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Last post Author Topic: Is a college education worth the money?  (Read 9338 times)

Paul Keith

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Is a college education worth the money?
« on: June 05, 2010, 01:30:02 AM »
Source: http://www.newyorker...100607taco_talk_mead

Quote
Professor Robert I. Lerman, of American University (Ph.D., M.I.T.), told the Times that high schools, rather than readying all students for college, should focus on the acquisition of skills appropriate to the workplace. According to the Times, these include the ability to “solve problems and make decisions,” “resolve conflict and negotiate,” “coöperate with others,” and “listen actively.”

Renegade

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2010, 02:21:03 AM »
Wow. That's stunning. It sounds like he's advocating working after high-school. I find that incredible. A university education is pretty much mandatory to even think of escaping a dull life of poverty. What job with a decent income can you get without a university education? The only one that I can think of is being a drug dealer or getting into some other form of organized crime.

The skills he's advocating are surely good things, but not going to university?

Quote
According to the Times, eight out of the ten job categories that will add the most employees during the next decade—including home-health aide, customer-service representative, and store clerk—can be performed by someone without a college degree. “Professor Vedder likes to ask why fifteen percent of mail carriers have bachelor’s degrees,” the paper reported.

Still... Chances for advancement in life come easier with education behind you.

The whole "job" thing is simply ridiculous. JOB = Just Over Broke.

I don't have a "job" and I most certainly make a lot more money than a lot of people, and it's all thanks to having an education.

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Paul Keith

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2010, 03:07:35 AM »
True and I didn't find the article very compelling but his last paragraph did sum it up:

Quote
Indeed, if even a professionally oriented college degree is no longer a guarantee of easily found employment, an argument might be made in favor of a student’s pursuing an education that is less, rather than more, pragmatic. (More theology, less accounting.) That way, regardless of each graduate’s ultimate path, all might be qualified to be carriers of arts and letters, of which the nation can never have too many.

It's also strangely popular on twitter and I got it from ycombinator's tweets so...there must be something to it.

As a person who lives in the Philippines, I could certainly understand and appreciate the necessity of the last paragraph.

With that said, I'm also speaking from the perspective of someone who has not gone to college but have witnessed the lack of influence intellectuals have on this country or if they do get farther in life, they use this as an opportunity to move away from the country (while just supporting their parents over here) rather than improve the country directly. That said there are many other factors related to their decision but I'm just saying...

Stoic Joker

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2010, 02:42:28 PM »
I have in my years met many people with college degrees that were (for all intent and purpose) practically useless (read dumber than a stump) in the real world. However HR types will fall all over themselves to get to these people.

Unfortunately, in todays job market, there is no way to get around the HR department barrier. HR goes through a stack of applicants (with approx half the skill of a basic keyword search) looking for a list of (bulleted) qualifications - Without the slightest understanding of what the qualifications actually are or mean. If the IT position requires a Masters Degree, and the applicant has a Masters Degree (in Lama breeding...) HR will accept the applicant instantly. IF the applicant has 10 of experience in IT and five star references, but no degree ... the applicant will be rejected by HR (instantly).

There is no substitute for a College Degree - Not because it makes you smart (because it doesn't), but because it makes you appealing to the chronically uninformed.

JavaJones

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2010, 09:59:38 PM »
1: Take the same 4 years you spend going through college and spend it at one job. Yes, you will start with a likely lesser-paying job (which does not require a degree), but if you pick the right company, within the 4 years you'll be promoted at least once, and have a couple of raises. Even if by the end you are not earning as much as you would with the degree you would have had, you have no college debt, you have in fact been earning money that entire time.

You're also gaining experience at the same time which many businesses do value as much as education in equivalent quantities. In other words imagine a job opening, and you have 1 candidate fresh out of college with a BA in a desirable subject, and another candidate with 4 years experience on the job in the field you're hiring for. Even an HR minion is going to have to pay some attention to those 4yrs of practical experience. Next imagine the scenario with an MA (6+yrs), or Ph.D. (8+yrs). 8 years practical job experience vs. a freshly graduated Ph.D. with no experience on the job outside of perhaps an internship? Hmm... Not to mention that it's 4 years for a BA if you're lucky these days, given recent cut-backs (at least here in California) resulting in fewer classes with less room, and thus needing more time to graduate (average is becoming 5 years).

And don't forget the debt is stacking up the whole time, so even if you're qualified for a higher paying position, you'll spend at least a few years paying off the debt, so you can tack those on to the job experience option too. Say you spend 2 years paying off debt, now we're talking 10 years on the job experience vs. the Ph.D. grad with 2 years experience. Which earns more? Which is more hireable? I'm not saying there's a clear winner, but I do think it's debatable enough that going to college shouldn't be a foregone conclusion for anyone. Sure, you'll have to accept a lesser position to start, but it can easily be worth it, especially at a good company.

