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Should We Discourage Some Students From Attending College?

Pair a recession with escalating college tuition prices and the result is overall skepticism of post-secondary education. As the public begins to question the long-term viability of investing in the stock market after a crash, they criticize the perceived value of a degree when the job market is difficult and loans are oppressive.

There is no question that on average, earning a degree will increase your potential lifetime earnings over someone who receives only a high school education. Before long in economies like today’s, however, people begin trumpeting famous college drop-outs who went on to become leaders of their universe, uncompromisingly wealthy, or both, giving hope to slackers everywhere. Bill Gates dropped out of college, for example.

Aside from personal obligations, people drop out of college for two major reasons. Either they fail out because they can’t handle work, or they leave because they’ve created an amazing opportunity for themselves. The message we can take from Bill Gates’ experience is not that a below-average student who has trouble in college can still be an amazingly successful individual, but that some people who work hard, benefit from luck, and who create their own opportunities do not need to bother with formalized education in order to guarantee a lifetime of financial abundance.

Even those destined to drop out of college could benefit from a year in school. An education has value beyond the increased earnings over time. Even students who end up in fields not requiring a bachelor’s degree benefit. A college education sharpens cognitive and social skills and exposes students to two of what the most important aspects of human knowledge and understanding, cultural awareness and varied worldviews.

According to statistics in a recent New York Times article, 80 percent of high school students in the bottom quarter of their class will never manage to earn even a two-year associate’s degree. Should these students be directed elsewhere, particularly when the cost of college is high and they likely won’t qualify for scholarships or grants?

It’s necessary to take a fiscally responsible viewpoint and evaluate the probability of financial success in life. For some students, college could simply be a waste of time, either because they don’t focus on some of the benefits available with a higher education beyond career preparation for a field that doesn’t require a degree, or because they attend a college that isn’t designed to offer anything beyond career preparation for a field that again doesn’t require a degree.

To see the most non-financial benefit in college, a student should seek out exposure to different fields. Spend some time with as many interests as possible because the likelihood of having immediate access to excellent resources later in life will be significantly lower. When this is the approach, even a few years of post-secondary education is worthwhile, and you can attend a great private college for less money than a public college.

It’s a bad idea to discourage any student from attending college, even if they perform poorly in high school. A fulfilled life is defined only minimally by net worth and income, if at all.

Photo: Schlüsselbein2007
New York Times

Published or updated July 7, 2011.

About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of shizennougyou. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I’m not sure why we seem to think that college is the only way to obtain marketable skills. Personally, I thrive in a college type environment, and have an advanced degree. But individuals are, well, individual. Some enjoy going to a trade school and learning a trade, or certification. I think education is important, but I think that we shouldn’t overlook or discount different types of education. The point, I think, should be to learn a skill that you enjoy, and that can help increase your employability, whether that is a four-year college degree, or a Peace Officer certification (like that being pursued by my cousin, who wants to be a cop).

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avatar 2 Luke Landes

Sure, there are many paths to learning a skill, but a well-rounded education is much more than just learning a skill. Learning a skill can be done on the job, as an apprenticeship, or in a trade school, but that doesn’t replace the potential for obtaining an all-encompassing education that broadens the mind. Sure, not everyone takes full advantage of that, but discouraging people from taking the opportunity is a mistake.

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avatar 3 tbork84

There is certainly something to be said for an all-encompassing education, but there are a large number of people who receive that in college, but when they get out, they have very little marketable skill to use in the workforce. Its a disservice to have them pay so much in some cases for college degrees that do very little to teach them skills that they can use to support themselves.

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avatar 4 lynn

A well rounded education can be had in high school as well. Choose a path for your children when they are young – such as music and the arts, and they will choose out of their experiences.

I went to college, but I’m not so sure I would encourage it today without paying cash. Student loans are a great way to begin life with debt.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

I think the market for a bachelors degree is over-saturated. The more people that earn one, the less it’s value is and it has been steadily declining. Now if you want to stand out you need an even more advanced degree. I do not like how we pressure everyone into thinking that they must go to college these days. I think that if you want to work in a corporate environment then it is probably a necessity now, but those of an entrepreneurial spirit can succeed without and avoid the debt. Same for those who want to practice a trade as Miranda mentioned above.

