Applying to a college means many things: checking the beauty of the campus, the safety of the area and the quality of dorms and classes. But what worries students more than anything else? The job placement rate.
In our stressed-out, capitalist world, the only thing that we and our parents care about is getting a job after college. Everything we do is added to our résumé. We’ve all had the same conversation with a random uncle about what we’ll really do with our degree, and we never know the answer.
Colleges know this and use it to their advantage. Job placement rates are in all the brochures and one of the first things brought up on tours. We’ve spent our whole lives building our résumés to get the perfect job and we aren’t stopping now. So to get our money, colleges drive this point home.
Under capitalism, there’s no reason for universities to go any further than that. Binghamton University has a 92-percent retention rate for full-time freshman students with only a 14-percent transfer-out rate. Once you’re here, you’re more than likely to stay. So why should the University reinvest tuition dollars in you if you’re bound to stay anyway? They already have your money — now they want someone else’s.
What does spending on the next applicant look like? It looks like the last two decades of cutting programs to better fund those that seem more employable. In the name of saving money, Indiana State University cut art history, German and journalism, among others. The University of Southern Maine cut French and consolidated six majors into one department. Boise State University warned departments in the bottom one-fifth of programs that they should restructure or they could be cut because of their lack of “productivity.” College is supposed to be an enriching experience, not merely a résumé-builder. And yet, when we allow capitalism to dictate what gets funded and what doesn’t, that’s exactly what it becomes.
Capitalism’s goal is to charge the most while spending the least. With higher education in America not publicly funded, universities are inclined to charge more in tuition and spend less on services for you in return. So if their art history program doesn’t churn out valuable graduates the same way mechanical engineering does, why bother to fund it? If English majors don’t donate as much as pre-med students, should they get rid of the department altogether?
Until colleges are completely funded by the state, these problems won’t be solved. After adjusting for inflation, funding for public colleges dropped by $7 billion between 2008 and 2018. This falling number is not an abstraction, but an unexplained problem. As more and more of our higher education is planned by capitalists seeking profit, we’ll continue to see less diversity in majors and fewer services available to us on campus.
Specific arts programs are not the only thing on the chopping block. Any understaffed office on campus or long wait for service is because capitalism has deemed them not efficient at getting you a job. BU knows that most students will return for another year, so why should they fund these services? The money is better spent elsewhere.
In this economy, every university’s only job is to make money by enrolling new students. At the end of the day, they don’t care about our lives once we are here, they just want a high job placement rate to entice new applicants. So what if they promote amoral jobs at Lockheed Martin? Why would they care if we don’t have adequate mental health services? Why should they spend money on us if we already gave it to them?
This isn’t to say that liberal art programs are more important than science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. This is to say that capitalism takes away your range of choice in choosing a career in its attempt to make you your most employable, profitable self. When you treat college like a business, students lose.
Michael Levinstein is a senior double-majoring in political science and economics.