Eight rather than Ten Reasons Not to Get a Bachelor’s Degree

Special Note

In the comments section, James from RetirementSavvy called me out on reasons 6, 7, and 8. Here’s his exact rebuke.

Also, reasons 6-8 strike me more as an attempt to make political points and not real points about the value of attaining a college degree.

I respect James a lot, so I naturally read reasons 6-8 again. And you know what? I completely agree with James about reasons 6 and 7. I don’t believe our college campuses are inhospitable to women and minorities. If I did, reasons 6 and 7 would remain. But I don’t. I was just being a snarky jerk. And there’s no place for that here. It’s not the kind of blogger I want to be. So thank you James for teaching me some manners. I needed that.

I’m standing by reason 8, though. You can see why in my reply to James.

* * *

A bachelor’s degree is one of the biggest scams ever perpetrated against the American public. Here are ten reasons not to get one.

One. You’ll remember very little of what you were taught in college. I have a master’s degree in public administration. Between undergraduate and graduate school, I have over 200 credit hours. You know what I remember from all that class work? The definition of a dinosaur. Here it is:

An archosaurian diapsid reptile with a perforated acetabulum.

Two. You’ll use very little of what you were taught in college. I studied sociology, journalism, and public administration in college. In my current job, I maintain a bunch of databases, write SQL queries, and code with VBA and javascript. Not one class in college pertained to any of these skills. Google and YouTube have done more to enhance my human capital than college ever has. And Google and YouTube are free.

Three. A quarter of incoming freshmen need remedial class work. In other words, at least a quarter of incoming freshmen don’t belong in college. But rather than maintain standards, college would rather water down the curriculum. Sure, it dilutes the value of a college degree. But it keeps the money pouring in, and that’s more important.

Four. The most common grade in college is an A. Of course it is. All those remedial students and drunken frat boys are relentless when it comes to their studies. This is just further evidence that the value of a college degree has been severely compromised.

Five. The top 25 college basketball coaches make between $2 million and $6 million per year. I didn’t have the heart to research what the top 25 college football coaches make. Isn’t college supposed to be a cognitive endeavor? Well, it’s not. And most students at NCAA powerhouses are mainly there to be props. Someone’s got to sit in the stands—shirtless and face-painted—and worship the guys running around in costumes.

Six. One in four college women is sexually assaulted during her stint in higher education. This makes the American college campus one of the most inhospitable places on earth for a young woman. Why, then, are so many parents willing to subject their daughters to this maelstrom of sexual predation?

Seven. And according to Black Lives Matter, the American college campus is just as inhospitable to racial and ethnic minorities as it is to women. Again, why are so many parents of color willing to subject their sons and daughters to the virulent bigotry of the typical college administrator, professor, and white student?

Eight. College enforces a progressive mono-culture with all the subtlety of a rabid Maoist. So this means if you’re a progressive college student, your worldview will never be challenged. In fact, you will be highly esteemed for having the right thoughts. If you’re not a progressive college student, your worldview will never receive a respectful airing. Your worldview will be ridiculed and mocked, and you will be a barely-tolerated pariah for harboring such unclean thoughts.

Nine. The average college graduate leaves college with over $35K in student loan debt. Really? Thirty-five thousand dollars? For information you will neither remember nor need?

Ten. College makes you pay for at least 20 classes that don’t pertain to your major in order to get a degree. What other business gets away with this nonsense? As the fellow in the below YouTube video asks (2:44 mark), would you frequent a pizzeria if it made you buy 15 pizza pies before you could buy a chicken roll? Of course you wouldn’t. But for some reason we allow college to be so cruel to our time and our wallets.

Final Thoughts

Sorry about the mid-week rant. I usually leave this stuff for Friday. But last night I watched a couple of YouTube videos on the college debt crisis and they pissed me off.

Let me know what you think when you get a chance. Is college a ripoff? Is the bachelor’s degree an outdated credential that serves college administrators and professors a lot more than America’s young people? Or am I just a clueless curmudgeon?

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50 Comments

  1. Wow – impressive list! I have a 6-year old daughter with the sharpest mind I’ve ever seen in a kid (no bias, of course!). But I’m not convinced that she should go to college.

    I agree with some of the things you’ve said, such as that you don’t retain or use a lot of what you’ve learned. And for the ridiculousness of the cost of education, it makes it a tougher decision.

    She’ll ultimately decide, but for the time being at least, I’m not going to be pushing her to go. I would rather educate financially and help her to focus on passive income instead.