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avatar 6 lynn

I totally agree. In a year a BS or BA will be a requirement for working at McDs.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

I agree with both Miranda and Rex,

People need to figure out what is their best path to the position they want in life. We drastically over promote bachelors degrees as if they are the savior. However quoting average earnings of a bachelors degree versus a high school diploma doesn’t shed any light on the issue. There are obviously a large number of very high earners in those averages. What matters is the difference for the marginal attender. Those students who are on the lower end of eligibility and who are on the fence about going in the first place. Should we push them towards getting a 4 year degree. The impact that degree will have on their earnings is likely far less than the average (actually its certainly far less). Its quite possible it is no increase in earnings potential at all for them because they may often times not get any kind of a job that requires or leverages that degree at all. The problem is they are rarely told the reality of the situation. They are just allowed to believe that getting that degree increases their earnings potential by 70%, but this is not true for them. For the high end it increases their earning potential by 200,300,400%, but to balance that, those on the low end have their earnings potential increased 10, 5, or 0%. As Rex said we have drastically over saturated the bachelors degress and thus have been definition brought in many more on the low end than we used to and so we are bringing in lots of people in that 10-0% increase in earnings potential. From an ROI standpoint its a terrible choice for them.

They would be much better served with a different path that gets them a skill that is marketable rather than bringing them in at the very bottom of an oversaturated pool of bachelors degrees.

As to the argument for well rounded learning, I happen to place very close to no value on that. Ok, I’ll be more honest, I do place absolutely zero value on it. But thats my opinion and I respect that others value it. And thats perfectly fine. But to suggest this is the reason to go to college is not an honest argument because no high school guidance counselor is telling the C- student that he should go to college to get well rounded (and if he did the C- student would hardly ever listen). If you want to use that as the argument to go to college then I am all for it as long as that is what you tell these kids. Tell them that due to the nature of the bachelors degrees and their current academic abilities as shown by their high school grades that a college degree is likely to have very minimal impact on their ability to get a good paying job unless they drastically improve their performance in college (unlikely as college is much harder than high school). But tell them they should go anyway and spend the money, build up debt, and forgo other potentially employable training or 4 years of wage earning opportunity to get a well rounded education that will expand their mind and give them a more fulfilling life. Anyone willing to make that speech to a high schooler on the fence I can support. But to say we should lie to them and let them believe that they are going to drastically improve their employable situation when we know its not true but to justify it by arguing its for their own good because they will be well rounded and thus we should never discourage going? Well I am sorry but that is utopian crap. It’s their life, tell them the whole truth and let them decide. But we don’t do that because we have a policy of pushing people into higher education and we have mostly all bought into the belief that its always better to go than to not go. But its just not true and we should be honest with each student about the pros and cons and let them decide without trying to encourage everyone to go with the lie that its always better to go than not to go. That’s your opinion, let them decide for themselves if its better for them to go.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

@apex, well said. I think that there are different kind of jobs for different people, and not all of those jobs require a bachelors degree. If somebody wanted to go to college, I would not talk them out of it which I believe is what the post is asking. That being said, if somebody did not want to go, I would definitely not try and talk them into it. We have to find out for ourselves what we want to do in life and what the best path for us is to get there. For many, that path is not the structured “well rounded” education provided at university.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

While I’m not sure we should discourage anyone from attending college if that’s what they want to do, I do think that a lot of times we put pressure on people to attend college when they either don’t want to, or just would be better suited to a 2 year trade school, or to just getting a job straight out of high school. I think far too many kids are pressured into going to school when they have no clear idea of what they want to do with their lives, and then end up amassing a ton of debt for a degree they don’t want or need.

That being said, I think an education is a wonderful thing for broadening your mind, as long as you’re careful about where you go, how much you spend, and what you study! Let’s encourage kids to get an education – in a responsible way.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

Like I tell my kids, if you don’t go to college, you are at least attending a vocational school to have a trade under your belt. I also hope my path towards becoming savvy with my finances rubs off on my kids. Because you can make a nice financial situation for yourself without all the degrees.

I think not finishing my 4 year degree caused me to work harder. It may have been an easier path if I had the degree. But who is to say. I have moved up in my career within 5 years faster than most people will move up their lifetime. I think it might be the angst that I had to work hard to make it. And I proved that. ;)

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avatar 11 Anonymous

I tend to think there’s nothing wrong with this. Some people aren’t meant for academia, there’s nothing wrong with figuring that out and tailoring your education that way. On the other flip side, I think there’s nothing wrong with identifying kids that standout at particular things early and shoving all the math/science/whatever at them as they can stand.