We'll leave the possibility of company-sponsored education out of the consideration for now, but it definitely still happens... ;)

2: If the company you're applying for has a stupid HR department, try a different company. It's hard work, but we as the working masses can train the companies that hire us to value the right characteristics in how and where we choose (or choose not) to apply.

Now of course there are many jobs where the knowledge required to do the job is so specialized, a degree is virtually a necessity. But these jobs are generally in the minority. Practical education in high school and developing critical thinking skills would really be the best preparation for most jobs.

- Oshyan

zridling

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2010, 10:24:39 PM »
What Oshyan said. I have a PhD, have taught college. But given the Return-On-Investment of today's degrees, I would only recommend college to those who have a specific plan for actual employment with their degree. The skilled trades -- carpentry, plumbing, roofing, electricians, general home renovation, Heating/AC, etc. will put money in your pocket far faster and with virtually no debt by comparison.

Mind you, my degrees are in Philosophy, but I did it for my own personal quest, knowing that landing even a philosophy teaching job would be tough. (That's why I taught undergraduate statistics courses for a decade!) But I would never recommend my path to anyone. If I were 20 years old, I'd buy and read the great books. Then I'd reread them. Then I'd set about learning a trade. If you're good at something, you'll stay busy enough to make as much money as you want. If you're waiting for someone to hire you for that "Communications" major, unless you're dropdead gorgeous, it's not going to happen (in this economy).

J-Mac

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2010, 01:25:17 AM »
I do not have a college degree though I did have several scholarships offered when I was in high school. I chose to enter the military at the time.

Since then I have attended college courses but stopped even trying to apply them toward a degree when specific curricula were forced on me; read: courses that offered me no possible benefit but were required for degree completion.

Since then I have taught college courses at two community colleges and two universities. Also when I was a director at a large utility in Florida I had more than 40 people directly reporting to me, and only two did not have degrees: me and my secretary.

Just sayin'... it sometimes works out just fine.  :)

Jim

40hz

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2010, 01:05:26 PM »
Once again a condescending member of the "Haves" counsels all the aspiring "Have Nots" to know their place, stick with what they can obtain most readily, and dream small.

As was pointed out in the movie Caddyshack when an employee, who was bucking for a scholarship, tried to indirectly plead his case before a wealthy club member:

Quote
Danny Noonan: I planned to go to law school after I graduated, but it looks like my folks won't have enough money to put me through college.

Judge Smails: Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.

Lacey Underall: [to Danny] Nice try...


What I find interesting is that a professor, with an economic background, completely misses the bigger question as to why the price of a college education continues to steadily climb by an order of magnitude ahead of the inflation rate. Especially in those many institutions which are not expanding in size, have little or no tax liability, virtually zero debt, and substantial portfolios and underwriting endowments.

Maybe rather than telling the masses to just go out and focus on acquiring the skills needed to "get a job," it would be better to challenge some of the questionable business assumptions (and rampant institutional egotism and greed) that has boosted the price of a college education to the point of where it's no longer economically viable for so many people?

Odd state of affairs when you think back and notice how it was viable not so very long ago.

According to FinAid.org's website:

Quote
A good rule of thumb is that tuition rates will increase at about twice the general inflation rate. During any 17-year period from 1958 to 2001, the average annual tuition inflation rate was between 6% and 9%, ranging from 1.2 times general inflation to 2.1 times general inflation. On average, tuition tends to increase about 8% per year.

Maybe it's high time people started seriously asking why.  

And even more importantly, insisting that these institutions provide meaningful answers. 8)

« Last Edit: June 06, 2010, 01:09:47 PM by 40hz »

Carol Haynes

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2010, 01:13:08 PM »
I think the bigger problems (at least in the UK) are:

  • increasing massive graduate debt
  • high drop out rate (with debt and nothing to show for it)
  • degrees being pitched at a much lower level to try to meet the government 50% target take-up rather than the top 5% when I left school so now everyone needs an MA, MSc or PhD to be noticed as having qualified in something special.

By the way the last of these includes the decline in science and technology teaching in the UK as more of the 50% opt for 'easy' subjects.

I'm not being a snob - but pressure to take part in a largley irrelevant academic career simply moves the goal posts and doesn't achieve a lot.

A much better approach would be to reintroduce apprenticeships and technical education for the people who actually want to do something with a qualification.

In the UK these days the largest shift in graduate professions is to plumbing and electrical work because they pay so much more than most graduate jobs.

Stoic Joker

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2010, 02:28:58 PM »
A much better approach would be to reintroduce apprenticeships and technical education for the people who actually want to do something with a qualification.

