people make more over their lifetime than less smart people bro, that is a fact!"


You’re buying into the propaganda:

1. Can’t predict the future.

2. How does the finer division by non college jobs look like? Electrician is one of the top- how does it compare to a doctor accounting the medical debt?

3. Average college debt is 30k. Hardly crippling.


Which propaganda?

1) You cannot predict the future, but expecting that current situation will hold indefinitely isn't a safer bet either. I think the best you can do is observe the trends.

2) Of course, I would recommend anyone to take the more compensated route, trade or college but it is probably easier for someone of average academic aptitude to become a good electrician than a good surgeon or a good programmer. That is the point.

3) What are the interests? I heard quite a lot of horror stories regarding the interest rates on college debt. Interest rate for non-trivial principals is the most important parameter of any debt.


> 2. Which boot camp? How many people ended up like your daughter? How much was it? Without these facts no comparison can be made.

Plenty of coding bootcamps have great placement rates and great salaries. For example, the median salary at Boston's Launch academy is $72k. The median salary for Fullstack Academy Grace Hopper in NY is $90k.

https://static.spacecrafted.com/b13328575ece40d8853472b9e0cf...

https://static.spacecrafted.com/b13328575ece40d8853472b9e0cf...

This organization verifies outcomes independently: https://cirr.org/data

I know several people who have gone to both of these, the data is legit, that's the outcome I saw from the graduating class.

> 3. Some colleges perhaps, smart people can get full scholarships and even without that community college plus a cheap state school isn’t expensive. Link to your study? Did these people not go to college?

Even "cheap" state schools aren't so cheap https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-college We're still talking on average $25k/year. But that depends heavily on the state. In some states, you pay $14k in others $30k. Either way. Not cheap.

The rise in cost has been amazing: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/dt07_320.asp In the 1960s total tuition + room + board inflation corrected was only $1000!


2. Your stats are incomplete- how many of these people already have degrees? What’s the breakdown between that and wages? What’s the median pay for college graduates who go into the same professions?

3. Not cheap compared to what exactly? College graduates generally get paid more money over the lifetime.


Not perfect, but it’s the only attempt I’ve seen to try and answer the question about pre-boot camp education.

https://www.coursereport.com/reports/2020-coding-bootcamp-al...

(Difficult to read on mobile)

This shows that 1% have no high school diploma, 5% have graduated high school and the remaining 94% have gone to or graduated from college.

15% have 1-4 years of college and no degree, 6% an associates, 55% a bachelor’s, 16% have a masters, 1% doctorate, 1% a professional degree.

Data from 2018,2019,2020 is collected from the surveys.

Average Wages: No college degree: $61,836 Associates: $57,762 Bachelor: $71,267 Masters: $74,774 Professional: $66,619 Doctorate: $83,250

Not clear if this is the first job only or if this includes the results of second and third jobs. There is a section showing average wages for first job is $69,079 and average wage for third job is $99,229.

Also 15% of the graduates have never been employed from the boot camps. (16% for 2018 grads, 15% for 2019 grads, and 37% for 2020 grads.)

There are a lot of other insights in there as well.

Unfortunately the reporting doesn’t generally show quantiles or other information about the spread in wages. There are a few results where mean and median are shown.

As it’s a survey and self-reported there are always going to be some limitations. If others have alternative data to offer up, please share!


A comment doesn't necessarily need to be accurate to reach the top, it could merely confirm the biases of enough people so they think "yeah, sounds right to me!"

I find it amusing your comment was greyed out when the the insight was so good.

I feel like another caveat to college is that it is mentally exhausting. I went to a state college for 2 years and dropped out and pursued IT certifications. In my career and I am currently sitting at 75k after a year of experience. I'm also more knowledgeable than my coworkers who finished their graduation by a longshot. My 6 certifications covered more than their entire curriculum. The current college system is very broken.

> In addition many are not welcoming to women at all...

There's a long way to go on this, but there are definitely people pushing back on it in various ways, including a number of women welders, electricians, bricklayers, etc all posting about themselves and their experiences on Tiktok:

https://www.tiktok.com/discover/women-in-trades


Yea, I am skeptical about top comment also. This is anecdotal, but I have a brother who is a welder w/ bunch of AWS certifications. For several years he worked at union and non-union shops here in Los Angeles. His experience is virtually the same in every shop - low pay (~$25-27/hr), physically challenging work, very limited vertical mobility. It was a sad struggle to observe from a position of someone w/ a FAANG job.

I ended up loaning $80K to him, so that he can open his own small welding shop. It is likely that money is gone forever without return. Even now with his own welding/metal fab business it is a constant struggle - winning bids inconsistently, short cash runway, $28/hr, can't afford to pay for his medical insurance, late night work to ensure new projects are coming in, abuse from general contractors who exploit small subcontractor welders, big boys clubs (small subs can't get those projects), etc.


I think #1 needs to factor in cost of living. In many urban areas, 45K is near or even below the poverty level for a single worker.

Well , one thing to consider is who more likely need to stay in urban area. I think it is required more for college educated compared to tradespeople.

To find white collar employment? At least before remote work became prevalent recently, I suppose so.

On the other hand, the infrastructure for a large urban area doesn't run itself! Trade work is definitely needed to keep the roads paved and cars functional, the warehouses and stores stocked, the buildings in repair, etc., I would hazard even more so than in less urbanized areas.

I think what I'm getting at is that it seems a little too facile to say uncritically that anyone can just go drive a forklift and expect to make a reasonably liveable income.


I'm not surprised at all - people with degrees try to find reasons to think they're better then the rest.

1. Many trades also are your own business, and can immediately scale for income - many plumbers, electricians, etc are millionaires with a small team of employees less than 15.

2. Google offers free marketing certification for this reason as well, it's not impossible for marketing/seo people to make 100k annually. It's very, very common.

3. Many colleges are not worth it and is debt- look at most state schools and you'd see a semester costs minimum $45,000. Yes there's community colleges.

4. Even community colleges require loans, and have programs of financial aid that is really "apply for fafsa, apply for stanford loans and then have pipelines for private debt.


You're way off on 3. You're saying that tuition alone at a state school costs $45k per semester, which would be $90k per year. This site says that the average in-state public school is ~$25k all-in for a year. That includes tuition, room and board, books and transportation.

https://www.valuepenguin.com/student-loans/average-cost-of-c...


That is not accurate at all

https://admission.ucla.edu/tuition-aid/tuition-fees 56k 9 months.

https://www.ohio.edu/financial-aid/cost

34k 9 months

9 months is considered 2 semesters.

per semester.

wouldn't consider ohio personally though. but beats your average by a good 30%. Not sure where it can get cheaper than Ohio.


You can’t say “most state schools” and then cite UCLA, which is one of the top public universities in the world.

But those are for out of state students. By your own links...

UCLA is ~36k all-in / per academic year for in state students Ohio is ~24k all in / per academic year for in state students

It's not cheap or something you can cover on a part time job anymore but its nowhere near the numbers you are citing.


You literally said "look at most state schools." How can most state schools have a cost that is higher than the average. Also, even your own case proved it. These schools are charging 56k or 34k respectively for 2 semesters. Therefore, a single semester would be 28k or 17k. Far from the 45k you allege in the original post.

Did you misread your own cite? UCLA is $36k for 9 months for in-state students, not $56k. Ohio is $24k for in-state. Anyone looking at these schools out of state is either not paying full price, due to scholarships or other aid, or is not worried about how to pay for it (bank of mom and dad).

> Not sure where it can get cheaper than Ohio.

Apparently lots of places, since the national average is substantially lower than the Ohio numbers.

But, more importantly, both UCLA and Ohio University are flagship R1s. Likely literally every other public university in Ohio is cheaper than OU, and I'd be unsurprised if UCLA is one of the more expensive public options in CA (wouldn't know, never lived in CA).

e: sure enough, the total cost at Youngstown State is 22K (tuition 10K, the rest is food and housing).

As an aside, including room and board in college prices always struck me as a bit odd (except in cases where living in a dorm is required, I guess, but that's somewhat rare). Do non-college-students not eat/drink/sleep?

Colleges/Universities and expensive enough and screwed up enough that exaggeration isn't necessary.


Ohio State is an R1. Ohio is an R2.

Thanks. In any case, I'm not sure why we're discussing cherry picked datapoints when someone already posted national averages...

Is that meant to support your earlier claim that “most state schools...a semester costs minimum $45,000”?

Stafford loans are not a thing anymore since 2010.

1. You can also start your own business with a college degree. Let’s compare like for like here.

2. Where are the stats?

3. Sure, many colleges are worth it too. State schools don’t cost 45k a semester. Don’t know how you can spread misinformation.

