Mayor Bloomberg Career Advice: Become A Plumber

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks many high school grads would be better off becoming plumbers than going to college.

The billionaire mayor disclosed this career advice about skipping college on his weekly radio show on Friday.

Bloomberg, who spends a lot of time going after personal behavior, offered this career counseling suggestion: “The people who are going to have the biggest problem are college graduates who aren’t rocket scientists, if you will, not at the top of their class. Compare a plumber to going to Harvard College — being a plumber, actually for the average person, probably would be a better deal. You don’t spend … four years spending $40,000, $50,000 in tuition without earning income.”

Most students are hardly in a position of deciding between Harvard and a plumbing apprenticeship, but the mayor has a point. Those who have earned liberal arts degrees are leaving undergraduate and graduate colleges with crushing tuition debt and marginal job prospects. In the meantime, skilled craftsmen and women such as plumbers, carpenters, and HVAC techs are in great demand and make good money. As the mayor noted, these hand-on tasks can’t be outsourced overseas or automated, so they provide a lot of job security in a period of rampant unemployment.

College students who pursue degrees in so-called STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in general also find jobs, but in today’s down economy, a B.A. in art history just doesn’t cut it.

Earlier this year, it was reported that the student-loan default rate is at an all-time high and that student-loan debt (a.k.a. the higher education bubble) has now reached $1 trillion. Annual undergraduate tuition can go as high as $60,000 a year at some educational institutions, and government-guaranteed financial aid encourages more and more runaway spending by colleges and universities rather than budgetary reforms. Undergrads owe on average $27,000 after they get out. For graduate school, the debt load often rises to the six figures with no assurance of a job waiting.

Do you think that Mayor Bloomberg is correct that more high school graduates should learn a trade rather than spend four years sitting in an overpriced lecture hall? In other words, is a traditional college education going down the drain?

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