If a kid that is highly unlikely to ever benefit from higher ed, could leave HS already being a competent and skilled tradesman making a decent salary from day 1. That kid is going to be way better off. And not having a “well rounded” education does not make him any less useful, less successful or less happy.

The problem is that we don’t really offer any of these choices at all, you go through all your required schooling through age 18, then have to decide…do I go to “college” or not. It’s a horrible time to make it. Most people leaving HS don’t have any skills that would bring them a decent job. I think it’s pretty obvious by HS that kids have an idea of what they want to do. Are they always right? No of course not, but plenty of people go to college and hate it too.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

The real issue is how a High School degree has become worth less and less over the years as their budgets get cut. College is pushed and relied on heavily to make up for the sub standard high school system that now exists in this country. Art, Music, Sports, Shop, Home Ec, helped high school students become a better rounded person, however those are the exact classes being cut from High School budgets.

The High School system has devolved into a glorified baby sitting service. Students are constantly being passed through the system when they cannot read, write, or do math. A lot of students who are pushed towards college and end up at a community college end up taking a years worth of classes only to find out that while the cost was real none of the classes count towards getting a degree.

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avatar 13 Anonymous
avatar 14 shellye

You’re right on target. Well said.

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avatar 15 Anonymous

Education doesn’t have to come in a one-size-fits-all experience (college). There’s a lot to be said for gaining experience/education out in the field, through internships/apprenticeships/real jobs. That’s the path I took, and I consider myself to be successful enough in my field to earn a comfortable living. I interned for our local newspaper in high school, and although I graduated with a (weighted) 4.1 GPA, I took some time to gain valuable hands-on experience before I went to college — even though I’d gotten in to all of my choice schools. Eventually, I did get my bachelor’s degree. I was much more focused and sure of what I wanted to study. Sure, I missed the “college experience,” but I was okay with that. Would a master’s degree advance me? Not likely in my industry, unless I wanted to teach.

Do I advocate this for everyone? No. But I’m a proponent of the ‘gap year.’ Let graduates go out and “try on” some careers (entry-level, obviously) before they waste their time and money on a degree in a field they don’t really like all that much. If nothing else, go to a 2-year community college and get the important foundation education through core classes in math, English, history and science. Once you gain some experience and come to a decision about a field of study, THEN enroll in a college program.

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avatar 16 Anonymous

I believe you need to at least go to trade school or get your associates or some sort of certificate to prove you have some skill set or experience. Also, having a track record for consistent volunteerism and civil service is also great. Just get involved and be an active member in society, network and continue a non formal education and you should be good.

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avatar 17 Anonymous

I am an online instructor for a major for-profit university (if you’re wondering if it’s the one you’re thinking of, it probably is) and I have many students who lack basic skills and I know will not finish or will struggle every step of the way. I can also tell that these students will struggle finding a job because of their lack of skills whether they have a diploma or not.
A recent Frontline episode dealt with this topic and one person compared saddling these sub-par students with massive student loan debt to the sub-prime mortgage crisis, but no one is talking about this. Students defaulting on their loans doesn’t photograph as well as blighted neigborhood of abandoned mcmansions.

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avatar 18 Anonymous

I don’t think everyone should go to college. In fact I think too many people go to college right now and many of them are they’re wasting a lot of money.

I think there are better alternatives for many students. If you were a poor student in high school and / or have little or no interest in learning then I don’t think jumping right into college after HS is a good idea. You’re likely to end up wasting money and dropping out. In fact if you can’t cut average grades in HS then I honestly don’t think you should go to college. At least not until you grow up and get your priorities right. There are also some people who got decent grades in HS but probably shouldn’t go to college. If you don’t know what you want to do in life, are too immature and screwing around too much, don’t have a desire to go to college and/or are simply doing it cause people push you to then its possible that college isn’t the best next step.

I don’t think theres good financial return for spending time in college without completing a degree.

Learning for learning sake is great and everyone should do that. But college is very expensive way to learn and mature and I don’t encourage people to spend that kind of money just to become well rounded. Most people simply can’t afford that luxury.

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avatar 19 Anonymous

I started out in college as a Mechanical Engineer and then switched to computer science. Honestly, for these fields, the concept of a “well rounded education” is pretty much bunk. Seriously — I had 15 credit hours of electives outside my major that I had to take, and I never took a history class. Didn’t take art, either.

