No. of Recommendations: 5

I'm just getting back from Beijing and wanted to re-start this discussion.

I don't completely trust these studies that indicate that college degrees are not paying off. First, I'm not seeing a consistent and scientific methodology for comparison. When a study looks at one metric for graduates from a narrow window of time and a few specific universities or community colleges, I think they need to do a lot of analysis to consider other factors and understand the meaning of the results. Second, we all know that not all college degrees are created equal when it comes to the metric of job placement or starting salary. I have trouble believing that most of these results are generally applicable to all university degrees. Third, it seems to me that much of the current limitations to college employment and starting salary has a lot more to do with the flailing economic upheaval created by the Bush recession and the Tea-publican obstruction to logical stimulus efforts than it does to the US education system.

But I will admit that part of my reluctance to accept this is based on my own experience. My advanced education was the difference between me becoming a coal miner and becoming an internationally recognized technologist. I recognize many differences exist between the public university education system of the 70's and 80's and that of today, so I am interested in exploring those differences.

Ignoring my reservations regarding the current studies, it is clear that the US college education system is not delivering salary compensation to graduates that Americans have come to expect from earning a degree. In fact, in many cases the cost of the education is so high that the investment may not be worth the expense.

The greater question is, "why?". What factors are contributing to this and in what proportion?

1 - Are there too many people getting college degrees? Will the countries that dominate world economics in the future need fewer people with advanced education? I find this idea ludicrous. In a world economy, knowledge and expertise has significant value wherever it occurs. Limited knowledge and expertise limits participation in the global economy to menial labor pursuits.

2 - Has the cost of education become too high for the individual to profit from the experience? Should a country that wishes to compete in a world market invest in the education of their population? Or should they allow the country to accept only the kind of labor and employment that they can capture based on individual investment?

3 - Has the US university system simply lost it's way? Do current universities provide knowledge that is irrelevant to the world today? And if so, why? What has led them to become irrelevant?

4 - Are the acceptance criteria, teaching and grading methods of modern US universities failing? Are we accepting the wrong students? teaching the wrong issues? testing in irrelevant ways? Have universities lost any semblance of meritocracy?

5 - Are universities providing the right graduates but industry making the wrong choices? Have corporate hiring practices favored obedience over knowledge - a choice that provides corporate executives with short-term power but long-term failure? Has industry lost any semblance of meritocracy?

I feel like all of the above have some negative impact on the current value of US college degrees.
Print the post  


When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.