High tuition and few jobs make a lousy combination

When I went to Tulsa Junior College (now Tulsa Community College) in 1972-73, tuition was $6.25 an hour. I had a job at J.C. Penney making $2.50 an hour. So I had to work at least 150 hours to pay for my freshman year of college.

As a sophomore, I transferred to Oklahoma University, where the tuition was $14 an hour. I thought that was a lot, especially since I paid my own way through college (and graduated in four years).

Part-time jobs were hard to find in Norman in 1973. I tried transferring to the local J.C. Penney (back then it was on Main Street in Norman) but they didn’t have enough work to keep me busy.

One semester, I got a part-time job digging a hole in the back of Mister Roberts’ Furniture so they could put in a freight elevator to the second floor. That lasted two weeks, but the owner had pity on me when the job was done and let me work a few more weeks unpacking furniture.

I finally wound up with a work-study job in the School of Journalism. It was nice. I was responsible for filing all the state newspapers for 10 hours a week. It took about one hour a week and I spent the other nine hours working for free for the student newspaper.

In the summers, I was a delivery driver for Manhattan Furniture (which is no longer around). I drove a huge truck and spent all day unloading and setting up furniture. One summer, I lost 35 pounds in the searing heat.

When I got my degree, I went to the placement office in the School of Journalism and asked for help to find a job. The guy just told me to send out my resume and hope for the best.

I couldn’t find a job. I came back to Tulsa and started delivering furniture again after applying all over town. Then one day, I drove to Bartlesville and applied for a job at Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise – a small daily paper that was the Oklahoma flagship of Donrey Media (which is no longer around).

I was hired on the spot. I worked six days a week, Monday through Saturday, and made $600 a month. I rented a fully furnished, all-bills-paid apartment in Downtown Bartlesville for $102 a month.

I stayed in Bartlesville for nine months. I enjoyed being a sportswriter but the hours and low pay were killing me. I got my birthday off and I went to Broken Arrow, where I was hired to be the managing editor of the Bixby Bulletin (which is no longer around).

My career accelerated and I wound up starting the Glenpool Post newspaper (which is no longer around) and the Tulsa Beacon (which is what you are reading).

Back in 1976, my college pals and I thought we would get a nice paying job with a company and have a 40-year career and retire with a company pension, a gold watch and Social Security.

That didn’t happen for most of us.

Now, my kids and their college pals have no such expectations. No one expects to stay with the same company for 40 years and no one (with some exceptions) anticipates getting a company pension. (In some cases, pensions have been replaced with company IRAs.)

Painting with a broad brush, companies are no longer loyal to employees and employees are not longer loyal to companies.

And here’s another problem for young folks just getting out of college. Technology is racing and a skill that is valuable now may not count for much in a year or two.

Or the industry that you want to work in is about to be left in the dust. That is true somewhat with the newspaper industry. Big city liberal newspapers like the Tulsa World are bleeding subscriptions. Readers don’t like their politics and the Internet is siphoning away most people under the age of 40.

I would hate to be a recent graduate from a journalism school trying to get a job these days. And it is just as bad for writing jobs in television and radio as it is for newspapers.

And here’s another dirty little secret – having a college degree doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Sure, there are some jobs that you must have a degree but more and more, companies want people who have the experience to do the work that is required rather than a diploma.

In fact, now you need a degree plus experience and you can’t get that experience because you can’t find a job in your chosen field. There are exceptions like health care, the military and education, for example.

Add to that dilemma the weight of student loan repayments (which thankfully none of our kids have) and you can see why so many millennials are afraid to come up from their parents’ basements.

President Trump and other politicians have promised to create a business-friendly climate and more jobs. And they want to do something about the massive student debt crisis.

Raising tuition rates in Oklahoma is not the answer.