I’ve got a deal for you. First, give me 90 thousand dollars. Don’t worry, if you don’t have it just borrow the cash from the bank. You’ll be guaranteeing yourself many years of debt but it will all be worth it in the end. In exchange, I’ll give you a piece of paper. I can’t explain what the paper is exactly, or why you need it, but I can tell you that over time it will increase in value. Ten or fifteen years from now it might be so valuable that you can pay off the loan with interest and still come out hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead. Or the other possibility is that the paper will end up being worthless and you’ll receive absolutely no return on your investment. In that case, you’ll still have to pay off your debt and I will offer you no refund. Right now most studies indicate that there’s about a fifty percent chance of this deal working out in your favor. Which of course leaves a fifty percent chance that it will utterly ruin you. Sound good?
What? This sounds like the worst idea you’ve ever heard, you say? It sounds like I’m guilty of business practices that would land most people in jail? How dare you!
Ok, yes, this WOULD be a horrible proposal and it WOULD be a potentially illegal scam BUT I’m a college recruiter, you see, so it’s different.
Now, lest you think my analogy is a bit hyperbolic, understand that a recent study shows a record number of college graduates in jobs that don’t require degrees. And that says nothing of the 8 to 9 percent that have no job at all. I don’t think playing X-Box at your parents house all day requires a degree either, but I could be wrong. This reality, however, does not matter. We will continue to funnel every possible warm body through the university system. We will continue to absurdly claim that it’s a good idea for the majority of young people to START THEIR ADULT LIFE UNDER THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS OF DEBT.
Really, why aren’t we questioning this strategy? It’s just doesn’t seem like the best blueprint for success to have a nation with millions of 20 somethings who will get their first credit statement before they get their first full time job. I talked to a 25 year old graduate a couple of days ago who has literally never been employed. Ever. Ok, listen society, that is something that shouldn’t exist. That person shouldn’t exist. Period. I’m not saying the man himself shouldn’t exist, I’m saying the concept of a grown man who has made it to his 25th year, accrued 50 thousand dollars of debt, yet never worked a day in his life shouldn’t exist. This is not a model for sustainability. Look at me, I can use a phrase like “model for sustainability” and I don’t even have a business degree.
Obviously a college degree is necessary for some people. The folks who know they want to get into engineering, or architecture, or medicine, or teaching. But most of them are on that trajectory before they enroll. It’s simply reckless and unethical to encourage EVERYONE to sign on the dotted line even if they have no clue what the want to do with their life. Develop a skill, find your passion, have a few goals, THEN we can talk about whether you “need” to go to college. There are many fields where all you NEED is talent and ambition and creativity. I’m in one of them. Sometimes people ask me what “credentials” you need to get into broadcasting. My answer: be good at it. If you aren’t, you’ll fail. If you are, you might succeed. But you might still fail. Either way, your four year stint at Syracuse doesn’t tell me that you’re necessarily good at anything other than flip cup.
I know some will say you need to go to college regardless because it’s important to be “educated”. I agree. Just tell me when and why we decided that it ought to cost 100 thousand dollars to learn information. We live in the freaking Information Age. You can literally learn ANYTHING and you can do it FOR FREE. This morning I learned all about the history of the Oregon Trail. Then I learned about the collapse of the Roman Empire. Why? Because I was curious. Because I wanted to expand my base of knowledge. Because I’m somewhat insane and if a question pops into my head I have to find the answer and I won’t be able to sleep or eat until I do. I’m not saying everyone should be an OCD maniac, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but we should all have a hunger to learn. I’m not at all convinced that “formal education” encourages or enhances that hunger. Evidence would suggest otherwise. In fact, evidence would suggest the exact opposite.
Though I will grant you that I may be able to learn about anything and increase my knowledge every single day of my life without ever stepping foot on a college campus, but I am still sorely lacking in the ability to toss a small white ball into an eight ounce cup of stale beer. So college has that going for it.