U$A’s Future


Dear America,

Is it just me, or are more and more of our top students basing their major upon making money?

And when I say, “is it just me”, I mean that literally.  Even before I went to college I knew I wanted to be a business major.  Why?  Because I liked psychology.

I know, I know, there’s a major for that.  I decided against it very early on because, without dedicating the better part of a decade to additional education, a psychology major has no guarantee of making any money.  Some might say that’s a smart decision.  Others might consider it greedy.  They’re both right.

I’m from Illinois.  I went to the University of Wisconsin Madison.  Without any sort of scholarship aid, the yearly out of state tuition rate is now up to an insulting $34,240 per year.  My parents had the choice of sending me to my top school of choice, or buying a nice brand new car…every year…for four consecutive years (or four and half, but who’s counting).  Saying that I’m “fortunate” to have parents that both are capable and willing to sponsor this sort of investment is the understatement of the century.  The more common story goes that you either 1) attend college in-state, 2) take out student loans that won’t get paid off until you have kids of your own or 3) all of the above.  I’d say most fall into the last category.

The escalating cost of college is not where I’m going with this.

It was two years ago when I first established a real interest in the stock market.  Anything that combines research, intuition, business, and gambling is a recipe for occupying my time.  I joined a student investment organization, kept up with a set financial blogs and message boards, and when I felt like decompressing in front of the TV, my station of choice was CNBC.   And then…..Earth’s economy bit the dust (and we lead the charge).  Why?  Primarily because of people like me, or at least the path I was headed down.

If you spend any decent amount of time researching the NYSE, you’ll realize, that over time it’s extremely difficult to outperform the overall market’s average return.  This is due to regulations that demand companies disclose all relevant information publicly.  In other words, it’s hard to out perform the market, because the market knows what you know.  However, greed always finds a way to surface.  Since the stock market was becoming too mainstream, Wall Street invented new markets which allowed them to make bets on top of other bets, called derivatives.  Since a market’s profit is based on an inefficient spread of knowledge, and no one (including the investors themselves) understood how these investments worked, these new bets were the fastest, easiest way to get rich.  Well we all know how the rest of the story goes.  Yatty, yatty, yatta, 10% unemployment, stock market drops 60%, people lose their retirement funds, banks crash, government doles out billions to several companies, blah, blah, blah.

The majority of this collapse was the result Wall Street’s undying desire for greed.  I had the rare opportunity of being surrounded by some of our university’s best students who were destined down a similar path.  Many of our smartest brains, which should have been dedicated to curing cancer, inventing sustainable energy systems, teaching calculus to the less fortunate, etc., were all waiting in line to feed an industry which had just manufactured the greatest economic demise since the Great Depression.  That’s depressing.  In other words, after watching Star Wars, our viewers couldn’t wait to try out for the part of Darth Vader.

But when you really look at it, who can blame them.

A lot of these kids are either paying their own way through school with loans they don’t expect to pay off for several years, or their parents are working second jobs during the night shift, to help them fulfill their American dream of striking it rich.  To say that college students feel pressure to earn a respectable living is like saying a super model pays attention to what she eats.  Duhhh.

So then, it seems there are three legitimate (positive) scenarios for our future:

Scenario 1:

Our state and federal government gives out more scholarships, lowers the cost of tuition, and students are more free to pursue a pure passion.  Whether that be chemistry, calculus, creative writing, or computer science, the decision shall not be based solely upon the ability to pay off the man.

Scenario 2:

A free market trends toward rewarding more intrinsically valuable services – those who further health, renewable energy, education, etc.  I have less faith in this scenario.

Scenario 3:

Students exercise their true dharma (not the & Gregg variety), and let finances be a peripheral rather than primary factor in their decision.  Many believe the new zeitgeist calls for conscious awakening.  This would entail having the greater good be our true motivating factor.  Perhaps our students’ future majors will reflect this.

Still in the near future, those on Wall Street will more than likely be provided the easiest avenue toward wealth.  However, over the longer term, as other nations are producing goods and services of real value, a more practical application of intelligence will prove to be the most lucrative.


A Recent Business Major

  • Jack Borgo

    My vote is that high schools and state-financed colleges partner up to offer a comprehensive overview of majors, careers, salary and work expectations to high school seniors. Maybe providing trips for students to sit in on college lectures or discussion to offer a possible glimpse of what their passion is. For instance I had no idea their was a limnology major. Or that limnology even existed. Leaving counseling up to high-school advisers who work in total isolation is part of the problem.

  • Meghan

    one of the reasons i chose speech pathology was because it pays relatively well and jobs are plentiful. turns out i like it, which is a huge bonus. i think its unfortunate that students choose to study their passion and then when it comes time to finally graduate, they can’t do anything with that. i like jack’s thought in that when one goes to a large college like UW, we get this huge catalog with about 8 million majors and no idea what half of them mean or what you can do with them. a little guidance towards a passion and career would be helpful for some of those undecideds.

