Audio Blog, 7:09
Yes, I’m going there….
However, let me first clarify that I am not writing this blog to argue the economic value of a very expensive college education (average annual cost for a college education in 2015-16 ranges from $19,548 Public to $43,921 Private). College $ .
The “is it worth it?” question has been well covered by many legitimate media sources, and the conclusions can easily be found with a simple Google search. My view on this topic is that the judgment of worth is contingent upon which occupation a student will take after graduation. The bottom line, on an economic return basis, is that certain career fields (engineering, business, consulting) pay well enough to justify even the most expensive colleges, but other fields (humanities and education) may not produce acceptable economic returns.
However, that is not the correct question to ask. Based on the two previous blogs (“Two Questions That Lead To Life Satisfaction” 2 Qs and “Where Is Your Ship Heading” Ship ), the more relevant question to ask is “based on my self-analysis and selection of an appropriate career, is college necessary to achieve my long-term objective?”
It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
The flaw in traditional thinking is the lazy assumption that a college education yields usable career knowledge, and the incorrect assumption that a college degree is necessary to secure “a good paying job” in the global economy.
If your self-analysis leads you to more traditional roles like a doctor, lawyer, consultant or investment banker, then yes, you will need a college degree. The path to gaining the credentials necessary to enter these fields is well established, and very rarely by-passed.
However, there are many highly successful people living fulfilled lives that never attended college. Often times, they recognized early on in their lives, that they had unique strengths and interests that aligned well with the less established and higher growth career fields like technology, media & entertainment and entrepreneurship. If the measurement is wealth, then Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Ellen DeGeneres and many others have done quite well without the ole’ sheepskin. Measuring the necessity of college by listing billionaires and millionaires, however, is not relevant. More relevant is the discussion of knowledge, and I don’t just mean the knowledge of the exceptional people mentioned above.
Holding a college degree does not necessarily impart knowledge that is relevant to future opportunities in the global economy. Many of the skilled jobs that are available in the global economy are knowledge-based, instead of degree-based. The global economy is borderless and rapidly retrofitting with evolving technology, and that requires knowledgeable skilled workers.
I often get a bit annoyed when I hear politicians talking about bringing back manufacturing jobs to America. Huh? That kind of rhetoric is an absolute disservice to so many people who are trying valiantly to rebound. If they are self-aware and commited to taking the steps necessary, they will be able to align their strengths and interests into jobs that excite them and provide for a happy and productive life.
The hard truth is that most multi-national corporations realize that the workers in countries like China, India and Mexico are incredibly capable and inexpensive. They outsource manufacturing jobs to those countries, not for unpatriotic reasons, but because the foreign workers can maintain a similar product quality, and operate at significantly lower costs. Additionally, the amount that a country like China spends on infrastructure is astounding, and is more than Europe and North America combined. Their airports, factories, transportation and roads are far more modern and conducive to hosting global manufacturing operations.
On a positive note, there is a very large opportunity for former manufacturing and unskilled workers to retrain into skill based jobs in the USA, including electricians, solar panel installers, medical technicians, drone operators, cyber-security specialists, etc. These careers are rarely outsourced to globalization, but to capture the opportunity you must have the appropriate knowledge. Flexible workers find themselves in great demand, and consequently earn high salaries.
I accept that college will likely not be necessary for a significant number of people to achieve productive and happy lives. Instead of college, they will need knowledge and skill training, often found in technical schools, community colleges, online learning and technical seminars.
Therefore, we need to correct the outdated mantra that high school graduates must go off to college in order to achieve success. That is a flawed conclusion, easily accepted by the public because of an absence of the rigorous self-analysis that I am proposing. We need a shift in emphasis from the “get your college degree” philosophy, to the “engage in knowledge-based skill learning, wherever it is” school of thought.
If one of my children developed a clear strength and very strong interest in a particular skill job that did not require a college degree, I would encourage that child to forgo college and work to secure all the technical knowledge, experience and credentials required to seize that unique opportunity. If the job experience could turn into an entrepreneurial venture directed by his/her own decisions, that would create the foundation for a fulfilled and productive life.
Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to pursue the exciting opportunity presented by the proliferation of the PC. He had the knowledge and skills to seize the moment. How has forgoing college affected him?