And the stuff that I did take in those 15 credits? I’ve forget just about all of it. I’m not well rounded. TBH, I wouldn’t make more money if I were — I get paid to do what I studied.

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avatar 20 Anonymous

Same thing for me. Engineering required very few social sciences / arts electives. And the classes that I and most engineering students took were usually selected so they’d be easy classes and not take too much of our study time away from our real classes in our major.

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avatar 21 Anonymous

College is definitely not for everyone. A lot of people go into it expecting to get some easy degree and be handed a high paying job right after graduations. College is for someone who has a passion in something taught there (or develops one in the first two years) and is willing to put in the work outside of the requirements for their degree to find a job and perform well throughout the rest of their career. Part of this is the wide variety of education you get in college (this is called liberal arts) which may not have a direct application to their desired career but it affects how they think and look at the world.

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avatar 22 Anonymous

Ummmm… definitely not. Going to college is the MINIMUM standard now. We should encourage people to study more and get more education.

The big debate is on cost. Got a post in the pipeline with a different tangent.


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avatar 23 Anonymous

I was eavesdropping on a couple of college students on the bus today. (Not exactly eavesdropping; they were talking in fairly loud voices.) The young man had changed his major twice and was saying ruefully that he wished he had paid more attention in his first couple of years because “it wouldn’t have gotten so expensive.” He was about to become a “super senior,” i.e., he already has enough credit to graduate but not enough for the major he was currently fulfilling. He said he should have been more focused but just kept taking different classes. The young woman said she knew what he meant; when she first started at the university, it was “just more school school school, because school is what you do.”
Note: I am *not* saying that these kids are Everykid specimens. I do think that some people who don’t really know what they want just trudge into classes. But I also think that some people won’t discover their passions until they’ve taken a few courses.
I’m also an oddball example: I had one year of college back in 1976-77. Dropped out for several reasons. Drifted a bit, got pregnant, worked to support the baby and wound up a newspaper reporter for 18 years, then quit to go freelance. In fall 2005 I returned to college and, yes, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or what I should study. However, I lucked into a GREAT class at a community college that got me started on learning how to learn.
Just after my 52nd birthday I earned a B.A. in a type of humanities degree called the Comparative History of Ideas. It was as close as I could get to majoring in Interesting Stuff. (There no Interesting Stuff major. I checked.) I also graduated debt-free, having gotten some grant money and a huge scholarship, so I’m not in the position of many 22-year-old grads: Crushing loans and the need to get The Right Job.
I understand my situation is not typical, and I also know that it’s harder to survive in an increasingly service-based economy than it was when I was 22 years old. If I had a kid graduating from high school I think I would encourage him/her to try a community college for the core courses — unless he/she had a true passion and wanted to pursue it. Even then, I’d caution against too many loans and once again, suggest doing a couple of years at a CC and then transfer. (Note: That’s how I got a three-year scholarship to the University of Washington: It was specifically for students transferring from a community college. Besides, the smaller classes meant more interaction and also more help from the teacher if you needed it.)
I, too, like the option of a “gap year.” Certainly if my kid didn’t want to do college right away (or ever) I would strongly suggest a trade school. Why not have a marketable skill like HVAC or phlebotomy? It’s hard to support yourself pulling coffee or selling shirts.

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avatar 24 Anonymous

If they have a plan as to how they want to make a living that doesn’t necessarily need a degree (i.e. entrepreneurship of some kind), they perhaps they don’t need college. If the plan doesn’t work out, they can always attend later. The challenge is that most high school graduates don’t have this kind of plan. I know I didn’t have one.

I agree with Financial Samurai in that for those who do want to attend, cost is the big issue these days. But more and more, I’m feeling as though getting a higher education doesn’t only have to come from college. Sites like the Personal MBA list recommended reading that you can use to educate yourself. Libraries are full of free books on almost every subject matter you can think about.

The key issue is having the passion and interest to go after education of some kind.

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avatar 25 Anonymous

Like many of the commenters above, I believe that college is ultimately what you make of it. I have seen arguments in the past that argue that this is essential a chicken and an egg problem. It could just be that the students that make it through college would have been the higher earners even if they didn’t go through college. I think that argument could hold water, but I think what’s more important is that I believe that college unlike a vocational school is not there to teach you a skill. That’s exactly what vocational schools are for. Rather college should be teaching you how to learn. Skills are easily acquired and quickly become outdated, but learning the ability to learn things is something that will last you a lifetime. I personally think that my education is what got me to where I am today, but as I said in the very beginning, college is what you make of it. Great article, really gives a lot of food for thought.