4. Community college can be very cheap, it depends on where you are and how poor you are so it’s hard to draw broad strokes here.


> 1. You can also start your own business with a college degree. Let’s compare like for like here.

A degree is not required at all to start a business. Evidence: Microsoft, Dell.


For someone who is finding holes in the OP’s reasoning, unfortunately, your linked post and statements lack rigor.

“ Average College grads make more money over their lifetime, period.”

There are huge selection effects in play. It is true that even after controlling for these effects, college has economic value. But the statement about making more money isn’t the right framing at all. There’s a whole chapter on this in the book called “Mastering metrics”. You might want to pick that up - it’s a coffee-table book for the quantitative-minded person.


Yeah the parent comment is trying to make college very cut and dry as a bad choice. That’s not true and removes the complicated aspect: college is still a very very good choice for most, and yet it’s horribly overpriced. Besides if you read the article, it’s not like kids are making hyper rational decisions about their future earning potential. They just want to avoid online classes and got hooked on making cash.

>2. Which boot camp? How many people ended up like your daughter? How much was it? Without these facts no comparison can be made.

Bootcamps charge a lot upfront and success rates as measured by good-paying jobs are low.


> Average College grads make more money over their lifetime, period.

That's a claim none of you sources can or even could support. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.


The PDF you linked cites lifetime earning data collected from the previous century. It might tell you about how things were 1950-2000. But says little about our current Internet-driven world.

So why are the babies crying that they can't afford their loans?

> In addition many are not welcoming to women at all

Many universities aren't welcoming to men at all.


> Average College grads make more money over their lifetime, period.

So that doesn't mean that if those people hadn't gone to college they wouldn't be making that extra money.

No one is saying that people that go to college are less valuable, what's in question is exactly what is college attendance adding that can't just be created in a less expensive, less elitist and more efficient environment.

Period.


Sure, but the parent post is talking about salaries here.

And no one is going to run an experiment on their own life but observationally, yes, that’s what’s happening in aggregate.


> Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs.

The impression I get from hanging out a bit in the welding subreddit is that a lot of people get into welding thinking it'll be a lucrative profession (because that's what people on the internet say about plumbers and welders and electricians and so forth), and what they eventually discover is that while it's possible to make a lot of money as a welder, that really only works if you own your own business. If you take a job working as someone else's employee, the pay usually isn't all that great.

That isn't to say that people shouldn't get into welding, it's just that they should have the right strategy and expectation going in.


You don’t need to be an owner management in welding (though that is definitely the better path), but you have to be great welder and you have to be willing to work long and hard (most people I know wouldn’t make it through a shift working on a refinery turnaround in PPE on the gulf coast in September).

> (most people I know wouldn’t make it through a shift working on a refinery turnaround in PPE on the gulf coast in September).

I think this can be applied to a lot of successful professions; they require commitment and, in the case of software engineering, a level of talent. You can't just go to a college or bootcamp and earn tons of money if you don't have the knack, if it doesn't click with you.

The issue here is survivorship bias; the people that earn a lot of money end up talking about, or getting reported on how they make their money, but the 95% earners below that don't get the mention because their jobs and earnings are average and unremarkable.

I mean part of me wants to reach out to a FAANG or hip startup and look for opportunities to see how much I could in theory earn there. But I don't think it would be a match because I don't have the sigma male leetcode grindset.


Exactly on the dot. In the trades you _have_ to move up to management / or above in short order due to the toll it takes on your body.

But not everyone can be a manager, I think we need better protections for the doers (unions, etc.). A lot of naive kids go into trades and trash their body only to end up with nothing or a life addicted to painkillers.


Just because you own a business doesn't mean you're a manager, I know plenty of people who work independently and work alone or have one or two guys working with them.

It's surprisingly similar to software development in that regard, once you get skilled enough you can get better money contracting than being employed and right now there's so much work that the "safety net" doesn't concern you.


I'd really like to do the same, although the lack of healthcare in the USA makes me hesitant. I'll probably do it anyways and just roll the dice, but hoping things change here soon.

"Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs. My kids can make more money with a six month apprenticeship than they will with all but a few 4 year degrees. If you can drive a forklift, you can make $45K/yr... which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes."

With the forklift you will stay at 45k forever and probably make less every year whereas for the teacher this is a starting salary and will go up. Talk to real blue collar workers and from most you will hear a not very rosy picture. Pay stagnates, management treats them like crap, terrible working conditions, very hard on the body so getting older is difficult.

Unless you are a business owner or in a very good union blue collar jobs aren't much fun.


I mean, ok, but let's not base our entire view on one trade, if you can even call forklift operation a skilled trade. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, HVAC techs all have upward mobility from apprentice to journeyman to foreman to owning their own businesses. Apprentice level electricians make about $75k in Alaska with zero experience. Foreman electricians managing commercial electrical jobs make about $175k. YMMV per state or metro but that's some decent growth IMO, especially considering no college education requirement.

I agree that the jobs are tough in the apprentice years. You are literally doing the grunt work for that trade, but a) you are getting paid to learn, and b) if you start right out of high school you are still young and able-bodied. Apprenticeships only last 2-4 years typically. You could be a licensed electrician at 22 years old.


While I'm not denying the value of trade jobs, it feels like cherry picking. An electrician in Alaska? Wouldn't his salary be inflated by high COL? Couldn't be the case that most people don't want to live there, and skilled workers are hired by oil and gas industry that can offer high wages?

Foreman earning 170k - how many of them are there? Acsdemia is a really tough job market, maybe except for CS, and nobody claims that scientist is a great career because there are professors who make good living. After all, everyone knows how many PhDs and postdocs leave the academia because of lack of tenured positions.

If you're briliant and top 5%, then you're going to succeed in every job and every trade. The question is what kind of jobs are left to the 95%?


You are describing good Union work. Anecdotally these jobs appear tough to get into from family who work in various trades, in construction such jobs are tough to get into and tougher to hold onto ( eventually the work dries up as construction dwindles )

Unionized manufacturing does much better, with steady employment that can exceed 200/hr for the right work. These days you can pretty much only get such jobs via connection as they aren’t creating more of these jobs very frequently.

Source: The 200/hr figure was based on underwater welding for USN ships.


> kids that had a job, any job before age 18 make 35% more than their peers over their lifetime regardless of degree.

I'm surprised by the magnitude but I can see why this would be the case. Working teenagers probably correlate with having parents who value work. Plus it teaches some valuable skills early on. An entry level job can throw all sorts of uncomfortable challenges at you, which you are expected to handle in stride.

I'd say there's a societal benefit as well, due to the empathy it promotes. Most people work very different jobs as an adult than they would as a teenager. Having more perspective on what other workers experience makes one more kind and reasonable in general.


You're probably also more able to work if your folks make enough money to have a stay-at-home parent (so you don't have to watch your younger siblings), buy you a car to get back and forth from your job, etc. Without seeing how they actually did this study, I'll go ahead and chalk most of this up to generational privilege.

Hmmm I'd want to see some data on this before drawing any conclusions, because my anecdotal experience is the opposite. The poor teenagers I knew pretty much all had jobs, in large part because they needed the money. Their only option to be able to buy new clothes or a used car was to earn the money themselves. Well off kids didn't have that same sort of pressure.

My first job as a teen was delivering newspapers (not sure that's really an option anymore, though). I also cut lawns in the summer. All of that was on foot or bicycle. Didn't have a car until I was 18.

If you for example do some open source projects between 15 and 18 and then get a job after finishing high school.. by the time the other person graduates college you will already have 4 years of experience and be a mid level/senior developer.. so you have a start of 4 years in terms of money as well as experience

We only look at college degrees for people without experience... for people that have experience, we don't care about the college sine it is all outdated stuff anyway... the interview will tell us what we want to know


This reminds me of some research I've seen supporting this effect. I can't remember the exact study but basically a large factory shut down putting a lot of people out of work, who were then offered free schooling to learn a new trade. After some number of years they looked back on those individuals and the ones who took the free training had actually done worse on average than the ones who had turned it down.

The effect seemed to be just what you're describing. Even though most of the non-schooling group got worse jobs to start, they had several years of lead time to build experience and get pay raises which ended up being more valuable than the certificate or degree the other group got.


I don't think the first two are problems colleges need to fix I think its more of a matter that we need to change our mindset about who should be attending college maybe some people would be better off going the trade school route.

Part of the problem is the social stigma of not having a college degree. Not sure how to fix that

I'm in my early 40s. I dropped out of university. I've been programming professionally, in a wide range of contexts and in various industries and niche markets, for over 15 years. I still deal with the stigma associated with not having a college degree. It's not as frequent today as it was when I was at year 1-5, but it still comes up often enough that I get the sense it will never go away.

