The role, price, and value of a university degree has been constantly changing.
The role, price and value of college and a degree are three aspects of post-secondary education should be considered objectively in order to keep an up to date, relevant perspective of education.
The Role of a Degree
The role of college is vastly different than it was fifty years ago. Fifty years ago, people attended college as a source for information because that was the only place that you could get it. The information given at school would prepare you for a career in the field of your choosing. College trained you to be a worker.
College degrees used to be seen as an elite sign of mastery and preparedness to work the job that you were trained for. In certain cases such as law or medicine, this is still the case. However, for all other cases, this has changed. The barrier of entry for many careers are now beginning to drop the requirement of a college degree.
College used to be the only way for people to get into or rise above the middle class, because it was seen as the way to secure a better future. There has even been claims that students who graduate from college make one million dollars more in their lifetime than people who don’t have a college degree.
However, in today’s world, the role of college is not as clear. Some people claim that college is a rite of passage for teenagers; a transition between childhood and adulthood. I’ve heard arguments that college is about learning to manage your own time, learning how to interact with people, and developing yourself personally.
One thing is for sure though, college today plays a very different role than it did fifty years ago, challenging a lot of the traditional notions of education.
The Price of a Degree
The next reason, price, doesn’t have too much debate around it. The cost of getting a degree has skyrocketed beyond belief. In fact, Chase is no longer making new student loans because the student loan market is no longer sustainable.
This is sad, because the price of a degree continues to rise. It isn’t uncommon for parents to begin saving up for their child’s college education the moment their child is born, or teenagers signing themselves into decades of debt to pursue a degree.
The Value of a Degree
In today’s world, a degree may help you get your foot in the door, but it doesn’t do much more than that. Millions of students are graduating with degrees, saturating society with an overabundance of students who have internship experience, degrees, and other things that make it difficult to properly assess a job applicant.
The general trend is that when more people have access to a certain product or service, the competitive edge of the product or service diminishes. The same is true for college degrees. The more people that have degrees, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish talent.
The fact that someone has a degree today doesn’t mean terribly much. Having a degree simply tells me that an individual spent a few years of their life doing homework and taking tests from an institution, and they did well enough on their exams to receive a piece of paper. A degree tells me nothing about a person’s work ethic, their dreams, their ability to communicate and work in a team, or even how much they actually know.
Ultimately, college isn’t for everyone, and I would argue that based on the price, value, and role, that it isn’t meant for most people.
Productive (adj) – having the power of producing; generative; creative: a productive effort.
Homework is something that has been done for generations. It is something given by teachers for students to do in order to solidify the concepts and skills learned in the classroom. Performance on homework has always been used as a standard across entire classes in order to compare people.
The goal of homework is from what I’ve gathered, twofold. One characteristic is to obtain practice and the other seems to be research.
The goal of practice is most evident in math, where homework is done to reinforce concepts and methods into a student. Practice is about doing things over and over until it becomes easy or natural.
The goal of research is about obtaining knowledge, and outputting it in some form, whether it be analysis or presentation. Research usually includes putting information into your own words, indicating that you understand the information.
These are all practical, beneficial learning goals, but the way that it is presented in homework is often very bland and unattractive, often leading to the exact opposite effect.
Homework that is done by an individual is usually one in thousands. All of their classmates have done the exact homework, and students for years beforehand have probably done the exact same homework assignment.
Homework isn’t generally a thing that is framed and cherished after it is returned. Homework is usually thrown away after it is finished, because there no longer is value in keeping it.
We’re stuck in a system of education that makes students perform among one standard. But no one in the workforce does this. Companies don’t do the exact same thing as other companies, and neither do employees do the same thing as each other.
So in the truest sense of the word, most homework assignments within the current education system don’t allow students to be productive, because students are spending their time doing the exact same thing as each other.
I would like to propose that if we allowed students to work on projects that carried significance in the world, giving them the freedom to be creative, then they would no longer be bored, uninterested, and disengaged in school.
If we allowed students to learn by solving problems that don’t yet have solutions in the world, we are unleashing them to truly learn and innovate for the future. Then the teachers job is not to be the one that lectures and grades, but the one who facilitates and asks questions.
Learning by doing homework is great, but learning by changing the world is greater.
This is the cost of attending UCSD for fall quarter of 2013. That is about $14661.87 more per year than what it cost to attend the University of California in 1956, or a 17554.6% increase.