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avatar 26 Anonymous

I think college isn’t for everyone. However I think everyone should see if college was for them. I saw lots of idiots in college and I entered worried I wasn’t smart enough. Personally I thrived in college and few people expected it. I ended up pursuing an advanced degree and my masters was actually 100% covered plus housing. The funny thing is that I had a lot of people tell me not to go to college.

Now I found that by having a well-rounded college experience that I emotionally matured a lot. I was a totally different person when I left college, and I would definitely say a better person. I highly recommend everyone try college. Who knows you too may be a budding genius, even if high school wasn’t your thing. If it’s not for you or for your kids, it is not a big deal. I know people personally (my sister as an example) who have not gotten a degree and they earn a better salary than I currently do, with an advanced degree. Everyone is different and in this economy there is no right way.

Just take whatever opportunities come your way by the horns and your life will be better for it.

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avatar 27 Anonymous

Lifelong education is important, whether it’s at college or learning a trade, or just reading up on things that interest you. Much like saving, doing the heavy lifting of learning is the important part. As long as somebody has the ambition and the curiosity to learn their whole lives, they’ll do just fine.

And no, Financial Samurai, a college education does not need to be the minimum standard.

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avatar 28 Anonymous

I think it’s interesting in this discussion that few people address what high school students are prepared to do when they actually graduate high school. I am a high school guidance counselor, and I can tell you, the kids who don’t go to college work at Circle K or McDonalds and live at mom’s house for minimum a few years the majority of the time.

I don’t disagree actually that a 4 year college isn’t for everyone right out of the gate. But you have to direct kids toward broadening those horizons and seeking out subjects and experiences they never knew existed. Bill Gates obviously had some broader reaching goals than most 18 year olds. A high school senior’s repertoire of real life jobs available is only slightly bigger than that of a 5th-grader (teacher… policeman… fire fighter…doctor,etc). My general advice to those kids: start at community college. Always check with your adviser to make sure some of those classes transfer. But most importantly, even if they don’t, take something every semester that sounds INTERESTING. No one wants to learn about stuff they don’t care about, but one interesting class might project that person into a whole knew arena they never knew existed and would certainly never have picked up folding clothes at The Gap.

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avatar 29 Anonymous

I have a friend who is “gifted-learning disabled” he dropped out of college because he was having trouble with math. He went on to be a very successful businessman but his world view is narrow. I’m convince that if he’d continued with his studies he would have a broader perspective. On the other side of the same coin, I have a BFA, but my earning potential isn’t any higher than say a drug store manager. I would not change that I went to college or what I studied. I would however, not have borrowed money to do so. Ultimately I agree with the author when he said: A college education sharpens cognitive and social skills and exposes students to two of what the most important aspects of human knowledge and understanding, cultural awareness and varied worldviews.

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avatar 30 Anonymous

I’m a recent graduate and I guess I see things a little differently.

Although I loved college and I am an academic at heart, I don’t think that you actually need to attend to be successful in this country. And more so it seems that young people with an undergrad degree simply can’t find jobs now, however the people who were working their way up while we were in classes are doing much better (anyone applied for an entry-level job recently? “Must have 3-5 years of on-the-job experience.” How is THAT entry-level?). Most people I know aren’t finding the jobs they were ‘promised’ by the old guard–they end up working in bookstores, restaurants, and coffee shops.

Frankly, I think we would be better off if we had the old model of apprenticeships and also higher education—with both being valid choices.

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avatar 31 Anonymous

Heck yes, we should discourage them or at least steer them to a state college and have them live at home while working part time to pare down costs. college isn’t all it’s cracked up to me, and many people won’t use the degrees that they’ve paid for. Add to that the debt incurred and 4 years of lost wages (if you’re lucky) and it adds up to a serious starting point in life from way in the back.

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avatar 32 Anonymous

I’ve been going to college since 2001, and I really hate college. I disagree with Flex on being well rounded, you don’t need college to be well rounded, you just need to have average intelligence and read a lot, talk to people, travel, volunteer, be willing to try new things, etc. You need to have a curious mind, you don’t really need to be a genius but you need to have at least some intelligence and be willing to learn.