Curious how it comes up? I’m 42 and dropped out at 16, and it has just never come up, nobody has ever asked me once. I’m not doubting your experience, just curious where our paths differed since it’s such a stark contrast. I’m not a programmer but worked in ops, then product management, then CPO. Maybe it’s something to do with that?

I'm a Senior II and tech lead at work and I've always been on the programming track.

Around ~22 months ago, I had a cold call from someone in HR asking me, "Did you finish your degree?" It was unusual. I'm not sure where they got the idea that I was "working on it" in the first place. This was happening around the same time that we had been acquired, so I imagine that it was related.

More recently, around the end of last summer, a mid-level on my team had apparently heard from someone else that I didn't have a degree and was probing me about my experience, etc.

It also came up in conversation during the Christmas holiday, with some friends, while playing an online game. This group of friends is also in tech, though they're a little younger than I am. In that conversation, they were surprised to learn that I didn't have a degree but held patents in the CV space (work done on a bootstrapped start-up that myself and a friend/co-founder worked on in the early/mid 2010s).

There are other examples from the past but I don't really hang onto these sorts of things.

I would add that I don't think any of these were bias or malicious or anything like that.


I wouldn't call it stigma then.

Sure, it may rarely come up in discussions but it doesn't imply someone is inferior to someone else.

The kind of people who believes formal education trumps everything are not in touch with the reality of education.

You probably did way more learning in your professional career than most graduates do during their degree.


That's probably a fair call out. I don't think that I can point to any recent personal examples of clear bias / stigma.

It is stigma because many people like these are in positions of power and they get to decide who passes the CV filter, for example.

Interesting, thanks for sharing your experience.

Possibly enterprise development. In my experience they are a lot more credentials driven then startups and boutique development firms. There are outliers like Microsoft, Netflix, Google. But you have a to be a truly outstanding developer without a degree rather than a pretty good one with a degree.

Yes, most of my work has been in fields that are highly credentialed.

I'm with you. In my professional career, I've had 2 bosses that never went to college. Never been an issue.

Maybe it's just your social circle. Nobody likes university in mine - and in the last 15 years no company I worked in required a degree. I met a few CTOs (in real companies, not startup "CTOs" with 3 engineers) without degrees.

I took my degree in CS while I was working (lots of sleepless nights and ill prepared exams) and just because I didn't want to preclude myself from the opportunity of working for some big company with antiquated requirements.


Step one would be to re-asses what happens in highschools. I remember a decade ago when I was in highschool we had to do college prep stuff mandated by the state government that all but said that College was the only route.

This! When I was in high school, the school barely mentioned Running Start or the local trade school. My high school computer classes consisted of me learning from the way-underpaid and overworked IT guy, and not any actual teachers. The high school only had classes on Keyboarding, 10-key, and a handful of Macs that had some Photoshop on them for the photography students...

Meanwhile Running Start gets you your 2 year degree by the time you graduate, so 2 years less debt, and 2 years ahead of everybody else. The trade school had game programming classes, automotive, electronics classes... which were things I was actually interested in learning at the time and were not remotely available at the HS itself.

But if you do either of those two things, the high school loses and FTE count, and the money gets diverted to the other school. So the HS tends to hardly tell anybody about them. Not to mention, they made the trade school seem like a place where delinquents go who can't handle high school and get into college. Looking back, I wish I had known more about the trade school, because there were so many more interesting classes there!


Let's start with having the President not pledging for "college for all"

https://www.forbes.com/sites/prestoncooper2/2017/01/17/obama...


Meanwhile in most of Europe, college is free. I wonder how their attendance rates have fared in comparison.

It is my understanding (based on what I know of Germany) that only certain degrees (mostly STEM) are free, and available to students who qualify (academically).

That’s fair. If someone wants to get a degree in a “field” that is not contributing to the society’s GDP, the degree is most likely only good as a signaling device for its holder. Paying their signaling cost out of the tax payer’s pocket is lunacy.

I recall that in France and Italy, tuition wasn't free, but it was on the order of ~200-300 euros per year. STEM degree tuition cost more since those students had more expensive facilities like laboratories.

Take this anecdata with a grain of salt; it's nearly 20 years old.


It's free if you're poor, otherwise it's cheap (think 3-5k€ per year).

The European governments didn't distort the market to make universities as grand and expensive as the American ones (where the price raised 1500% since the 80s).

European universities are sad places which get the job done for relatively little money. You're still spending 3-5+ years of your life though, and that's a currency you can't earn more of.


European universities are sad places? That's a broad and completely unfair brush to paint an entire continent with.

He said European universities are sad places, that get the job done. American universities are totally awesome places, with $10 million student centers and $20 million athletic facilities, they get the job done at a far, far higher cost to students.

These aren't colleges problem. US institutions are 300 years old, they will survive this 60 year old meme, and go back to being meeting spots for the well-money and influential who also become the learned population.

> the social stigma of not having a college degree

People have been saying this for decades, but is it still really a thing? Perhaps on the coasts? If you're in a small or mid-sized city in the midwest or the south, it's almost exactly the opposite...


It absolutely is but it depends on the field. My first few years in software were filled with questions like, "Why didn't you finish?" We also continue to interview in ways that are more accommodating for college graduates and attendees, regardless of whether it's needed or not.

I see. Makes sense. I was thinking more about "general social status", rather than job-specific stuff, because that's how I interpreted OP.

> We also continue to interview in ways that are more accommodating for college graduates and attendees, regardless of whether it's needed or not.

Wouldn't Leetcode-style interviewing be more egalitarian? Assuming self-taught people know their stuff, I guess? The alternative in other engineering disciplines is to just check the degree and do some soft interviews, right?

Or do you mean something else?


The DS/A stuff that's taught in schools as well as math aids a lot in leetcode style interviews. Consider that material to be a very large hill to climb to understand solving these problems in a time-boxed manner. Additionally, most of the time these problems have nothing to do with your day to day work - which begs the question: why do they exist in the first place?

I'm in an awkward situation because I'm in R&D, so every job I've had uses DS/A style stuff intensely every day. The engineers I hire are mostly there to help me with my work, so they need the DS/A style stuff. I don't really care about someone having a college degree, but they do need a level of maturity equivalent to an upper-division algorithms course to be productive/useful.

It is odd that jobs which don't require this knowledge test for it.


Your job sounds super niche. I work in R&D and we definitely don't use DS/A most of the time. That said, most of these FAANG and start up jobs are just like mine. They test for those skills anyway.

It’s not so much a social stigma as it is different socialization. People who went to college use the experience to relate to one another long into adulthood.

More than anything that’s why students go to college (source: college students).


As in, we went to college together therefore we're friends and we refer each others / pass each other clients?

That doesn't ring true for my case. I'm sure it's incredibly anecdotal but college level networking lasted 2 years top for me - and it was all ex-coworkers from there on.


No, what I mean is that people who went to college share a similar socialization process. I'm not talking about networking, I'm talking about culture. It's the same as people who went to high school versus people who were home schooled.

Everything from bonding (or not) with your roommate, to going out late at night with your hallmates, to meeting boys/girls and dealing with the strange dramas that ensue, your first off campus party, cramming in the libraries at 4am for exams, hanging out in the [insert major] lounge and complaining about your professors, tailgating at football games... just all the little incidental things that are part of college life. People who went through college can automatically bond over their separate experiences of these things.


I'm sure in some social circles or professions it is, but after college I've lived in Seattle, Boston, Brooklyn, and Las Vegas, and outside of the context where the existence of my degree is a necessity by virtue of state law in order to undertake the profession I was in, it really doesn't come up, ever. In part, it's probably because facebook had us all list our education particularly my cohort who needed a .edu email address to sign up, but even after I got off facebook and changed careers entirely, it's just not something that comes up. I don't know if there's simply a presumption that I'm "one of them" or because I have a social circle that isn't entirely homogeneous educationally, but I can't even really think of how the subject matter would come up, or why anyone should care.

Yep. The GP thinks parents consider their child being a forklift driver vs teacher as equivalent outcomes if they pay the same?

Would you be ashamed if your child was a forklift driver? The world needs people to do useful things, and we shouldn't shame people for doing useful things.

Not ashamed, but forklift driving will be automated sooner than teaching (probably way sooner). I'd prefer them to run the most lucrative business they can operate and accrue capital.

I think at some point we'll all be screwed by automation (including teachers, developers, baristas and doctors) and too poor people won't have a reason to exist.

Better to get rich and independent from society before we can print human-like workers in a factory.


No shame, I don’t care what people do as long as it doesn’t harm others. People should enjoy their lives.

But, many (most?) people are status-conscious and equal pay != equal prestige. College is primarily about opening doors to higher prestige.


