Keep in mind that what I’m writing always leaves room for exceptions to the norm. Besides increasing costs for an education another reason colleges are losing their value is due to so many students opting for the easier courses these institutions offer.
Many degrees have little application for either the private or public sector. In some cases if a student does get a job in his or her field it isn’t one that can realistically provide them a living so they end up moving on to another occupation.
These students’ parents might have spent $100,000 getting their child a degree in something that only allows their child to potentially get a job interview. Of course all of the other job candidates would have degrees as well so it becomes an issue of whether or not your child could quickly jump into the job and start making a positive difference. If he or she took a light course load they might be in trouble. Let me also add that it’s the parent’s responsibility to steer their child in the right way. It’s critical they share some of what I’ve mentioned above…basically give them insight into the real world.
The fact is when a college student gets their degree in Liberal Arts he or she will very unlikely work in their desired field. Someone who gets their degree in music has a tough road ahead because most of the jobs available to them are very few and low paying. A student who gets a degree in political science (even if she moves on to law school) will initially have some very low paying jobs before their career will hopefully take off. Plus, at the same time they’re trying to pay down their college debt. Unless this young person doesn’t have to worry about money for about five years, she might want to reconsider her degree. A large majority of students drop out within the first two years for a variety of reasons most being financial
One more example, if a student gets his degree in history (it’s one of my favorite subjects), making a living off of the degree will be very difficult. The problem is that a student coming out of college might get a job in the school system but once again they are generally low paying job that they often leave due to low salaries. To have a decent shot at becoming a professor and making more money, the student would need to obtain his doctorate in history (which means more debt). Then they have to contend with the fact that job openings for teaching in colleges and universities that pay well are few and far between.
Colleges are struggling because their students spend four years in school yet would have a very difficult time passing an exam that employers come up with so they can figure out whether the job candidate has the skills they’re looking for. All that time spent studying and they can’t take it with them to the marketplace. One of the primary reasons for this is that students didn’t learn hands-on applications to the real world so the calculations don’t stick. Most companies use MicroSoft Office products so being an expert in these areas (especially Excel), would give them an edge over the competition. It’s also a timing thing because if they learned applicable math their senior year it would be easier for them to remember but a lot of courses that address the skills employers need on the job are sometimes offered to students their freshman and sophomore years.
On-line learning has become popular so some college professors post their lessons on-line and then coordinate tests sometimes on-site sometimes via the internet. One of the problems with this is that many students don’t learn well on-line and I’m one of them. I don’t know why this is the case because I love to watch presentations on-line (www.ted.com) where professionals come in and talk about all kinds of topics but for some reason I have a tough time following an on-line college course. I’d be much better off in class listening and watching my instructor because they give better clues as to what part of the material being learned is the most important.
Next I’m going to cover a great option to overcome the devaluing of a university degree and that is for a student to attend a technical college (I’m including community colleges as well). Technical colleges are more closely tied to the business community and what their needs are. These colleges better project where the jobs are headed so they can offer the courses necessary to fill the marketplace’s needs. They’re way better at caring for the student after they graduate and use their ties in the business community to help their students find employment. Universities often just churn and burn their students because they have too many students to make a dent in helping them after they graduate.
Many universities reach a point where they don’t think they have anything to learn; they get pious about their institution. They look at themselves as consultants to the business community when it should be just the opposite. This creates a big problem because unlike what technical colleges are doing, universities are terrible about being in touch with businesses’ wants and needs. They're usually very good at collecting donations and marketing their college but these things don’t end up enhancing the quality of their students’ education and keeping costs down for them.
I don’t understand donations by alumni because I believe if you have some discretionary money it would be better spent on real people and organizations in need. Universities are not unlike our government, there’s so much waste in their budgets. There’s so much fluff built in that doesn’t benefit their customers (students), so the return an alumnus gets from their donation doesn’t sound very good to me.
Technical colleges are more lean and mean. They often have great instructors who don’t have the lucrative salaries that university professors have. Their instructors usually aren’t academia but instead have worked in the real world. At one time I managed a college intern program at work and every student told me they wish their professors had real word experiences to share. Community college instructors are great at hands-on training in areas that require it (i.e. computer programming, electrical engineering, graphic design, etc.); basically less talk from them and more action. This type of teaching is much more effective towards learning. Plus when you respect your instructor you’re much more inclined to listen to her.
Some people might wonder if their child might be less competitive in the market place if he or she went to a technical college versus a major university. Throughout my career with privately and publicly held companies, where someone got a degree and what level of degree mattered less than the skills listed on the resume. Most job descriptions automatically list a four-year degree required but they realize degrees are a dime a dozen so they want more. If someone were an Eagle Scout or a Vet they definitely got a chance to interview with me. We were concerned if someone had a Liberal Arts degree because we felt it said something about their thoughts towards business and the skills we needed them to learn in college. So what it all boils down to is that as an employer we wanted new employees with good character and who could start contributing quickly because a lot of training isn't taking place like it used to because companies don’t have time.
Students who attend community/technical colleges often work to pay for their education. Once again this is a character issue as we knew the young person could hold down a job and that he or she knew what it meant to work. We realized that working for us would be much better than where they were working so they came on board with great attitudes. Several of the young interns that I brought into our company worked at the same part-time job for years (began in high school). I’d feel more confident about hiring someone like this than a student straight out of Harvard.
Once again I’m not saying a college education isn’t important and I know of many colleges and universities that are fantastic and don't fit the profiles I'm mentioning above. What I am saying is that maybe a four-year degree isn’t for everyone and that some students who attend community colleges or technical institutes might have a better shot at getting a job sometimes than the millions of college educated young adults who are competing with other people with the very same resume.
I’m also saying that colleges/universities should take a hard look at their bureaucracy because student costs can’t continue to go up like they have. I think they should bring in more instructors/professors with real world experience so the students would respect them more and enjoy learning more. I think universities should do away with professor tenure because it makes zero sense. All it does is give a professor a lucrative salary for he or she to teach less. Students don’t deserve to attend a class based on the premise that an Ivy League professor is going to teach the class when they end up with their professor’s assistant teaching and advising them. These tenured professors are usually off writing articles for trade magazines or writing books in order to pat their own and the school’s ego. Of course the school uses the professors writing for public relation purposes.
I’ve attended a community college (CPCC the best ever), a technical college, and a four-year university. In my case I learned more from the smaller institutes and I enjoyed the classes more. The bottom line is that I think we should take a good look at advanced degrees and figure out what we need to do to churn out students who can compete in a global economy. We don’t need a bunch of kids with ideological views but instead kids who can immediately contribute to the marketplace. We don’t need our kids to think they are losers for not attending universities and instead support the fact that for some young people attending community colleges and technical institutes could help them achieve just as big of dreams as those students attending four-year colleges and could possibly get there even faster.
My focus was on college educations but the fact is the best thing we can do for our children is tell them the truth about the real world and that some things they might want to get a degree in won’t help them in the real world. You’re paying for the degree you should want a good return on your investment and that is to have your child positioned to get a leg up in the marketplace but what’s most important is their character because as Abraham Lincoln said: “Ability may get you to the top but it takes good character to keep you there.”