I have a 3.6 GPA in college, yes I’m going through college very slowly.I can do college I just don’t like to, I always force myself to finish my classes. I was capable of critical thought before I graduated from high school, I didn’t need college for this. You don’t need college to learn about psychology, sociology, art history, mathematics, philosophy, etc. For the most part that stuff is book knowledge that you can get through studying in the library.

Most of my classes haven’t been about intelligent debate, we don’t read the great books either, all the classics I’ve read have been on my own. At classes most students are silent, the teachers lecture, we go on about our lives and show up and pass the class. I only went to college for my parents but I’m trying to finish because I want better job opportunities in life.

In the 21st century we have the internet, we have the library in almost every city, the internet is kind of like a digital library, its wrong to force students to go to school when they never wanted to. I think when I finish college, I will give my diploma to my parents because it matters to them more, however I know that I’m well rounded.

I love learning about different subjects, I have more fun learning on my own than when I do in class. College classes are just boring. What’s sad is that all the majors that make money are boring ones, and the ones that are interesting are the ones that pay poorly and then you’re called an idiot by professors, by other students for choosing to major in that subject. Some get lucky and find a major that does pay and that they do like but this seems to be rare.

I’m majoring in accounting because I really need the money, but you can bet that once I can find a way to make money without accounting then I will leave the accounting world as soon as I can. So mostly I’m doing it for earning potential and for the resume, I know I’m an intelligent human being capable of critical thought and I don’t need college for that. I don’t need college to learn how to be human, to learn about the world, to read the great books, etc.

There is too much hype about college, a few years ago journalists reveled that grades at Ivy colleges are inflated, I’ll get my degree someday but I’m not in a hurry, I’m not against college, but college is not for me, when do you stop doing things because its expected and then start living life as you want to live it? It makes me sad that I can’t do that, then you’re looked upon as an idiot for not even finishing a bachelor’s degree by strangers, friends, parents, etc. Its sad that’s how the world is. :-/

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avatar 33 tigernicole86

We expect a lot from kids these days(wow, makes me sound like I’m old. I only just graduated in 2008). We expect 18 year olds to know what they want to do(and really they have to make the decision younger sometimes because who only really applies for college at 18 nowadays?) and to follow that chosen path all the way through like it’s the end all. This isn’t the age where you were apprenticed out at 7 and could become a journeyman by 14 or 15. We expect them to have all the capabilities to handle picking a career and all the follow through of attending classes, handling money.

What happened to the idea of the gap year? Maybe it’s the idea that if kids have a year where they don’t go to school, they’ll never go back? What if they just wanted to work for a year or volunteer?

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avatar 34 Anonymous

Discourage is a horrible concept when applied to our young. Encouragement, balanced between the benefits of Collage and the benefits of alternative skill-based education is a much better approach. Not all high school graduates head for Circle K or McDonalds. Many enter trade schools or apprentice programs both formal and informal. Some like me enter the military to obtain skills and additional education. I didn’t complete my Bachelor’s Degree until 17 years after high school. Thanks to the USAF’s financial support of continuing education (encouragement) and advancement. Neither a Bachelor’s Degree nor Master’s Degree assures achievement of your goals, but hard work usually does – regardless of the nature of that work.

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avatar 35 Anonymous

Spell check failed me…. College ….. sorry

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avatar 36 Ceecee

My plumber makes more than a lot of college graduates. Also, I have a few friends who are extremely learned and well-rounded who did not attend college. But, they READ…… a lot.

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avatar 37 Anonymous

I don’t think we should discourage people from attending college so much as we should just stop putting a college degree up on a pedestal. It’s just not worth the debt for a lot of people and having a huge pool of college-educated 20-somethings who can’t find a job because there are too many of them out there doesn’t help society. Trade schools should definitely be encouraged. We need more technicians and fewer lawyers. I just think a lot of people are shamed into thinking they need to go to college when perhaps another course would be more beneficial both to themselves and the rest of us.

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avatar 38 skylog

this is such a good point. i know too many friends who essentially only partied through school, got the document, but are hardly qualified to do much of anything. it has become very very easy to get through college without really learning anything. ironic, since the cost has sky-rocketed. clearly the blame lies with the students who are gettiing out of it what they put in, but it seems these days colleges are more like cattle processing plants than places of higher learning.