  • admin

    Great suggestion, it’s definitely an improvement. Although I still don’t know if it gets to the root of the problem, which also happens to be the root of all evil, women i mean money. We are a greed driven society (in general, not everyone falls into this category) and I think the majority of people will base their education decisions upon how much money they’ll make from it . As long as financial regulations remain loose, the easiest avenue to mega-wealth will be through Wall St. While there are still a lot of reallllllly smart kids who are going into fields of medicine, engineering, education, etc., we are losing way too many of our top math and science students to business, esp finance, majors.

    I think a greater understanding of all available careers will certainly help the kids who go into business as a default (i.e. me), but when you can help construct a major economic meltdown, and then get a multimillion dollar bonus while unemployment is skyrocketing for the rest of America, you have to note that our current rewarding system is improperly aligned.

    Really, you don’t have to look any further then teachers. They are arguably the most important profession to our future and they barely make enough to support themselves. But I could go sit at a desk for Blue Cross and deny people health coverage and make enough to take a vacation every 10 days.

  • Chris Petersen

    Scenario 3 might be a litte idealistic. Although it would be great if students chose what they were passionate about and had the greater good in mind when selecting a career path, the blog post illustrates very well that isn’t happening. I definitely agree with Jack that the high school counseling should be charged to the the advisors. I don’t know what I would suggest, but a revamping seems to be in order. Nice article, Good Badger, see you in San Diego in a few weeks.

  • i wish that scenario 2 were really possible. however, good badger, if you desired something (like psychology), you should’ve gone for it. if something is your passion, you can use it in whichever endeavour you choose. i, for one, love psych and stuck with it. although i have currently decided against pursuing a masters, i use psych in my ‘business’ job every day and i feel it can be used in any work place. if your passion is music and you work construction — i can almost gaurantee that singing while working will make your day better…so, use your passion(s) any way you can!

    ps – your parents sound like awesome people. i came from a similar story…almost exact actually (from IL, went to UW cuz my parents are awesome, and moved to CA cuz the women are awsome) and i owe it all to my parents for allowing me to have such opportunities. i am forever indebted to my parents and it sounds like you are too…never forget that!

    pps – Da Bears!!

  • zachrd99

    I think all three scenarios are unlikely to be honest with you. Our country goes ape shit when we elect a black man to be president and he wants to include a public option. I mean for a man who’s been in office for 9 months and has very little to show in terms of actual accomplishments, has been receiving a lot of Hitler comparison propaganda. Imagine what would happen if real change started to occur. Civil War 2.0 I don’t think would be out of the question. The Union vs. Fox News.

    I still think the best students will be occupied by most business majors, pre-med, pre-law, etc. Pre-med maybe less so now that public health has at least entered into the discussion. Lawyers will always be needed as long as there are enough people that will sue for spilling coffee on their own crotches. And of course business is still a lucrative major.

    I enjoy all the feedback team. Keep it coming.

  • Josh


    Mr. Davis,

    Although I find myself reassured by your comment that my future services as an attorney will always be in need, I could not help but to notice your implication that people are willing to sue over such frivolous matters as spilled coffee to the crotch. While I agree this does seem somewhat frivolous, I think if you click on the provided wikipedia link (by know Wikipedia has become a reliable source, right?) you’ll see that the 79 year old lady that sued McDonald’s deserved every penny. Take note that plaintiffs usually do not receive punitive damages, only compensatory damages. Punitive damages serve to punish the defendant as a traffic ticket punishes a driver for violating traffic laws, and most states do not let plaintiffs receive those type of money damages. So all the millions of dollars in punitive damages being discussed aren’t going to Old Lady, only the lower amount of compensatory damages go to her.

    Everyone hates a lawyer until they need one!

  • zachrd99

    1st off, clearly law school is paying off. Your writing style is a clear logical progression.

    2ndly, thanks for reading so deep into one of the posts that you’re actually commenting on the comments. That’s true dedication. Your Good Badger trucker hat is in the mail.

    3rd, you’re not going to be able to lawyer your way into convincing me America isn’t a sue happy nation. Granted I don’t spend a tremendous amount of time researching the basis behind these cases, but the premises of too many of them simply seem like attempts of reflecting any blame. Unless this was the first time she ordered coffee from McDonalds, she should know better than to put boiling hot liquid in her lap. I’ve burnt my tongue on that shit enough times to know to keep it away from my testicles. Sure it doesn’t need to be that hot, but that’s like me suing a restaurant for having their forks too sharp after sticking one in my eye.

    But on the spectrum of ridiculous law suits, that one is a legitimate case. http://www.oddee.com/item_96614.aspx “After watching an episode of the reality TV show “Fear Factor” on NBC in 2005, Austin Aitken sued the network for $2.5 million. He said the sight of contestants eating blended rats digusted him so much that his health suffered.”

    But to clarify, I don’t hate lawyers, I hate the people who make so many lawyers necessary. I don’t blame you for wanting to get rich because you’ve developed an expertise understanding of the law (or ability to spin it). The people who make lawyers necessary are much closer to those in the financial industry than the lawyers themselves. They want to get rich quick without providing any utility to society. Just promise that once you’ve made enough to live comfortably for you and the 12 babies you’ll make, that you’ll use your power to defend those who actually need it and not for cases like:

    “Aging German playboy Rolf Eden filed charges against a 19-year-old for refusing to sleep with him. The complaint? Ageism.”

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