17 Replies Latest reply: Dec 1, 2011 2:18 PM by Rachel Pittman RSS

Is a college degree important?

Jane Brown Master
Currently Being Moderated

Billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founding Facebook investor and co-founder of PayPal is offering students a grant of $100,000 (20 students at $20,000 ea to put this into perspective) to quit school and NOT go to college. Now don't kill the messenger, I'm just reporting the news.

 

Peter feels that the loans a college education creates for students hampers their ability to get ahead and make a difference in today's world. What do you think? Is a college degree important?

  • Re: Is a college degree important?
    dbolin Novice
    Currently Being Moderated

    What an interesting question! I do think that the burden of debt from college loans can affect a graduate's life for years after graduation. I'm living proof, as I still pay on my law school loans even though I left the practice of law years ago.

     

    In today's world, though, I think that a college degree is still important. The National Center for Family Literacy recently released some new resources to help parents plan for and discuss the importance of post-secondary education with their children.

     

    Check them out here (available in both English and Spanish):

     

    En Camino - On Our Way - Educational Toolkit for Families - National Center for Family Literacy

     

    Duane

  • Re: Is a college degree important?
    Kristie Bleers New User
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    I have been struggling with this issue lately.  I believe it is important to be resourceful and a problem solver.  I will guide my children to have rich discussions about the pros and cons of college and the strengths and weaknesses of their own character.  Most recently I thought my children should learn a trade and then attend college.  Therefore being prepared no matter what the economy.

    • Re: Is a college degree important?
      ischuetz New User
      Currently Being Moderated

      If they don't go out of high school the chances are slim they will go back.  The key is to get a degree with a future. Feel good degrees like sociology, psychology, history, art and even teaching are not the way to go.  Nursing can lead to PA, MD and a job for life. If they want to teach science, get a Biology, Chemistry or Physics degree and then get a teaching certificate.  I had a friend who got and electrical engineering degree and is now at Mayo as a neurosurgeon.  An art teacher who got an original degree in graphic arts or advertising is a better art teacher.  The financial issue is a life style problem.  Doctors don't come out owing $400,000 because of their tuition and fees, but because they wanted to live like they already had the degree.  Waiting until the senior year of high school will never get a scholarship!  Going to a small local college instead of Harvard doesn't mean they won't be successful.

      • Re: Is a college degree important?
        dbolin Novice
        Currently Being Moderated

        Irv Schuetzner wrote:

         

        The financial issue is a life style problem.  Doctors don't come out owing $400,000 because of their tuition and fees, but because they wanted to live like they already had the degree.

         

        I have to disagree with Irv on the issue of finances. Many top schools price their degrees based upon what their graduates will make in their chosen professions. It's not uncommon for a degree from a top law school to cost in excess of $120,000. I can easily see where that figure could be doubled or tripled for top medical schools. For those who later decide to switch careers, the burden of crushing debts can affect their lives for years. It's not a matter of living "like they already had the degree." Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Re: Is a college degree important?
    Lynne Hoffman Apprentice
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    Is a college degree important?  I have to say an emphatic "yes."  With today's global economy becoming increasingly more  competitive, the best chance for a  well-paying job is to have a college  education.  The  U.S. has been transformed from a manufacturing-based economy to an economy based on knowledge, which increases the need for a college degree.  A secondary school education may have been sufficient 40 years ago, but it does not offer the better options and opportunities now available to college graduates.  However, equally important are trade schools and apprenticeship programs because we still need mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and other skilled laborers.

     

    I realize a college education can be a financial burden.  However, I strongly believe that if a person is committed to acquiring an advanced degree, the means are available somewhere.  That doesn't mean a college education will leave individuals debt free, but hopefully their employment salary will help offset their debt as dbolin has alluded to in a previous post.  Students should be sure to investigate scholarships, grants, work study programs, and loans available through local, federal, merit-based, and corporate options.  Student will find helpful information on careers and salaries, new and popular scholarships, foundations, academic programs, and more at http://www.studentscholarships.org/.  Use a search engine to locate additional websites that offer scholarship listings.

     

    I believe college offers students a chance to explore new ideas, which allows for additional growth and development, and provides an edge in the job market over those who have not experienced a higher education.

     

    Lynne

    • Re: Is a college degree important?
      dbolin Novice
      Currently Being Moderated

      Good points, Lynne!

