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Education News

Just Say No To College 716

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-about-a-nice-trade-school dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Alex Williams writes in the NY Times that the idea that a college diploma is an all-but-mandatory ticket to a successful career is showing fissures. Inspired by role models like the billionaire drop-outs who founded Microsoft, Facebook, Dell, Twitter, Tumblr, and Apple, and empowered by online college courses, a groundswell of university-age heretics consider themselves a DIY vanguard, committed to changing the perception of dropping out from a personal failure to a sensible option, at least for a certain breed of risk-embracing maverick. 'Here in Silicon Valley, it's almost a badge of honor,' says Mick Hagen, 28, who dropped out of Princeton in 2006 and moved to San Francisco, where he started Undrip, a mobile app. 'College puts a lot of constraints, a lot of limitations around what you can and can't do. Some people, they want to stretch their arms, get out and create more, do more.' Perhaps most famously, Peter A. Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, in 2010 started his Thiel Fellowship program, which pays students under 20 years old $100,000 apiece to bag college and pursue their own ventures. 'People are being conned into thinking that this credential is the one thing you need to do better in life. They typically are worse off, because they have amassed all this debt.' UnCollege advocates a DIY approach to higher education and spreads the message through informational 'hackademic camps.' 'Hacking,' in the group's parlance, can involve any manner of self-directed learning: travel, volunteer work, organizing collaborative learning groups with friends. Students who want to avoid $200,000 in student-loan debt might consider enrolling in a technology boot camp, where you can learn to write code in 8 to 10 weeks for about $10,000. 'I think kids with a five-year head start on equally ambitious peers will be ahead in both education and income,' says James Altucher, a prominent investor, entrepreneur and pundit who self-published a book called '40 Alternatives to College.' 'They could go to a library, read a book a day, take courses online. There are thousands of ways.'"
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Just Say No To College

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:31AM (#42168417)

    First of all, most of those "billionaire dropouts" were dropouts from Ivy League schools with plenty of startup money from daddy already at their disposal, not dipshits coming out of no-name-high-school. Secondly, most of them only left college when they already had contacts and solid plans (and financing) in place for starting their own businesses. They didn't need degrees because they were going to be hiring *themselves*, not having to worry about some HR department that will toss any non-degree applicants right into the trash.

    For most of the non-rich, non-Ivy League assholes like the rest of us--we still need a college degree if we're going to get beyond the front door to any stable job. We're not Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.

  • by Anrego (830717) * on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:34AM (#42168451)

    I’m all for the elimination of college/university as an almost necessity to get a decent job.

    That said, for every tech millionaire dropout, there are probably 1000 guys with good technical knowledge eking out a living on a hell desk. At a minimum, not having a degree is going to make things harder and reduce your options. Again, for every small startup you can wow with your cool open source contributions, there's a dozen companies who will just shredder your resume (and before you say "who wants to work for such a company", keep in mind HR is usually not reflective of the working environment at most places).

    Much as it sucks, I still think the best bet is to learn on your own, then sweat out the degree.

    Then again, here in Canada tuitions are high but not insane. I worked a McJob part time through highschool, full time through summers, and was able to pay off the remainder of my debt fairly quickly after graduating.

    There is also something to be said about college/university as a good thing. It forces you to take stuff you’d have no interest in otherwise, there is some social development, you learn to deal with different personalities, etc..

  • Drive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RichMan (8097) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:35AM (#42168463)

    If you have drive you can succeed by yourself.

    With high-school becoming a pat-on-the-back-thanks-for-showing-up affair college is what teaches people to knuckle under and get stuff done. If you need that lesson you need college.

  • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:36AM (#42168479) Journal

    Yep. If you drop out with your cash-cow already moo-ving (sorry, had too)... You are taking a huge risk, and just as likely to end up on the street or in your parents basement.

    A college degree isn't a surefire way to become rich, or even get a job, but it does improve your odds of at least getting a decent paycheck. The world cannot support everyone being a billionaire entrepreneur - and for those who don't have the ideas, or just get them too late, college is a good way to increase the odds of a decent 'consolation prize' to not being a billionaire entrepreneur.