    — Jim

    • Mr. Groovy

      I’m not a throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathtub guy. College is still valuable. Just not in its current form. We’re broke as a nation, and we can’t afford to provide everyone of our high school graduates with the full college experience. I believe in choice. If someone wants the full college experience, great. But if someone just wants the trade-school aspect of college, that’s great too–and for most people, more sensible. Hopefully your daughter will have that choice. This way, if she wants to learn about computers, she can take 10-12 computer courses and be done with college. Thanks for stopping by, Jim. I appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Hmm. I don’t think there are black and white answers to the value of a Bachelors degree.

    It is highly dependent on the field you wish to pursue. Take science for example. And chemistry where I did my first degree in the UK. There is no way on earth I would be in the job I am in without it. Geez, I would not be in my job without a Ph. D. Strong technical basis is essential to a large number of scientific professions. Not all, but a very large %.

    Will I be advocating a Bachelors degree for my kids? If they are passionate about science, yes, absolutely. And then a Ph.D., maybe a postdoctoral to follow.

    Otherwise it depends on what they gravitate toward in terms of subject areas of interest. Then it will be a fun discussion.

    • Mr. Groovy

      So true. I definitely have to walk-back some of my rant. Higher education is important. I just don’t think a “degree” is necessarily synonymous with education. In other words, it’s time to unbundle the college experience. How many chemistry courses did you take to get your first degree, for instance? Ten? Fifteen? Wouldn’t it have been great if all you needed to do for your college credential was to successfully complete those 10-15 chemistry courses? Surely, our colleges could come up with a name for this unbundled credential. How about calling it an “express degree.” Students would then have a choice. They could go for the standard degree and spend a lot of money on becoming well-rounded. Or they could go for the express degree and just spend their money on the meat-and-potatoes of a certain field. We as a society have to decide. Do we want our kids to have degrees–and a crap load of debt. Or do we want our kids to have an education–and little or no debt? Thanks for challenging my rant, Mr. PIE. As always, you make a lot of excellent points.

      • Very interesting points about focus being important for a degree.

        Exactly how my degree was structured. Other than the first two years where I did chemistry, maths, biochemistry and physiology, I then focused purely on chemistry for final two years.

        That focus gave me a very strong background in the medical aspects of chemistry, where I ultimately found my passion and career.

        And by the way, your posts are excellent. Soliciting diverse opinions and having open discussions makes the world a better place for all of us. It makes blogging fun also. Keep it up.

        • Mr. Groovy

          Thank you, Mr. PIE. You’re too kind. I love the discussion we’re having about college. And the love the respectful way commenters are challenging my thoughts. Great mental workout!

    • I agree Mr Pie and I can say I wouldn’t be where I am today without my undergrad and grad degrees. Maybe I’m the minority, but I remember and use a lot of what I learned in college. I also have friends and teachers who I’m still in touch with today.

      I do think it’s a matter of putting into your degree what you want out of it, and I put a lot of work in.

      • Mr. Groovy

        Good point, TGS. My non-scientific observation is 50-50. Fifty percent of friends and acquaintances say their college education has helped them with their current jobs, and fifty percent of say their college education hasn’t helped. So our current system isn’t without merit. But is 50-50 a good batting average, considering the cost of obtaining a degree? Thanks for stopping by, TGS. I really appreciate your contribution.

  3. I see your points, though a college degree does have benefits too. It isn’t just about the information learned, but about learning how to learn, how to research, how to communicate well, and how to get along with others.
    It’s a step that can potentially open a lot of doors, or at least help you get a foot in some doors, in the future, as it’s a screening question for a lot of companies when hiring.
    I went to a public university with 50K students, so there were an amazing number of classes from which to choose, and I also did a lot of study abroad and independent study, so it allowed a lot of flexibility and control to make my education what I wanted and needed.
    College isn’t for everyone, and it should be done frugally, but for those motivated to learn, it can be truly beneficial.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Here’s my problem with the college degree. The only reason I have my current position is because I have a college degree. When I interviewed with my then future boss, she told me that she was so happy to find me because she wanted to hire internally. I told her that I was surprised by that. Our company was chock-full of talented people. There had to be plenty of suitable candidates, right? My future boss agreed. In fact, she said she had a guy who was perfect for the job but couldn’t hire him. The problem? He didn’t have a degree. And he didn’t need a degree in any particular field. A degree in post-WWII cartoons would have worked. So for every door a college degree opens, the lack of a college degree closes a few more. And that bothers me. I understand a degree for certain professions. I want my doctors and dentists, for instance, to endure a grueling, time-consuming credentialing process. But a mid-level manager for a data company? Is a degree really necessary? I guess what I’m saying is this: we need a new credential. The bachelor’s degree isn’t working for the masses. It’s too costly and too time-consuming. A new credential, consisting of 10 classes and requiring a year’s worth of time, would suffice for most people and most jobs. Thanks for stopping by, Julie. I love when you challenge my half-baked thoughts. It definitely makes me think.