It is a crime that teachers are paid so poorly. No judgement was intended about career choices (I'm the GP).

Income over the next 4 quarters is, of course, the only factor by which one can distinguish occupations.

My degrees are not in CS related fields at all (both in Architecture). I know that just being able to "check the box" has gotten me in the door. Only a small handful of the places I've interviewed with over the last 10+ years have cared that my degrees weren't in CS. In some cases I've corrected them, "no, building architecture, not software architecture", and no one's seemed to care.

While you don't have to have a degree to get into tech, having one certainly makes things easier


It depends on the context: having a college degree is stigmatized in some places.

I solved it by starting my own company :-)

Yeah we I read somewhere that in Germany 60% of students go into trades and they have seriously beefed up their programs. But yeah there is a stigma here in the US about trades, I think that's partly due to the social consequences of having insane wealth gaps and worshipping billionaires.

Not only that, but depending on which state you are in in Germany (and Austria) you get routed at around 4th grade. If the teachers decide that you are academically fit for it then you go on to the Gymnasium, which prepares you for college, often with some focus for your class (e.g.: mathematics, arts, or science). If those same teachers decide that you are not up to college, but are still smart enough for something skilled, then you go on to Realschule, which still has some focus on academics, but is steering you to something like being a secretary, or a generic office worker. And finally there is the Hauptschule track. Here you are being groomed for something more involved with labor. The academics are not nearly so rigorous, and there is almost always the expectation that you will be steered into an apprenticeship for the final 4 years of what we (in the U.S.) would have as High School. Some of these apprenticeships can be quite prestigious (e.g.: the BMW technician school in Munich), but many of them are pretty pedestrian (e.g.: learning to run agricultural equipment).

For most people this routing when they are 10 (or so) decides what routes are open to them later in life. There are exceptions to this (my host sister went to Realschule, and later took the Abiture, the the test that got her into college), but they are pretty rare.

I have always been a bit leery of choices made so early in life, but it works pretty well in Germany.


It actually doesn't work that great in Germany. The college dropout rate is about 28% (https://researchgate.net/publication/267340378_Student_Drop-...). The Hauptschule and Realschule routes seem much better designed than the US, but in terms of predicting who is suitable for college Germany isn't doing a very good job.

28% is much lower than the ~37% failure rate to graduate in 6 years in US.

In somewhere like Iran you may see very high graduation rates in part because you may need to be selected as best student (a former employer I interviewed with, the owner got into college because he was best math student in a class of something like 1000 children.)

Dropout rate because of failure to adapt, of course, would be a good thing. Those who aren't fit for a career in engineering for instance were rapidly ejected into a different program from my public college I went to (like 25+% ejected first year, memory says it was more like 50%), which meant very few people wasted lots of money on a dead career path.


Iran uses comprehensive standardized exams to sort university admissions (the population of the test takers vary between 100k and 600k), but pretty much anyone with a STEM high-school degree can get admitted to some university. The worst universities are for-profits (still pretty cheap though, except a few very good programs in state universities that admit a few people by money), and they basically give you a degree for giving them your money and showing up on classes. Since the universities get a more homogeneous level of talent, the standards they set is compatible with what most of their students can achieve, hence the high graduation rates.

Another factor is that people take life more seriously in Iran (based on my very limited data on non-urban Iranians, and the US). There is virtually no social bubble that does not think degrees are important. “Engineer” is used as a general title of prestige, used as an umbrella term for anyone rich who is not a medical doctor.


The point of the split for Gymnasium is supposed to be to only admit those students who would successfully adapt, though. Attending college also requires passing the Abitur, which shows skill in the areas you are planning to study. A failure to understand engineering topics should show up in the topics chosen for the Abitur. (Similar to the choice of A level topics in the UK.)

Somewhat relatedly, college in Germany is more focused on the theoretical than it is in the US. A lot of engineering college programs in the US would be closer to a German technical school than a German college.


I understand. I worry that the more you lower the false positive (accepted to college but uncapable), the greater you raise the false negative (denied college path but capable).

I very much appreciated the way my public college worked. Very few who started electrical engineering finished. But they would accept damn near anyone. The few that survived had the world in their pocket.

>A lot of engineering college programs in the US would be closer to a German technical school than a German college.

Must depend on the college. My experience, as well as most my peers, was that engineering was about 60% raw mathematics. There was so much math, I only use a small fraction of it today. Maybe 10% of the engineering degree was practical labs. The engineering technology programs are maybe what you're thinking of? They flip those numbers on their head. It's hard for me to imagine any 4 year degree except mathematics and physics having more math than engineering programs I'm familiar with.


> I worry that the more you lower the false positive (accepted to college but uncapable), the greater you raise the false negative (denied college path but capable).

Sure, but if you're trying to avoid false negatives the German system is already poor. In the US work is the goal and there's a lot of talk about finding a job you love. The German system is mainly focused on minimizing the number of people who can't find work. In Germany there's also less of an income gap between professions than in the US (a German doctor or highly paid computer scientist only makes 2x what a tradesperson or retail worker makes https://www.iamexpat.de/career/working-in-germany/salary-pay...).

> My experience, as well as most my peers, was that engineering was about 60% raw mathematics.

Was the mathematics mainly proofs? My US university required a minimum of 2 classes with a significant programming project for a Computer Science degree, and many students took 6 or more courses with significant programming projects. My semester studying abroad in Germany, there was only 1 course offered that even had a serious project component. There was a heavy focus on proofs, and all the hardware architecture courses offered were entirely structured around formal verification of hardware.


>My US university required a minimum of 2 classes with a significant programming project for a Computer Science degree,

Computer Science and Computer Engineering are typically significantly different curricula. Engineering is generally part of a school of engineering. Computer science is generally in college of science. This is a generalization of course. This is purely pedantic, but most ABET engineers consider a CS major a scientist while a computer engineer as an engineer. My comments were limited to engineering programs.


To be super pedantic, because I think it's interesting: At the US the Computer Science major was in the college of Arts and the Computer Engineering major was in the college of engineering, but besides general education electives the majors only differed by 1 CSE course and 1 or 2 low-credit math courses (most CS/CE majors took the CSE courses required for both).

In Germany, the equivalent major is Informatik, which literally translates to English as Information Science but is basically Computer Science. There are some colleges that offer technische Informatik, which would be Computer Engineering, and a degree in engineering, but as far as I can tell that's rarer.

Computer Science isn't officially an engineering degree, but I definitely wouldn't consider it a science degree. The only scientific experiments were in gen ed physics courses.



Distributing children of age 10 into groups based on their predicted future academic achievement works about as well as you would expect (i.e. not very well), but the redeeming feature of the system is that it is reasonably fluid and you can change tracks. You could, for example, do Abitur after completing Realschule and then move on to university. It is also possible to change directly from Realschule to Gymnasium at basically any point, if you meet certain standards. (You can also take university classes while in Gymnasium without too much trouble.)

There is also the Gesamtschule, which combines the three tracks (Hauptschule, Realschule, Gymnasium) into a single school.


I heard that this year, at least in some regions, they're doing the Gymnasium assignments randomly (!) I know someone where their child qualified for Gymnasium but apparently it's not guaranteed this year due to lack of spots so there's going to be a lottery (!).

This is in North Rhine-Westphalia.


This would never be allowed in America. the notion of “merit” in the US is associated with white supremacy and the idea that you can divide kids by their skills/grades will get you in trouble, especially if you do it that early.

If for whatever reason the demographics at each track are not the same as those of the nation it will get called racist and shut down quick.


> the notion of “merit” in the US is associated with white supremacy

In Germany, our system is far more inclusive at all levels which means we don't have that much of a problem with early stage ethnic discrimination. Not to say we don't have any problems at all (far from it, in fact!) but it's nowhere near as bad as in the US, and additionally for once we Germans don't have historical baggage that's keeping us down.


You can't make something up and apply it to an entire continent.

Huh? From Peter Thiel to Bill Gates to Steve Jobs to Zuckerburg, most billionaires don't push the college propaganda and have shown/encouraged path without college education.

It's only the pseudo-social scientists who can't do proper data analysis (finding out the real confounding variable) that push the college propaganda


Don't forget Elizabeth Holmes!

Asian migrants (east, south) lok down on trades. Not core US middle class looks down on such.

> kids that had a job, any job before age 18 make 35% more than their peers over their lifetime

Just as with claims about college, there is a huge selection bias in this observation. (A substantially higher proportion of youngish Americans obtain a bachelors degree than have a job before age 18.)

Edit: Let’s be clear: there is obviously a huge selection bias when talking about college as well, which should not be ignored.


> A substantially higher proportion of Americans obtain a bachelors degree than have a job before age 18.

