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It’s that time of year again when “Pomp and Circumstance” is being filtered through the ears of graduates and their proud families. After four long years, sometimes even longer for some in college, the day has come for that diploma to be placed in one’s eager hands to show off. As Etta James belted out, it’s a good feeling. Damn the Rick Santorum’s of the world who would shame you into believing you’re a snob for this moment of glory. You earned the right to revel in this moment of triumph.

It’s a beautiful moment, but one that is no longer translating into good paying jobs to help cover the cost of that degree. It certainly didn’t come free. The pomp is soon gone and circumstances set in.

Parents send their children off to institutions of higher learning so that they can better themselves. However, it’s becoming an all too familiar reality that young adults are graduating college only to move back home and sit on their parents couch for an infinite amount of time. This growing trend has begged the question of whether or not college has become like VHS: irrelevant.

Recent statistics have shown that one in two college students are either jobless or unemployed. The market is at one of its weakest points and the debtors give you only six months to get a job and repay your loans before the non-stop calls begin. One can ask for a deferment, but putting off the inevitable only amplifies the central issue: there are no jobs.

Disillusionment has set in for many college grads who have been unable to get jobs in their chosen fields. They studied, wrote papers and subjected themselves to the whims of internships and it seems to have been in vain. It’s particularly unnerving to see someone who crossed college off the to-do list winning because of a sex tape, acting ratchet on a reality TV show or finding the right pro athlete to get pregnant by. There used to be a time when relying on one’s look, reliable weaves and becoming a stereotype were frowned upon, but it’s the new norm. You no longer necessarily need the right degree, but rather a marketable personality for the masses; dumbing one’s self down may be a blow to the pride, but it has it certain perks these days in comparison to contributing to $1 trillion in loans.

Did college grads really survive on crackers and noodles to make Sallie Mae rich? College is meant to be an investment on the individual’s future, but generation X and Y are shackled to debt before they even walk across the stage. Joe Clark wasn’t wrong. There is a system in place to keep those who can’t afford college without financial assistance  in a permanent underclass. Tuition’s are rising, the debt is ballooning and there doesn’t seem to be much relief in sight.

Unfortunately, until the game is changed, you just need to learn the rules, play and hope for a win. It used to be that you only needed a high school diploma or a G.E.D. to qualify for the most basic job. The bare minimum is now a Bachelor’s degree to get an interview, and those who have a Master’s have the advantage. A person needs two or three degrees for an edge. You need one just to get in the game and make a good impression. So while it might seem like a gamble to see if a degree will actually bring you a job in your field, college degrees aren’t irrelevant. Especially not when you need one a majority of the time just to get your foot in the door.

A college degree is like having sex. Protect yourself.

What do you think?

Stephanie Guerilus is a journalist and author. Follow her @qsteph

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