  4. I think there’s value in a college degree. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur and certain types of good jobs just aren’t available without the bachelors degree and graduate school. (I’m thinking of good jobs like lawyer, doctor, dentist, etc).

    The thing that is troubling is the high debt load some people take for degrees that are ultimately pretty useless. If you’re a parent footing the bill without any issue, then that’s fine. Go ahead and study a soft liberal arts major.

    But if you’re looking at taking out significant debt, then you really need to do a cost-benefit analysis to make sure that your chosen degree has the job prospects to pay down the loans quickly. At least that’s how I did the analysis when I took on student loan debt for my law degree.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, TFP! Agreed. I will quibble a little with you about the law degree, though. Why for instance do you need a bachelor’s degree to go to law school? Why can’t you go to law school right out of high school? I believe it’s done that way over in England. And why does law school cost so much? I mean, it doesn’t require cadavers and expense lab equipment. From what I gather, law school is just a bunch of guys and gals standing in front of a blackboard giving lectures. And our young people have to acquire a hundred grand of debt for this? It doesn’t make sense. But until this nonsense is fixed–whether we’re talking law school or basic undergraduate education–you’re absolutely right. You have “to make sure your chosen degree has the job prospects to pay down the loans quickly.” Failure to do that could cripple your financial life for decades. Thanks for stopping by, TFP. You added some well-needed perspective.

      • Oh, I’m not saying that we couldn’t just go directly to learning a profession.

        My thinking was how to work within the system and I guess my takeaway from your post was why a bachelor’s degree is unnecessary in our current society, not whether we could eliminate it as a required credential for certain types of jobs. For example, if your goal is to be a entrepreneur, no need to go to college. Just go and open up your business or take some classes to learn those skills and go do it .

        My response was to the fact that certain types of high paying careers, like medical or law, simply require a degree in our current system, no ifs ands or buts about it. Whether those licensing requirements are right or not is another story. It’s simply required. I cannot become a lawyer or doctor without then credentials.

        If we’re going into that territory of drastically changing our education system or requirements for licensing for certain types of jobs, then I think that’s an entirely different topic.

        • Mr. Groovy

          Excellent rebuttal, my friend. Professions (doctor, dentist, lawyer, professor, etc.) do require a rigorous credentialing program. And the programs we have in place for them now are probably about right. My rant surely required a lot of qualifiers–and here’s one of them. Thanks for pointing it out, TFP. Damn, this blogging stuff is hard!

  5. I don’t entirely agree with this list or the premise, one should not go to college. Yes, not everyone is suited for college, yes bad things can happen in college (as can in every place in society). College can be expensive but there are ways around that.

    I went to college and learned a trade using coding languages that were outdated by the time I graduated. What I picked up though was, how to learn, the principals of coding, how to communicate and let’s not forget the invaluable internship that started my career. A career that allowed me to retire by 43. Something I could not have done without that bachelor degree.

        • I definitely understand the frustration many are feeling with respect to attaining, and determining the value of, a college education … I’ve covered the topic myself and I can’t tell you how many blog posts, and other articles, I’ve read over the last three years (the time I’ve been running my blog) that speak to this. However, I don’t think the answer is to shut the entire system down and everyone forgo college, become a small-business owner and embrace entrepreneurship right out of high school. Talk about a disaster!

          While I don’t profess to know the answer(s) with respect to the macro-level, at the micro-level it’s pretty straight forward in my opinion … parents and their kids need to do two things. First, take a look at the business and economic environment (and their individual strengths/desires) and determine which degree program makes the most sense. Second, determine the most economical/efficient way [e.g. military service, community college, living at home the first year or two, part-time work, etc.] to finance the education.

          Are there really parents out there who are so upset with the system that they would advise their child to simply ignore the numbers (e.g. those I shared earlier) and convince them they are more likely to find success without a college degree?

          As with the financial planning most of us replying to this post engage in, the answer is to take a deep breath and develop (and subsequently manage) a plan that looks at facts, best behaviors and practices. I think most people will conclude that for most people, most of the time, a college education is still a key part of finding success, financial and otherwise, in life.