Is this true? I got a job as soon as I was legally allowed to and so did every one of my friends in high school. Where I'm from you were seen as kind of a loser if you didn't work over the summer, at least. I'd guess it was something like 90% of kids at my school worked at some point in high school.

Edit: Here's a chart [0]. These numbers are much smaller than I expected (although keep in mind this is a snapshot, not the percentage who at any point in high school will have had a job), but what's really surprising is that the number of high school kids working has collapsed since I was in high school.

[0] https://www.statista.com/statistics/477668/percentage-of-you...


Interesting. I'm also surprised by those numbers. I had a job in high school and so did most of my friends. Maybe not 90% of them, but I'm sure it was >60% of people I knew.

Here's something more detailed from BLS. https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2017/article/teen-labor-force-p...

It suggests the difference is more teens in school. One can also imagine more focus on extracurriculars etc. within a certain demographic over a job flipping burgers.


Wonder what the cause is for the drop off from ~30% to under 20%?

Speculation but maybe boomer money allows their kids not to need to work as much as past.


Or more competition from older workers for entry-level service jobs, after the 2008 recession.

Maybe it's whatever is causing a more general decline in labor force participation?

https://twitter.com/AlecStapp/status/1481468372911116295


The 2008 recession apparently caused a precipitous ~7% drop in 25–54 year-old male labor participation rate, and it took about a decade to almost recover, then nosedived again during the pandemic. It has substantially recovered since the pandemic low, but we’ll have to wait to see whether it ever recovers to 2007 levels. It’s clear the initial government response to the great recession was too little, too slow, and insufficiently directed toward working people. Blame GOP senators and the Bush II White House.

Overall the US has seen a half-century of flatlining wages, massive growth in executive compensation, substantial decline of unions, financialization of many industries, business consolidation greatly reducing competition throughout the economy, outsourcing of many kinds of jobs, relaxation of labor laws, hollowing out and regulatory capture of federal agencies, an almost complete elimination of any limits on corporate/wealthy campaign funding, massive cost increases for housing and healthcare and education, etc.

Not really surprising that constantly empowering capital at the expense of labor for decades leads to long-term structural problems.

* * *

As an aside, it would be very helpful if these labor participation rates were broken down by age in smaller buckets. Such large buckets make it hard to disentangle demographic factors from changes for each age group.


Yes, but it is interesting which bias gets ignored and which one gets pointed out.

> Collage increases earnings!

"Yay lets send everyone to collage and give out >1T$ of loans"

> Early work experience increases earnings!

"Confounding factors and selection bias!"


That’s the point?

> 2) There are better options than college for many.

I agree there are better options than college for many. Thought if I were a betting man, on average, College is the better decision.

> One of my daughters did a six month digital marketing bootcamp. She made $45k year one, and a year later is the director of marketing at her company making over $100k/yr.

I'm curious how old she was when she completed that bootcamp, and if she had a degree in another field, and/or experience. I just cant fathom a 20 year being a marketing director making $100,000.

In nearly 20 years professionally, I have worked with MANY people between the ages of 18-22 (many of which themselves attend or attended prestigious schools), and none showed the aptitude, skill and leadership required to be director at that time.


Chances are she is working at a very small company, so "Director" doesn't carry much weight. Otherwise I would be similarly baffled.

The title inflation would make sense, but also paying director of marketing at a small company $100,000?

Glassdoor has that salary around $75k on average for a small company.


It's just a combination of being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people, and making a good impression. There are a lot of people in the world, some of them are going to fall upwards.

The real question is whether or not this path is scalable for an entire generation to successfully replicate. I suspect it's not.


The purpose of college is partly workforce training but also just general education. To see college as solely providing competitive dollar careers seems to misunderstand a large part of higher educational purpose. In theory at least, the liberal arts are something far more than just "can I work at FB".

Which is why far fewer people should be getting them. The immediate needs of most people far outweighs the desire to learn about liberal arts.

Which is why these degrees were sold with the promise of good pay. If you want to blame someone for framing college solely from a wage earning potential perspective, point the finger at the people selling college degrees to kids.

There should not be guaranteed student loans for degrees that don't provide competitive dollar careers.


Yes, thank you! I find the point of view where college is just job training so myopic.

I think this view is indicative of a massive failure of cultural expectations.

At what point in the past 50 years did we start expecting academic liberal arts institutions to start churning out people with vocational skills? These are entirely different things.

The fact that an average 1970's college graduate was highly employable has nothing to do with those colleges having good vocational training programs, and everything to do with selection bias of those who attended and the economics of the time.

If you need vocational skills, you should enroll in a vocational program.


>At what point in the past 50 years did we start expecting academic liberal arts institutions to start churning out people with vocational skills? These are entirely different things.

The point where they started taking in about half of each rising generation as freshman instead of 5%.


And whose fault is that? It's the parents and advisors that said "go to college and you'll get a good job" when they weren't cut out for it (or didn't even want to do it). It's the voters who pushed for students loans "to give all of our students a chance".

If you give people who aren't cut out to do something, a chance to do that thing, it's expected that more people will fail. We are now living with the predictable result of pushing unmotivated and uninterested kids to "just try it out", and handing them a credit card to do it with.


>And whose fault is that?

The universities were happy to take the money, from the elite-but-useless private schools to the underfunded but more practical public engineering colleges. Only changing the incentives will change the results.


Universities certainly have the incentive to take money when people are lining up to give it to them. I don't blame people for doing their job to grow their institutions.

You'd think students would be incentivized enough not to dig themselves into thousands of dollars in debt, but students are also incentivized by the wishes of their parents and the promises of a good future. Incentives don't have to be in someone's best interest to be motivating.


The real problem is the guaranteed federally-backed loans that aren't dischargeable. Remove that and the tuition fees and attendance will come back down to earth.

I doubt that reducing the consequences to borrowing will lead to less borrowing. The opposite would happen.

Universities don't care if you default on your loans, they've already been paid.

If they're dischargeable, rates will just go up, or the government will have to subsidize them further. 17 year old kids aren't choosing whether to go to college based on whether the rate they get on their loan swings a few points in either direction.


Exactly my point! It's the responsibility of public policy to align incentives with what's actually good for people over the long run.

The bad public policy in this case is a symptom of cultural expectations, not the other way around.

If a politician runs a campaign on “reducing student loan assistance” they will have committed political suicide and it won’t change the minds of any mother pushing their 17 year old son to go to college.


> 1) Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs.

I fail to see how this is a problem, and whether it should be fixed. The very idea that people that went through college deserve more is insulting for tradespeople as well as the source of bad incentives to go to college. If anything, the society would probably benefit from colleges focusing on transmitting and advancing knowledge, rather than being paid fast-lanes for people who only give a fuck about the payckeck.

This idea that some works deserve fair pay and some work deserve abuse (the worst being "burger flipper", "student job", etc.) really need to die. If you don't think it deserves fair pay and respect, you don't deserve the service.


Fully agree, and the implication is that even fewer people should go to college.

Well, not necessarily.

College currently mostly exists as an early-life service, but alternative paths exist: in the US, people in the military can go to college later in life. In some countries, people can get college education at evening courses. We could envision that some people starting early in life in physically hard jobs may want/have to retire years earlier, and use that time to go through college our of personal interest.

This isn't really possible with an onerous college system mostly dedicated to social layering, but an university system with scholarships for everyone and flexibility in the time and way people enroll is not an impossible goal.

I for one would really like to return to university after I retire, for instance.


There shouldn't be a divide between skilled trades and bachelor's degrees. If I could add a creative writing minor to math degree, why was it impossible for me to add an aircraft maintenance certification through my school?

> why was it impossible for me to add an aircraft maintenance certification through my school?

Because schools can't bullshit maintenance certification curricula and aren't willing to pay qualified faculty.

See also: the alarming number of schools where CS and Data Science courses are still taught by mathematics faulty (because they can't find CS faculty who are willing to work for $70K).

This model of "pay unqualified people to teach a good enough version of the course and hope our consumers don't notice they're being shafted" only works in unregulated fields. Most trades are not unregulated.


For most schools CS is literally in the Math Department. And traditional CS is a lot more math than the contemporary CS, which should really be called SWE.

My alma mater finally merged CS and SWE, then moved the new CS/SWE degree to Engineering because engineering basically prints money.


> Because schools can't bullshit maintenance certification curricula and aren't willing to pay qualified faculty.

Yeah, the crucial thing that most people miss in these discussion is that most schools don’t actually effectively teach what they claim to be teaching. Teachers and students go through the motions, but the students don’t actually end up learning much of anything, and the teachers who nevertheless give them passing grade face no consequence. If a typical high school started offering aircraft maintenance certification, instead of increasing the graduates value on job market, it would simply make the certification to be held as worthless.


