When dealing with such a delicate topic as this, it is usually a good idea to state the thesis I am scrutinizing to make sure everyone reading knows what I am trying to say. The thesis: college is the surest, if not only, road to success in the modern world and therefore everyone should go to college no matter what the cost.
All right, I agree that is not the stance most people take today, per say, but no one can deny that the view reflected by the mass media and politicians and I think held by most Americans is that everyone should go to college. As per usual, this blog post was written to turn the world’s expectations and conventions on their head.
First, the tale of the average college student; they took out huge student loans to pay for a four degree from some prestigious university, since they most likely had no idea what they wanted to do in life, they got a generic bachelor’s degree since they were sure the specific degree did not matter.
They graduated and just like in the case of half of all their employed fellow graduates got a job that did not require a college degree at all. Cases in point, about fifteen percent of all bartenders and baggage carriers are college graduates. Why did they accept jobs that their degrees should have made beneath them? The simple reason is a generic bachelor’s degree is in actual fact, “A hunting license for a job,” to quote one career counselor. This arguably would not be too terrible if the students received valuable life lessons or knowledge from their time in college, but let’s not overlook one thing. Remember, all those debts everyone took out to pay for their college? Well, do you honestly believe they’re going to be able to pay off those debts with low level jobs? We’ve all heard stories of college students who blew sometimes a hundred-thousand dollars of their (i.e. their parent’s) money or took out nasty loans to pay for some fancy, superficial, degree only to end up in a dead end job.
How did they end up like this? Well for one, none of them had any idea what they wanted to do with their lives, so they followed the national advice of “investing” in oneself through college. I don’t blame them, necessarily; after all did you know what you wanted to do with the rest of your life at the age of eighteen? Now, I won’t disagree that for all the people with the grades, ambition, and talents, to become the doctors, lawyers, and engineers of the future college is great idea, but for ever one else I’m not so sure.
Speaking of grades, here is an ugly statistic, people who graduated in the bottom forty percent of their high school class have a small chance of graduating from college even if they’re given six years to complete it. The fact that colleges recruit these types of kids sounds almost immoral, but ignoring that aspect it is certain that many of those underemployed college graduates were those people who were unqualified and merely followed the herd into college. What most of these people will and do get is to quote John Stossel, “mainly debt and disappointment.”
Now, I agree that a couple of generations ago a college degree was very impressive and many employers still see it as such; but the sad truth is that the huge proliferation of college degrees has made it to quote Dr. Marty Nemko, career counselor and education consultant, “America’s most overrated product.” Sure, employers will still hire and train college graduates because of their college degree, but it was the training that made them more valuable as employees. But, it wasn’t just the training, because the average college graduate is a different kind of person—more hard working, more dedicated, and smarter. In other words, they would have made more money than kids who didn’t go to college even if they themselves didn’t go to college. Once again, Dr. Nemko, “You could lock the pool of college bound kids in a closet for four years and they would still make just as much money.”
It doesn’t seem likely that college is what gave them such character traits, but does college at least make people smarter? It’s true some people who go to fancy colleges are pretty smart, but they were also pretty smart when they started college. Although, this is implying that college professors are trying to educate their student, but the sad truth is that professor actually make more money publishing studies in specialized journals no one reads. In other words, professors don’t have incentives to teach students, but to do small studies on pointless subjects.
If young people are not going to college then where should they go? Well, how about they go to trade school or some other specialized program that teaches them valuable skills to make a living. There are plenty of alternatives to college, which actually deliver the education you paid for. The number of successful college drop-outs is staggering;
Now, there is an important objection to all this talk of making money, which goes something like this, “Isn’t the whole point of going to college to further one’s education? And isn’t all this obsessing over making money a bit anti-educational?” Well, it’s true as Stossel points out that college is good for people who love learning and can land jobs in academia, but that’s not most people. More importantly, tens of thousands of dollars in debts is a high price to pay for what, as I pointed out above, may not be a huge boast to one’s education.
And why should universities be the only place of learning? Does anyone honestly expect me to believe that in the age of Youtube’s education section, dozens of educational sites, and thousands of scholarly articles online, all at the fingertips of anyone with an internet connection that college is the only way to further your education? Not to mention the fact that lending libraries are still plentiful throughout the land. The only limit to anyone’s education is one’s own desire.
Some argue that all we need is the government to pay for college tuition then everything will be alright, but it’s the government that made college tuition rise in the first place. Not surprisingly, when someone with a bottomless well of cash (and the government’s tax base is limitless as long as we all keeping paying) shoves huge money toward tuition, of course, the price of college will rise faster than inflation.
Now, I fully admit that issues like; whether the point of education is to prepare for the real world or learn the humanities and who should and shouldn’t go to college are a very complex subjects, but can we at least agree that considering many of the points I’ve (and people smarter than me) made that maybe we should at least not tell young people they have to attend college to succeed?
I owe a huge debt to John Stossel for opening my eyes to the college myth and many other myths on a wide variety of subjects and I want to thank him for providing so much for my personal education.