An older article wrote years ago that I published here since I believe the concept is still relevant.
I consider it an honor and a privilege as an alumnus of CUNY City College to assist business and economics students with preparation for internships, interviews, and the first steps of their careers. In April, while on campus I was motivated to put this post together after seeing a student group advocating for students rights. I introduced myself as alumni of the university and inquired to what exactly they wanted, they were advocating for free tuition for all students. Initially I thought it was a joke, NYC resident tuition with fees included at a CUNY school is $6,274.50 (http://www.cuny.edu/admissions/tuition-fees.html) per academic year which is far below the average academic year at a private and public state universities (https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-published-undergraduate-charges-sector-2013-14).
I was disturbed when I read the students’ plan for making tuition free. Their plan was to confiscate and redistribute the perks and salary of the president of CUNY City College (and other administrators) and then follow that up with the presidents of other CUNY branches. I told the student advocating for this that it would amount to nothing once it was equally distributed. Her only counter was that the president of the university didn’t deserve her salary and because it was ‘more than the Obama’s salary’. I defended the university president’s salary by saying that as a career educator who had risen ranks of higher education and dedicated her life to helping college students, she earned it. Since the advocating student was a woman, I went further by saying ‘wouldn’t you want to see a female in a leadership position earning a higher salary?’ Her only defense was ‘no one deserves that salary’. She then brushed me aside.
Obviously there is something higher at work than just a student advocating for a cause. The student felt as if she had enough wisdom, knowledge, and foresight to determine that was ‘enough’ money for people to make and that anything above her predetermined amount needed to be taxed or confiscated for redistribution.
What stings more is that there are more with her opinion, many more. In my time as both a student at St. Bonaventure University and CUNY City College it is something that I often saw and still see. I take every opportunity to engage the students in discussion about what they believe, how they formed their opinions, and why they believe that their solutions are the ONLY viable solutions. In challenging them I am often simply told that I have no idea what I am talking about that only complete equality, accepted or forced, is the only solution.
I even attempted to talk to one student who was advocating for the complete reengineering of society across the world into a currency and border less world where all were equal and no one had to work for anyone or do anything that they didn’t truly want to do. When I asked ‘how would people buy things to wear and food to eat’ she had no response at all beyond saying that people should grow their own food. Clearly this student is being heavily influenced heavily by someone pushing pre industrial revolution Marxist ideas which could never work in this modern age of technology with the current global population as it is. I concluded the discussion when she told me that people like me who studied economics in college didn’t realize that we were fed propaganda for 4 years and that the laws of supply, demand, labor, and wage were all made up by wealthy white people in the 1800’s to keep others down. She did admit though, that she had never taken any economics course and never would.
REALLY? Yes those events actually occurred.
Whoever is motivating these students to advocate for causes deeply rooted in socialism also teaches them to dismiss any challenge. It is a tactic strikingly similar to the current political spectrum in the USA today. Anyone who challenges modern day social liberal-leftism is dismissed as being anti science or as a sexist, racist, homophobe that eats polar bears for breakfast.
I do not blame the students for wanting to confiscate and redistribute wealth. In my estimation, 90-95% of the students advocating these societal changes chose majors that currently have low starting salaries and high unemployment rates. Many students I meet on campus feel that they have a right to a job when they graduate, even if it means that someone who has been there a long time has to go so they can come in. What is most unfortunate is that they do not realize that whether or not it is easy for them to get a job is directly related to the supply and demand for the given skill or service that they went to college to acquire expertise to provide. There is a reason why petroleum engineer earns $80K to start and a film maker with a BFA starts at $27K. It is all about supply and demand; simple economics; end of story.
It appears that students advocating for what I described above miss that fact once something belongs to everyone; it really belongs to no one. Any use of any facility or object belonging to ‘everyone’ that could in some way bother or offend any one person in any way would then have to be banned. The further you push a society towards complete equality in all cases, the further you go from freedom in any form. Often I wonder if the students know exactly what they are calling for, or if they are just being used by whoever is pushing these ideas on them.
Certainly it is their right to believe such things; I am not saying that they should be silenced or have their beliefs squashed or that whoever teaches them such things should be fired.
There are two things that could and should be done that would give all students a better chance at having a job with a desirable salary soon after they graduate.
First is that introduction level micro and macro economics classes should be required for all students. I’m sorry but they are more relevant today than art history, this would give students the opportunity to learn how wealth transfers from business to person, person to government, country to country and so on. They would learn how prices and wages are determined, whether they choose to believe it or not.
Second, when a student wants to declare a major upon entering college as a new student at 18, colleges should inform them of the current average starting salary and unemployment rate for students who have graduated with a degree in that field over the past 5 years. Many students have dreams of acquiring things they dreamed of as kids, only to graduate into a field where their only dream is to actually get a job. I switched from computer science to economics years ago because immediately after the dot com crash, jobs and salaries in the field vanished. Advice that I give students is to list 5 things in life that they could enjoy doing for a long time and feel that they would never get tired of; I then ask them to rank them in order or profitability. If you enjoy doing something that is very profitable, it will give you the ability to say that you like what you do and can use the money earned there to finance all of your other passions in life. Doing so will give you an enjoyable career with diverse hobbies and enable you to do what you want whenever your schedule allowed.