Because the AMT course is typically 24 months long by itself (for a combined airframe and powerplant certificate)? It’s 30 months of relevant, supervised maintenance work experience or a qualified AMT school program, which are often 24 months full-time.

That’s far more time than a typical creative writing minor.


You've not really addressed the spirit of the question, they're not asking about aircraft maintenance really, they're asking why academic courses and more hands-on practical/technical courses can't be mixed?

I guess in the UK you'd try for an apprenticeship with day release to college for the academic elements (or take a job in a technical field and do an Open University or other distance learning course for the academic side?).


I tried to and answered the way I did because I think a lot of people vastly underestimate the time and effort required to get certified for a trade. “Why can’t I just add an MD to my engineering degree?” seems like a ridiculous question, but “Why can’t I add a plumber’s or electrician’s or AMT license/certificate to my degree?” is treated as “well, that’s a good question; you ought to be able to!”

(They specifically asked about a certification not just “some coursework”.)


I don't think this is right, basic domestic electrician training in UK takes 2 months. Many trades don't have a lisence, i.e. bike mechanic.

I think the problem is in the culture of these institutions, they are not prepared for getting iut of a classroon and getting their hand dirty.


Certification time varies greatly.

A pretty good set of AWS welding certs can be done in 6wk of night classes.

You can't get paid money to install a toilet in some states until you've started as the jobsite bitch, worked your way up and payed years of your life into the system to get in a position to even be eligible to take the test.

The latter tends to only happen after regulatory capture.


they're asking why academic courses and more hands-on practical/technical courses can't be mixed?

I think they did answer this: it's because hands-on practical/technical skills are hard to learn and people who can teach them are generally expensive.


I'd add that while a full certification is quite hard to learn and takes a lot of time, schools absolutely have hands on courses. I have a mechanical engineering degree and two of my courses were very hands on with machine shop and building something for a contest.

Education is also expensive, arguably what the hell are we paying for then?

Unfortunately a lot of this is because many faculty of 'liberal arts' colleges/universities believe "we are here to give an education and open student's minds and broaden their horizons" but even more often I have heard "liberal arts are not intended to be job training institutions"

so it is a much easier sell a creative writing major in a faculty senate or something similar than Aircraft Maintenance. And when you do get Aircraft Maintenance it usually gets tucked into the engineering or business schools in order to survive.

also: https://thedispatch.com/p/we-are-less-educated-than-we-think


There aren't colleges problem. Its coincidence that for the last 60 years people felt like they needed college, while colleges insist that people want to be there for obscure higher education for the sake of pursuing obscure higher education. Turns out this was true for hundreds of years before inclusion was even a concept, and will exist for the next hundreds of years as people find another option.

The colleges were willing to jack up the price to take advantage of the government giving out loans. They are a major part of the problem as well.

And those that did, used the funds to build new campuses and cutting-edge programs. And students overwhelmingly chose to go to these more expensive and larger schools while smaller and more modest schools struggled to attract students.

I suggest you look at the ways universities ACTUALLY spend money. Yes, many, including my alma mater, spent lavishly on fancy new buildings. No question about that. But the primary growth of expenses at universities has been the huge growth in administrative positions. Administrators want to get paid more, and what better way to do that than to pretend you need more people working UNDER you. There is zero reason why every other industry in the world has reduced their administrative overhead with technology except higher education. And you will never see a bigger group of useless fucks than university administrators. Not unlike the Wall Street "bro" douchebags, they are just talkers with no real skills, inserting themselves into a corrupt system to collect a chunk of the dollars flowing past them.

Yes, of course, when people are at the door with a blank check, it's easy to waste too. I'm not saying these schools spend all their money wisely, I'm saying that people could choose to go to cheaper colleges but often don't, and choose schools that appear to have more resources.

There is evidence that there is an educational benefit for everyone just alone to the fact that people get challenged with academic problems.

But people should also be made aware that universities do not train a craft and not every academic discipline translates to an occupation. The final training will probably happen in the companies that want to invest in academics.


>There aren't colleges problem. Its coincidence that for the last 60 years people felt like they needed college...

Colleges - especially for-profit colleges - have certainly contributed to that feeling.


I agree that many parties have seized on the opportunity presented, and I am just as apathetic to which institutions will cease to exist in any disruption to their finances. the concept will remain around.

Government needs to get out of the student loan game entirely.

Medicare in the US has negotiated rates they will pay for medical services. The "retail" price is very often extremely high but knocked down to what the government agrees to pay for Medicare patients. A similar system for college loans would allow the government to still offer loans but with caps on how much colleges could charge for tuition to students with government loans. The problem is uncapped tuition and loan terms that allow lenders to offer tremendously large sums of money to students in a low risk way because the students can't declare bankruptcy or discharge the loans in any easy way.

Many of the largest schools in the US are government institutions. There's no need to negotiate prices, state legislatures can just set the price.

https://c0arw235.caspio.com/dp/b7f930003542e89a6fb844548260


One big issue with making a no-college a viable option is that in the US the school education is absolutely atrocious. In many colleges the first year of science or engineering degree classes focus on providing a decent background that should have been taught at schools.

This needs to be fixed for the school-only path to be viable.


Public schools in the US vary from "absolutely atrocious" to "absolutely great" depending on where you live. The colleges that select students only from the latter do not waste time re-teaching high school material.

I think I did not express myself well. The problem I was referring to with the schools is not that some teachers are better and some are worse, class features, etc. This matters, but there are bigger problems as US lacks a uniform school program. The selection of materials is done more or less at the teacher's discretion.

This means that even in the same school the math teacher for kids entering grade 8 does not know what material was covered before. Some kids may have been exposed to a particular topic, some may have never seen it. So teachers have to go over the basic material again and again and again, which makes it very hard to give a solid course.

In Europe (at least in some countries), there is a standard program, so the teacher in grade 8 math knows that all prerequisites have been seen by every student. So they give a very brief refresher at the beginning of the year and can turn to the new material. Even better, when a topic is covered in a physics class, the physics teacher knows that the corresponding math tools have already been covered in the math classes.


Every state I've lived in has official curricula standards required by state governments, and the AP courses that are typically recommended to college-track students are standardized across the entire country.

> which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes

Education degrees and Journalism degrees rank near the bottom of pay.

If you want a good starting salary, invest in a STEM major.

Above all, google "starting salaries for major XXXXX" before picking one. Sheesh!


> She made $45k year one, and a year later is the director of marketing at her company making over $100k/yr

If OP's daughter got a CS degree after two years she'd have made $0 and be $30k in the hole for state school tuition ($100k+ for private school). By my calculation she's $100k minus boot camp cost out of the hole.

According to Google the median income for a bachelor's degree is $100k, which includes experienced people in their working prime. So I think OP has a pretty good counterexample.

Also, not everyone wants to maximize their income. Comp sci now is what finance used to be, but not everyone has the moral framework or dedication to money where they can just Google highest paying jobs and choose the top one.


The point is, don't pick a major, spend 4 years and $$$$$, and then complain that one didn't know what the starting salaries would be.

This is easily the best advice in this thread.

In response to your problems:

> 1) Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs

This is a problem that the colleges cannot fix. It's not the college systems fault teacher pay is being held back so much (unless by that you mean they should dramatically increase professors' salaries, so that the higher rates in academia trickle down.)

> 2) There are better options than college for many.

This is point 1 again. Digital Marketing is just a different skilled trade.

> 3) College is way over priced.

Isn't that because tuition has been a larger and larger portion of their income?

> They claim graduates make 40% over their lifetime vs. non grads. JP Morgan Chase did a study two years ago that shows kids that had a job, any job before age 18 make 35% more than their peers over their lifetime regardless of degree.

Sure, and? That's not relevant to the discussion, because they just isolated one variable. If both statements are true, you would expect a college educated person who had a job before 18 to make 89% more than someone who did neither.

> 4) Student loans are a horror that needs to stop.

I agree. But it's not the college system's fault that public support (financially) nosedived over the past couple of decades.


there's been a proliferation of administrators in colleges. the ratio of administrators to professors/instructors has been steadily climbing since the 70s. I see this as a form of corruption.

Apparently this is where most of the tuition cost is going

> She made $45k year one, and a year later is the director of marketing at her company making over $100k/yr.

That...is one heck of a promotion. Good for her!


>1) Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs. My kids can make more money with a six month apprenticeship than they will with all but a few 4 year degrees. If you can drive a forklift, you can make $45K/yr... which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes.

I'm not sure universities can fix this, or want to fix this.

Many of the people opting for university degrees aren't looking to perform work that needs to be done, but seeking a role that makes them feel powerful/smart/elegant/influential etc.