          • Mr. Groovy

            Excellent points, James. I definitely don’t want to shut the entire system down. My main gripe is that the bachelor degree is a seriously flawed credential. For most people, it’s too time-consuming, too costly, and too mentally untaxing. Would you take out loans to go to a gym for four years and lift styrofoam weights?

            Since colleges won’t alter the degree credential, my workaround is to forego the degree and just take the classes to that pertain to your major. If you want to learn accounting, just take accounting classes. If you want to learn about social work, just take sociology classes. If every student did this, colleges would eventually relent and create a more suitable credential–one that was less-time consuming, less costly, and more focused and rigorous.

            So here’s my position: Education, yes! Degrees in their current format, not necessarily. For doctors, dentists, lawyers, and other professionals? Yes. For everyone else? No.

            Finally, here’s another thing that bothers me about our current system. To get a good ROI, you have to be really wise and thoughtful. And who does this favor? The rich and sophisticated. Those who aren’t rich and sophisticated (e.g., the first-generation college student) are easily overwhelmed by the current system. And that just pisses me off. There’s got to be a better way.

    • Mr. Groovy

      When it comes to real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. When it comes to my rants, I’m sorry to admit, it’s all about qualify, qualify, qualify. So let me qualify my position a bit. I’m all for a college education. I just don’t think a degree is synonymous with an education. In other words, the degree is overkill. Consider someone who is interested in computers. I would counsel this person to go to the nearest college and take the ten most challenging computer classes he or she can. I would then counsel him or her to get a Microsoft certification. He or she would then be college educated, and armed with a respected credential to show employers. And all with little or no debt! And this is why I rail against the college-industrial-complex. I want young people with skills and no debt. I don’t want young people with degrees and oodles of debt. College could provide both options, but because it’s as greedy as any Wall Street banker, it only provides the latter option. Thank you for the blow-back, Maarten. I don’t know if my qualifications strengthened my position, but they needed to be made.

  6. I don’t think the point of college is to get a job. I think education is valuable for its own sake (for some folks). My degree never directly led to a job, but learning really valuable soft-skills away from my abusive, poor family were priceless and directly attributable to living at college. I met people who have advanced my career based on my college network as well. Some things are valuable for intangibles, but not everyone should be in college. I’ll agree with you there.

    • I agree and disagree. Think about whole-life insurance. It’s a combination of insurance and savings. Separately, insurance and savings are good things. But when you put them together in a whole-life insurance product, they aren’t so good.

      This is how I see college. We’re combining trade-school knowledge and meaning-of-life knowledge into a product called a degree. And for many, many people, this is impractical. It’s too time-consuming and too costly.

      So I want people to go to college and drink up all the trade-school knowledge they can (i.e., the 12-15 classes necessary to master the fundamentals of engineering, programming, nursing, etc.). I don’t think they should be forced to acquire meaning-of-life knowledge, especially if acquiring this knowledge means going deeply into debt.

      The bottom line is that I want to unbundle college. I want people to have a choice. If they just want trade-school knowledge, fine. If they want trade-school knowledge and meaning-of-life knowledge, that’s fine too. And if they just want meaning-of-life knowledge, I’m down with that as well.

      If we unbundle college, we won’t have to argue over what college is for. Those who don’t think college is about getting a job can focus on the meaning-of-life knowledge that college has to offer. Those who think it’s about getting a job can focus on trade-school knowledge. Everyone has his or her way and we can all meet in the ratskeller for a beer.

  7. I wouldn’t go so far as calling it a scam. But I agree with your underlying point. I do think the bachelor’s degree has morphed into something it was never meant to be.

    This idea that everyone should get a bachelor’s degree is baloney. This idea that everyone NEEDS a bachelor’s degree to get ahead is baloney (I believe major Silicon Valley players like Google even removed the requirement from their hiring process). This idea that it’s okay to bury yourself in crippling debt for a bachelor’s degree because you absolutely need it is baloney. A bachelor’s degree still make sense for some people, but it makes sense for far fewer than we think.

    I personally think this system may collapse under its own weight before my son is college age in 15 years. With the amount of knowledge out there for free nowadays, the current student debt crisis, the rapidly changing work landscape, artificial intelligence, etc., the four-year degree as we know it just seems unsustainable.