Last school year, I attempted to find out where exactly the money being paid for tuition goes, and it took me nearly two weeks of searching, talking to administrators, before I finally found it somewhat deeply embedded inside a link on Google. I couldn’t even get a breakdown of where tuition goes.
Searching for a Breakdown of Tuition
It’s much more difficult than expected to obtain such a breakdown. I thought I would be able to find it online, but it was nowhere to be found. The next logical assumption would that I would be able to find out simply by walking into the registrars office and asking the secretary. When I walked in, it was quite alarming when I found out that most of the administration didn’t even know where our money was exactly going or even where to get the information.
Not only does this illustrate the weakness and frailty of a centralized, bureaucratic system, it also illustrates that students have been brainwashed to pay money into a black box without questioning where it goes. I was probably one of very few people to ever make such a request to the secretary at the registrars office that he gave me a funny look.
Second, the fact that no one was able to provide justification for charging me $4915.29 for tuition makes me question if the money is even used efficiently. There’s probably a higher chance than not that if administrators did release this information, students would be unhappy with how much superfluous money is being spent.
So my next step was attempting to talk to someone higher up in administration authority to find out. Unfortunately, I had no idea who to contact or where to start, so I turned to the “Uncollege Network” on Facebook for help.
The responses were overwhelming. The most helpful comment by far was a comment telling me to look on IPEDS. After a quick search, I found the breakdown I was looking for. It’s available for all schools online, but here is a quick taste of what I found for UCSD.
Looking through this information, I realized a couple of things. I first realized that the core revenues added up to be about $400 million more than core expenses, meaning there is about $400 million going unrecorded.
Out of 30,070 students, 53% take some sort of a loan averaging $5003. That’s nearly $80 million dollars in loans just for UCSD students in the year of 2011.
The College Education Bubble is Bursting
Chase recently announced that beginning in October, they will no longer be issuing new student loans.
This is extremely significant, because student loan debt is, not surprisingly, over $1 trillion. Banks are realizing that the money being lent for student loans are not being paid off, so it makes little sense for banks to give out money they won’t get back.
The value of a degree has diminished while the cost of it has skyrocketed.
But something deep inside our culture and our perceived value of a degree is keeping us from letting go of it. The irony lies in the fact that most people admit that college does an inadequate job of preparing for the real world, but people still need a degree to get their “foot in the door”.
The reason why companies and culture still see a degree as valuable isn’t because it means that a person is prepared for work, it’s because they have no idea how to compare people otherwise.
College education is in real need of a revolution.
“Too often, youth are left out of conversations that impact their education and their future. We believe that when policy discussions take place, all young people deserve a seat at the table.” – Student Voice
Education is not only for students, but should be about students. However, much of the way that decisions are made in education systems have nothing to do with the benefit of the students. Most of the time, the priority of decisions in education is about what would benefit the school, regardless of whether or not it benefits the students. Decisions are made by administrators trying to market and sell their university by finding attractive ways to brag about their students.
And because of the way that the system shuffles and pushes student priorities aside to build the school brand, students are trained to simply listen to what the institution tells them in order to receive a mark of credibility from the system.
In order to bring reconciliation to such a problem in education, students must realize their voices and speak up when they are being treated as cogs, manipulated into paying unreasonable amounts of money to an institution that doesn’t help them practically. The time that students spend in school should be respected, and their voices should be heard.
Unfortunately, for most students, we have been brainwashed to the point where we don’t see the problems with education, and we have no idea how to speak up or what to speak up about.
The Student Voice Digital Backpack, a project that I have spent the last month working on, is a collection of resources that helps students learn ways they can have a voice in their education.
I’ve grown up with you, you have often the first person I see in the mornings, and on some days I’ve spent more time with you in your classrooms than with my family in my own home. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made to teach me to the best of your ability. Each one of you has had an impact on the way that I see life, and contributed to the person I am today.
I thank you for being so consistent in the classroom, even on days when you weren’t in high spirits but still spent the effort and time to teach class. Thank you for taking the time to review our work, and for the times that you gave real and honest feedback to us.
I thank you for being so motivated, even when we have shown little or no interest in lectures by sleeping, texting, or talking, or even speaking slanderous words behind your back. It takes guts to do that, and I’m sure we don’t realize or acknowledge how much you have to sacrifice of yourself in order to teach us.
I appreciate you for all that you’ve sacrificed and who you are, and my interactions with you in the classroom have been the inspiration for my dream to come around and empower you to connect and teach your students on a whole new level. You’ve instilled in me a great value for education, and a real heart to believe in younger generations and inspire them to truly become themselves.