    My guess is that the people promoting this want one thing: cheap, desperate labor, which these dropouts would become, when the majority of them fail to be successful.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:37AM (#42168493)

    The unemployment rate for college grads is half that of non-college grads. Yes, there are these billionaire dropouts, but they are the exception not the rule. Besides, if you're capable of having a billion dollar idea without a college degree, aren't you just as capable of having a billion dollar idea WITH a college degree? Why take the risk? Stay in school and have the best of both worlds.

  • Outliers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Synarus (2782873) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:38AM (#42168501)
    See, but if you went to college you would learn that outliers exist in all populations. One should not make conclusions based on an outlier because they do not provide significant evidence for a result. If instead you look at the vast majority of successful people they have college degrees. That being said there is evidence that certain programs such as vocational or even Ivy League programs have negative effects of certain subsets of the work force. But let's try not to make grandiose claims on faulty evidence.
  • multiple options (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:38AM (#42168503) Homepage

    Skipping college and starting your own blockbuster company is an option, much like winning the lottery is an option, or being born with millionaire parents is an option.

  • Yeah, right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawnn (445279) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:38AM (#42168509)
    And anyone with any athletic ability should just head straight for the pro's. I mean, the odds against becoming a basketball star or the next Zuckerberg can't be that long, right? Right?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:39AM (#42168517)

    Unless the drive you're talking about is the one to your parents mansion, drive gets you more work.

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:41AM (#42168531) Homepage Journal
    where you can learn to write code in 8 to 10 weeks for about $10,000

    Just what we need, more shitty code for someone else to figure out how to work around the problems created by said code.

    Considering the amount of work I spend every day fixing issues or trying to resolve problems due to bad coding from multi-million dollar companies, the last thing we need is more people shoveling out more shit when there is enough shit already out there.

    We don't need the latest and greatest shiny. We need code that works.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:44AM (#42168565)

    Yes, and this should be the last comment, but every white male douche with any kind of spoon up his ass is going to post with some Ayn Randian explanation of how you're wrong and school is a scam foisted upon unsuspecting saps, while he's doing just fine through hard work and good choices, and the world is better for it, thank you very much.

    Emulating Zuckerberg => Silicon Hoop Dreams. Kids, college can be a good investment. So could "uncollege" with MOOCs and/or the IRL startup experience. It fucking depends on you. You should try to objectively evaluate your own situation and ignore pithy counterculture sentiments like "say no to college," because they may not actually apply to you, your potential, your drive, your network of support, or your pocketbook/pursestrings.

  • HR (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:44AM (#42168573)

    Please, do tell of all those Silicon Valley kids who didn't make it. Or the drop-outs who didn't go into CS? How do they get their foot in the door with HR? Those kids who "made it" were very bright to begin with, and they had an opportunity they couldn't pass up by the time they dropped out. What the article is saying is if you drop out, opportunities will come - that's the mentality of every actor trying to "make it" in Hollywood.

    I have a certain set of skill that unfortunately aren't too profitable. I'm not in CS nor in dog-walking (as the article suggests). I don't have the aptitude to be a cop. But my skills require a college degree to get my foot in the door. The problem isn't college, but the HR system. And unfortunately, I'm not as bright as Bill Gates or Zuckerberg (both who went to Harvard) to make up the diploma deficit with talent. I went to a state university and as the world goes, pretty average.

    What annoys me the most of all, are the examples cited in the article. I bet most, if not all, the kids came from an affluent background, where if they fail there would be a financial safety net from the parents. As for me, I saved up and only had one shot. I tried my hand and didn't make it. My life has changed now where I'd have to save up again for a couple of years for another shot in entrepreneurial career success or start a family.

    God, I hate articles like these. It just feeds into every high school kids' fantasies into never going to college and think they can make it big. Opportunity follows talent, not the other way around.

  • Re:Drive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:47AM (#42168599)

    Some people have entrepreneurial drive, some don’t and probably never will. I am one without. I have no interest in starting my own business and no serious career ambition.

    That said I make one hell of a wage slave. I love what I do, and I get shit done.

