The economy is full of slots to be filled by jobseekers, most of which, as the proud soon-to-be owner of an Ivy League B.A. or B.S., are not open to you. Whoever told you that a Columbia degree is supposed to open doors was telling you a half-truth. Half the point of a college education is to shut the door on the fields that are most common, retail, construction and manual labor, food service, etc., but which also—and I speak from experience here—really suck. You should graduate from Columbia happily overqualified for any such body-destroying, underpaid work.

At the same time, though, bachelor’s degrees have decreased in economic value. Employers are demanding increasingly more specialized knowledge, which can only be obtained through graduate school. Even teaching careers require a master’s. Is it any wonder, then, that the Center for Career Education is focused primarily on tech, finance, and consulting? After being shut out of so many jobs for both over-qualification and under-qualification, these fields are the bulk of what is left over.

But make no mistake: We aren’t talking about table scraps here; no, these leftovers comprise the very center of our postindustrial economy. Tech professions create the goods that make money, financial professions direct the money to where it will see the most return, and consultants help decide how to spend it once it’s there.

Anyone who complains that CCE ought to offer more opportunities outside of this triangular center of economic gravity is barking up the wrong tree. What you’re really asking for are greater opportunities in what are, relatively speaking, the margins of the economy. And within these margins, you either seek them out through alternative institutions like art school or graduate school, reject them because they pay peanuts and/or wreck your body, or else do the Kerouac/Ginsberg outsider artist thing, rejecting institutions and money. Good luck finding an internship for that.

In all of these cases, whether it be art or education fields, the student knows what they want. The same cannot be said, however, for many of the students to whom CCE caters. Indeed, a survey of students at similarly elite universities found that few students on the finance and consulting career tracks entered college with those tracks in mind. Yet it should come as no surprise that students eventually find their way to finance. The macho “big swinging dicks” culture of Wall Street is well known and appealing to certain somatotonic strivers. And tech’s appeal is simple enough—some students just like technology.

Consulting’s appeal, meanwhile, is harder to discern. It is by far the smallest of the postindustrial triumvirate, pulling in “only” around 55 billion dollars in 2015—no paltry sum, but still dwarfed by Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Yet it is exactly those two industries which are also staffed by Ivy Leaguers that pay for the consultation of—who else?—Ivy Leaguers. The financial industry is, in fact, the largest single client of the consulting industry, accounting for 14 billion dollars’ worth of spending on consulting in 2015. In other words, consulting is nothing less than the Ivy League of business: small, but all the more elite and outsized in its influence precisely because of its smallness. Consultants are in the center of the center, calling the shots for Google and Goldman alike.

CCE and consulting are fine places for students who want to be in the middle of the action while having no idea what that action might actually be. And that’s frankly a fitting description for many Columbians. Moreover, there’s nothing wrong with that; even if CCE didn’t hold a single career fair or post a single internship for these professions, there would still be an appetite for them. No student is being pushed into any of these fields. Their popularity is quite simply the result of having rejected the drudgery and tedium of working life as well as the uncertainty inherent in graduate education. And hey, the money ain’t bad, either.

The economy is full of slots to be filled by jobseekers, most of which, as the proud soon-to-be owner of an Ivy League B.A. or B.S., are not open to you. Whoever told you that a Columbia degree is supposed to open doors was telling you a half-truth. Half the point of a college education is to shut the door on the fields that are most common, retail, construction and manual labor, food service, etc., but which also—and I speak from experience here—really suck. You should graduate from Columbia happily overqualified for any such body-destroying, underpaid work.

At the same time, though, bachelor’s degrees have decreased in economic value. Employers are demanding increasingly more specialized knowledge, which can only be obtained through graduate school. Even teaching careers require a master’s. Is it any wonder, then, that the Center for Career Education is focused primarily on tech, finance, and consulting? After being shut out of so many jobs for both over-qualification and under-qualification, these fields are the bulk of what is left over.

But make no mistake: We aren’t talking about table scraps here; no, these leftovers comprise the very center of our postindustrial economy. Tech professions create the goods that make money, financial professions direct the money to where it will see the most return, and consultants help decide how to spend it once it’s there.

Jeremy Mack is a first-year English major at the School of General Studies. He is actively searching LionSHARE for a position as a countercultural poet, but he has yet to find anything.

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By JEREMY MACK
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Discourse & Debate: Should we be focusing so much on tech and finance?

If one of the purposes of the University is to equip students to enter the professional world, what does it say about Columbia’s pre-professional culture that students perceive CCE to be primarily focused on finance, consulting, and tech?

At times, our school can feel like the Columbia University of Financial Studies—suits lined up for on-campus recruiting events, overheard conversations about HireVues and superdays galore. Consequently, we often blame CCE and the administrators sitting high in MoHi’s ivory tower for pushing students into finance, for encouraging them to “sell out.”

