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The proverbial "good job" is a myth!

Yeah, I've said that before, many times. This story examines the issue of how many young people graduate heavily in debt, but without commensurate employment. Traditional, knee-jerk assumptions about the value of college degrees should be challenged.

Back the 60's, my brother said of college education, "People think that college is like a vocational technical school." That was an excellent point, I think, because there is a fine difference between preparing to be employable, and becoming an educated person.

In my opinion, insofar as becoming "educated," colleges are so medieval-era! Colleges and universities were once centers of knowledge, but with the availability of information and books nowadays, that function of colleges is outdated. A degree does not mean you are educated, it merely indicates that you jumped through the hoops to get the official looking piece of paper.

Like +james altucher, ( http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/01/10-more-reasons-why-parents-should-not-send-their-kids-to-college/ ) I am doubtful of the oft-quoted maxim that college graduates earn more during their lifetimes. Whereas the figures may appear so on the surface, I think the reality is likely something else.

Rather than spend tens of thousands of dollars to send Susie or Johnny to college, send Susie or Johnny out to work some kind of job for a couple of years. Let them wait tables or pick up trash or clerk or work in a shipping department -- whatever will get them out there in the real working world. Let them experience the joys of dead-end, boring jobs, asshole bosses, and ridiculous HR policies.

Then, after they have done that for a couple of years, point out to them that the odds are that after they graduate from college, they will have to go back to those very same jobs, with the addition of a big, fat debt to pay off.

Instead of throwing the money away on a useless college degree, why not set Susie or Johnny up with their own business instead? Let Susie or Johnny do the hiring and firing.

I do understand there are some jobs for which a college degree is required, such as being a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc. But relatively few of the Susies and Johnnys out there want to be doctors, lawyers, or engineers, even if they had the brains and temperaments for it.

I went to college only because it was extremely important to my mother-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks that I do so, as a way of lifting her own social standing, or so she thought. I hated school, but if I had not gone to college, Mom would have killed me. I paid most of my own way through by working student jobs, but that was much easier to do back then than now.

I bear contempt for my degree, but there was one time when it meant something to me. Shortly after I had graduated, I was reading the local Sunday paper, and when I looked at the wedding announcements, item after item read something like, "The bride attended Kansas State University." "Attended!" I yelled, I have a degree!

Overall, I really can not think of anything that made the time and expense of my college degree worth it. Where I actually learned useful skills was at the job I had as a student staff artist, working in the Extension Audiovisual Production office. I still apply the basic principles of what I learned there to my web development today. But, that job was not a college course, and what made it so educational was that I had a boss who was one of those extremely rare creatures: a mentor.

So, overall, I think the typical high school graduate would be ahead to get some kind of job, and then really apply themselves to becoming the best possible person at that job, with the aim of getting promoted within the organization, or getting promoted by getting a better job doing the same thing at another business. Or perhaps even saving money and someday starting their own business.

I remember a conversation I had with a fellow who has his own concrete foundation business. He said that by the time he gets an employee trained to where they are really useful, they leave to go start their own companies.

One of the wealthiest men in my hometown is a guy who after graduating from high school, set up a little shop where he refurbished old cars and sold them. Today, he is the top auto dealer in the state.

Another local success story -- as a college student, a fellow would sell frat and sorority themed tee shirts out of his van at football games. His business grew and today he owns a sportswear company that sells items nationwide, plus he owns several other local businesses and employs thousands of people.

No one taught me how to speak well. No one taught me how to write well. I even taught myself to read because I just wasn't picking it up via classroom instruction. However, I did do a tremendous amount of reading when I was young. I read just about anything I could get my hands on. If nothing else was available, I would read the backs of cereal boxes. I got in trouble at my job at the local newspaper because I read it while I pasted the paper together (yes, we literally pasted the newspaper together with hot wax back then). I gained much more education by working on my self-directed 4-H projects than I ever got from school.

All I really mean to say is, that we ought to question whether college education deserves its sacred status, and that in many cases, it may not be worth going into debt.

___________________________
[BTW, my daughter has a college degree and is working on a Master's. She joined the National Guard for its educational benefits, and is employed. My son has an Associates degree earned from the area technical college's IT program, and is employed.]
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8 comments
 
This post will be one of the best ones I've read in some time. Everything you said was well stated and spot on. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
 
Provocative post. I think what you've overlooked, however, is that this same everyone-go-to-college culture has given us a generation of managers that will insist that a degree is a job requirement. So Susie will start at the bottom and work hard and impress her supervisors, but when she applies for the internal vacancy at a higher payscale she might very well get shut out because she doesn't have initials after her name.
 
Each experience is different.

I earned a BA in Liberal Arts focused on literature and history, then worked as a word processor, desktop publisher, traveling folk singer, and web designer. Then I earned a MS in Geographic Information Science and now I work as a cartographer, and geospatial analyst.

During all that time, even when I was a homeless street musician, I wrote poetry. Now I am writing an epic poem in blank verse about scientists in the evening after my day job.

I think success or failure is contingent on many factors of inherent talents, personal choices, and social environments. My masters in cartography provided me with technical skills, scientific and artistic, that allows me to be employable in a very useful field. My student loan was well-spent on a good degree that gets me jobs I could never get otherwise without the degree.
 
+Lil Peck One of the best treatments on this subject I have ever encountered ... cogent and emotionally charged ...

This is simply outstanding!!
 
Is it fair or is it a fraud? Just because higher education rewarded graduates with higher lifetime earnings in the past (when costs were lower), there's no guarantee of that now -- particularly with higher rates of unemployment and non-dischargeable debts that will burden graduates for decades to come.
 
How the hell did I miss this EXCELLENT post? Not a word, not a single word do I disagree with. Spot on, Lil.
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