    Thanks for the rant. I definitely see where you’re coming from, Mr. Groovy

    • Mr. Groovy

      I’m very ambivalent about calling college a scam. Last night I was riled up so I went with “scam.” Today I’m wondering if that’s the right word. Because I do think that college has a lot to offer. But there’s so much nonsense going on in academia, I’m continuously pulled back to that word. Here’s one for you. What percentage of college instructors are now adjuncts, the un-tenured, unloved grunts of higher education? Thirty percent? Forty? Sixty? And that’s all well and good. But how come students pay the same price for a class, regardless of whether a full-professor or an adjunct teaches it? Should’t students get a discount for classes taught by adjuncts? After all, adjuncts get paid $2,000-$3,000 per class with no benefits. If the cost of providing that class is lower for the college, shouldn’t the credit-hour cost of that class be lower for the students who take it? And you see why I keep going back to the word “scam”? Thanks for stopping by, Adam. I really appreciate your contribution to the discussion.

  8. I guess if some employer’s didn’t require a Bachelors degree for employment I would be on board. Hard to argue with your list. This cost increase alone over the last 15-20 years is insane.

    I think it depends on the career your are targeting or even company and what are the requirements. Maybe a certification or experience will serve you better. Entrepreneurs may want to jump right and not waste time on additional schooling.

    I would hate to need a doctor and find out he never went to medical school. 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      Totally agree with you about doctors. I wouldn’t go to a doctor who didn’t have a medical degree. So, yes, the current system is appropriate for a handful of professionals (e.g., doctors, dentists, lawyers, professors, etc.). But do engineers, accountants, programmers, retail managers, nurses, and dance instructors really need a four-year degree? Wouldn’t a more scaled-down, more focused instructional program work for most jobs that require knowledge not taught in high school? Thanks for stopping by, Brian. As usual, you delivered another insightful comment.

  9. There is a lot of ‘bad’ everywhere and the education system could definitely use some improvements. However, it seems to me the anti-college rants have gotten a little out of control. (Also, reasons 6-8 strike me more as an attempt to make political points and not real points about the value of attaining a college degree.) For most people, if some effort and thought is put into choosing a major and determining the most efficient way to finance an education, there is tremendous upside to a post-secondary education.

    I can think of two good reasons to go to college: higher salaries and lower unemployment. Some stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics …

    Median Weekly Earnings:
    High school diploma – $678
    Bachelor’s degree – $1,137
    Master’s degree – $1,341

    Unemployment Rates:
    High school diploma – 5.4%
    Bachelor’s degree – 2.8%
    Master’s degree – 2.4%

    http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm

    • Thanks for including this James. As a teacher and school administrator, and professor with a doctoral degree, I clearly value higher education and degrees (and advanced degrees). And to suggest we would accept teachers without degrees (or advanced degrees – which are required in my state) – isn’t acceptable to me either.
      To me the issue is the cost, not the degree – and I have two kids in college myself.
      There are MANY ways to reduce costs. The majority of students could cut their Bachelor’s degree programs to 3 years if they do a few college classes in high school and during the summer. My son is a senior in high school and he earned 18 college credits as a junior last year and will likely earn at least 18 more this year. He plans on taking a few courses next summer and will start his “first year” of college as a 2nd semester sophomore. It just takes a little work on the part of the parent and the student.

      • “There are MANY ways to reduce costs.” Agreed. It is a point I often make during this type of discussion. That and understand the labor environment when choosing a degree plan. Some degrees make more sense – with respect to ROI – than others.

        No doubt that the price of an education – for a lot of bad reasons – has gotten out of control. However, a lot of people hurt themselves by not developing a detailed plan for addressing costs through actions such as you describe.

      • Mr. Groovy

        Touche, Vicki. I’m a little more flexible about the degree requirement, advanced or otherwise, to teach in our schools. Bill Gates doesn’t have a degree, for instance. And I would love if he taught computer programming at my neighborhood high school. And what about education degrees? Are those really necessary. Imagine a retired doctor. He or she wouldn’t have an education degree. Would that then make him or her unqualified to teach biology in high school? Oh, the debate rages! Thanks for joining the discussion, Vicki. I’ll really appreciate your perspective.

    • Great blow-back, my friend. Upon further review, I completely agree with you about reasons 6 and 7. See my correction above. I’m going to stick by reason 8, though. Here’s why.

      Because of a progressive monoculture that dominates virtually every college in America, the worldviews of progressive college students are never challenged. How is this very congenial environment conducive, then, to building their mental acumen? It’s like going to a gym and lifting styrofoam weights. You can lift weights for months and years and your muscles will still be flabby.

      A case could be made for conservative students to go to college. Their worldviews will definitely be challenged. But unless the challenging is done in a respectful manner, I see no reason why conservative students should subject themselves to such abuse.