The truth is more complicated. Does Columbia actually push students into finance, tech, and consulting careers? Or does it just respond to aspirations that already exist? Maybe what the meme pages call “selling out” isn't actually selling out at all.

Yes, CCE offers ample opportunity to connect with movers and shakers in select industries. The upcoming events page on the career office’s internships and jobs portal sometimes seems like a who's who of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. But it's not just the career office. With its multitudinous student associations devoted to careers in finance and consulting, our University's culture at times seems to glorify the search for work in these areas.

To an extent, the near-constant chatter about these industries might influence impressionable students who lack clear direction. What's more likely, though, is that Columbians are drawn to our University's competitive advantage in business. In turn, our school uses its location in New York to meet a demand that already exists. We want access to Google, McKinsey, and Goldman Sachs; CCE helps us get there.

Admittedly, the office is imperfect, and it could do more to connect students with professionals in fields other than business and technology. However, I challenge those who think CCE is blinkered to attend a career fair or to check out Columbia's online jobs portal, where students can find a diverse array of opportunities.

Conventional wisdom at Columbia says that going into investment banking is an easy way for the morally agnostic to find their calling. Working in finance, though, is not "selling out" if you like what you do and think that it creates value. To be sure, not all of the finance bros lined up in Lerner Hall will necessarily enjoy the internships and jobs they're pursuing, but college is a time for career exploration. Columbia students are lucky to have such wide-ranging access to financial institutions and technology companies. And besides, I'd wager that many genuinely get a thrill out of spreadsheets, company valuations, following the markets, and the like.

It's not as if Columbia's proclivity for corporate life is unchangeable. But contrary to what many of our classmates think, it's not a bad thing—not for your pocketbook, not for the endowment, and not for society. A column last semester convincingly argued that the most effective way for alumni to do good in the world is to secure high-paying jobs and give to charity. Non-profits simply don't need your labor—but they do need your money. Now, we can debate whether the incentives that funnel money and influence into the business world are themselves socially beneficial, but the best way we can move the needle on social causes today is to make and donate money (at least until our socialist friends succeed in toppling our oppressive, hyper-capitalist system).

While criticism of Columbia’s skew toward corporate America seems central to our conversations about professional life and social responsibility, our supposedly-activist campus culture will continue to produce the very people that it condemns. I’ve heard some of my peers claim that our University is neoliberal, capitalist, or even conservative—allegations, which if true, would knock the socks off the people who actually identify with these labels. That said, our University’s anti-corporate attitude is just a veneer, and we’re better off for it.

At times, our school can feel like the Columbia University of Financial Studies—suits lined up for on-campus recruiting events, overheard conversations about HireVues and superdays galore. Consequently, we often blame CCE and the administrators sitting high in MoHi’s ivory tower for pushing students into finance, for encouraging them to “sell out.”

The truth is more complicated. Does Columbia actually push students into finance, tech, and consulting careers? Or does it just respond to aspirations that already exist? Maybe what the meme pages call “selling out” isn't actually selling out at all.

Yes, CCE offers ample opportunity to connect with movers and shakers in select industries. The upcoming events page on the career office’s internships and jobs portal sometimes seems like a who's who of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. But it's not just the career office. With its multitudinous student associations devoted to careers in finance and consulting, our University's culture at times seems to glorify the search for work in these areas.

Jimmy Quinn is a junior in the School of General Studies majoring in political science. He’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you disagree. Reach him at jtq2104@columbia.edu or on Twitter @realjimmyquinn.

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By JIMMY QUINN
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I’m not completely dead set against having Wall Street classmates. Sure, I don’t trust the Wells Fargo rebranding, the tech industry is quartering my virtual life, and McKinsey is buying a return ticket from Riyadh as you read this. However, are employers really asking for a third of Ivy League graduates to manage the elite economy? Really? That seems likes a lot. More importantly, I’m not convinced that this lack of diversity in jobs straight out of Columbia is great for the overall economy or for us.

I confess that I am not an expert on the demographics of the finance sector. Maybe they do need proportionally a third of college graduates to enter the industry to remain stable enough to prevent another Lehman Brothers. Maybe the only thing between you and the collapse of the global economy will be a first-year who blacked out last Halloweekend.

If we consider what American voters want, according to Gallup, students should really go into the restaurant, grocery, and real estate industries. I don’t see a graduate degree as a prerequisite to entry for these roles. However, CCE reports that students rarely enter these industries right out of college. I understand that Americans tend to counterintuitively devalue education as a career choice, and profess as much love for the federal government as libertarians do (despite good polling numbers for a vast number of social safety net or welfare state programs). I think Mitt Romney knows all too well how (un)popular unbridled capitalism is with Americans. So, why are Columbia students giving finance such a large vote of confidence?

