Friday night my little sisters graduated from high school. Come Fall they are off to college. What better time to reflect on the changing values of a college education. Does it make sense to go to the best school you get into? Is it worth $100k, $200k in debt?
1. If you just want to get a good liberal arts education so you can be witty conversation at cocktail parties, there are several low cost and no cost alternatives to a proper college. Do you really need to be signed up for Lit 201 to read Beowulf?
You’ll need a copy of the book, the online forum full of medievalists and a few discussion partners to really understand the significance that Beowulf plays in the great context of literature.That would take getting organized, but identifying what you want and going after it are two very useful skills.
Or you could watch any of the Foundations of Western Culture Classes at MIT . . . for free. So there’s really no excuse, if you want access to the best minds, this is a mighty fine start.
2. Perhaps you consider college preparation for the working world. That is perfectly reasonable, but let’s review….
Is there a causal relationship between wage rate and level of education? Is there a relationship between COST of that education and the wage rate? Seth Godin put together a chart comparing the relative, relevant cost increases. I added the aggregate wage data.
If the cost of education was a relatively small percent of the budget, then a 10-fold increase might not be that important. But the cost of education has been and continues to be a stumbling block for many families. Are we really getting the value out of it or is it a luxury item?
If you are preparing for a specific field: engineering, medicine, or any other field where you need access to equipment not likely to be found at Home Depot, then you must get thee to a University. But how is this different from a Vocational school?
3. Or do we really go to college simply because it is socially expected? Can we be honest enough to admit that? It isn’t bad to do things that are socially expected – we stop at stop signs (for those of us outside of Boston), but we shield college under the guise of higher education when in reality most schools require students to sit through junky, giant classes taught by disinterested Teaching Assistants. Star faculty are absent or inaccessible. Students will take multiple choice tests where only one answer is correct.
Where is the HIGHER in this form of education. On the whole schools are teaching average students average material and then handing them an average piece of paper that will not change the job prospects, nor the level of enlightenment.
We would benefit more as a society to teach our kids tolerance for ambiguity.
At no point is there just one option. It is challenging to authentically look at the purpose of our actions.
-All that being said, Kelly and Victoria are off to college in the Fall and I’m mighty proud of them. 🙂 Kate
Yet, all of these require a child to be independent and self motivated . . . isn’t that what we really want for our kids?
Image courtesy of Tax Credits