The crippling cost of college

One of the themes we keep emphasizing has to do with the crippling costs of a college education today in America. Sure, college campuses are much nicer with all the new buildings and new technologies, but they are failing in their basic mission if students leave there with massive student debt that will hang over them for the rest of their lives.

More publications are doing good work discussing these problems. In Newsweek, Megan McArdle asks whether college is a lousy investment.

Why are we spending so much money on college?

And why are we so unhappy about it? We all seem to agree that a college education is wonderful, and yet strangely we worry when we see families investing so much in this supposedly essential good. Maybe it’s time to ask a question that seems almost sacrilegious: is all this investment in college education really worth it?

The answer, I fear, is that it’s not. For an increasing number of kids, the extra time and money spent pursuing a college diploma will leave them worse off than they were before they set foot on campus.

Given the costs, it’s hard to argue with her on this point. She discusses how college was critical for many families in building a better life for the next generation. But sitting on an English degree with $150,000 of debt seems like a pretty bad deal.

That said, we can’t overreact to the current economic conditions. When the economy improves, more of these kids will get jobs with their degrees.

Yet something has to give, and it was very encouraging to hear President Obama challenge colleges to slow down tuition inflation.

Also, the future of free college courses looms on the horizon. Universities would be wise to start figuring out how to lower costs, or they might really have a problem in the future.


Negotiating your salary in a lateral move

Here are some interesting tips on how to gain maximum leverage in negotiating your salary when you are making a lateral move:

If you’re about to make a lateral move, you should list and monetize everything your employer has to pay for in order to secure your services. You may not have stock options, but you probably get a yearly bonus, vacation time, medical and dental benefits, life and disability insurance, free or low-cost parking, continuing education, professional fees and dues, subscriptions to professional journals, and the like.

To escape the strong anchor of your current salary, estimate how much each of those benefits would cost if you had to obtain them in the local market. The final number you calculate will be your “total compensation package.” That is the figure to use when your prospective employer asks you what you’re making now. And the term to use is “my total compensation package” or simply “my compensation.”

When you’re asking for more money than you’re currently making, you’ll also want to take a look at what you’re leaving behind. You might, for example, be giving up retirement benefits that haven’t yet vested, earned vacation, or a year-end performance bonus. You’ll want to ask your new employer to compensate you for the benefits you’ll be leaving at your old firm by making the transition to your new one. In Mayer’s case, that accounted for $14 million of her total compensation.

Read more about using that power and information to your advantage.


Love Animals? Become an Animal Trainer!

If you’re interested in an industry that’s rewarding, fun, and has an excellent job outlook, consider animal training. Employment in this career field is expected to grow 20 percent for the 2008-2018 decade, which is much faster than the average for all career fields. Not only this, but this is one of the top fields for individuals interested in freelancing or running their own business. Around 54 percent of animal trainers are self-employed.

So what do you have to do to become an animal trainer? Besides having a love for animals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED equivalent for some jobs, and a bachelor’s degree for others. For example, if you’re interested in becoming a marine mammal trainer, a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, animal science, animal psychology, or biology may be required. Some jobs may also require an animal health technician degree.

Education plays an important role in how much you will earn as well as experience and certification. For example, dog trainers with certification by a professional association or a private vocational or state-approved trade school have the most opportunities and earn the highest salaries in this sector. The Bureau reports that overall, animal trainers earn an average salary of $27,270 per year. The middle 50 percent earned between $19,880 and $38,280 and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,700. The top 10 percent earned more than $51,400.

To find out information about animal training and certification, visit the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) at or the Bureau of Labor Statistics at


Graduate, Online School Enrollment Increase

One of the best ways to increase your marketability in tough economic times is to earn a degree. It’s true that a degree is not a guarantee that you will get the job you want and in the timeframe you want, but it is a fact that the unemployment rates for individuals without an education or less education are astronomical compared to unemployment rates for individuals with a degree—especially an advanced degree. As of February 2010, the unemployment rate for individuals with less than a high school diploma was 14.9 percent. For individuals with a high school diploma, the unemployment rate was 10.3 percent. The unemployment rate for individuals with some college, but no degree was 9.2 percent. The unemployment rate for:

  • -Associate degree holders is 7 percent
  • -Bachelor’s degree holders is 5.4 percent
  • -Master’s degree holder’s is 4 percent
  • -Professional degree holder’s is 2.4 percent
  • -Doctoral degree holder’s is 1.9 percent

These figures combined and averaged bought the overall unemployment rate to 8.2 percent in 2010, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not only does education protect you from unemployment, to a certain extent, it can also keep you out of the low-income bracket. Individuals with a degree earn double (and in some cases triple) the amount per week that  less educated workers do.  

The bottom line is—education pays, especially in a tough economy where competition is intense and employer’s are in a position to demand more from potential employees. As a result, adults are making the decision to return to school to earn an advanced degree, while others are enrolling in a variety of certificate programs, online degree programs, and more. Hundreds of colleges and universities have reported an increase in graduate school enrollment ranging from 7 to 15 percent, while online undergraduate degree programs have seen a significant increase over the past several years. Some colleges and universities report a 2.3 percent increase in undergraduate online enrollment while others report more than a 10 percent increase. 

