Is College Still Worth It?
As you probably know if you’ve read very far in my blog, I love to learn. I love reading, writing, and learning, and have spent many years of my life doing just that. Homeschooling my boys was an extension of that love — I didn’t want their love of learning extinguished in an institutional setting, and I wanted them to have a solid educational foundation for whatever came next.
So I certainly value learning, including lifelong learning (even though I’m procrastinating at this moment on the 10-15 page research paper I have due at the end of the week). However, as much as I love to learn and as much as I have appreciated most of the college courses I’ve taken, I believe that it’s time for families to seriously consider the automatic school – to – college pipeline that most kids have been pushed toward in the past few decades.
The question is, is a college degree worth the time it takes or the money it costs? In the guest article below, Isaac Morehouse presents some thoughtful points that might help you think through the college decision. After the end of the article, I’ve added some final thoughts and a few resources you might find interesting. I hope you enjoy the article!
‘Would you rather hire someone who ran a marathon, or had a college degree?’
I remember when I saw the question posed on LinkedIn. It got hundreds of responses, almost all of whom said they’d pick the marathoner.
It turns out, the story most young people have been told about the value of degrees on the job market isn’t true, and it’s getting less true every day.
A few years ago, I talked to a business owner who turned down a candidate I passed along because he had a Master’s degree. He told me, “He seems smart and has some skill, but he’s been in school too long. It will take me too much time to get those habits out of him. Plus, I’ve found people with advanced degrees tend to be entitled and assume they’re worth more than they are.”
The famous venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz developed a framework for evaluating which entrepreneurs were most likely to succeed with their startups. One of the strongest indicators was being a college drop-out. The courage and out-of-the-box thinking needed to overcome social pressure and quit school was a bullish sign.
All of these stories share one takeaway in common: a college degree doesn’t do a good job of signaling employability. In fact, choosing not to get one can be a better signal.
And no wonder. Employers routinely report that college grads lack basic skills they look for in new hires. (See here, here, and here, for example). In fact, less than 10 percent of employers think colleges do a good job of preparing students for the working world. (Study cited here.)
A lack of useful skills is only part of the problem. Grads are saddled with debt, often taught absurd ideas from professors disconnected from the real world, and encouraged to see themselves as victims. Add to that binge-drinking and increasingly draconian policies around health and politically correct speech, and campuses have become a place to pick up bad habits and bad ideas.
Employers want to know you can create value. ‘BA – Communications’ on a resume doesn’t convey much. But you know what does?
A good opt-out or drop-out story.
I have seen hundreds of young people with no degree and no experience get jobs that said a bachelor’s and 2-3 years of experience were required. They won these jobs because they showed something more valuable than a few static bullets on a resume. They explained why they chose not to go to college, and that they did an apprenticeship, internship, self-guided study program, or project instead.
Employers love it. They get excited. Instead of someone simply taking the path of least resistance and muddling through college because their parents paid for it, they see individuals willing to forge their own way, think clearly about costs and benefits, and take initiative.
That’s why college alternative programs often boast placement rates of 90 percent or better immediately upon graduation, while just 40 percent of university students have jobs within three months after graduation.
Young people who prioritize real-world experience, self-directed learning, and creating an interesting life for themselves are increasingly sought after over those who do the normal college thing.
What began as a counter-signal for startup founders and high-tech jobs is spreading to more and more roles as hiring managers discover the best traits are better correlated with opt-outs than the college-educated. The most dynamic companies need to see more than the same piece of paper everyone else has.
It’s not that college is too good for many young people; it’s that more and more young people are too good for college.
Isaac M. Morehouse
Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash and Founder of Praxis. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network. He blogs at IsaacMorehouse.com.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
So . . . is college worth it?
Learning Is important, and it matters. But why does it have to be done in the four years after high school? Millions of people are still struggling under thousands of dollars in college debt decades after graduation, and many don’t even work in jobs that use their expensive knowledge.
Instead of college right after high school, consider something different.
- Take a gap year (there’s even a Gap Year Association with lots of advice on how to do it!)
- Try an apprenticeship or internship
- Learn a trade
- Practice entrepreneurship
- Learn about all of the college alternatives and options that are available
- Volunteer in a field you might be interested in pursuing — what you learn there can help you decide whether college is the right choice.
It’s possible to learn what you need or want to learn without the crushing burden of college debt, and it’s possible to earn a good living and have a good life while continuing to pursue advanced learning for as long as you live. Believe me, it’s fun (and yes, I’ll stop procrastinating and get back to the research paper as soon as I share this article — this just seemed important). Happy learning!
The Success Sequence: Three simple steps that lead to “prosperity for men and women of all races and backgrounds.”
Why Freshmen Fail and How to Avoid It by Professor Carol Reynolds is full of good advice for any student (and parent).
The Blue Collar Homeschool website and Facebook group has a lot of encouraging information for students who are not college bound.
Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame offers straight-up no nonsense good advice about work, skills, and work ethic through his Mike Rowe Works foundation.
Inside Higher Ed: 41% of Recent Grads Work in Jobs Not Requiring a Degree. — Inside Higher Ed reports that only about 27% of graduates work in a field closely related to what they studied, and as of 2020, 41% were working in fields that do not require a degree.
A 2022 news story reports that “Maryland drops degree requirement from some jobs, adding to debate over value of college.”