The Importance of College

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I was digging through my old blog and came across this post from June 2004.

10 Years Ago Today – On 6/10/1994, I graduated from The Ohio State University. Although I’m proud of my school and degree, I will say that not once in my decade long working career did any employer ever check my old transcripts. And I will further say that nothing I learned in either the Business college or the Computer Science department assisted me in the workplace. EVERYTHING I do now to earn a paycheck, comes from skills I taught myself from books widely available at Barnes and Noble. No tutition or professor required.

For all you bright self-starters coming out of high-school, who are still not sure if you want to go to college, there is a message here.

With the recession well underway, I see a lot of people racing back to college. This makes perfect sense if your profession requires licensing. However, the biggest take away lesson of this decade should be that DEBT is to be avoided. Piling up more student loans is no longer the ticket to a high paying job. Access to knowledge is no longer being held hostage by the Universities. The internet has set it free.

This is just my opinion, but I believe being debt free during a deflationary credit collapse is more valuable than most degrees. I wonder what percent of college graduates would give back their degrees in exchange for having their student loan debt absolved?

8 thoughts on “The Importance of College

  1. Andrew

    I’d be careful about advising people not to go to college. While I agree that many jobs today do not actually require the knowledge that comes with a college degree, often an employer will not consider an application without a bachelor’s degree. I do not think that sacrificing ones own future and livelihood is the right way to protest the flawed cultural ideal of sending everyone to higher education.

    Even if the education does not directly affect your job, it does do a few important things for you:

    1. A bachelor’s degree says to an employer that you have the drive and focus to stick around for four years and see something through. That’s important for employers who often spend a lot of resources bringing in each new hire in terms of benefits, recruiting and interview costs.

    2. Four more years to mature. I would not underestimate this–I don’t think I was ready to go out into the real world, and I know a lot of people who still aren’t ready. This may not have been true for past generations, but I think the current generation has been coddled too much, and needs more time to adjust before being ready for the real world.

    This doesn’t really apply to those of you who are already working and thinking about going back for a degree. Really, there’s no substitute for work experience on the resume. If you’re already in the door, four years of solid work experience will do more for you than another diploma.

  2. Nick

    Amen, MAS. Your first commenter buys hook line and sinker into the standard sales pitch for college.

    And as for the argument of four years to mature, how on earth does college do that? It’s just four more years of coddling, after which they cannot understand how having this wonderful new degree doesn’t entitle them to a great new job.

    Unless you want to be a chemical engineer or something like that, college is a giant waste of time.

  3. There exists a way to mature that doesn’t require a degree and you get PAID. It is called military service. And if you survive, Uncle Sam will help pay for that degree.

    Nick is right. College = coddling. It is about avoiding work and the real world. Since many students stick their parents with the bill, they don’t appreciate the true cost.

  4. Matt

    How about going to college AND working at the same time? I needed college for a culture change – I needed to be around motivated, intelligent, well-connected people. I wasn’t getting that where I grew up. I also interned for a large part of my college career to make the contacts and the hands-on knowledge I thought I needed upon graduation.

  5. dhammy

    There’s a lot of truth in what you say, MAS. I’ve seen many excellent IT folks without IT degrees or degrees at all for that matter. However, in most cases, these same people are very much lacking in job mobility. And their salaries tend to lag behind the degreed professional. I’m not saying it’s necessarily fair but it’s a fact.

  6. Matt –
    There are many reasons to attend college and this is not a black or white issue. This post is just diffusing two of those reasons.

    1- knowledge is openly available now and not under lock and key at the University.
    2- using DEBT or someone elses money to foot the bill has inflated higher education for everyone. The true cost should be much lower.

  7. Jim

    Interesting discussion …I served in the Navy, then paid my own way through my BA and then got a student loan to cover part of my MBA. I think the student loan was worth it, since it got me higher level (and better paid) positions …but I also refinanced my loan down to 2.5%, which I think is impossible these days.

    Also, it is a fact that (on average) college grads make far more money than people with only HS diplomas. And advanced degrees make far more over their lifetime than undergrads. But there is an argument that it simply reflects more motivated and intelligent people (on average) get accepted to these programs.

    As a final comment, when I joined the Navy my grandma made me promise that I would go to college after I got out. She said she lived through the depression and that she had learned a good education was the only thing they could never take away from you.

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