 :Thmbsup: +1 :Thmbsup:

40hz

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2010, 02:55:35 PM »
A much better approach would be to reintroduce apprenticeships and technical education for the people who actually want to do something with a qualification.

 :Thmbsup: +1 :Thmbsup:

+1 with Carol on that from me too.

Unfortunately, my State merged (i.e. eliminated) it's Tech Colleges with it's Community Colleges as a cost saving measure many years ago. So before it could do that it would first have to bring the Tech School system back.

I'm not holding my breath.

On a positive note, some colleges have worked an apprentice program into a tri-semester setup that seems to be working quite effectively for students and their future employers.

Hope springs eternal.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2010, 03:45:21 PM by 40hz »

Deozaan

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2010, 09:59:09 PM »
In my opinion, education is extremely important. But college isn't necessarily a good way to get an education.


zridling

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2010, 11:12:42 PM »
In my opinion, education is extremely important. But college isn't necessarily a good way to get an education.

Well said, at least not a cost effective one. A Bachelor's Degree in the US is nothing more than a qualifier degree within some career fields. As far back as the 1920s and '30s, scholars were complaining about the disparity between schooling and education. The latter need not involve the former.

J-Mac

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2010, 11:16:54 PM »
In my opinion, education is extremely important. But college isn't necessarily a good way to get an education.

Best comment of the thread so far, IMO!

Thanks!

Jim

40hz

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2010, 03:02:00 PM »
Unfortunately, having an education is not the same thing as having a credential.

Where I live, a degree is a requirement to apply for many good employment opportunities. You may well be highly qualified yet lacking a degree. But in many cases you'll never get the chance to show a potential employer that you are.

It's dangerous to make generalizations. But in this case I think two of the cruelest pieces of advice you could give someone just starting out are:

1. You don't really need a college degree to land a good job.  

2. During a job interview - just be yourself!

:(


 
« Last Edit: June 07, 2010, 05:29:26 PM by 40hz »

Darwin

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2010, 04:04:07 PM »
I think... the cruelist piece of advice you could give someone just starting out is:

1. You don't really need a college degree to land a good job.

This truly is a cruel piece of advice. Sadly, when I went off to university at 18 it was still received wisdom that a BA/BSc degree was all one needed to acheive in order to have a competitive advantage in life and to get a good job. The argument went something like "you go to university and learn how to problem solve and think and demonstrate that you can finish something that you've started, work to deadlines..." yada, yada, ydda.  By the time I graduated with a BA 7  :-[ years later (I took three years off to work), it was no longer enough to have a BA/BSc degree. This was 1994. At that time, you needed to have the "right" BA/BSc - ie one was now required to demonstrate that they had taken a particular course of study related to the job (ie the major had to be "right"). 16 years later we've gone from that to a lot of jobs requiring masters degrees or even PhDs in particular fields of study.

We've become "credential" obsessed.
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Gwen7

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2010, 05:24:45 PM »
very true.

my company requires college degrees for 95% of all our job openings. it's purely an elimination requirement. having a degree is no guarantee you'll be hired. but you won't get interviewed by us without one.

we do have a very small number of positions that don't require a college degree. none of them are very good or well paid jobs.  

and my company is not alone in operating this way.

by all means get educated. but also do your best to get a degree if possible. simple truth? sooner or later you'll need to get one.
    
« Last Edit: June 07, 2010, 05:35:45 PM by Gwen7 »

app103

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2010, 05:55:31 PM »
Quote
According to the Times, eight out of the ten job categories that will add the most employees during the next decade—including home-health aide, customer-service representative, and store clerk—can be performed by someone without a college degree. “Professor Vedder likes to ask why fifteen percent of mail carriers have bachelor’s degrees,” the paper reported.

You can get a job as a store clerk in a lot of places without a college degree. Lots will even hire you without a high school diploma. But there are places that won't even accept your application unless you are either a college student or have a degree in something, anything.

Try getting a job in my local Barnes & Noble's with nothing but a high school diploma and see how far it will get you.

They won't even hire you to sweep their floors or clean their toilets without evidence of a college education, either in progress or completed. They don't even care about experience. You could have 20 years worth of experience, a proven track record of competence, come highly recommended by your previous employers, but without that college education, they aren't going to even let you get your little toe in the door.

Once upon a time all you needed to get a low paying minimum wage job was a high school diploma, if that. Now days, for a lot of the same jobs you need to at least spend the $5000 to get an associates degree (in anything) at your local community college, for the same jobs.

I think part of the problem is that it's possible to get a high school diploma in many areas without even being able to read, where it's not as likely that you could get even the bare minimum of an associates degree, anywhere, without evidence of basic literacy skills.