    I guess my point is that college isn’t so much about learning to "knuckle under and get stuff done" as a required part of the process for us that lack the drive to go out and do our own thing and instead just want to get a job working for someone else and do the thing we are good at.

  • Better inspiration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sunking2 (521698) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:48AM (#42168617)
    Let's look at the vast majority of people who haven't gone to college and be inspired by them. This is like saying that the 2 people who won $250M each in the lottery should inspire us all to spend all of our disposable cash on lottery tickets. Statistically your chances of becoming rich as a professional athlete are probably better than becoming Bill Gates or Zuckerman. Oh, not to mention, both of them were in college, and without it and the resources that were available to them because of that neither would have what they have now.
  • by Manmademan (952354) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:54AM (#42168685)
    Exactly.

    Let's be honest, the skyrocketing cost of college and debt are very real issues, but a $200,000 bill for a bachelor's degree is extremely rare. Your average state university might be a quarter of that, and the cost can go even lower if one starts at a community or junior college and transfers in.

    Now, if you're talking $200,000 for a BA plus the cost of a graduate degree like an MS, M.D, PHD, or JD- that's a completely separate issue as those fields are entirely off limits to those without advanced degrees. "good skills" without the degree won't allow you to practice law, medicine, or teach at a university level.

    The article summary also concentrates on the argument that "learning to code" doesn't take a four year degree, and perhaps it doesn't- but the american workforce consists of far more than just coders, and its very likely that if said coders want to advance up the corporate ladder later in their careers, the lack of a degree is going to stop them dead in their tracks. The article fails to note that the unemployment rate for those with just a high school degree is three times higher than those with a bachelor's degree- 12% vs 4% or so. You can't ignore a statistic like that, and a large part of the reason why is that HR departments and Recruiters are in the habit of asking for a BA by default and will automatically trash a resume that lacks it, despite how good one's skills may be.

    The "skip college' argument is extremely short sighted here, ignores the realities of the hiring landscape, and is really only useful advice for a very, very small percentage of those looking to start businesses.

  • Re:Drive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xaoslaad (590527) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:54AM (#42168689)

    One thing college proves is that you have the drive to stick with something for 4 years and succeed. You learn a whole lot of other valuable lessons and information while doing that too.

    Look, I'm not a fan of rising tuition costs, and the growing requirement for manufacturing jobs, that clearly have no need, requiring a college degree. But we need to stop encouraging people to be stupid and give up while insinuating that they're doing the right thing. They're not. As mentioned most of the drop outs already had lots of contacts, maybe a good idea, and mommy and daddy's money to carry them. Most of us don't.

    Instead, maybe they should get a degree and use their new found skills and insight into the system to help reform it and make it better for everyone. The message certainly should not be to ignore the broken system and subscribe to a life of indifference and complacency. That message is crap served with a steaming side of bullshit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:55AM (#42168705)
    Exactly. It is like saying, "you don't need to get a job and work for a living because you can take those last $5 you have and win the lottery with it." Newsflash for them: most people don't win the lottery. Most people can't just drop out of college and become rich either.
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:57AM (#42168719)

    Most people aren't born with adequate amounts of (1) or (2). That's why they go to college: To get those things.

    This whole "skip college, be your own tech mogul" theory sounds like the thousands of inner-city kids who all think that their ticket out of the ghetto is to become an NBA star. Sure, it works for a couple of dozen of lucky people per year, but for the rest, it's an abysmal failure.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:57AM (#42168729)

    Not only did they have money in their background but there was a lot of luck involved as well.

    The other thing many forget about is how many "failures" there are and where you wind up when that happens. If it was so easy we would all be billionaires because there are a lot more "dropouts" that are trying to start a business and make their million (now it needs to be a billion). The difference of starting a company after getting a degree is that you have the degree if the start up fails.

    If you are trying to justify the cost and time then that is a different story versus these feel good articles that talk about how good it is to be an entrepreneur. It actually sucks unless you are eventually successful. Having worked in a number of start ups I can say that it is a royal pain and it is not always something you want to put on your resume. And these were after I had a degree.

  • by impossiblefork (978205) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:00AM (#42168767)
    I think that you're very wrong here.

