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The Problem with College...
...Is that too many employers think it's necessary.

Great article in The Atlantic, with this brilliant paragraph which sums up what I've been saying about education for a while now:
So why is there demand for education if it's so unnecessary? Because make no mistake: employers do want smart employees. You don't want to hire someone to whom you have to explain something three times before he or she gets it. Or worse, you don't want to hire someone who will never be able to grasp that thing, due to inferior reasoning ability. As a result, a college degree has become a proxy for determining whether a job applicant has a minimum level of intelligence necessary to perform a job. But with many private college educations exceeding $120,000 these days, that's a pretty expensive means for identifying adequate intelligence.

Is college a good idea? It can be, for a host of reasons. Education, in and of itself, can be a good thing (as long as it's not indoctrination, as mine was). It can be a stepping stone for a life of independence. It's a great place to meet people, and especially smart people, if one happens to be smart.

But many of those goals can be met in other ways, and I certainly would never go into major debt for a college education! If only employers would come up with another way to hire people...

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At 10:08 AM , Blogger Whitney said…

Ah, thank you for writing on this unpopular reality!!! I strongly feel that 1) we ought to also encourage attaining a skill and 2) 18 is far too young to make a decision on a life-long career path. As you've mentioned, college is a great place to meet others. In fact, many marriages are a result of college. However, when it comes to being prepared for the marriage we have little more than our struggles to offer. The role of husband/wife, important relational concepts of marriage, and even being prepared financially are ideas that are never taught in exchange for teachings towards the degree and job. Young couples must struggle not through their beginning wages but through their enormous school debt. I know of many women who would love to pursue homemaking or motherhood full-time, but due to their loan repayments they are forced to work an outside career because of the degree they were told they HAD to get. I'm not saying a college degree is unnecessary or does not aid in a chosen career. I am saying that the pressure for a college degree while not taking into consideration the full spectrum of the individual's abilities or interests is to in turn diable that person's potential. Could we suffer the ever changing economy swings if we also possessed a marketable skill and therefore were less dependent on the job market for a company giving us a position? Could we rebuild families and communities by allowing women who wish to remain home for their work to do so? From my six year (and thousands on loan) college education, I value what I've gained but also feel that it isn't everything. Just a little thought. :)

-Whitney @


At 12:21 PM , Blogger Pickle said…

A college degree says you are trainable. That's it. It puts young people at a real disadvantage as well as their families if they choose to start one. The debt is ENORMOUS!

I had someone ask me the other day when I was going to college. I said I had no desire. I am already a professional in the pet industry and it allows me to work from home. I told them my main focus was my family and supporting my husband's career. The look of shock was priceless.

I understand going to college for things like being a doctor or nurse. That's very specialized training. But how many of these young adults are paying for business,arts and humanities degrees and leaving with an excellent job? Or how many switch their major multiple times resulting in more school and more money? I know a few people where school is a way of life and they just keep going with no end in sight.

I want my kids to learn skills. That way they can actually get out there and work and SHOW people they already have the knowledge and can continue to improve.


At 12:50 PM , Blogger Mary said…

I insisted that our children get a degree in something marketable when they went to college. I was criticized for that, but our family is not well to do and we could not afford for our children to major in "what interested them" and get out in debt with no marketable degree. Studying "what interests you," is great if you already have an income or if your parents can afford it.

As long as you come out of college or trade school with something marketable (teaching, accounting, whatever), I don't mind the debt, because there is a possibility of paying it off. If a young person gets a loan for $30,000 or $40,000 for a 4-wheel-drive pick-up truck, nobody bats an eye, provided the young person has a job and can pay it off. Why not rather get a loan for a career? In the end, it will pay off. After all, if you buy a coke route, you must pay a lot of money for it. So, imo, it depends on whether or not you can get a job with that college education.

Many things years ago were "ojt" jobs (on the job training), like dental assistants and things like that. My mother in law was a dental assistant in the 50's through the 70's, and when she started, the dentist himself trained her. Now, you must have an associate's degree from a junior college or trade school for that. I wonder if this is really necessary.

I'm all for college if you can get a job out of it, but I have to admit, it has become a business and they don't mind scalping people. You have to be careful. For many, it is a middle-class right of passage. So many of the students don't take their studies seriously, and all they do is party. It didn't used to be like that "in the old days."

I think college is also a way for the government to keep young people out of the work force, because so few jobs are available. Better to give them loans and grants to keep them in school than unemployed and getting in trouble.


At 1:00 PM , Blogger Mary said…

I meant a middle-class RITE of passage, not right.


At 2:02 PM , Blogger Neal Ford said…

Good points Sheila! One of the main problems today is that post secondary education and their degrees have become a point of pride with many leading to an intellectual snobbery. Give me a person who knows how (as opposed to what) to think, with a work ethic anyday over someone who thinks a piece of paper entitles them to a certain standard of living. From an employer's perspective, one of the reasons such grandiose salaries are demanded is so that the insane debt can be eventually paid off.
Seriously, though, instead of recognizing the value of manual labour done well to society, those who go that route are stigmatized and considered inferior. Makes me think of Paul's discourse to the Corinthians about each person who makes up part of the body of Christ has their own important function which the body itself requires, therefore not to be looked down on.
We need to get to a point where education in the primry levels serves to teach all people to think and reason for themselves, master some basic skills and functions, and then pursue a dream.


At 2:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Employers can do what my employer did...He paid a day's wage to try me and others out on the job. Certain jobs may require more than one day, but that's a great way to see if a potential employee has what it takes.


At 2:22 PM , Blogger Allison said…

I agree! Oh, I so agree.

