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Is a college education what it used to be?

A recent headline in The Washington Post read, “College isn’t the golden investment it once was.” The story argues that higher education is simply a bad financial investment in many cases, that it doesn’t make nearly as much sense as it did 5, 10, 20 years ago. What do you think? Is college what it used to be?

Obviously, this an issue that hits close to home for many of us. I earned a journalism degree at the University of Washington that taught me so much and has paved the way for my professional career. Now, I’m a graduate student here and am getting every penny’s worth out of that investment. For me, this is a great deal.

James Altucher, an author and hedge fund manager, is quoted in the story as saying, “You’ve been fooled into thinking there’s no other way for my kid to get a job,”  arguing that using a college education as a springboard to wealth and prosperity is an outdated way of thinking. He says people should start a business or pursue their travels, but you could easily ask where somebody might get the knowledge (not to mention the money) to do those things if they don’t go to college?

The story also makes note of a Wall Street Journal report calculating that the hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. student-loan debt has actually overtaken the country’s credit-card debt. That’s an amazing statistic, no question, but I’m not sure it negates the need for people to pursue a college degree. Higher ed isn’t for everyone, but it’s a game-changer for many including myself.

I encourage you to read the story if you have time. Then return for a discussion on what the value of college is these days. Please share what you think. Times are definitely changing and tuition is increasing across the board, but is the college experience still something we value as a culture?

Photo by Wonderlane.


2 Responses to “Is a college education what it used to be?”

  1. Scott Kerr wrote:
    September 12, 2010

    Nice article Derek. One thing that always comes to mind is the divide between businesses that hire people and the universities that educate. Business basically demands that you have a college degree, so everyone says “I need to go to college.” However, universities have never been in the business of training a workforce, they are in the business of higher education. I think this is root of the “college is a bad investment” argument comes from. Tons of people have a college degree and they expect that to be the ticket to a nice job. When that doesn’t happen, it now is seen as a bad investment.

  2. Candice wrote:
    September 13, 2010

    I think a college education is valuable. I sought one even though I had a great job, one that many in this economy would envy – I was a litigation paralegal. But, I always felt I was missing something and so I eventually went back to school when I was older. I worked full time, managing a staff and took a full load – just to get that coveted degree and to be in the club that could say “I have a college education!” I was thrilled when I could participate in commencement. I did learn how to think more broadly and it definitely helped in the way I interacted within my business. I actually think more businesses should look at college as an investment and pay the money to help employees get their degrees. There are so many ways that the higher education model could play out. We certainly aren’t perfect, but college is important. Many kids today need that time to simply mature. But, if I were a parent, I would opt for 2 years in community college and then 2 years in the “big schools”. It certainly would save you money and make sure that your kids are getting the most bang for your buck, unless, of course, you have a brainiac who needs to be in the big school right off the bat. I think there’s a place for community colleges and for universities and there are many ways one can obtain a higher education degree. But, you need to WANT it, not just expect it!

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