      The statistics you provided are very compelling and very hard to counter. Here is my feeble rebuttal.

      Do they control for age? I would expect college graduates from the 80s, 90s, and 00s to have higher weekly earnings than high school only graduates, especially since high-paying factory jobs have moved overseas. What’s the spread between recent college graduates and high school only graduates of the same age? Is the spread as large?

      Do they control for intelligence and motivation? It could just be that college graduates are more intelligent and motivated to begin with than their high school only peers and college has had very little to do with the resulting income and employment gaps.

      Finally, do they control for credentialism? There are many jobs that require a college degree but don’t entail using knowledge beyond what is taught in high school.

      I really appreciate your feedback, James. You “schooled” me on reasons 6 and 7. I’m standing by the rest, though. Cheers.

      • Terrific discussion, my friend and you make some valid points that provide good food for thought. My basic reply to anyone that asks my opinion about the value of a degree, particularly when we think about the cost and lifetime income, is that it is worth it for most people, in most situations … as long as they wisely choose a degree plan – based on the business environment and labor market – and develop a thoughtful plan (e.g. attend a local community college for the first two years, live at home with mom and dad; and work part-time) to minimize costs – which I agree are WAY out of control – which will improve their ROI.

        • Mr. Groovy

          Terrific, indeed! Everyone is making great points, and everyone is being respectful. What more could an intellectually engaged person want? I love this community.

  10. I get that college has become pushed for things it was never intended, and not every job that requires a college degree really needs a college degree.

    But, I loved college classes, even the ones that never applied to my post-college life. I loved the opportunity to study specific things, like Venetian Renaissance Art, and take them seriously with other people who took them seriously (a far cry from High School.) I learned to learn, to meet deadlines, to write better, to interview (oral exams, man), and to stretch myself and get out of my comfort zone.

    And I love that you have to take non-essential classes. For instance, Little Bit says she wants to be a teacher, which will require a well-rounded academic background. But I hope she also takes at least 1 accounting class and 1 coding class, so she has things to fall back on.

    I do agree that students who need remedial classes should be steered to junior college or community college (that’s why they exist), and that As shouldn’t be easy. But for curious, academically oriented kids, college is a good thing.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Okay, here’s a dirty little secret. Don’t tell anybody. I really loved my geology of dinosaurs class. I also loved the film history and art appreciation classes I took. I even loved the badminton class I was forced to take to satisfy a physical education requirement. But I loved these classes because they were relatively cheap. My dinosaur class was taken back in 1980 and cost less than $100. Would I love these classes if they each cost $1,500-$2,000? I doubt it. The law of diminishing returns applies to college as well.

      Here’s the problem. I love education, but don’t love debt slavery. The standard bachelor’s degree is outdated and ill-suited for today’s economic realities. One to two years of study would suffice for most majors. Like I said, if a kid wants to be an accountant, let him just take the 12-15 classes that actually pertain to accounting in the typical degree program. This way the kid acquires a skill and isn’t saddled with a crap load of debt.

      Here’s what I would love to see happen. Colleges unbundle the learning experience. For trade-school knowledge (e.g., accounting, nursing, hotel management, social work, dance, etc.), colleges would offer degree programs which required 30-60 credits and took 1-2 years to complete. To get this new credential, students would have to apply and be accepted. For meaning-of-life knowledge (e.g., all those courses that pertain to well-roundedness), colleges would offer numerous courses and make them available to everybody–high school kids, seniors, curious adults, students enrolled in the trade-school programs, etc.

      The other day, I came across a wonderful YouTube clip on willpower. The speaker was Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford professor. And I said to myself, wouldn’t it be great if Professor McGonigal offered her behavioral science course to anybody. It could be held in a big Stanford lecture hall of 500-600 seats. It would run once a week for ten weeks and would entail a one-hour lecture followed by a one-hour discussion. The course could have a reading list. But there would be no exams. And imagine it cost $90 per “student” for this lecture series. Here are the economics of this proposal.

      Revenue: $54,000 (assuming the 600-seat hall for the lecture series is sold out)
      Stanford’s cut: $8,100 (15% for administration expenses)
      McGonigal’s cut: $45,900

      And here are some other benefits.

      McGonigal: No exams to prepare and grade. No final grades to argue over with disgruntled students. Forty-five thousand dollars.
      Students: No exams. No term papers. No all-nighters. Access to a world-class mind in a convivial environment for very little cost.

      In my mind, unbundling the two main knowledge tracks of college would be a win-win for everybody–colleges, administrators, professors, students, and life-long learners.

