College for all? Experts say not necessarily

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by bazonkers, May 14, 2010.

  1. bazonkers

    bazonkers New Member

    College for all? Experts say not necessarily - Yahoo! Finance

    COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- In a town dominated by the University of Missouri's flagship campus and two smaller colleges, higher education is practically a birthright for high school seniors like Kate Hodges.

    She has a 3.5 grade-point-average, a college savings account and a family tree teeming with advanced degrees. But in June, Hodges is headed to the Tulsa Welding School in Oklahoma, where she hopes to earn an associate's degree in welding technology in seven months.

    "They fought me so hard," she said, referring to disappointed family members. "They still think I'm going to college."

    The notion that a four-year degree is essential for real success is being challenged by a growing number of economists, policy analysts and academics. They say more Americans should consider other options such as technical training or two-year schools, which have been embraced in Europe for decades.

    As evidence, experts cite rising student debt, stagnant graduation rates and a struggling job market flooded with overqualified degree-holders. They pose a fundamental question: Do too many students go to college?

    "College is what every parent wants for their child," said Martin Scaglione, president and chief operating officer of work force development for ACT, the Iowa-based not-for-profit best known for its college entrance exam. "The reality is, they may not be ready for college."

    President Barack Obama wants to restore the country's status as the world leader in the proportion of citizens with college degrees. The U.S. now ranks 10th among industrial nations, behind Canada, Japan, Korea and several European countries.

    But federal statistics show that just 36 percent of full-time students starting college in 2001 earned a four-year degree within that allotted time. Even with an extra two years to finish, that group's graduation rate increased only to 57 percent.

    Spending more time in school also means greater overall student debt. The average student debt load in 2008 was $23,200 -- a nearly $5,000 increase over five years. Two-thirds of students graduating from four-year schools owe money on student loans.

    And while the unemployment rate for college graduates still trails the rate for high school graduates (4.9 percent versus 10.8 percent), the figure has more than doubled in less than two years.

    "A four-year degree in business -- what's that get you?" asked Karl Christopher, a placement counselor at the Columbia Area Career Center vocational program. "A shift supervisor position at a store in the mall."

    At Rock Bridge High School, one of Columbia's two high schools, 72 percent of the class of 2008 moved on to four-year colleges, with another 10 percent attending community college. That college attendance rate is consistent with national statistics.

    Only 4 percent of Rock Bridge students chose technical training like the Oklahoma welding school where Hodges is headed.

    Roughly 1,200 students from central Missouri take classes at the career center, supplementing their core high school courses with specialized training in automotive technology, culinary arts, animal science, robotics, landscape design, electrical wiring and more.

    Hodges has been set on a welding career since she was 13. She craves independence and has little patience for fellow students who seem to wind up in college more from a sense of obligation than anything else.

    "School is what they've been doing their whole lives," she said. "So they just want to continue. Because that's what they are used to."

    Sue Popkes doesn't hide her disappointment over her younger daughter's decision. At the same time, she realizes that Hodges may achieve more financial security than a college degree could ever provide.

    "It's sad to know she's going to miss that mind-opening effect of an undergraduate degree," Popkes said. "To discover new ideas, to become more worldly."

    Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder blames the cultural notion of "credential inflation" for the stream of unqualified students into four-year colleges. His research has found that the number of new jobs requiring college degrees is less than number of college graduates.

    Vedder's work also yielded something surprising: The more money states spend on higher education, the less the economy grows -- the reverse of long-held assumptions.

    "If people want to go out and get a master's degree in history and then cut down trees for a living, that's fine," he said, citing an example from a recent encounter with a worker. "But I don't think the public should be subsidizing it."

    Margaret Spellings, former federal education secretary under George W. Bush, remains a strong proponent of increased college access. She points to research showing that college graduates will on average earn $1 million more over a lifetime than those with only high school degrees.

    "It is crucial to the success of our country and to us as individuals to graduate more students from college," she said at a National Press Club forum earlier this year. "We Americans greatly believe that education is the great equalizer."

    For many, the dream of earning a college degree -- and the social acceptance that comes with that accomplishment -- trumps a more analytical, cost-benefits approach.

    John Reynolds, a Florida State sociology professor, found that unrealized educational expectations do not lead to depression or other long-term emotional costs.

    "Rich kids, poor kids, 'A' students, 'C' students -- we really didn't find any lasting impact on not getting the degree," he said.

    Scaglione suggested that nothing short of a new definition for educational success is needed to diminish the public bias toward four-year degrees. He advocates "certification as the new education currency -- documentation of skills as opposed to mastering curriculum."

