I wanted to talk a little about education. There is a major disconnect of our education system, and I am not going to get into the political aspect. I am just going to talk about how higher education is viewed and what I think the future holds.
It has taken a while but the higher education has become more and more exclusive, while the exclusive information is almost universally available, for free, to anyone and everyone who has an internet connection. So why is it that we put so much clout or emphasis on a college education or higher education. You certainly will achieve greater financial and career success with a degree from a university, but why is that little piece of paper so valued? When basically everything you lean in said university is available online, again, for free, or the cost of an internet connection.
I want to clarify what I am saying. There is no way I would go to a surgeon or physician who did not have a medical degree or did not graduate from medical school. When it comes to that aspect I think highly specific fields need higher education and to be credentialed. BUT I am not quite sure that every profession needs a degree to succeed, yet without it you have almost no chance of success.
I have said it a couple of times but I will say it again. The system that is currently set up is not built to last, and if universities keep raising tuition costs, and they will, they are going to back themselves into a corner where cheaper and better alternatives will start to creep into the market. One of the main reasons they keep raising tuition is because of the government backed student loans, so they can keep raising the price and students can go get a loan, backed by the government, to pay for it. So at the end of the day the universities do not care to make education affordable, they get their money regardless. They do not care that students graduate with thousands upon thousands of dollars of debt. I am sure that some of you out there, myself included, are finding it difficult to start life with that enormous amount of debt.
On a certain level I would argue that this system is broken. I would also argue that the value of a degree is extremely, and I mean EXTREMELY!, overpriced. Had I not gotten a scholarship the university I attended would have cost me $120,000!!. Yep, let that sink in for a second. To put that in perspective I graduated with a degree in finance and my first job paid a whopping wait for it…. $30,000. So if I lived for free, had no expenses, and didn’t pay taxes, it would have taken me four years to pay that back. Four years, to pay back $120,000 in student loans with not interest of course. We all know that scenario is not practical and is the furthest from reality in every way. So how does this make sense? I will also admit that I think there are some better jobs available now, maybe, so a new graduate could potentially make more than I did. I know it’s still tough out there, but I think the economy is a little better.
So if you are a high school senior and no one is going to help you pay for college, would you still go knowing that you will have hundreds if not hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt when you graduate only to get a job making about $45,000, probably less, upon graduation. Yes I know that a college grad makes a considerable amount more than a high school grad or someone with even less education, but the point I am trying to make is why has education become such an astronomical expense in the last 5 to 10 years? And more importantly why are there no cheaper comparable alternatives. I know some of you out there are thinking trade school, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with this route for a career, I would not put that as a comparable alternative to college. You can certainly make a great living being a welder, mason, or mechanic, but again diesel mechanic school is not the same as a business school. They are similar but still different.
I would argue that the government is to blame, somewhat, but that is neither here nor there. What I want to talk about more about what the future holds for education. I honestly believe that the higher education system that is currently in place will only last another 5 maybe 10 years. I think that soon educators and students will become fed up with what is going on and seek other alternatives. What if a professor said, “I no longer what to work for West Garbage University, I do not like what is going on there and will no longer work for them.” WGU does not care they will just hire someone else. But the professor decides that he will teach his course online and have users sign up and will basically skype or use some sort of video technology to lecture to his students for a few hours a day. At the end he can give out assignments and projects or what have you. This course could cost a participant $100 or so for the course, and the professor could have hundreds possibly thousands of students as opposed to tens or dozens in the normal university setting. The professor could make a considerable amount of money doing this and the students could still learn the same curriculum that was taught in a normal university, albeit more cheaply. Perhaps you could choose to study under a certain individual and they recommend which additional courses to take to complete their curriculum, upon which you would have a degree in you field of study. For business majors I think this would be relatively easy as well as, education majors, what have you. I am not sure it would work for anyone in the medical field.
I know there is a certain level of cheating that could and would take place, but I would argue probably no more than what already goes on currently. I think taking tests is dumb, how often in your current work are you required to regurgitate information that was talked about weeks, perhaps months ago with no help, no aids, and the very limited ability to ask very basic questions? Probably very rarely if ever in your current job. I would say that if you could not remember you would just go ask someone or pull up on old email, or even your notes. There is almost no instance, EVER, that you are required to have that info readily available for a test in the workplace. At practically every desk job there is an internet connection. I think part of learning is reading a question, then searching for the answer and understanding what it means. To me the biggest part of that is the skills required to hunt down the answer, whether it’s in a text book or the internet makes little difference to me (other than you have to be careful about your sources on the internet).
I think this model could also eliminate so many useless and beyond pointless general requirement classes. Why does a business major need to take Spanish? Why? I live in America, I do not want to work in a Spanish speaking country. I understand that there are many illegal and legal Spanish speaking immigrants in this country, but this is America and we speak English here. IF I were moving to Spain I would no doubt have to learn Spanish, as that is what they speak in Spain. But why should I have to waste my time and money taking that course that I will never use in the professional world. Music courses (although I did enjoy these as the history of Rock and Roll is quite fascinating), certain math courses, basically anything not related to your field of study, in my opinion, could be viewed as a waste of time. (I will also say that I was made to take philosophy classes and while I did fairly terrible in them, struggled to get a C, I thoroughly enjoy them now.) Now in my model if you wanted to take those course for fun or just because you like learning, then that is okay. But to make them mandatory to obtain a business degree makes no sense. What does speaking Spanish have to do with finance, or that Brain Jones the founder of the Rolling Stones drowned in a pool at the age of 27? “I took two Spanish courses and know the history of Rock and Roll.” “Okay, well what do you know about finance,” said the employer. “¿Que?”
I think this is a feasible model that could be implemented right now. However, the last piece of the equation would be the employers. If you were an employer, would you hire an individual who took online courses from such and such professor who either has a degree is an expert in their field. That is the last piece of this equation that needs to come together. Education should not be exclusive at least not in the manner that it is today, and with the available technology, higher education should be more inclusive than ever. Yet it is not, something it wrong with the entire process.