I am an RN, and for that I definitely do believe nursing school is a necessity. Its just so specialized. But what bothers me, even in the nursing world, is that pretty soon, my associate's degree in nursing will probably not be adequate anymore. I am very much a qualified and (I hope) decent nurse, but I didn't get a bachelor's degree, and largely because pursuing a bachelor's would have taken a good bit longer, and my husband and I really wanted to have children (which we did).

If getting a bachelor's bestowed a nurse with significantly more knowledge and bedside care skills, then requiring a BSN would make more sense. However, like many other fields, it's largely busy work, and it isn't really going to make me a better nurse. It's sad that having a bachelor's degree is becoming such a necessity. It really isn't necessary, and for someone like me who really wants to be mommy far more than a nurse, it's a bit unattainable.


At 2:38 PM , Blogger heidi said…

My husband has a Ph.D. from a highly visible university and from his vantage point he flat out says our kids will have a college education. That's fine. I have seen that the people with the college degree are preferred over those without. But just because one has a degree does not make them the better candidate. I do believe that experience makes a person more marketable provided you can show a track record that you know what you are doing.

I think if your goal is to attain higher education, find a company to work at that will pay for your higher education. There are many companies out there that recognize the potential in people provided they give an additional 2 more years after the degree is received. That sounds like a win/win to me.

Otherwise there are smaller courses of study that allow you to become certifiable in a specific area. Make yourself marketable by taking several classes that offer certification. $250-$500 for each certification is certainly easier on the pocketbook. Attend a JC (junior college) and pursue outside certification courses to boost your marketability. That is more likely to show ambition and eager to be the better candidate. Potential employers like to see a strong track record that shows consistency.

Also volunteer in an area you want to pursue. That speaks volume. I can honestly say, it's those people who will be looked at longer and possibly first over their competition.


At 2:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I agree that college doesn't necessarily teach you the skills you need for a job or life in general, and it's usually very beneficial to learn how to DO something as well as getting that piece of paper. But in our society, college is important. It probably shouldn't be, but the fact remains that it is. So I would definitely encourage everyone to get a degree simply because that's how our society works. After high school I listened to all the ultra conservative blog ladies who said girls should stay home and serve their parents after high school instead of going to college and I have regretted that decision more than anything else! I would have benefited so much just from getting out of my parents house and going away to college, having the responsibility of showing up to class and studying for exams, meeting new people, etc. Instead I sat at home and worked a boring part time job with no hope of ever doing anything different with my life, and just waited for my husband to appear on the scene. Fortunately he did appear shortly after I graduated high school, but it doesn't always work out that way. And I feel I wasted all that time between H.S. and marriage not really doing anything or earning much money. Yes, I had some good experiences, like teaching piano lessons and directing a community play that I wouldn't have had time to do if I was in college. But I think the college experience would have been even better, and now that I'm married with no kids yet, I'm still stuck working the same boring part time job because I'm not qualified to do anything else. Okay... done with my rant. I'm just saying that college, while it may not be so wonderful in and of itself, is very important in our society and I really regret not going.


At 3:42 PM , Blogger Mary said…

Oh, I think that is a good idea to, if possible, do volunteer work to see if a certain career (that you can support yourself/family with) would be of interest. Gozotte, I thought your idea was a good one, too.


At 4:53 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

To the last Anonymous commenter: I hear your pain! I really do.

And I certainly would never say that "a girl should not go to college but should serve her parents". Absolutely not.

The point I'm trying to make, and which the Atlantic article is bringing out, is that a degree is only necessary for most jobs because employers say it is. You don't actually need what is taught during the degree. Employers are just using degrees to weed out perspective candidates.

And that's too bad, because it's making many young people go about $100,000 into debt for not very good reason. If employers could figure out another way to screen employees, I'd be very happy!

I think if there's a specific skill you want to learn, community college is often bigger bang for your buck than university. And university is necessary for some (my oldest daughter, for instance, is very intellectual and wants the experience). But I think college should be the exception, not the rule, and that's the problem!


At 5:25 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I would have to disagree with associates or BSN doesn't really make a big difference unless you want to be in management. I do have my BSN, but I was already at a 4 year school and the nursing program was actually easier to get into there than at the junior college.

I do agree with you, though, for the most part. While I do plan to encourage my kids to go to college, I will also encourage them not to go into (too much) debt for it.

Nurse Bee


At 11:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

One of the problems with education, too, is that it "broadens your horizons", as they say. Teaching someone about what life is like outside of their community or their country, or even what life is like for people nearby but just very different, is a recipe for problems. A little too much "education" and pretty soon they start to question things, like the holiness of hard work, the value of respecting your elders, and the value of getting married! Then what?? The less education the better, I say.


At 9:49 AM , Anonymous tracy said…

a college degree, professional degree, skilled certification like plumber , electrician, etc is essential. however, you do not have to burden yourself with unreasonable debt that severely restricts your ability to live life. we are encouraging our kids to pursue education step by step as they (and we, the parents) can afford to pay for it. attend a 2 year school for the basics, live at home, don`t overload your academic schedule to the point you are not able to work. be patient, be diligent, do not buy in to the peer pressure that says you have to get your education from a specific institution or in a certain time frame. most of that is to make the parents look good in front of their peers anyway.


At 5:27 AM , Anonymous Mike Reid said…

Anonymous Writer says: "One of the problems with education, too, is that it "broadens your horizons" ... The less education the better, I say."

You sound just like my wife and some of the small-minded congregation she worships with. You really didn't mean to imply that ignorance IS bliss, did you?

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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