An interesting brouhaha has erupted on the Globe and Mail‘s website, following Margaret Wente’s May 15 column “Educated for unemployment.” The award-winning columnist is no stranger to controversy and regularly opines about the state of education, health care, business and social issues—but it’s her only slightly tongue-in-cheek letter to the Class of 2012 that has raised the ire of many. Here’s an excerpt:
“Congratulations! You’ve made it. After four years of post-secondary education, you now have a piece of paper suitable for framing, plus $27,889 in debt (give or take). You’ll land a job, eventually. But your paycheque may not go far, especially after the $373 you’ll be deducting every month for the next 10 years to pay back your student loans.
“I hate to say this, but if your degree is in sociology, psych, art history or much else on the soft side, you are a dime a dozen. Have you heard of supply and demand? Sorry! You’re on the wrong side of the equation . . . . Most of our universities—the ‘soft’ side, at any rate—are proudly disconnected from the job market. Our faculties of liberal arts and humanities believe that issues such as ‘relevance’ and ’employability’ are, quite frankly, crass. The purpose of a university education is to cultivate critical thinking, not to churn out robotic, compliant workers for the postindustrial capitalist state.”
(There’s more, of course, including some skewering of journalism schools that refuse to acknowledge the shifting media landscape, but be sure to read her entire column before letting fingers fly with your own comments.)
The second is from UVic’s own Jamie Cassels, professor of law and former Vice-President Academic and Provost, and Tony Eder, director of the Department of Institutional Planning & Analysis:
“Margaret Wente repeats the oft-stated ‘fact’ that average student debt on graduation is over $27,000. The most authoritative analysis of student financial information is from the Canadian Undergraduate Survey Consortium. Its most recent report shows that while 58 per cent of undergraduate students graduate with average debt from all sources of $26,680, the remaining 42 per cent graduate debt free. The report states that average debt of all graduates is about $15,500, and more than half of university students graduate with debt of less than $7,000.Incidentally, this same report also showed high levels of student satisfaction with their education.”
Most interesting, and totally unstated by Wente, is the fact that she holds an MA in English from the University of Toronto. Wonder if that one came with built-in job prospects . . .