    Take me for an example. I'm a computer scientist who have also studied financial mathematics (mostly focusing on the problem of pricing derivatives). I probably have at least technical skill (even if one can't very easily be sure of that, trying to assess it oneself). However, until I finish my thesis and graduate I definitely won't have anything but (perhaps glorified) internships.

    The degree really matters. Especially if you want to work in anything in which your professional decisions have consequences for people- like in finance, engineering, medicine, aerospace, or almost anything interesting or technical.
  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:03AM (#42168805) Homepage

    The vast majority of jobs at https://www.facebook.com/careers/ [facebook.com] require a BA or BS degree. I'm sure the job requirements on the other "drop-out companies" are pretty much the same.

    Most entepreneurs fail. Most of those wannabe billionaire dropouts are now few-thousand-aire low-level employees.

    Also; how many of those dropouts dropped out BEFORE there business was succesful?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:05AM (#42168817)
    Need? No. Improves the odds of getting past HR? Yes.
  • Cost vs Value... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bayankaran (446245) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:05AM (#42168821) Homepage
    There are two issues - 'value of college' and 'cost of college'.

    As many other posters have eloquently put, the value of college for most of us is priceless. Very few of us have the entrepreneurial spirit. For every successful entrepreneur or 'self made millionaire', there are thousands who did not make the cut. In a winner takes all society, we forget the majority and we focus on the minority and aspire to be a part of that rarefied circle. This is at best wishful thinking, and at worst will have disastrous consequences to ones morale, prospects, motivation and energy. This is what the guy who says "in Silicon Valley, being a drop out is a badge of honour" fails to notice.

    The actual issue is 'cost of college'. There is no reason - absolutely no reason - for a four year degree to cost more than $20 or $30K without scholarship or stipends. The classic American aphorism "follow the money" should be applied to find out "why college costs a bomb"? You will end up in the door steps of American government, lending agencies, universities becoming a profit centre and other vested interests.

    Americans should fight "cost of college education", not "value of college education".
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:07AM (#42168839) Homepage Journal
    I agree a GREAT deal with what you said....but it mostly applies to people that have a little resume experience under their belt already.

    If you're going to work to start your own business, no, you don't need a college degree.

    However, for most "real" jobs, starting out....especially in tech, but most any field I know of, if you don't have at least a bachelors degree in something, your resume won't even be evaluated. Sad but true.

    Today, the bachelors resume is what a few decades ago, a HS diploma was....it is the first weed out requirement for most any job.

    There are exceptions to the rule, but I posit in the real world out there today, very few exceptions. A college degree and contacts are your best two weapons to get your foot in the door.

    But once in that interview....and going foward with the job, I can tell you that often great people skills will put you ahead of people that are strictly tech skills.

    You still see the stereotype of tech types being somewhat introverted and uncomfortable even holding non-formal conversations with their co-workers and bosses. If you have a good personality, gift of gab, and enough intelligence to know most of what your doing, that will take you a LONG way in your professional career.

  • gah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:09AM (#42168867)

    Basing a decision not to get a degree on outliers like Zuckerberg and Gates is pretty dumb. Some thoughts:

    1. People who are highly successful sans-degree would likely also be highly successful with a degree. The lack of a degree did not juice their success; they succeeded despite a lack of credentials.

    2. Choosing not to get a degree creates a much crappier "worst case" compared to getting a degree (a. from a reputable institution, b. in a marketable field and c. with decent grades). Many more non-college-graduates experience this worst case than wind up like Zuckerberg.

    3. College needn't cost $200,000. Especially if you're the sort of high-achieving person who is likely to be successful even without a degree. If you're paying $200,000 for a degree you're most likely attending a private university and have wealthy parents. My household earns more than 85% of households; my kid would pay $15k/year to attend Harvard. Paying full price at a top 25 public in-state university would run $10k/year. Toss on a national merit scholarship and we're looking at ~$5k/year. Depending on the field of study that could be earned back via paid co-ops during the final two years.

  • by BVis (267028) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:10AM (#42168871)

    Let's be honest, the skyrocketing cost of college and debt are very real issues, but a $200,000 bill for a bachelor's degree is extremely rare. Your average state university might be a quarter of that, and the cost can go even lower if one starts at a community or junior college and transfers in.