My dream is to bring a revolution to the way that you relate to and teach your students, not because I am angry or bitter, but because of a genuine desire to improve education to be more relevant to students, teachers, industries, and families. I dream of making your jobs even more fulfilling by building a system that encourages human connection and feedback, where trust becomes a path for you to have even greater impacts on the lives of your students.
My dream is to bring genuine trust and respect to parent-student-teacher relationships, so that teaching and tutoring fosters a human connection that extends deeper than simply the subject material. Because as I’ve realized in the last eighteen years, learning is just as much of an emotional process as a mental process if not more.
I know that it hurts you at times to give your students low grades because you believe in their potential to truly learn, but many times that has been lost in communication. I want to create a system where you are free to express that in order to inspire students, and make them look deeper than the letter grade on the surface.
But I can’t do this alone. I need your help. Just as I needed your help to understand academic concepts in your classes, I need your support at a time like this in order to bring a true revolution to the way schools are run.
This is dedicated to you.
I recently got together with an high school friend to put together a short article on college.
Even though more people than ever are receiving a higher education, there still hasn’t been a true democratization of college. This is ironic, because we have all the tools to make such a change. The biggest difference between the past and the present is how drastically communication has improved.
At this point, there are two visions of the future. One would continue down the path of escalation and hyper-individualism, where human beings steadily become more machinelike, starting from taking college prep courses in elementary school and ending with being hooked up to an IV at work, continually ingesting a cocktail of Adderall and Ritalin and other cognitive enhancers just to be able to hold onto your job. When everyone is struggling to place themselves above the rest, every man is an island, with no opportunity for collaboration.
It’s been about a week since I attended TEDx San Diego, and I’m still thinking about the inspiration and ideas that were shared at the conference.
TEDx San Diego
In case you aren’t familiar with TED talks that are slowly popping up everywhere, feel free to check them out. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.
I stumbled across TEDx San Diego while browsing the internet one day, and decided that I would like to go to one of these conferences at some point in my life. Coming across the TEDx San Diego page, I promptly noticed that I would be in San Diego at that time, and filled out an application. (Yes, you must apply in order to attend a TEDx Conference)
I applied, thinking that I probably wouldn’t get in seeing as I had applied late, and probably wasn’t the hyper-entrepreneur that other people probably were. But when I received the acceptance letter, I quickly paid my $100 for a ticket.
TEDx was incredible. To say the least. The way that the speakers engaged with the audience on levels ranging from emotional to intellectual was nothing short of mindblowing.
I learned about and connected with people who had inspirational life stories, people who were making a difference socially in the world, people who were researching new technologies such as thought controlled computing, and people who were musical prodigies. There were people who were teaching entrepreneurship in prisons, people who were educating homeless children, authors who wrote countless bestseller books, researchers learning about indigenous African tribes, engineers who are creating contact lenses with a computer chip on them, and so many more.
It felt amazing sitting in an auditorium surrounded by people who were so captivated and willing to learn and understand what each speaker was talking about. Each session lasted approximately an hour and a half, but the day felt like it went by in a breath.
It was a seven hour conference packed with 33 talks, all of which struck different intellectual and emotional chords.
Regardless of the obvious flaws in the education system, most people still have to endure at least eighteen years of it, if not more.
I love challenging traditional notions that no one else challenges.
Take studying for example: It is nearly unanimously accepted that spending more time learning studying will make a person smarter.
But I believe that such thoughts are largely misguided. While counselors and teachers heavily emphasize the amount of time a student should be working on academic-related work, it is much more practical and effective to focus on what is actually beneficial to a person’s learning.
In my four years of high school, I picked up how to maximize results of the time I spent on academics, while retaining facts and exploring areas that were of interest to me.
I went to a nationally distinguished and highly competitive high school that sent students to every single Ivy League college.
And yet, while many of my peers spent hours and hours studying, I can probably count the number of times I actually sat down to study with one digit. And even despite studying only a fraction of the amount that my classmates studied, I maintained a solid 3.9 GPA in high school.
And with the extra time that I had, I focused my energy on actually learning thing that I cared about, such as web, graphic, circuit design, etc.
I’ve never believed in studying the way that most school teachers explained it. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning new things, and challenging myself to grow. But if you tell me that successful learning is found in patterns of reading, doing homework, and taking exams, you’ve been listening to what other people tell you too much.