       

      When I went to college, there was a "wait and see" attitude toward ultimate career choice. I've become a big proponent of giving ultimate career choice much more focus and thought prior to college. I really think that "career days" and guidance counselors are crucial for young people. Too many take on burdensome loans only to find out later that the career they thought they would enjoy is not at all for them. These decisions and resulting burdens can have lifelong impacts upon their families. It's never too early to start thinking about college...and beyond college!

       

      Duane

      • Re: Is a college degree important?
        chvonne7 New User
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        Whether or not a college degree is necessary depends on the individual.  Many of the middle and high schools in my district require students to pick a career cluster.  A friend's son choose to major in computer technology.  He recieved the knowledge and experience in high school and started his own business his senior year. As of today, he makes more as a computer expert someone who sent four years in college. I would not want phlebotomist to draw my blood without formal education. The bottom line, it is a personal choice. 

        • Re: Is a college degree important?
          Lynne Hoffman Apprentice
          Currently Being Moderated

          Hi Duane,

          I think you are correct in saying that students need opportunities to explore career choices throughout their middle school and high school years.  In the past, students could wait until college and then determine a major as a career goal. 

           

          Now with many jobs requiring specific skills and the rapid advancements in technology, it has become increasingly necessary for students to focus on a career choice during their freshman year of college. 

           

          Admittedly, some careers require advanced degrees and certifications that can be earned in less than four years.  However, I still think it's rare for students to find a good paying job without some form of college education (1+ years).

           

          Lynne

          • Re: Is a college degree important?
            Khorn Novice
            Currently Being Moderated

            It is unfortunate that our economy has placed so many college graduates in the food stamp line.  This is not your Father's Economy so the focus needs to be shifted in our educational programs. A couple of weeks ago, I heard the CEO of John Deer manufacturing say on CNBC Squawk Box that in their Detroit plant, they need 200 mechanics today.  He said they have advertised all over the country and cannot fill those positions for the advanced mechanical repair. For those of you reading this post in the Detroit area, you are so cognizant that your unemployment is around 15% which is considerably higher than our 9.1% national average.

             

            The "tech bubble" instigated the concept that college degrees were not necessary, and perhaps for most of  those jobs created, that would be the case.  However, with the bursting of the bubble, thousands of those people who lost their high-paying tech jobs were sent packing to find other employment.  A huge percentage of that group ended back in the college classroom retooling their skill set.  Business schools saw a huge influx of middle-aged people going back to get the necessary courses so they could pursue an MBA degree only to find that there was also an over supply of them searching the market.

             

            Even though our country has turned the corner and pretty much left the manufacturing sector behind us, the need for the trade schools should be back in the educational schema. Jobs are available in this sector, and the next time you need a plumber or an electrician, hold onto your wallet cause it will not be cheap. 

             

            Getting a piece of paper called a degree is not going to land a job for this generation.  When interviewed, businesses both large and small echo the demand for knowledgeable hires.  This translates as: 1) ability to communicate, 2) good working vocabulary, 3) ability to think on their feet, 4) critical collaboration with peers, 5) reliable, dependable, and honest.

             

            Our college classrooms have too many "warm bodies" sitting in the seats.  Because the severity of the economy has not affected very many of them, they have yet to find the motivation to dig deeper and actually obtain the knowledge and skills that this 21st Century will require. The latest statistic on jobs indicates that today's eighteen year old will have 5 separate careers.  (not jobs, careers.)  So does that tell you that solid, basic learning tools are essential for each of their individual tool boxes.   The influx of our foreign students in the college classroom should have been a "wake-up" call, but the snooze button is still on in too many classrooms throughout the country.

  • Re: Is a college degree important?
    wisere New User
    Currently Being Moderated

    Some careers require specific skills that require a college degree, such as engineering, medicine, psychology, etc.  College may not be necessary for every career path, but the college experience is more than just acquiring knowledge for a specific career.  It is a time for social growth, learning new ideas, experiencing people and ideas that you might not otherwise come in contact with.  It helps expand a young person's connection to the world.  The Peace Corps or other activity might also provide this type of growth.  There are many paths to a successful, rewarding life.  What's more important is helping young people develop personal and career goals and then guiding them towards methods to achieve those goals. 

     

    As to the high price of college, many schools give generous financial aid, including grants that don't need to be paid back, so don't ever let that stop you from considering going to college. 