    The state university I graduated from is now close to $25,000 / year. For IN-STATE residents. And that doesn't include books or any specific lab fees. Now, I might be a product of public higher education, but my math says 4 years of that is $100,000, which is significantly more than a quarter of $200,000. (If you're out-of-state, it's closer to $37,000 per year.) For a degree that is more of a stain on your resume than an asset, I might add. After all, if you had any brains, you wouldn't have had to go to that aggie school out there.

    You can't ignore a statistic like that, and a large part of the reason why is that HR departments and Recruiters are in the habit of asking for a BA by default and will automatically trash a resume that lacks it, despite how good one's skills may be.

    Skills don't enter that equation at all. Introducing the concept of 'skills' divorced from a degree introduces thought into the equation. Thinking is hard. And, since HR is usually staffed by morons, or so overworked that they aren't physically able to evaluate each resume they receive, they use the lack of degree as a filter to narrow things down.

    Anyway, companies don't really care about your skills or education. They look for weaknesses that they can exploit when they're evaluating someone for a job. By exploiting the weaknesses (like, for example, if someone has a family to feed and/or provide health insurance for) they can keep salaries down, which improves the bottom line. It's not about your skills (which nobody but your hiring manager gives a shit about, and that's the reason why they rarely have input in the hiring decision - they want 'good', not 'cheap'), it's about how cheaply they can get you.

  • smell a rat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:12AM (#42168887) Homepage Journal

    You don't need college if you're going to compete with $1/hr third world labor. You just need the ability to work 16 hours a day and not ask questions.

    You don't need college, son, but we've got a dormitory waiting for you.

    The past year, I've been reading a lot of these "You don't need college" stories, mostly in right-wing and pro-corporate media. I don't think it's coincidental.

    Nobody is telling Mitt Romney's kid that he doesn't need college, even though (guess what) he REALLY doesn't need college. In fact, it's one of the trending memes of 2012: "You fucking proles don't need college because there are pictures of cheeseburgers on the cash register buttons."

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:13AM (#42168905)

    The become a tech billionaire thing is exactly like pro sports. Occasionally someone makes it big but the vast majority of people who try are going to end up disappointed, 30, and with nothing to fall back on.

    Plus low-skill tech is a maturing industry. Zuckerberg and the app millionaires got in at the beginning. Normally in tech you need a lot more knowledge than they have (or a lot of money, or both). Jobs was a sales genius, backed up by an electronics genius and again, lucky and in the right place at the right time.

  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:16AM (#42168943) Homepage

    First of all, most of those "billionaire dropouts" were dropouts from Ivy League schools with plenty of startup money from daddy already at their disposal, not dipshits coming out of no-name-high-school. Secondly, most of them only left college when they already had contacts and solid plans (and financing) in place for starting their own businesses. They didn't need degrees because they were going to be hiring *themselves*, not having to worry about some HR department that will toss any non-degree applicants right into the trash.

    For most of the non-rich, non-Ivy League assholes like the rest of us--we still need a college degree if we're going to get beyond the front door to any stable job. We're not Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.

    Your first point is important. Going to college (particularly a well-networked one like Harvard) and dropping out is not the same as never attending. The reason is your second point. You can get what you need from a college without getting a diploma. It is much less likely you'll get what you need (or even know what you can get) if you never attend. It's the old "how do you know you won't like like/need it if you've never tried it?"

    To your last point, a kid saying 'I don't need college, look at Zuckerberg,' is kinda like me saying, 'I don't need to work, look at the lady who just won millions playing the lottery.' You may say, the Zuckerbergs of the world are in control of their destiny, the lottery winners rely on luck. I'll say, there are more lottery winners who've won enough to live off the rest of their life (if managed properly) than there are billionaire drop outs.

  • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:25AM (#42169059)

    Yep. If you drop out with your cash-cow already moo-ving (sorry, had too)... You are taking a huge risk, and just as likely to end up on the street or in your parents basement.