The reasons for the increase in enrollment in graduate programs and online undergraduate degree programs go beyond America’s current economic crisis. Graduate programs have actually become more accessible through online offerings and international enrollment is up, which helps boost percentages.

The availability of graduate programs online appeals to many full-time working professionals that may also have major obligations at home. The same is true for online undergraduate programs. Overall, these online programs are also a way to conserve and save money. They’re just more affordable, as they eliminate the need to commute and spend.

About Online Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Programs

Most online undergraduate degree programs are an extension of an existing program at a brick and mortar college or university. Online graduate programs, especially MBA’s, are offered in abundance through most accredited colleges and universities. Although online degree programs have the same curricula and requirements as brick and mortar programs, in many cases (and contrary to popular belief) online degree programs are much more difficult.

To successfully complete an online program you must be at least somewhat computer savvy, mainly because you have to master the system you will be using in order to attend lectures, chat, submit papers, post to discussion areas, and more. Programs such as Blackboard and SOAR are common platforms. In addition, you must be extremely disciplined, organized, and focused. It’s a lot tougher when you don’t see your professor or interact with other students several times a week.

It’s up to the student to check in, read through all materials, jot down due dates, post to discussion boards, and contact the instructor if there are any issues. There is absolutely no hand holding in an online environment, but the good news is, in addition to earning an advanced degree, your organizational and problem-solving skills will soar.

Before you enroll in an online degree program, check to make sure the school is accredited. This means that the U.S. Department of Education must recognize the schools accreditation. You can check your school’s accreditation status by accessing the U.S. Department of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

About Accreditation

Accreditation is a validation process by which institutions of higher education are evaluated against established standards to ensure a high level of educational quality. Accreditation is accomplished through a peer-review process in which faculty from accredited institutions help to conduct evaluations of either new non-accredited institutions or accredited institutions seeking renewal. The standards used to conduct these evaluations may vary but in general they assess the institution’s mission, goals and objectives, resources and resource allocation, student admission requirements, student support services, and the quality of the faculty and educational offerings.


America’s Best Graphic Design Programs

Graphic designers design art and copy layouts for material to be presented by electronic media and visual communications media such as magazines, newspapers, books, television, and packaging. Graphic designers use a variety of techniques to communicate messages such as animation, illustration, color, type, and photography. Graphic designers work for advertising agencies, newspapers and magazines, the film and video industry, publishing houses, and government agencies, design firms, and public relations firms.

Although graphic design jobs are available in these industries and many others, the biggest employers of graphic designers are marketing and advertising firms. Many graphic designers work on a contract basis. Currently, 25.6 percent of all graphic designers are self-employed.

Depending on factors from the size of the firm to region, graphic designers can earn anywhere from $42,000 per year on the low end to $95,000 or more on the high end. Entry-level graphic designers usually earn the lowest salaries, but in most cases, these designers advance rather quickly—usually within 1-3 years.

Graphic designers are in high demand today, but positions are very competitive. However, most graphic designers will agree that the right position is well worth the effort because not only are these creative positions exciting and rewarding, they are also the most stable positions in the creative sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for graphic designers is good, based on an impressive 13 percent increase in job growth between now and 2018.

So, what does it take to become a graphic designer? Employers prefer to hire graphic designers with at least an associate degree, but designers with a bachelor’s degree or higher will find more opportunities. They will receive higher starting salaries as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of all graphic designers have an associate degree or higher and more than 20 percent have some college experience, but no degree. More than 6 percent of all graphic designers have a master’s degree. 

It is important to note that education alone does not guarantee entry into or success in the field. Creativity, communication skills, and computer skills are a must. Web design and animation experience are also a must for most of the top firms.

Graphic designers come from many different educational backgrounds. Some have a degree in advertising or marketing communications while others may have a degree in fine art, multimedia arts, or even animation. If the focus is graphic design, students can expect to take classes such as flash animation, marketing design, website design, computer graphics, studio art, printing techniques, principles of design, commercial graphics production, history of graphic design and desktop publishing, to name a few.

In the U.S., there are more than 250 accredited postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Art & Design schools are twice as likely to offer a degree or certificate in graphic design, but many of the schools on the list below are traditional four-year colleges and universities. The list was complied by U.S. News and World Report. If you decide that the schools on the list aren’t for you or they are just too competitive, remember, many other schools offer graphic design programs. If you come across a school that you aren’t familiar with, just check to make sure the program is accredited by The National Association of Art and Design (NASAD) or other recognized accrediting agency. Visit for a list of recognized agencies.

America’s Best Graphic Design Programs 

  • -Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
  • -Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI
  • -Yale University, New Haven, CT
  • -Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
  • -Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
  • -Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD
  • -School of Visual Arts, New York, NY
  • -California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
  • -Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY
  • -California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA
  • -School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • -New School–Parsons School of Design, New York, NY
  • -Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
  • -University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
  • -Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, MN

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