I’ve made no secret of my growing contempt for a college education over the last 10 years. In a nutshell, my concerns center around useless degrees, blatant leftist indoctrination and the horrific amount of loan debt that negatively impacts many graduates for a lifetime.
Interestingly, the higher the degree, the fewer opportunities there seems to be for jobs. When students graduate with a bachelor’s degree and find themselves facing looming unemployment and imminent student loan payments, many of them decide to defer their financial obligations to pursue a master’s degree (while hoping the economy will improve in the meantime).
Paul Hill, founder of Educate to Career, lays out why this isn’t necessary a good plan: “What is problematic with so many people pursuing master’s degrees is that far too few of these students are analyzing what their occupational outcomes might be, post-graduation. They presume a master’s degree will push them over the top and into the strata of high earners. The reality is that for so many grads, there is little or no market for their skill set. If one were to dig deep into the requirements for a specific job (as we have) you’ll see that employment opportunities are almost non-existent.”
Some are calling this “the master’s trap.” Read this article to understand the full and tragic depth of what that means. (Just as interesting, read the heartfelt comments that follow.) As one person put it, “The cruel joke is that people who feel their intellect is worth an elite college degree are not smart enough to consider the financial reality of what they are doing.”
It almost seems to me that – unless you plan to study a STEM subject – college is not just useless, but downright dangerous. What other enterprise can financially ruin people literally for the rest of their lives in exchange for a fancy piece of paper representing a fluff degree?
So what’s an ambitious non-STEM young person to do? As it turns out, things are looking up on the educational side of things.
I feel compelled to remind people that adulthood is (or should be) a lifelong journey of constant change, including personal and professional growth. For many students, college becomes merely an opportunity to party or engage in activism for four years on borrowed money. Often the whole college experience merely serves to defer maturity, the result being young adults who still behave like teenagers well into their 20s.
The tragedy comes when they graduate with the diploma clutched in their hands, expecting job opportunities to open before them like magic. Only then do they realize the market for [Fill in the Blank] Studies is slim. They have $75,000 of debt hanging over their heads and have the rest of their lives to get through with no hope of ever saving a dime. I honestly consider the modern student loan industry to be one of the greatest and most wretched scams in history.
But there’s hope. Apparently Gen Zers (born between 1997 and 2015) are less likely to believe a four-year degree is the only path to success, and they are wary of the financial burdens of college. Woot! This is good news!
With the exception of STEM fields, there are certain intangible traits which can be ultimately more important than a diploma. This includes a work ethic, honesty, dependability, the ability to work alone or in a group, a willingness to learn and the ability to communicate orally and in writing. Nearly everything else can be taught on the job. (Famously, Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss majored in anthropology. He picked up his questionable middle management skills on the job.)
So, unless your career aspirations center on STEM fields, skip college (and the accompanying student loan debt) and try something else. It might be a trade school. It might be technical education. It might be on-the-job experience. It might be the military. It might be an apprenticeship. It might be skills certifications. The key is education over expensive degree. In an era where employers are learning that applicants with college degrees are not necessarily educated, more people are hiring based on qualities other than a diploma.
Another development is “stackable credentials,” a system that allows students – particularly low-income and working students – to accumulate industry-specific credentials and customize their higher-education experience.
The National Skills Coalition reports that middle-skill jobs – meaning jobs that require more training than a high-school degree but less formal education than a bachelor’s degree – account for 54% of the U.S. labor market. Still, only 44% of the American workforce is trained to the middle-skill level.
According to Connecting Credentials, a stackable credential is a certificate awarded as part of a “sequence of credentials that can be accumulated over time to build up an individual’s qualifications.” The “stackable” nature of the credential means that it can be completed in tandem with other certification courses as the student progresses in his career.
Essentially, universities are breaking down standard academic courses into their component parts and making those parts available to students. Sounds to me like the kind of education students might get if all the unrelated and useless “breadth” requirements were stripped from a typical degree program, right? Students can take just the classes they need to prepare them for their chosen fields. Wow, what a concept.
Stackable credentials, among many other educational alternatives, are the leading edge of the future of higher education. The tyranny of a college degree – a tyranny propped up by the elite in academia as well as corporations – are on the wane as the dismal realities of higher education come clear. And best of all, costs are minimal when compared to the exorbitant price of student loans.
So folks, if you or a loved one is considering college, I beg you to look at the fiscal reality. Do you really want to be shackled with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt in exchange for a fancy piece of paper, especially if demand for your chosen field of study is low?
It’s time to look outside the box. Treat the future with the seriousness it deserves. Unless you’re studying a STEM subject, skip the insanely expensive fancy piece of paper and go for the gusto when it comes to charting out a path.
Remember, college will always be there. In the end, if you decide a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or even Ph.D. are your best option – and worth the debt – then go for it.
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