Another question you have to answer is "what are kids doing from age 18-22? You know Peter [Thiel] talked about different models of schools. One is school as babysitting for that 4 year period. You know; somewhere to live, somewhere to hang out until you are mature enough that people like employing you.
Review: Devaluation of trade work
In a recent article, I wrote about how we as a society have devalued trade work.
In review: Mike Rowe says that we view vocational work as an “academic consolation prize" for people who are “not cut out for college". In other words, we expect all young adults to attend college to prove that they have what it takes to compete in a modern economy. There are very few recognized alternatives.
Challenging the status quo
However, this assumption is now being challenged, thanks to a confluence of trends, criticisms, and academic studies looking at the reality of higher education. There is also that pesky $1.3 trillion in student debt.
Here is how journalist Howard Sirkin describes the issues in a Bloomberg Businessweek article:
We do everything possible to encourage college attendance. In the 2011-12 academic year, for example, one program alone—the federal Pell Grant program, intended to help low- and moderate-income students finance college—cost taxpayers $34.5 billion, about half the entire U.S. Department of Education budget.
In other words, young adults are being told there is only one path forward in the world, and it is relying on a system of federally backed loans, often with very low qualifying criteria. To make matters worse, studies show that college kids aren't learning critical thinking skills, and employers don’t trust a college degree to adequately prepare students for employment. Many students attend university as much for the social experience as the academic experience. The result is an under prepared workforce, and a campus experience that is a hotbed of parties, protests, hookup culture, and existential angst. The kicker? Many kids report that they are just doing it for the degree, and they aren’t even enjoying it.
This is incredible. It is as if we expect young people to wade through four years of pointless busy work, then load them up with $30,000 in debt, and then they find that the whole experience kind of sucks anyway.
After this frustrating experience, the student will then graduate into an economy where they have to pursue unpaid internships or additional training and credentials just to land their first job.
If you are thinking about challenging my statements here, let me just say that social and economic mobility is tied to much more than a college education. These are big issues.
No one says it better than Mike Rowe:
If I wanted to drive the cost of college through the roof, I would first encourage employers to make a college degree a condition of employment. Then, I’d tell every high school kid their futures depended on getting a diploma. Then, I’d make sure that pop culture portrayed all non-college careers as second-class occupations. Finally, I’d make available an unlimited pile of money, and encourage those same kids to borrow whatever they needed to pay for that degree.
Don’t get me wrong. I love learning and I love education. But you can agree with the goals of higher education without agreeing with how it is approached today.
So without belaboring the point too much, let me just say it this way: the time is ripe to rethink higher education. These are some of the concepts that we will be discussing in future articles:
- Hacking your education
- Community development
- Vocational learning
- Experiential education
- Entrepreneurship and small business training
- Online learning and GROOCs
- WWOOF farms
These are some of the alternatives that I believe will be supplementing or replacing a traditional four year degree.
So what do you think? Is it time to rethink college? Do you recommend college attendance for all? We will continue looking at these ideas in future posts, and I would love to hear your comments.
Psst...want to start a farm? Don't pay thousands of dollars for an agriculture degree. Pay ten bucks a month of redeemable tuition instead.