    • Re: Is a college degree important?
      mooremary New User
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      I have a question about college for older people. What age is it too late to incur debt for college and still have enough time to earn money to pay back that debt?


      I have been a lifelong learner and find many things fascinating.

      I went back to school briefly last summer, but my online classes (5 classes toward Environmental Studies) put me in debt. I stopped going, because at this time of life I debt like that makes me hesitate.

      I am nearing retirement age, but am not interested in retirement. I like being productive and stimulated and would love to find a way to grow in skills and understanding. I am greatly interested in many things including ARCgis, community planning, regional planning, teaching, and motivating learning.

      • Re: Is a college degree important?
        Jane Brown Master
        Currently Being Moderated

        We have a State College here in Colorado Springs that allows one to take lecture classes after the age of  55 for free. I think we as teachers will always be life-long learners. We crave learning new skills and new ideas. The Internet now brings many options for learning and exploring new ideas right to our computer.

         

        Some of your interests should be cultivated just because they are your passion and not necessarily for a monetary return.  If "student debt" is an issue, save up for a course and when you have saved enough to cover it, enjoy!

         

        Now, back to your question of what ages is it too late to incur debt for college and still have enough time to earn money to pay back that debt.  Since retirement is not your expectation, think of it as merely a time to shift your focus to new interests and perhaps a new job, either for pay or as a volunteer.

         

        I love your question and your enthusiasm. Keeping growing!!!

  • Re: Is a college degree important?
    mkoren New User
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    I think it is pretty hard to get ahead without a college degree.  If you look at earning statistics, those with college degrees generally do much better than those without them.  The tough economy is making hard for many to get a job.  Eventually the economy will improve.  Until then, no college degree is another obstacle to overcome.  Once it improves, college degrees should lead to more income.

     

    Mike

  • Re: Is a college degree important?
    educatingpoet New User
    Currently Being Moderated

    President Obama's current decision-making regarding student loans proves that student debt does hinder the education of college students. Getting quickly into the market as a business owner or entrepreneur is a good way for students, young people to learn and earn at the same time. So many people are competing  even globally, for jobs in America and abroad. Definitely, the college degree is not as effective as it used to be, We are competing and competing for the same jobs with the same degrees. It pays even more to become a self-motivated business owner, artist, etc. If college degrees do matter, we as a nation are going to have to create new jobs and opportunities to make those degrees more effective and worthy of our time and our money.

  • Re: Is a college degree important?
    clay909 New User
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    Important to what?   And the next question would be based on that answer, how much is that worth?  I ask that because many folks are borrowing substantial amount because they feel like they have to go to college.   If the answer is important to finding a job, then see the current unemployment rates with folks who have degrees and don't.

     

    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t04.htm

  • Re: Is a college degree important?
    dtoyo New User
    Currently Being Moderated

    I believe so. Certainly, what I gained from my degrees have helped me in my career. Dropping out early would have kept me from obtaining more knowledge and information in my chosen field.

     

    But as someone aptly put, find a degree or major that leads to a promising and tangible career. As put, not a "feel good degree" like sociology, UNLESS that person truly intends to be a sociologist. Just getting a general BA or BS is rather useless

     

    I'm not saying everyone has to be a cyber engineer, though FB and Google are chomping at the bit to hire them.

     

    But getting a degree that can be applied to a real career, one that provides good income, and most of all, something that a person really likes doing is true and honest.

     

    Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak may have been college drop outs. But they were geniuses. And so were Steven Spielberg, Lee Clow (head of Chiat Day) and Steve Martin (all drop outs from my alma mater, Cal State University Long Beach.) Still, Spielberg did graduate from USC Film School.  But these people were exceptions.

     

    For every kid that drops out of school, there will be more kids who will be hired because of their degree. You need a law degree to practice law. You need a medical degree to practice medicine. The arts may be different. But once your days are numbered (in the arts) what's next? For me, I teach college. My MA was necessary.

    But if one is to be a painter or musician and can still be productive, then no, they don't necessarily need a degree.

  • Re: Is a college degree important?
    Rachel Pittman New User
    Currently Being Moderated

    There is podcast program by American Public Media called Tomorrow's College, that is worth listening to (particularly the epidose Some College, No Degree).  It addressed the challenges modern universities face, as well as the increasing demand for practical/technical degrees.

     

    http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/tomorrows-college/

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