    "Our national system is, 'Do you have a degree or not?'" he said. "That doesn't really measure if you have skills."
  2. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    I hope I'm not the only one that isn't surprised. My family, teachers, guidance counselors, friends, etc. were all SHOCKED that I turned down the opportunity to go to college when I was fresh out of high school. I couldn't get them to comprehend that there were more important things in life (imagine a 17 year old trying to explain this to a 50 year old!), and that college could potentially hold one back from attending to them, or worse, prevent one from ever being able to understand what they are. I'm glad I made that decision then, and equally glad that I am working on a degree now.

    Economically... the college grads I know aren't faring any better at all than the non-college grads I know. The non college grads had an earlier start to their career history, worked hard and played by the rules. The college grads had a sense of entitlement, massive debt and in many cases, a degree that didn't qualify them for any specific type of employment; in fact, many of them are overqualified for the jobs they wish to have!

    In the field that I work in, much emphasis is placed on having degrees... that's right, in case anyone ever thought otherwise, it's not the education that they care about it's having a degree. If you have a BA in Finger Painting then you are, somehow, considered a more qualified professional than a person who holds equal professional certification and experience. Once again, it is the degree that matters, not your actual ability to perform the job. :rolleyes: Overall, the ones with no degree are better off because they seem to be, invariably, much better with handling finances (they work less hours but have less debt, wear nicer clothes, more savings and take longer vacations... hmmm), have much better language skills, better communication skills, and can address a situation realistically, rather than through the narrow viewpoint of the latest trends in best practices as spoon-fed to them in last month's regional conference :rolleyes:.
  3. thomaskolter

    thomaskolter New Member

    What gets me is a college degree doesn't assure you would make more money either. If your a young person and may have all the aptitudes and interest in becoming a chef, or say becoming a manager and be average or less where your capable at being a really good chef. Odds are the Chef will be near the top of the professional pay scale and the other profession nearer the bottom. With comparable effects on job security the great chef is far more likely to be employed over the mediocre manager.

    Add to that the chef would have more fun in his or her choice of careers. And a chef can't be outsources where the crappy manager could be if they are stuck in a cubicle.

    And a chef can learn their trade on the job, in trade schools, in apprenticeships or in a formal culinary program at a college and if they are talented will rise to the top. All choices are flexible good for low income and high income and different debt loads.
  4. heimer

    heimer New Member

    Dropping out of college was the best thing that ever happened to me.

    I was following the prescribed path straight out of a preppy catholic HS. I went to Villanova...

    Lasted three semesters until i listened to this little inner voice that said "go work, go be adult, you hate this school sh*t."

    12 years later, I've finished my BS and I'm about to finish my masters, and I make a very decent living.
  5. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef


    Bad example. (no disrespect)
    Culinary degrees are >$50k for an associate degree from a private school, and my alma mater now asks for $100,000 if you wanna learn from "the best." Community college grads are don't land high profile jobs without the help of a network- they need to know someone and be willing to wash pots the first year. Chefs CAN learn their trade on the job, so why go to school? Because everyone else is, and you'll be left behind.

    Talent, sorry to say, will not float you to the top. Almost every cook I know is good at it. All the chefs I know are good. It's not enough to be good, everyone's good. It's a strategic planning of employment sequence mixed with essential networking and willingness to market. My very dear friend is opening his own restaurant soon- not possible without the right kind of buzz, which he obtained by having an excellent PR person get him THE RIGHT KIND of press for the 3 years prior. If you don't have investors, you don't have a restaurant because you don't have enough money.

    So, like the kid shooting hoops dreaming of playing professional, so are young cooks. The real world cooks for a living making a buck over minimum and wishing they had job security while the 23 year old business school graduate just got hired as the restaurant's manager for double the salary.

    That's the reality of vocational education. You don't have to be here long to meet plenty of people (like me) who come here with AOS or AAS degrees asking how to get a BA/BS because they are tired of the blue-collar-glass-ceiling. So, I'm all for vocational training, I'm a product of it and I teach it...but, currently, typical AAS/AOS and certificates are barricades to any upward academic growth.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2010
  6. thomaskolter

    thomaskolter New Member

    Its an example but THE POINT WAS a student whose strengths would make him a top 10% earnings in X skilled trade will likely make more than a college grade who is mediocre say at the lowest third of a profession it can be almost any sort of example. And there is the happiness factor if your a master tradesman in say masonry you might love going past a building YOU built and say I helped build THAT. You might love working outside and use your hands or cooking or fixing old motorcycles up or salvaging and fixing up various goods left in the street. All have value.

    Face it a career that demands college is not for everyone and not everyone is fit to go to a good college, with a good program. Those Charles Murrey pointed out in Real Education should go to those that have a career plan that demands it (lawyer, doctor, someone wanting to enter politics) and who has the IQ for it say 115 as in 15% of students. Maybe we can add 10% more for students in career education focuses and older students entering school later. Seeking a bachelors degree or higher.