      So in a nutshell, here’s my position. Degree? Not necessarily. Education? Yes! Life-long learning? Yes!!

      Thanks for sharing, Emily. I love hearing from curious people who love to learn.

  11. Lila

    Personally I believe one of the reasons the wealthy get ahead is because they think differently from the rest of us. Here’s is what I mean:

    1. They pay for their children’s higher-education and don’t tell them they’re on their own when they hit 18.

    Meanwhile a middle-class or working-class couple tells their children they are on their own and to borrow student loans. The middle-class and working-class households are being divided and conquered by student loans and consumer debt.

    However in some savvy working class and middle-class families the parents helped their kids win scholarships so their child could go to college for free. I think more families would benefit from the “we’re in this together” mindset.

    Example: This SAHM who was a former teacher helped her kid win 100,000 in scholarships:

    http://www.thepennyhoarder.com/how-to-get-a-scholarship-100k/

    2. They try to help them network with their professional friends after college or offer them jobs if they own a company after the children graduate from college.

    3. They educate them in other things. Like sending their kids to a summer money camp.

    This is a real thing! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/02/your-money/02wealth.html

    The middle-class doesn’t have to send their kids to summer camp, but just educating children about the PF basics and having their older children and teens practice how to manage their money would help so many families and change family trees.

    Most middle-class and working class people don’t teach their kids about saving, investing, etc.

    4. The wealthy teach their children the value of business and the mindset that wealth isn’t evil. So many people have weirdo hangups about how money is evil & is the root of all evil…

    As a result by banding together, sharing resources and supporting each other the wealthy family unit gets ahead even further.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Jaime you are wise beyond your years. Everyone of my wealthy friends and relatives paid for their children’s college. And some of the educations they paid for weren’t cheap. Two of my friends paid for medical school. My brother-in-law and cousins paid for Ivy League educations.

      And they weren’t different just because they had money. They started saving for their kids’ college educations before their kids were born. And you know when their kids starting prepping for the SAT? Try ninth grade.

      Money is definitely important. But attitude is even more important. Combine money with a kick-ass attitude and you’re unstoppable.

      All my friends and relatives came from middle-class backgrounds. Their parents were mainly civil-servants. But they went on to become businessmen and professionals. And their kids went on to get real degrees without the burden of debt.

      So it can be done. Like you said, the rich do think differently. But there are no entry barriers to their “culture.” Cultures are free. You can adopt a rich mindset anytime you want. Or you can be a victim and wear your victimhood like a badge of honor.

  12. Great points. Our long-term plans are still taking shape, but I’ve been asked a few times about how we plan to finance college for the kids. I definitely think there are some benefits to going to college, but want my kids to only focus on taking classes that are interesting and applicable to their interests/aspirations. And, community college is a good option too.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. And this is why I get so frustrated. College does have a lot to offer. But in order to feast on the meat of college, you got to swallow a lot of freakin’ fat and gristle. Why? Why are we making it so hard for our children? Can’t we just let kids take the 12-15 classes that pertain to a major and forego all the other nonsense?

  13. Man, I’m glad I waited so long to get in on the discussion. 🙂 There’s a lot of good comments out there and discussion beyond the article. haha

    Like some have mentioned before me, I also would in no way be able to have my job without a Masters degree, which requires a bachleor’s degree. Now, some people have gotten into this industry with just a bachelors, but they ultimately go back for a Masters due to either work requirements or earnings potential.

    However, I wholeheartedly agree that as an educational system college is broken. Most of what I learned to get my geology undergrad was sort of related, but I’d spent almost 2 years taking “fun and educational” courses in Sociology, Ethics, folklore, journalism, all kinds of great stuff. When I transferred schools, those d-bags had a totally different requirement of what I needed for a “rounded education” and all of my previous gen ed classes probably could have gotten me a second major. Instead I graduated with about 200 hrs, almost 80 hrs more (typical degree is 120) or 25 more classes I didn’t need.

    Why do I need to study psychology to the point of learning how medicines affect the brain to be well rounded? Ridiculous. Don’t even get me started on in-state and out of state tuition. A third of my undergrad debt came from 3 semesters of out of state – 3 semesteers because of a technicality that even petitioning the board and presenting in front of them with loads of receipts, rental agreements etc.. they disqualified so I still had to pay out of state for another semester. Thanks for the $12k per semester instead of $3700 – how the F is that even logical?! Thanks for choosing our school but since you didn’t live here first, we’ll charge you 3x as much. Thanks for your money.

