COLUMBIA, Missouri. Timmy Salmon has enjoyed his big brother Tom’s four years at the University of Missouri, visiting the Sigma Nu fraternity house on football game days and being fawned over by visiting sorority girls. “The Tri-Delts are pretty,” he says with the discerning eye of a budding ladies’ man, “but the Kappa Alpha Theta girls are yucky.”
Still, he’s not sure he wants to follow in the footsteps of an English major who only received one job offer, a temporary minimum wage position reviewing mortgage documents for typos and punctuation errors that could undermine a bank’s rights. “They’re paying him $7.35 an hour,” Timmy says with apparent disgust. “I can make that much mowing lawns.”
So Timmy and his friend Scott Rouchka are taking a long, hard look at whether it makes more sense for them to cut their losses now before they invest precious time and effort in sixth grade, which has historically been viewed as the gateway to seventh grade and eventually a college degree.
“Sixth grade math is a BIG jump,” says Rouchka, who was fifth-grade arm-wrestling champion. “There’s fractions and decimals, which computers already know how to do.”
The two boys’ skepticism represents a worrisome sign for college admissions officers, who already struggle to keep male-female ratios in balance in order to avoid the “loathsome cad” effect; women now make up 57% of college students, and male students are emboldened to treat their distaff counterparts badly as the imbalance between their range of possible dating and mating prospects widens over those of coeds.
“I blame college dropout billionaires like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell,” says Dean Claus Ornstein of Glendon College in Normal, Illinois before this reporter interrupts him. “I could go on,” he says, but agrees to cut his list of examples short due to editorial restrictions.
A bachelor’s degree is still viewed as an essential credential for most white-collar jobs by many adults, but Timmy Salmon says times have changed. “When I told the President of the Tri Delts I made enough money to buy a bike last summer her eyes got REAL wide and she said ‘Wow!’” he recalls. “I’m pretty sure I could have kissed her but they had those pigs-in-a-blanket mini-hot dogs that I love and I didn’t want to leave the buffet.”
Big brother Tom says he thinks Timmy is wrong and that there is value to be gained by exposure to the humanities early in life. “When I smoked pot in high school I was totally clueless,” he recalls. “Now our drug-addled bullshit sessions are really deep.”