A tough lesson from the University of Life

Can't get a job after graduation? Forget the recession - why not blame it all on your university?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Trina Thompson, a New York-based graduate, is suing her alma mater Monroe College for the $70,000 she shelled out in tuition fees – because she can’t get a job. Apparently she graduated in April with some kind of IT degree, but still hasn’t found gainful employment – and rather than concluding that this may be something to do with the worst recession in several decades, she’s decided that it must be her college’s fault for not giving her sufficiently good career advice. We’re sure employers will be veritably champing at the bit to snap up someone with an attitude like that…

To be honest we’ve never heard of Monroe College, but we strongly suspect it’s not quite up there with Harvard and MIT in the academic prestige stakes. So you might well argue that expecting it to guarantee all-comers a lucrative graduate job would have been a trifle optimistic at the best of times. And since New York (like the UK) is currently battling with soaring unemployment as the recession bites, it’s perhaps not that surprising that there aren’t many jobs around – particularly in a well-populated field like IT. However, Thompson’s argument is apparently that Monroe hasn’t given her enough job leads or career advice. ‘They have not tried hard enough to help me,’ the lawsuit apparently moans, according to the New York Post.

For its part, Monroe insists the suit is ‘completely without merit’, and we suspect most people would agree. After all, Thompson is hardly the only one out of work at the moment: while she takes the easy way out of blaming someone else, others are still plugging away adjusting their CV, learning new skills and generally doing everything they can to force their way back into the job market. And it’s not like she hasn’t seen any return on her tuition fees: they paid for her teaching, the buildings she studied in, and the qualification she gained. What happens if she goes on to get a job in IT once she’s finished being litigious – would she have to pay the settlement back?

But although we can’t see this lawsuit going anywhere: it highlights a couple of important points. One, poorer students have to borrow a lot of money to get a degree, and many now have little prospect of getting a job to pay it off – which won’t help social mobility. And although purists might not like the idea of a university education being a means to a professional end, it arguably wouldn’t a bad thing if some universities were incentivised/ encouraged/ forced to do a better job of preparing graduates for the world of work. There are clearly a lot of courses out there with no value in the job market – so why are 18-year-olds being encouraged to take them up?

In today's bulletin:

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A tough lesson from the University of Life
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