In a market-based economy that rewards meeting the needs/wants of others, I'm honestly surprised that many college grads are paid anything at all.


> Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs.

Is this a problem that needs fixing? We don't have enough plumbers & electricians (for example), many in those fields are retiring and until lately there haven't been enough people entering those trades to replace those retiring. Now we're probably going to start seeing people enter those trades at a higher rate than in the recent past. These are very good paying jobs and often it's hard to find a plumber or electrician when you need one.


> Young people should not be put in debt-bondage. Imagine America's financial health if we let young people start families and careers debt free.

I agree college is far too expensive and the rate of inflation of college tuition is rather absurd. The reasons for such, are best debated in another thread. However, I'm skeptical that eliminating student debt would ultimately result in significantly better financial outcomes for young people. Instead, most of the "savings" would be swallowed up by higher real estate and rent costs. The pandemic should serve as prima facie evidence -- give a huge swath of the population more cash, real estate will eat much/most/all of it. Let's say that instead of student debt, the typical 22-32 year-old professional has approximately $500 more spending power. All that means is that they will compete with each other to purchase housing, pushing rents and housing costs up -- not just for themselves but also for everyone else.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't try to reduce student debt (not via forgiveness, but by reducing education costs to begin with) -- but doing so is not a panacea.


There is another option, make degree status a protected class so that degrees cannot be an in-name-only qualification.

This would remove the FOMO of college and significantly increase trades and bootcamps.

An idea partially inspired by this blog: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidie...


Your first three points are very strong and insightful, but I somewhat object to your fourth. Individuals get loans for things that pay off in the long-term regularly - cars and houses, for the most part. I don't see any reason why college should be different, especially because the alternative is for taxpayers to subsidize it.

The real issues are twofold: first, student loans are underregulated and very predatory in a way that car loans and mortgages are not; second, like you said in your third point, college is way overpriced, with the cost of it going up about an order of magnitude over the past few decades with no discernable increase in quality (see the excellent Consideration On Cost Disease for more[1]).

If education was 10x cheaper and student loan rates were 3-5% a year, you wouldn't need the public to fund education - and even if you wanted to, it'd be a far easier time selling that idea than trying to convince people to fund undergraduate degrees to the tune of $100k+ per student.

[1] https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/02/09/considerations-on-cost...


There's much more to higher education costs than Baumol's cost disease. Public universities have much higher tuition because state subsididies to universities have decreased. In 2005, the state paid 3/4 and students paid 1/4 of the cost of instruction at my university. By 2019, those numbers were reversed, with students paying 3/4 of the cost. Total cost of instruction remained the same within a couple percent over that time period.

On the other side, elite private universities are in ever greater demand, driving higher tuitions. Higher tuition is a signal of their elite status, and such universities want to keep their tuition close to that of their competitors. They use financial aid to produce a sliding scale to collect as much money as they can from those who can afford to pay. On the other side, because of that financial aid, raising tuition an amount x may only produce an increase of income of 1/2 x, because the rest goes to increased financial aid. That factor increases the rate at which they raise tuition.


"the alternative is for taxpayers to subsidize it."

You already are subsidising it by providing loans that cannot be paid off before death.

Just need to add debt prisons and we'll be back at 18th century class society.


I think a third real issue is also important, the 'undue hardship' burden necessary to get rid of student loans through bankruptcy needs to be dropped.

Exactly, people get loans for houses and cars, and the banks make damn sure you're a good credit risk. For college loans, it's literally the opposite. Since the loans are so hard to get rid of, the only incentive is to increase the number and size of the loans.

The issue is that if lenders looked at creditworthiness for college loans the way they do for mortgages, either the price of college would have to decline precipitously, or they would trust far fewer people with that amount of money.


I've been shouting this from the rooftops at anybody who'll listen for several years.

The trick to fix our college system is simply allow student loans to be discharged through bankruptcy, like any other loan. It is a simple incentive shift that changes the whole dynamic of the higher learning industry. All the problems with it that we talk about nowadays will right themselves and everything falls into place with this one weird trick.


If you complete your degree and declare bankruptcy, you still get to keep your education. So what's to keep every student from going to college, getting a diploma, discharging their debt, then getting a job?

I'm not pro-student debt, but I don't see how this is sustainable for colleges either.


If all you want is an education, that can already be obtained for free. No need to take on debt for that. The value proposition colleges claim to bring over education, and why you might consider debt to obtain it, is an associated certification. Certifications can be revoked.

Very good points - I had no idea of this crazy situation for student loans.

So, perhaps, "student loans" need to go (in the sense of all of the awful regulation (or lack thereof) around them), but not necessarily "loans to students to earn a four-year degree".


Most people, both in the real world and on HN, cannot differentiate education from certification. That must be super disappointing to come to grips that you overpaid for a 4 year certificate when the self taught guy sitting next to you spent that time building out their career earning money.

A bachelors degree is not a license to practice or guarantee of employment. That is not the point of education.


Out of interest, could you please point me in the direction of the digital marketing bootcamp that your daughter toook?

>3) College is way over priced. They claim graduates make 40% over their lifetime vs. non grads. JP Morgan Chase did a study two years ago that shows kids that had a job, any job before age 18 make 35% more than their peers over their lifetime regardless of degree.

Having a job before 18 and getting a bachelors degree are not mutually exclusive, in fact, recent data suggests that about half of all people attending undergraduate school are employed. I personally was employed by 16 and went to college at 18, keeping a job for the entire time to offset some of the costs.

I do agree that student loans are a heinous tool though, even moderate loans accrue huge interest during a formative time in your career and prevent you from saving for retirement during the vital years when your investments have the most time to mature.


> 1) Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs. My kids can make more money with a six month apprenticeship than they will with all but a few 4 year degrees. If you can drive a forklift, you can make $45K/yr... which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes.

For decades clueless counselors pushed kids that were not successful academically or with behavioral issues into "the trades"... Only for the kids to realize they do need good reading and academic abilities to be able to succeed as a skilled tradesman. And that it takes disciplines to work in those fields.

We keep hearing about the successful tradespeople (notice how they are all their own bosses and own their shops) who made it but not the auto-repair schools’ dropouts.


In the short term I agree with you that trades pay very well, $250,000 a year even at the higher end. Even more if you're willing to risk your life on power lines or windmills.

But that's a starting wage in tech in Seattle or the Bay area for an engineer that's in demand and it only goes up from there. Those engineers that are in demand all have undergraduate degrees, it's a huge virtue signal for hiring for now. A new college graduate with one year of industry experience got poached for $400k by a competitor. And that doesn't begin to cover what AI superstars make straight out of school.

Ironically as someone in the later phases of my tech career, I am increasingly interested in trade skills over tech skills. And doubly ironically there's a lot of intellectual overlap.


> 4) Student loans are a horror that needs to stop. Young people should not be put in debt-bondage. Imagine America's financial health if we let young people start families and careers debt free.

Nobody has forced anyone to take a student loan. In fact, many young adults would probably learn a lot about life, financial management, and restraint if they saved for college and waited till they could afford it instead of going straight to college and going into huge amounts of debt. Generally society doesn’t condone going into debt carelessly in other situations so I don’t understand how we give (or want to give) students a free pass for racking up thousands (or hundreds of thousands) in loans.


You're right. Nobody forced me to sign on to student loans at the age of 17. I did it voluntarily. I couldn't buy beer, or cigarettes, or lease an apartment, and my brain wasn't fully developed. But yeah, nobody forced me to make a foolish decision and give a bunch of money to an inherently corrupt, predatory industry that employs more and more administrators every year while every other industry has used technology to reduce their admin numbers. I just got tricked. And my degree was fairly good as well. I double majored in Mechanical engineering/applied economics. (I know, it's a dumb combination, but I thought I could get a job in the ME field, and found economics interesting.). I couldn't get a job at all doing mechanical engineering, and instead the degree just demonstrated to potential employers I could do hard stuff and math. Something that could have been evaluated far easier with some form of test or hands-on interview that we use in our industry to screen talent.

Hah, similar story here but biomedical engineer with physics & EE minors instead. I wouldn't say that at 17 our brains were too underdeveloped, but that without real world experience there was too much we didn't understand -- that our universities are training more qualified applicants than there are jobs for our fields, so companies can have their pick of the litter. And I sometimes see people talk about university as a path to scholarship, professorship, tenure, etc.. and that kind of discussion is so foreign to me because even when I was in school 10 years ago it was very obvious that those positions were too competitive, so the school was training us for industry instead.

