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Martin Center column ponders college’s value during a crisis

Chloe Anagnos argues in a Martin Center column that young Americans “don’t need college” during a time of crisis.

The American economy is deteriorating “with alarming speed,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell said recently, signaling that the government’s response to COVID-19 put people in a difficult financial situation. Though Powell predicts this problem is temporary, a closer look at growing unemployment numbers shows that America might not bounce back quickly once the lockdowns end.

To young people in school or who have recently graduated, the current situation might seem like a minor obstacle. But to older siblings who suffered during the 2008 recession, a broken economy doesn’t sound like a minor problem at all. As a matter of fact, they might already be despairing over what they should do next.

As college students and recent grads watch unemployment numbers grow, they might wonder if the skills they learned in college will be enough to get a job.

Economic anxiety that would lead them into a master’s program to sharpen their skills, however, would be a mistake. Returning to school to avoid a bad economy might be tempting, but the lessons of the previous generation should turn them against another degree. Betting on a more prosperous future by getting deeper in the red doesn’t always pay off. And, in North Carolina like many other states, whether students can even return to campus isn’t clear yet. A year of online classes might not be worth the tuition payments.

Instead of signing up for another student loan, what should a student or recent graduate do?

If you take a critical look at what you’ve learned in college and feel that your set of skills won’t make you competitive enough to get a job, consider how you can get new skills online and avoid debt.

LinkedIn, Google, and Hubspot, for example, have a mix of paid and free courses you can take that will make you more employable.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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