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Is college worth the money?

30 April 2008 216 views 2 Comments

For many – if not most – it’s not. The cost now is obscene – $160,000 for 4 years. If the goal is not a professional degree or the plain pursuit of knowledge, it’s a waste. A few years back a college acquaintance told me he was going back for an MBA. I asked why:

Him: ‘If I get an MBA, I can be an entrepreneur.’
Me: ‘Um… why don’t you just start a business instead?’
Him: (some blather about needing a degree, degrees opening doors, other nonsense)

People need that time to mature, some say. Perhaps keeping them in high school during some of the most influential times of their lives is the culprit. Kids wouldn’t need a few years to cut loose if they had more control over their lives when they were younger. That was the case for me – from Catholic school to full-blown party animal. No coincidence there – just simple cause and effect. Maybe – just maybe – traditional cultures knew something when they made their coming of age rituals take place around the age of adolescence.

College is also a false, manufactured reality. Spending the majority of your time with people of your own age is about as far from reality as can be. If anything, it prepares you for the day you get stuck in a home for the aged – once again, surrounded by people your own age. Want some reality? There are plenty of ways to do that by interacting with society in general. Learn a trade, start a business, volunteer, get a job.

The world is out there, and you don’t need to be sequestered in an educational institution to find it. Perhaps that made sense when people lived in one place for their whole lives, but not anymore. You don’t need college for travel either. How stupid is it to make such a big deal about studying abroad when you end up spending time in a classroom and doing homework? What a waste! Better to spend the tuition money on actual travel instead of a limited cultural experience.

What about the so-called best years of our lives? Isn’t it sad that 4 years of being sheltered from real responsibilities is considered the best years? What about the 40 years after that? Interestingly, the other time in life that has such a positive vibe is the Golden Years, when you’re retired and have no more responsibilities. With a message like that, no wonder kids fuck around in school. I am so much happier out of school than in, having the ability to find myself, realize my true dreams and work to make them real. Life is tough, but I’ve never had a better time than I’m having now.

Obviously, all of this is colored by my own experience. I went to the best school I could to get the right pedigree. Not that it mattered – I didn’t graduate on time, lied on my resume about graduating and still found a job. Having spent years being guided away from my interests, I studied something practical,economics, which for me was practically useless. Everything I do for income I taught myself – proof that you don’t need a degree or school. My grandfather was a wealthy, self-made business man without a degree. Lots of jobs that require a BA or BS just want some basic proof that the hiree isn’t a moron – or is a pliable drone.

So what’s going to happen with my kids? Whatever they want, I’ll support. They’ll have years to follow their hearts and if they want to go to college, I think they will have good reasons for it. Either for knowledge or a specific educational or professional goal. I think their interests will be obvious by 10 or 12, and I’ll be happy to let their curiosity be their guide.

Thanks to O’DonnellWeb for kicking off my rant.

2 Comments »

  • Bryan Sawicki said:

    After years of hard work, I found that the hardest part of college was not actually getting through it alive, or graduation, but actually getting a job. I found it really frustrating that even my own career services department at school was not really able to help me find a career after college.
    Since we are all in the same boat here I figured I would Google some sites that could help (like Monster) but everything was for those with more extensive job experience. One website I found was UVisor at http://www.uvisor.com which seems to be a really solid resource in linking up college students with employers as well as helping us students really figure out our career path. I forget what the statistic was specifically, but I remember it being something like 80% of people do not choose career paths that are pertinent to their majors.
    Anyway; definitely check out UVisor or AfterCollege or CollegeGrad (However UVisor is the only free service).

  • Arp (author) said:

    Unfortunately, 12 years of schooling doesn’t do a very good job of allowing people to find themselves. Learning some basic skills and temporarily memorizing a lot of information are what those years add up to, and the result is that the vast majority of students choose a major and never have anything to do with it.

    The cost of college today is a bubble about to pop. Why have a mortgage’s worth of debt to get a $35k job? I think a rise in apprenticeships makes a lot of sense. There’s no reason to have a BA/BS for a job in IT, sales or general office duties. Or carpentry, plumbing and the like. Obviously the part-time summer jobs in service positions are pointless too. There need to be some changes – and some better options.