But when you're that age, it's impossible to weigh the economics of how many MRI / CT / medical imaging engineering positions are going to be available when you graduate in 4 years, vs how many other fresh grads will be applying for them. The only thing you know is that if you diverge from the path expected of you too much, the other fresh grads will have a competitive advantage over you so you just have to take the gamble that what you're studying will be employable.


> She made $45k year one, and a year later is the director of marketing at her company making over $100k/yr.

Hate to say it, but sounds like a diversity promotion to me.


> Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs.

My startup is trying to help this in the flooring industry. At https://gocarrera.com we have made a platform for contractors to connect to companies and vice versa. We will roll out a feature shortly for people unfamiliar with the industry to be and to find add join other contractor teams to help them get started in the industry. It's really exciting and pretty shocking how complex the industry is.


> Skilled trades pay better than most bachelor's degree track jobs

To me this is just a sign that the market is working correctly. The world needs more forklift drivers, plumbers, electricians, and mechanics than it needs teachers. The idea that teachers deserve to be paid more is elitist, IMHO. The problem is that our culture incorrectly assumes college degrees are the only way to “learn” productive and valuable skills.


The problem with the trades is that they burn out your body. And quickly — you have about 25 years of good work in you, so if you start at 18 your body is done by your mid-40s. From there it’s either moving on to manage / start your own shop, take a job for less money at a hardware store / parts desk, or collect disability checks and barely scrape by in early retirement with a broken body.

While your (completely valid) points address the economics of college, it misses the connections and friendships you make through college. It's the best way for most people to be thrown around thousands of people to find and build their community.

All that to say, if the economics of college were better, even I (mid-career) would consider going back for a couple of degrees to continue expanding my community.


> My kids can make more money with a six month apprenticeship than they will with all but a few 4 year degrees. If you can drive a forklift, you can make $45K/yr... which is identical to what an firsty year teacher makes.

That's too short sighted. What's the lifetime earning potential of a forklift driver vs a teacher?


BLS lists median forklift driver salary around 37k. This is not starting, it's median. Starting is much lower everywhere I look. And forklifts are being automated by many companies right now.

Median starting pay for a 4 year degree is over $54k at the moment.

That's a massive difference.


With interest rates so low these days, are student loans still problematic? Seems like a nice way to defer having to pay while in school, but I'd love to learn more about the issue.

I wouldn’t consider the rates here [1] low at all. Parent PLUS loans are sky high at 6.28%. I suppose you are talking about private loans but they have their own set of downsides.

[1] https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans/interest-r...


> Parent PLUS loans are sky high at 6.28%.

PLUS loans are supplemental loans with a higher rate than regular direct undergraduate (3.73%) or graduate/professional (5.28%) student loans.


I encourage you to reexamine your position and perspective on things. It's too much to unpacking one reply, however every one of your points suffers from a kind of perspective shift that skews your perspective on things.

Yes, the whole system is utterly convoluted, twisted, and perverted into dysfunction; but I also find it astonishing that you claim it's some kind of debt-bondage, right after clearly making the point that you can just go into a skilled trade or to a marketing bootcamp and that just alone the drive and work ethic of someone who has a job before 18 will set you up for success.

The real issue is that the upper class has colluded to corrupt the whole education system, largely for self-enrichment, which has also have an exorbitant impact on America's competitiveness by inefficient allocation of human resources into ever increasingly useless degrees. It is not a coincidence that all these changes have correlated the increase in communistic/socialistic type policies and mentalities.


What do teachers and forklift operators make after 10/20/30 years?

My wife has a doctorate in occupational therapy and works as a hand therapist, when pay is the only metric looked at you really do miss a lot.

The body condition of construction workers, fork lift operators and even welders is worn down and in pain.

Not to mention, they have to live with unfair medical standards. When she does hand strength assessments for workers comp the number is based on natural average. So lets say a normal office worker squeezes on the test at a score of 100, a construction worker squeezes at 320. Workers comp says they can return to work if they can squeeze at like 120. Which terrifies the construction workers but they won't get any more time off.


Yeah, the only winning options long term, as a skilled worker is to get out before 40 and either start your own company or become a sort of project manager at a bigger company.

Neither options are super easy.


Your point #3 just looks at two different things. They don't contradict each other at all.

Maybe had a job before age 18 implies later went to college for instance.


One question I’ve had is if tuition paid via student loans can go to a college endowment. That should end immediately, if so.

Tuition money is fungible. If a school gets 20% of it's funding from loans (no idea what the real number might look like) and uses 30% of tuition money to fund their endowment, then the accounting will show that all of the loan money went to fund operations and only cash payments went to the endowment.

We've already seen this in every state where lottery funds "go to education." The new money doesn't increase the budget for education, it only frees up some money to be spent on something else.


I’m sure that no moral hazards emerge out of that arrangement.

Also, a degree may have a negative contribution. Is the ideological bend of some college degrees potentially harming mental acuity through confusions and bad mental habits?

E.g. if you take a math degree that teach "2+2 != 5" this degree is likely to reduce mental acuity. You'll be a great activist, but not a great mathematician or teacher.


I meant to say “2+2 != 4” :D

Director of marketing after one year in the field is wild. Congrats to her.

She runs her own TikTok.

I'm kidding but really the job title doesn't necessarily mean much.


Which boot camp? I’m asking for an interested family member.

Related to #4 is the insane amount of over staffing in the average uni. The formula is…

1. Create needless procedural requirements, each alluding to serve some sort of qualitative intent

2. Hire people to service these requirements

3. Profit?


My biggest regret about my 4 years at Virginia Tech is the opportunity cost. I could have been spending the years of my life where I could learn at a vastly accelerated rate compared to present learning useful things.

Instead, my double major in mechanical engineering/applied economics was heavily loaded with highly inefficient, archaic classes in subjects I cared about combined with a heavy dose of mandatory humanities type courses that were essentially ultra-leftwing indoctrination courses. For example, my Latin American history course was a non-stop "Latin America is a crappy place because it doesn't have enough Marxism" course.

I was assigned various books, and as long as I wrote about the books with identical conclusions to the professor, I got an A, no matter how horribly written. If I wrote eloquently about why I thought the book about Gaitan's socialist movement in Columbia wasn't as angelic as depicted in the book, I got a D. Another book that was assigned reading was "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" which is essentially a handbook telling you how to get otherwise happy people to realize they are oppressed and embrace Marxism.

This was the early 2000s, and the predictions about Columbia, for example, couldn't have been more wrong. It's a vastly improved place compared to then, despite the depiction in the class of a sinister, evil, predatory capitalist society. No matter what South American country you discussed, if it was communist/socialist, it was a paradise. If it wasn't, it was a dictatorship. The teacher wouldn't stop talking about how amazing Venezuela was, and how Hugo Chavez was "misunderstood."

Another class I took was called "Economics of Poverty". The professor is a person I can't forget, because long before I had ever heard of Elizabeth Warren, she was a fair skinned, blue-eyed white woman who claimed to be half Native American. I never believed that for a second, and it was obvious she made this claim to advance her career. My favorite moment with her was when she told the entire class that "most of you will graduate from this school and be unable to find meaningful employment. Our economic system doesn't value what you've learned, and you need to fix that." It was a soul-crushing, disempowering experience and I'm furious about how much I bought into her and her colleague's bullshit back then. Pessimistic losers who've never left their bubble ruining young minds as they themselves live off of the oppressive debt the students are taking on.

I don't have a problem with nutbag activists, but I deeply resent the Federal government subsidizing them and their foolish causes, on the backs of 17 year olds signing away their lives for debt.


May I ask which Bootcamp that was? I’m interested in learning more about marketing :)

Re: numbers 3) and 4). It's a hard trade-off. I believe in equality of opportunity in education, which infinite guaranteed government loans do provide to someone willing to take on that burden (which often ends up being a bad decision for most people). However, the very act of guaranteeing unlimited loans to everyone creates a very simple economic effect in which colleges will grow in expense to meet the supply of money. Look at all the ridiculously nice buildings, statues, grounds, and administrator salaries at even C-tier colleges.

The alternative, IMO, is to make state run schools tuition free, but there's no guarantee you'll get in. Use some relatively objective metrics like the SAT and relative standing in high school class to determine eligibility. Then get rid of federal lending altogether. Apparently this is more similar to some of the European models. Under this model, any highly gifted but poor person worried about debt can get a higher education. Granted, the gifted person is also generally okay in the current model, because they probably end up making enough to handle their debt. It's the less gifted person who still wants and benefits from a higher education, but can't get into the free state school, who benefits in this model, because the removal of unqualified lending will bring down prices of less competitive colleges.

But in the end, college as we know it, as great of an experience as it is for many of us, is likely becoming obsolete (in its current form, that is) with the rise of the internet and the ability to learn just about anything in your garage with an internet connection and a computer.


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