I’m a highly educated individual. I hold both a Bachelor of Science and an MBA in Finance from two great schools in Canada. Tens of thousands of dollars of my education was paid for in scholarships, and I graduated with a GPA above 3.7 from both programs. I landed great jobs with each degree, that propelled me into an upper middle class lifestyle which makes me a poster child for the “go to college, get a job” success story.
But lot of my time and money in university was wasted.
I don’t say that lightly. I acknowledge that my quick and easy access to education is in itself a privilege, and that succeeding during and after my programs is, too. My student loan debts were manageable, my job titles and salaries after graduation are glamorous, and I kept going back for more. I don’t look like someone who should be criticizing post-secondary education, but I am.
I would even argue it’s precisely because I’ve been through the undergraduate and graduate school rounds that I am qualified to point out their inefficiencies.
You can play and win a game, but still think it’s rigged.
In the late 1800s, schools were designed and intended to teach obedience. During the rise of our industrial age, big corporations needed workers for their factories. The purpose of the academic system was to create obedient and compliant workers who never asked questions. There were already plenty of scholars at the time. – 10 Reasons Why C Students Are More Successful After Graduation
Why does anyone get a degree?
I got a degree because I was told I had to in order to get a good job. I was told by everyone I knew, I was told by commercials on TV, I was even told by my parents who didn’t have high school diplomas themselves.
Get a degree, get a job.
Many professions require a university education: teaching, nursing, medicine, dentistry, law, engineering. You can’t have these careers without it. Their curriculum is standardized, regulated, and frequently requires ongoing study even after graduation. For this reason, a university education is necessary to pursue these careers.
But what is the purpose of a degree that does not lead to a defined job?
I’ll tell you: a very expensive four-year IQ test.
Now, that’s a weird answer. Maybe you’ve never heard it before, but once you examine the idea closely you’ll see it makes a lot of sense:
Employers cannot discriminate based on IQ, but they can require you to have a degree, which is the same thing — it merely shifts the onus of determining intelligence from the employer to the post-secondary education system, which can discriminate applicants based on IQ.
This is why job postings will say “Bachelors degree required”. Universities can set minimum admission standards, and therefore impose restrictions on who they admit based on IQ — aka. high school grades and standardized test scores — so employers don’t have to. A “good” college is considered more valuable in the corporate rate race because it communicates to everyone that you were “smart enough” to gain admission to that institution.
Because IQ still remains the best predictor of income and career achievement, you can’t really blame your employer for making these demands. Hard workers are enthusiastic hoop-jumpers, we’ll get as many degrees as you tell us to without thinking twice about how absurd the system is. It’s only after we emerge, bleary-eyed and confused in cap & gown, do we ask, “what was it all for?”
Why is every degree stream the same?
You don’t need a BA in Sociology to become a project manager at an office, but they’ll demand you have one because they can’t screen your critical thinking, creativity, or problem skills any other way. As a result, students in university that not studying to pursue a defined career role (aka. me) are paying far too much money to pass an elaborate IQ test, in addition to not receiving the skills they need to succeed in their field.
It might be true that the university curriculum is the best way study engineering and not the best way to study literature, but few are asking those questions.
I don’t know why virtually every field has adopted the four-year degree system. It’s not the best method for career training in every field. Being an artist is not like being a nurse, just like being an archeologist is not like being botanist — yet virtually every post-secondary institutions treats these professions the same in terms of course credits, time, and fees.
It’s so agonizingly stupid it’s a wonder we even do it, but there is a reason.
Education is a shareholder asset, not a personal one.
The cost of a degree, adjusted to inflation, has nearly tripled over the past three decades. The reason why is a dark one: corporate and government profit. As universities became lucrative and often outwardly for-profit institutions, their focus on educating the next generation has all but disintegrated into maximizing annual revenues. They do this by maximizing prices.
One of the most important things to realize is that universities and colleges have been able to raise tuition and fees almost indiscriminately is because as student loan funding became increasingly available, there is virtually no risk of educational institutions pricing their
customers students out of the market.
In other words, the reason your education costs so much money is because debt is quick and easy. With lenders willing to give young people and their parents tens of thousands of dollars, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt in order to attend school, there really isn’t a ceiling to university education prices. The height of tuition and fees prices is merely representative of the risk tolerance of governments and banks.
In fact, the more you borrow, the better it is for every shareholder that has a finger in the pie: the school benefits from the tuition increases they implement, the government and private lenders benefit from the interest on the loans you must pay for the next few decades. The only person that loses is you.
Best of all, it’s not the university’s problem if you can’t find a job after graduation and pay back your student loans, because your payments or lack thereof are your lender’s problem, not theirs. Post-secondary educations literally cannot lose by raising prices.
Your education will not save you (and that’s a good thing)
The historical statistics about your chances of gainful employment and earning potential with a college degree are quietly being eroded with time, and soon they will no longer be true. Everything is changing, the future is already here.
If you don’t have to go to university, don’t go.
The best thing about my undergraduate education was my student loan debt, which led to this blog. The best thing about my graduation education was collecting credentials as a financial professional so I can become an entrepreneur. It’s taken a lot of time and money to get here. I can’t go back. I can only salvage what is most valuable and move forward more intelligently.
It’s ok to feel ripped off. We were.
The only thing any of us can do is maximize the return on our investment, be creative in the best way we know how, and share our talents with the world in a way that improves the lives of those around us. I have wielded my post-secondary education and its debts for good, and I will continue to do so.
The world doesn’t need obedient and compliant factory workers anymore. The world needs artists, creatives, hackers, and innovators. We’re done with apathetically living out our lives in school and at our 9-to-5 jobs. We’re sick of it. We’re done with it. –10 Reasons Why C Students Are More Successful After Graduation
We all waste time getting degrees to get jobs, thinking we’re trying to build a career.
You’re not trying to build a career, you’re trying to build a life.