Darwin

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2010, 06:43:26 PM »
I think that gwen7 is on the right track: it's a screening requirement now. They screen out applicants without degrees because they can.
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2010, 07:56:55 PM »
Quote
Is a college education worth the money?

Depends on the student and how much he/she wants to get from college.
And why, I suppose.
In college you have to push yourself,
as opposed to K-12, withthe teachers pushing.

A degree in anything is good if you are good at it.
It doesn't limit you to that field either.
And all the extras you have to take will come in to play.
Surely learning means growing in many ways.
Be it college or anything.

superboyac

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2010, 08:24:57 PM »
No, it's not worth it.  But, yes, you have to have it.  So in a roundabout way, I suppose it is worth it.  I've recently been very sensitive to how overeducated we are getting.  It's far too much money being spent for too little practical good coming out of it.  All the good reasons for getting advanced degrees have nothing to do with the actual education content.  And that is a problem.  You still have to do it if you want to be comfortable, but it's a problem.

Some people here have said to have a plan.  Yes, please!  hAVE A FREAKING PLAN!  The earlier you figure out a plan, the better. My most successful friends had a leg up because they were able to come up with very solid plans way back in high school.  And you know why?  Because they had parents who were CEO's and they fed them the cold hard truth.  I don't mean they forced them to do anything.  But they were able to help them understand things that most of us don't figure out until 20 years into a job.  That kind of wisdom.  That kind of generational knowledge is by far, by far, by far the most powerful factor in success.  That's why the rich get richer.

Now, if you know that stuff early on, you will be able to know exactly HOW to get the education.  It's a matter of How, not if. 

Darwin

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2010, 10:09:16 PM »
Good point, superboyac. This is EXACTLY what I stress to the students that I tutor - have a plan!
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Renegade

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2010, 10:50:57 PM »
No, it's not worth it.  But, yes, you have to have it.  So in a roundabout way, I suppose it is worth it.  I've recently been very sensitive to how overeducated we are getting.  It's far too much money being spent for too little practical good coming out of it.  All the good reasons for getting advanced degrees have nothing to do with the actual education content.  And that is a problem.  You still have to do it if you want to be comfortable, but it's a problem.

Some people here have said to have a plan.  Yes, please!  hAVE A FREAKING PLAN!  The earlier you figure out a plan, the better. My most successful friends had a leg up because they were able to come up with very solid plans way back in high school.  And you know why?  Because they had parents who were CEO's and they fed them the cold hard truth.  I don't mean they forced them to do anything.  But they were able to help them understand things that most of us don't figure out until 20 years into a job.  That kind of wisdom.  That kind of generational knowledge is by far, by far, by far the most powerful factor in success.  That's why the rich get richer.

Now, if you know that stuff early on, you will be able to know exactly HOW to get the education.  It's a matter of How, not if. 

AMEN~!

Very well stated. (I wanted to emphasize just how much I agree with you, but thought 110pt fonts were maybe a bit overkill. :) )

That's probably some of the absolute most valuable information anyone can have early on. For those of us that are 20 years into careers, it's really less valuable as we've come to see that now, and there's nothing we can do about our childhood or upbringing. Hindsight... sigh...
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JavaJones

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #23 on: June 07, 2010, 11:07:32 PM »
we do have a very small number of positions that don't require a college degree. none of them are very good or well paid jobs.

Is there any possibility of promotion in your company? Say, after 4 years of work? :D

- Oshyan

superboyac

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Re: Is a college education worth the money?
« Reply #24 on: June 07, 2010, 11:25:57 PM »
Renegade, it's something I don't like to talk about except with my closest friends.  It is a legitimately depressing subject for me.  My friend always has to keep pointing out to me that there's nothing you can do about the past.  The only reason why i mention it here is because maybe some kid is reading it and it hits home, even though I doubt it.  This kind of stuff doesn't hit you hard until it's too late.  Either that, or your CEO dad is driving the point in over many years.

I'll just add this one little bit, and I know this will offend many of the people here, but I feel compelled:  no, on second thought, I've said enough.

If you want to be successful, find someone who is successful and figure out what he/she did.  And I don't mean the bullshit feel good story that gets printed in the paper or in wikipedia.  I mean, all the behind the scenes information.  That stuff is gold.  And it's really hard to get out of people.  If you think wealth is kept in the family, this kind of information is even more exclusive.  Many times, the parents are not able to give it to their kids because of the situation--if you already have everything, you won't care enough to listen and understand sometimes.  Now I have a pretty good eye and sense for this kind of thing now.  But I'm 15 years too late.  it will still help me in the long run probably.  Get the real story.  I can't tell you how valuable that is.