Wall Street Journal editorial
A recent Journal article by Douglas Belkin entitled “Should a College Student Pick a Major Based on Possible Future Salaries?” raised the question of whether the common advice to ‘follow your passion’ is really feasible in today’s economy, given mounting student debt and poorer job prospects for recent graduates. Also, the fact that some companies do need to hire more workers but cannot because of critical skills deficits in some areas (particularly the sciences) indicates that different criteria should be used by future graduates when selecting college majors. Although Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities is quoted in the article as saying that a college major is just a small part of the picture of a graduate presents to a prospective employer, there can be no doubt that some majors like electrical engineering are more likely to result in job offers than other majors (like psychology).
The idea that you should not follow your passion is anathema to many young Americans. President Obama recently received a great deal of criticism when he said that art history majors were not well-aligned with the needs of the modern economy. There are two countervailing, sometimes contradictory notions in America regarding the purpose of education. Some people believe that the ultimate purpose of education is to yield a more educated citizen body and to uphold the values of our democracy. On the other hand, however, there can be no doubt that there is a growing divide between students from families who can afford to be supported by their parents through college and those who cannot. Advising students from poorer homes to follow their dreams and bear massive burdens of debt will put them at a tremendous disadvantage, more so than ever before, when compared with their friends who do not have the same debt burdens.
True, there is an argument that going to college is supposed to teach you how to think and...