    Finally, I also agree that not everyone needs to be in college and there are plenty of ways to make a good living without a college degree. I took a year off and went hiking to figure out if I wanted to be in college. If so, what is my goal/plan/degree and if not, what would I want to do without a degree. I decided on Environmental Science which ultimately led to geology, but both require degrees for almost any job with those titles.

    Gah!!! Rant over. Great thought provoking topic though! 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      Aren’t colleges great? If it’s any consolation, many Americans have been put through the in-state-out-of-state ringer. This is what kills me. Colleges say that their credential is so valuable, it’s worth the tens-of-thousands of dollars it costs. But if that’s the case, why is all the risk borne by its students? In other words, if a college graduate with student-loan debt is only making as much as a high school graduate, shouldn’t his or her college be partially responsible for his or her debt? I mean, evil businesses give product guarantees. Why can’t colleges guarantee their product?

  14. In my perspective, college opens doors. Do we have problems to look at at the systemic level? Absolutely. The solution to rape isn’t having women avoid education—it’s changing the culture that makes it so prevalent. But I know you’ve redacted that one.
    Also, I think number three is more reflective of a failure in our K12 system than of the students capabilities. I don’t think they shouldn’t have to the opportunity to participate; if the remedial courses aren’t taken at college, where do we make up for the current gap?

    • Mr. Groovy

      Good points. I don’t think our colleges are uniquely dangerous to women and minorities. But there are people I respect that say otherwise. So here is the point I was trying to make. If college is a threat to your physical and emotional well-being, then you should mitigate your contact with it. This doesn’t mean you can’t get a college education or degree. It does mean you don’t live in a dorm, join clubs, go to frat parties, and do anything that keeps you on campus more than necessary.

      And I agree with you 100% on number three. If our high schools were doing their jobs, our colleges would only be for those seeking a professional career. If I had my way, 11th and 12th grade would be trade school for most students. And by trade school, I don’t mean plumbing and carpentry. There’s no reason why programming, engineering, accounting, and nursing can’t be taught in high school.

      Thanks for stopping by, FF. I really appreciated what you had to say. It made me think.

  15. The education world wants to sell their product as much as any other industry, and people are being taken on the debt ride too. It doesn’t really even help with the future job, so what’s the point?

    Tristan

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. That’s why I refer to it as the college-industrial-complex.

      Everything I learned for my current job I learned on my own or from coworkers. My college degrees were an utter waste of time and money.

      Here’s one for you. My cousin got a job for EPIC a couple of years ago. And during her last interview, her future boss said he didn’t care what degree she had (she had a psychology degree from Dartmouth). All he cared about was her brains. And getting into Dartmouth proved she was smart. He told her she would learn on the job.

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  17. I totally agree about college being overrated. I loved my Humanities classes the most, but I think it might have been a better investment for my parents to have spent the money they spent on college on travel for my sister and I – much more mind opening. College debt sucks; community colleges, scholarships, part-time jobs are all part of the solution. I think a bachelor’s degree is overrated though. Especially in a subject like English or Theology.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Lisa. I love Humanities too. But is it really necessary to go into debt to read Plato, Shakespeare, or whatever French Marxist is hot right now? Colleges had their place when information was costly and communication was difficult. But now information is cheap and communication is easy. I subscribe to a number of Ivy League channels on YouTube. So I get lectures for free that thousands of people pay thousands of dollars for. Colleges only survive because they have a been granted a monopoly by the state to issue the most valuable credential in the labor market–the vaunted BA. Once this monopoly is ended, whether by Congress or private sector ingenuity, the need for colleges will go away. Thanks for stopping by, Lisa. I really appreciate your thoughts.

  18. I used to be of the mind that my kids just had to go to college, but as they’ve gotten older, as well as myself, it doesn’t seem as important. The cost, as you point out, is ridiculous considering so much is unnecessary. Every major has “core classes” which don’t make up for the majority of the course load in most cases (that I have seen). I can see a few other additional classes based on your major, but they should be based on your major, not just because “everyone has to take these classes.” The industry (and that’s what it is) needs a major overhaul! Companies that still operate on the ” we will only hire college grads” need to rethink their strategy. They could be missing out on some extraordinary people ! Great article!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Dote! Wouldn’t it be great if companies just wanted college “educated” people rather than college “degreed” people? After all, is someone who only took core classes and got all A’s really less qualified than someone who took core classes plus all the other BS classes and got a vaunted bachelor’s degree? As you so eloquently put it, companies that fail to question the college-industrial complex’s scam credentialism are “missing out on some extraordinary people.”

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