True learning comes from an internal desire to expand your horizons. Such a desire can be manifested in a desire to take a class, go to school, etc, but is not limited to traditional means.
The most effective way to learn is have an internal passion and drive to learn it on your own. But most of the time, schools and educational systems do not give students enough freedom to allow students to learn completely in accordance to their passions.
For example, I love writing. I love expressing my thoughts on a blog, and articulating what’s on my mind to the internet. I am genuinely interested in improving my skills as a writer, but the writing class required for my college makes me want to gouge my eyes out. Why? because the class puts me in a box, forces me to analyze poorly written articles that I have no interest in, and then expects me to pick a side and come up with arguments for it.
Children, when they are born, are naturally curious about the world around them. They want to learn about the mechanics of trains, cars, and planes, animals, or anything else they can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. It only takes a decade of schooling to demotivate them from learning. They start dreading subjects because they are forced to memorize information and regurgitate it on an exam, and their genuine internal drive starts fading away.
Perhaps it would be most effective to avoid the education system altogether, if you’re an individual that is motivated and driven enough to learn things on your own. But for most of us, who are in school for a degree, or because we need classes, exams, and fear of failure to motivate us, here are some ways to readjust your mindset and allow yourself freedom to actually learn.
If you never want to spend an hour studying ever again, you have to focus on learning. You have to learn the material to the point where you are able to teach it to someone else. There were countless of times in high school when I walked into a class, and remembered upon walking into the class that there was an exam that day. Did I study the night before? No. Did I freak out because I didn’t study? No. Did I have a nervous breakdown? No. I sat down and aced the test.
I was able to maintain that habit throughout high school because I focused on learning the material as soon as it was taught, not waiting for an upcoming exam to force it all into my head. I let my mind connect different subjects together, seeing the big picture of how everything I was learning was connected to everything else. That way, I was always prepared for an exam, and never let fear serve as a motivator to learn.
Here’s the big catch. If you want to get more out of school, you have to care less about your grade. In fact, it would probably be the most advantageous to learning if you never saw your grade or numerical progress in a class. That way, instead of worrying you won’t get a good grade, you can focus on truly learning and understanding the material being taught. In fact, learning not to care about your grade will naturally relieve you from being as stressed, tired, and burnt out, allowing you to actually learn in a healthier mental state.
The 80/20 rule applies to learning as well. If you aren’t familiar with the 80/20 rule, it basically states that 20% of the input causes 80% of the output. Applied to learning, 20% of the effort will allow you to understand 80% of the material.
I believe that anybody can do this. Most people have difficulty unlearning everything they’ve been taught about how to study, thus hindering them from being motivated from a deeper, more effective place.
This is not to say that one way of studying is perfect for everyone. You will definitely have to experiment with circumstances, environments, and conditions that will help you learn best, or motivate you to learn best.
Take advantage of what you have. Just because you aren’t in a class doesn’t mean you can’t learn that subject. Just because your professor teaches math doesn’t mean you can’t ask them about art. Don’t feel boxed in by the suggestions of other people, learn to think outside the box and be as creative as you can.
Humans like to focus on externals.
We love investing in external indicators for something internal. External indicators present a quick, scalable way of judging a person’s characteristics.
Practically every job in today’s world requires some sort of college education, sending people all across the world to get a spot in some type of college institution. That way, people can obtain a degree that serves as an entry on their resume to satisfy the education requirement for a specific job.
Hiring managers use degrees in order to differentiate between job applicants and filter out people who may not be capable of a position. To them, having degrees/internships gives them a sense of security regarding what you are capable of doing. Especially for young people who have had very little work experience, the degree is perhaps the only thing a hiring manager sees.
But as you gain more experience working, and establishing a reputation for actually being a valuable individual to have around, education becomes less relevant.
A popular saying that I have heard circulating around states that people with a college degree earn a million dollars more in their lifetime than people who don’t. To me, that is a completely ignorant statement that relates two mostly irrelevant variables. Correlation does not always indicate causation.
As a general statement, individuals who attend institutions of higher education have a better understanding of the job market, investing in their future, and taking advantage of what institutions may have to offer them. Not to mention that in order to receive admittance into such institutions, they already have to indicate their abilities by performing in high school or some other way.
Thus, I believe that the difference of making an extra million dollars over your lifetime is the same difference that attracts people to your character, not having a piece of paper to vouch for your character.
Place value on how you can actually learn and grow; not on the degree.