Post-graduation has multiple players. So far, I’ve focused on public opinion because, well, if Columbia is supposed to help play a larger role in preparing its students for the workplace, this has to include training Columbia students for a wide variety of jobs—not just finance. Take a dive into columbia buy sell memes for just a minute. A lot of career-focused memes focus on the eternal question of selling out, as if all of campus struggles with this question. And sure, the truest get-rich-quick schemes start with Goldman, but aren’t we at an Ivy League university? If we are supposed to be the smartest students, shouldn’t that also mean that we’re creative and mature enough to find happiness and success in any field, instead of making clearly insecure jokes about the inevitability of selling out?

Again, this isn’t me bashing finance to satisfy the Facebook algorithm. If you, growing up, dreamed about helping people, businesses, and public entities manage their money, then apply. You of all people deserve that. However, this is really about the utility of a bachelor’s degree from Columbia. If the Ivy League is supposed to be more than an athletic conference in which we fence anyone who mentions our Homecoming performance, then a degree from Columbia must be more than a guaranteed ticket to finance. We as students need to have the confidence to say that being a teacher or a researcher is a valid use of our bachelor’s degree, and we’ll find success within our respective industries.

Last year, Rafael Ortiz—who made a name for himself in the Goldman Sachs meme trade—ran for Columbia College Student Council pre-professional representative on the platform of introducing graduate school fairs. Looking at the data, that’s a good start. I think starting now, every pre-professional rep in all of the student councils should read this and think of ways to help students find non-finance opportunities. Not out of socialist spite or anarchist angst, but to start on a journey to rebalance these lopsided numbers, and to contribute our knowledge equally across society: from education to start-ups to professional cooking. I don’t expect the combined CC-SEAS numbers to look like the School of the Arts numbers. But if I read the current values correctly, the Columbia stocks can’t be too high.

Perfect time to buy.

I’m not completely dead set against having Wall Street classmates. Sure, I don’t trust the Wells Fargo rebranding, the tech industry is quartering my virtual life, and McKinsey is buying a return ticket from Riyadh as you read this. However, are employers really asking for a third of Ivy League graduates to manage the elite economy? Really? That seems likes a lot. More importantly, I’m not convinced that this lack of diversity in jobs straight out of Columbia is great for the overall economy or for us.

I confess that I am not an expert on the demographics of the finance sector. Maybe they do need proportionally a third of college graduates to enter the industry to remain stable enough to prevent another Lehman Brothers. Maybe the only thing between you and the collapse of the global economy will be a first-year who blacked out last Halloweekend.

Ufon Umanah is the investigations editor for The Blue and White, an undergraduate magazine of Columbia University. You can follow him at @ufonumanah on Twitter after he finishes midterms.

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By UFON UMANAH

Columbia University provides an abundance of major programs, academic resources, and research opportunities that support students in exploring our career paths, whether it be in the arts, humanities, or STEM. While we are a community made up of various interests and majors, it might be startling to learn that almost 30 percent of Columbia students pursue finance. From my perspective, a culture of the three main employment fields of tech, consulting, and finance seems to reign in and out of the classroom, as well as in our University’s offices. CCE is designed to offer students career-based direction. Professional development workshops, alumni panels, and career counseling sessions all provide Columbia students with the necessary resources and best chances to access the professional market.

I have personally found my experience with CCE to be positive. I was able to schedule an appointment with a counselor who showed me how to cut my résumé down. I even went back to CCE’s quick drop-in hours to have my résumé checked for any last-minute edits. While CCE has been beneficial for me, it is evident that the office is skewed toward the fields of tech, finance, and consulting. Many students may be motivated to delve into these fields, arguably due to interest and/or the financial appeal. CCE is simply reflecting the demands of the job market. And while CCE could do more for the humanities, social sciences, and the arts, this issue of funneling Ivy League students into finance, tech, and consulting is bigger than CCE.

I haven’t declared my major(s) yet, but I am currently studying English and sociology. I love the humanities and social sciences—I always have and always will. I am a writer and someone who is deeply interested in how societies operate, systems of oppression, and how groups of people have managed to survive over time. When you put those passions together, I learn, write, and educate others about how societal issues manifest and impact various communities. And while literature, artistic expression, and sociological thought have always been my passions, I worry at times whether they will translate into a viable, well-paying job that will sustain my life. Even in the midst of my college student anxiety, I will never let go of my dreams. I do feel reassured about my career prospects in education, social advocacy, and literature when granted the opportunity to work with campus resources such as CCE.

In addition to recognizing the immense amount of assistance that CCE provides for Columbia students, I would like to see a shift in how areas of study and career paths are discussed around campus. Socioeconomic disparities and social stigmas are factors that create a diversion from more artistic or humanities-based careers. Stability, in a monetary sense, is said to be found in a nine-to-five finance job rather than becoming an artist. This divide is our reality. I often hear students speak about how CCE supports the finance, consulting, and tech trend through career fairs that showcase popular companies such as J.P. Morgan, McKinsey & Company, and Goldman Sachs. And even though the job market leans strongly toward finance, consulting, and tech, Columbia students should feel empowered and equipped to pursue careers without unhealthy pressure from campus culture.