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avatar 39 shellye

Great post, and great comments. The only thing I would add to the discussion is that, in Germany, once students reach high school, they are divided into two groups; the ones who want to study a vocation like car repair, HVAC, etc., and the ones who want to go into academics. Their high school curricula is geared toward which path they take.

Maybe that’s is pigeonholing students way before they truly decide what they want to do in life, but it seems a better way than just releasing millions of high school kids out there to figure out what they want to be when they grow up, at great expense to either the parents, the universities, or the students themselves. I firmly believe college isn’t for every kid and think trade schools should be encouraged, as Kyle mentioned. There are lots of welders, HVAC technicians, plumbers, etc. who are making way more money than someone with a BA Degree in Romance Languages or whatever.

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avatar 40 Anonymous

It might be time to take a look at the European model – many students are funneled towards trade programs (plumber, electrician, etc.) as opposed to University (depending on test scores and grades and high school coursework). A college degree isn’t the end all, be all. Plus many people make very good money in their trade and have the potential to own their own business. Without a need for racking up mountains of student loans.

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avatar 41 Anonymous

Bill Gates dropped out of grad school but does have a bachelors degree. He also went to a prominent prepatory school so he’s not exactly uneducated.

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avatar 42 Donna Freedman

Bill Gates also had connections. One of his big breaks happened because his mom had lunch with a big business pal who asked, “So what’s young Bill up to these days?” and upon finding out Bill was creating a software company he checked it out and bought a bunch.
I heard Bill Gates Sr. tell that story at a public lecture. Sure, Junior positioned himself well by creating a good product. He probably would have succeeded anyway. But having a mom who knew a lot of important people didn’t hurt a bit.

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avatar 43 Anonymous

I actually think that the cultural awareness, varied worldviews, and broadened minds might be part of the drawback. It has the potential to backfire and tend to give the person a big ego and a sense of entitlement, on the logic of, “Well, *I* went to college and *I* know how the world works so my opinions must be right and if someone disagrees they’re probably less educated than I am and I need not listen.”

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avatar 44 Anonymous

I agree with the others that college is not for everyone. My son is an example. The kid barely graduated high school. He’s not stupid, he just was not interested in “book-learning” as they used to say. He has always been a “hands-on” type of learner and is now a mechanic and works at a local dealership. He will probably never make much money, but he likes his job. If he can learn to live within his means, it doesn’t really matter if he makes millions, does it?

I have always said i don’t care if my children are rocket scientists or housewives as long as they are self-sufficient and happy. I think a lot of parents force their kids into college, wasting a lot of time and money. Trade schools are underrated. After all, even the lawyers, doctors and CPAs need someone to fix their car or their plumbing. If we all had desk jobs, who would do any actual physical work, lol?

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avatar 45 Cejay

No, we should not make the ones that do not want to go to college attend. If they do not want to go they will not apply themselves as they should. I wanted to go and had a scholarship for a tech school but after one semester returned home to help with things there. I did not return to school for another 18 years. But, I do like to learn, when I got interested in accounting I got books, asked questions and took classes in computer tech. By the same token we have a young girl in our office who just graduated this year and he has no idea of what is going on. We do not give the people with “real life” experience credit. I see so many people who can and are doing a job get a lower pay rate or less chance for advancement because they do not have a piece of paper. College taught me some things but I have learned more through life than I ever learned at a school.

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avatar 46 Anonymous

I have directed my grandchildre and cousins that with the economy the way it is today it is better to go to a trade school and master that craft….I am a high school drop out and was a single mother … i always as a youth tinkered in my dads auto body shop repaired cars that i owned by my self then got into Machining..I now make more money than a 4 yr grad student would make. There is some ot included in my yearly income but with my experiance alone i can go anywhere..!

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avatar 47 Anonymous

It is fruitless for our children to go to college & yet good for the States, State colleges, Universities & for the Federal government to collect money on the interests of redicilous prices for student loans. State colleges & Universities with the tuition payments they want are breaking the American people. State Governments could have & should have stopped the colleges raising the tuition payments on students that want to attend college. Government does not watch out for the common people of America. Instead they let the prices rise on everything. Its up to the States if your electric, gas, water & sewage, property tax bills should be raised or not. & it the lobbyists in office that makes thse prices go up. What a sad this side of the world of America it is! If it isn’ colleges getting your money, Its State, Federal & Union pay thats killing America!

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avatar 48 Anonymous

No, cause its dicrimination then you will have to do the same thing with the high schools to.

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