The Value of a Good Education?

Why no big dreams?

Just take a look at these numbers about college graduates in Italy...
  • Only "9% of Italians graduate before age 25"
  • "7 years average time to get degree" (more)
But while Aug. 10's Il Gazzettino newspaper announces, "A good degree and you find work right away" and that "youths who graduate from the University of Padua don't have to sweat to find a job," only 55% have found work within a year of graduation (still a good 14% higher than the national average! but at least 20% lower than the American average!) The newspaper continues, "the Alma Laurea [consortium's] study of more than 60,000 graduates throughout Italy reveals in fact that 8 out of 10 find a job within three years" (only about six percent higher than the national average).

Ironically, it goes on to say that for Paduan students, "the only sad note is that graduation's coming at a relatively advanced age; on average, studies are completed at the age of 27."

In addition, average monthly entry salaries for Italian university graduates start at 981 euros (only about 150 euros more than a starting high-school graduate, and as opposed to about $3000 for a U.S. college grad, who on average will wind up earning over $20,000 more annually than the average high-school graduate).

The study, of course, didn't examine whether Italian graduates end up working in their goal jobs or in their chosen fields of study (nor am I certain they differentiate between part- and full-time). A closer look at Alma Laurea's results shows that about 20% of employed graduates find their degree to be of "okay effectiveness" and that they "use their acquired competencies in a reduced fashion," while over 15% find it of little or no use at all.

But if you don't count professional degrees like medicine, pharmacy, engineering or architecture, that number goes up signficantly! One year after graduation, only around 40% of other employed graduates tended to find their degree "of use" or "great use," while 25% reported that their degree was of little or no use whatsoever, and just around 20% will report the same five years later.

Now, this is not to laud the U.S. at Italy's expense. Clearly, a lot has to do with the Italian economy, which hasn't been so hot lately. But one message about the society's priorities seems to come through loud and clear... If there's a path for the ambitious in Italy, unfortunately, education doesn't look like it's the one!


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