    We are leaving the rest behind why High School is not far heavier leaning to job and career prep IN High School where its free is crazy, in my view half of students should be trained in High School in a TRADE or CAREER area outright.
  7. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Understood, but I wanted to keep the example accurate. And, FWIW, my point is that career training (AOS/AAS/certs) can (sometimes) undermine a person's ability to return to school for educational advancement.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2010
  8. Jupiter Jones

    Jupiter Jones New Member

    That may be true. But, to be fair, you're basing this observation on a biased sample: Non-degree-holders who still managed to get a good job in your field.

    For better or for worse, there seems to be two ways to get a good job these days. One, you have to have a degree. You can often be an idiot and still get the gig if you have that "ticket." Two, you have to be so on-the-ball and sharp that you get the job despite the fact that you don't have a degree.

    So, in most work environments, the idiots who have degrees will always outnumber the idiots who don't, simply be the non-degreed idiots will not have made it into the work environment in the first place.

    I feel that the optimal combo is to be both be a sharp worker and have the degree. But if you have to pick one, I agree that you should go with the former over the latter.

  9. lawrenceq

    lawrenceq Member

    I think the experts make a good point. My quest for a bachelor degree is personal. I encourage people to give community colleges a shot if they feel a four-year college is not for them. It worked out good for me and several other people I know.
  10. Fortunato

    Fortunato Member

    All I need to know is whether or not the author of this piece is still contributing to his children's college funds.
  11. cpascal

    cpascal member

    I agree with the experts that too many people are going to college, but for another reason. The social environment at many of the brick-and-mortar colleges is terrible. I spent a year living in a dormitory which was filled with pounding rap music and aggressive people. The idea that the dorm should be a quiet place to study seems to come from another planet. If college was only for more studious people, the environment might improve, in that so many of these types wouldn't make it in. Anybody who wants to go to college to learn would be better off doing their degree at home.
  12. bazonkers

    bazonkers New Member

    Personally, I did HORRIBLE in college after HS. My dad expected me to go and was paying so I went but I wasn't ready to be there nor did I have any idea what I wanted to study. I left with barely a 2.0 average. Flash forward a few years and now I have my BS with a great GPA and working on a masters with an even better GPA. College was right for me but it wasn't right for me when I was 18. That might be a factor too. Too many people go to college when they aren't ready and get a degree in something just because. Later they find their passion but sometimes it's too late to go back to school because of all the debt they are carrying from the first time around.
  13. taylor

    taylor New Member

    I was in the same boat. After HS I went to 3 different top tier B&M schools but totally bombed in my last one. Looking back on it, all that transferring made me realize how unfocused, irresponsible, and immature I was, wasted a lot of my parents' money.:mad: I probably should've joined the military after HS or sold cars to get a dose of reality:eek:.
  14. lawrenceq

    lawrenceq Member

    I lasted a semester in college after I graduated HS. The Navy is what turned me around. It all started to make sense after my enlistment.
  15. TCord1964

    TCord1964 New Member


    I told my son before he graduated high school that I didn't care if he went to college, a community college or a vocational/technical school, but that he needed to learn some kind of job skill. He went straight to work for a major drugstore chain after high school and makes about $9 per hour, which he has done for three years. This work experience has made him realize I was right. He needed to learn how to do something other than run a cash register and make change. He recently enrolled in an AS in Business degree program at a local two-year college.
  16. bazonkers

    bazonkers New Member

    Sometimes this is the best road for people to take. I'm sure your son will not fool around in college because now he really wants to be there. He'll use his classes to actually learn something as opposed to just checking them off the degree plan.
  17. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

  18. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    While Nurses Aides may be in great demand, they definitely do not, in general, make a good living wage. Although I am an I-dotter and T-crosser when it comes to frugality, I wouldn't be confident that I could live on that as my only income. Of course, there is the possibility of this changing as the demand grows, but only at the expense of even higher healthcare bills... even higher :'(... In general, medical might be just where it is at. Given the new sweeping legislation and the fact that our population is aging, and the boomers being a remarkably afluent cohort, more people will be seeing more physicians.

    Now here is a viable solution that makes a lot of sense. Apprentices get paid, meagerly, yes, but PAID, rather than having to pay for training. In the end, can school make a better carpenter/electrician/plumber/mechanic/mason than giving someone real-world experience while training? It's also a good idea because some people just aren't cut out for school- even those with the willingness to work hard, the ability to learn quickly and recall indefinitely are not universally studious in nature. Also, unlike what is happening with college grads, the trades are jobs that are not going away any time soon, will not be replaced with machines, and can not be outsourced.

Share This Page