Columbia University provides an abundance of major programs, academic resources, and research opportunities that support students in exploring our career paths, whether it be in the arts, humanities, or STEM. While we are a community made up of various interests and majors, it might be startling to learn that almost 30 percent of Columbia students pursue finance. From my perspective, a culture of the three main employment fields of tech, consulting, and finance seems to reign in and out of the classroom, as well as in our University’s offices. CCE is designed to offer students career-based direction. Professional development workshops, alumni panels, and career counseling sessions all provide Columbia students with the necessary resources and best chances to access the professional market.

I have personally found my experience with CCE to be positive. I was able to schedule an appointment with a counselor who showed me how to cut my résumé down. I even went back to CCE’s quick drop-in hours to have my résumé checked for any last-minute edits. While CCE has been beneficial for me, it is evident that the office is skewed toward the fields of tech, finance, and consulting. Many students may be motivated to delve into these fields, arguably due to interest and/or the financial appeal. CCE is simply reflecting the demands of the job market. And while CCE could do more for the humanities, social sciences, and the arts, this issue of funneling Ivy League students into finance, tech, and consulting is bigger than CCE.

Tova Ricardo is a sophomore in Columbia College studying English and sociology.

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By TOVA RICARDO

Sometimes when I introduce myself as an English major, I deflect the criticism with a self-deprecating riff on impractical humanities majors. Of course education is about more than the job market, but career concerns are the primary reason most people seek out higher education.

To be honest, I haven't been to very many CCE events. Most of them didn't seem very relevant to my goals, which are admittedly murky but probably don't involve working for J.P. Morgan or Google. However, the skew toward the fields of consulting, finance, and tech is evident at these events. It is worth considering the reasons that Columbia could be pushing its students toward those fields.

There's a reasonable argument to be made that CCE is responding to student demand and market pressures, and encouraging students to enter fields in which they will be most likely to find gainful employment. But there are also plenty of students like myself like myself who choose to study the arts, natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. And CCE should offer more support to these students as well. These other fields are of value to individuals and to society: The sciences help us understand the workings of the world and of ourselves; the arts and humanities allow us to process and make sense of it all.

The fluctuating demands of the market reflect only what is currently profitable, and not necessarily what is most beneficial to society and to humanity. Otherwise, considering that we have 12 years to prevent ecological and possibly civilizational collapse, the unemployment rate for Columbia environmental engineering majors upon graduation would be much less than a (rather disheartening) 25 percent. I suppose preventing climate change isn't as profitable as monetizing the catastrophe; there's more money to be made in selling protection to those who can pay for it.

Is it right for CCE to push students into fields that, arguably, harm society? It's the very banks—Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup—that many Columbia students aspire to work for that bear significant responsibility for the 2008 financial collapse. There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, of course. But as wonderful as technology can be, the tech industry can be decidedly less so.

Columbia doesn't spend very many of its resources, relative to other schools, on supporting students who want to work in fields that may not be as lucrative but still impact society significantly, albeit in different ways than finance and tech. Regardless of each individual's personal reasons for choosing the fields of business and tech—which may well be because they find these subjects genuinely interesting and fulfilling—these do tend to be highly paid fields. And Columbia does have its alumni donations to think of. In this way, Columbia creates a cycle of concentrated wealth, creating the next generation of the one percent from the current one percent of students.

In a broader sense, these topics lead us to question what a "good school" is. Is it defined by prestige, wealth, and exclusivity? Or does it refer to the benefit and support universities provide to all of their students, to their communities, and to society? Columbia, like many of its peer institutions, likes to brand itself as a global leader doing social good and philanthropic work, but its actions and investments speak otherwise. We must do better by supporting graduates in their goals to serve the people, instead of opening doors into the next generation of exploitation.

Sometimes when I introduce myself as an English major, I deflect the criticism with a self-deprecating riff on impractical humanities majors. Of course education is about more than the job market, but career concerns are the primary reason most people seek out higher education.

To be honest, I haven't been to very many CCE events. Most of them didn't seem very relevant to my goals, which are admittedly murky but probably don't involve working for J.P. Morgan or Google. However, the skew toward the fields of consulting, finance, and tech is evident at these events. It is worth considering the reasons that Columbia could be pushing its students toward those fields.

Tiffany Dimm is a sophomore at Columbia College majoring in English. She’s involved in Student-Worker Solidarity and Columbia Divest for Climate Justice.

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By TIFFANY DIMM

To respond to this installment of Discourse & Debate, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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