Students Forgo College to Go To Work

In a front-page story, the New York Times reports from Montana’s oil country, “some teenagers are choosing the oil fields over universities, forgoing higher education for jobs with salaries that can start at $50,000 a year,”  For example, “last year, one-third of the graduating seniors at Sidney High School headed off to work…a record percentage.” The Times cautions that it is a “risky decision” if “the frenzied pace of oil and gas drilling…falters and work dries up. But with unemployment at more than 12 percent nationwide for young adults and college tuition soaring, students here on the snow-glazed plains of eastern Montana said they were ready to take their chances.”

I have seen this repeated in a number of states as well as in Calgary Canada.  Children are accepting short-term employment in the oilfields, with all its dangers, as opposed to long-term employment offered by college graduation.  At the same time, the ups and downs of the business cycle,  means that some  of them will be looking for work when the oil boom ends.