    A college degree isn't a surefire way to become rich, or even get a job, but it does improve your odds of at least getting a decent paycheck. The world cannot support everyone being a billionaire entrepreneur - and for those who don't have the ideas, or just get them too late, college is a good way to increase the odds of a decent 'consolation prize' to not being a billionaire entrepreneur.

    My guess is that the people promoting this want one thing: cheap, desperate labor, which these dropouts would become, when the majority of them fail to be successful.

    A college degree isn't a sure fire way to get rich but it is rather difficult to get rich in the tech industry without people that have a college degree or some other form of higher education. I am really tired of people trash talking college education and then pointing at a selection of cherry-picked individuals like Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, Dell, Jobs etc. as if they somehow constitute conclusive proof of the fact that we can disband our Universities. Now it may very well be that you don't need to be college educated to found a start-up that grows into a multi billion dollar high-tech megacorp but I wonder how far any of these people would have gotten without people that have a college degree? Does Dell rely upon self-educated people to design and manufacture components for their computers? Does Microsoft / Apple software get written by people who learned to program from "Teach your self in 7 days" guides (Ok, sometimes I wonder about those last two but but I happen to know what kind of people work for these two companies and trust me they are mostly educated pros). I think that the likes of Gates, Zuckerberg, Dell, Jobs were just as lucky as they were 'mega talented visionary dropouts' and that applies particularly to the first two. I will give Michael Dell credit for having an natural talent and feel for logistics, and Jobs, whatever else you may think of him, had an uncanny nose for products with great potential (the whole iPod/Phone/Pad line) as well as companies with great potential, like Pixar for example. People thought Jobs was nuts when he bought Pixar.

  • by nebosuke (1012041) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:25AM (#42169061)

    I went to Harvard and dropped out after my first year not due to having a great startup idea, but having to deal with family issues. I'm also not a trust-fund baby, as neither of my parents has a college degree, my mom's family business was destroyed by a natural distaster when I was a small kid, and my dad has always been a blue-collar worker in a low-paid line of work. My family qualified for food stamps and subsidised lunches but my parents wouldn't take either (and they're dyed-in-the-wool liberal democrats--imagine that). I grew up paying for my own school supplies, field trips, etc., from the money I made selling crops that I grew personally--my dad funded my initial startup in terms of seedstock and about $80 of fertilizer in lieu of allowance for working on the farm.

    I started my post-dropout career at a $11/hr job technically classified as temporary field labor. There I helped my boss write a field data collection/productivity app on what was the closest thing to a hand-held tablet (the 2004-version of a CF-07 from Panasonic).

    Second move was to a different company as a temp for $20/hr--also still considered field labor but I was expected to be able to operate a gps unit. There I set up their entire GIS system and surrounding business processes from scratch.

    Several years later and I'm now in a full-time position (which had been advertised as "MBA + X years experience required") with that second company managing planning for regional operations and developing strategy and processes for a global multi-9-figure operations unit. Working on a degree through University of Phoenix just to get the piece of paper--but even when I do it'll be useless because I'm already at a level that requires at least a masters per formal requirements.

    In short, it can be done. That being said, HR fought my initial hire as a full-time employee, and one person even made it her personal mission to limit my promotions and pay and to try to exclude me from consideration for potential promotions. The only reason I advanced the way I did was because my managers personally and specifically fought HR on my behalf. If I had the MBA and hadn't had that resistance from HR I'd be paid double what I'm paid today at the very least.

    Here's my advice. If you are willing to start at the bottom, and earn recognition via tangible accomplishments, you can make a career in corporate America without a degree. It will require that you not only outperform your credentialed peers by orders of magnitude, but also build very strong professional relationships on the business management side such that your manager+3 will be willing to boot stomp HR on your behalf. You will in all likelihood still be undercompensated unless you are willing to jump ship and objectively prove your desirability as demonstrated by other companies headhunting you. As that is largely opposed to developing strong relationships with your managers, this is a delicate balancing act. If you are willing and able to do the same while actually having a degree you will earn much more $ at almost any large corporation . Also, do not kid yourself--people actually learn stuff in college, so you have to be willing to actively self-educate in order to be competitive.

    If you want to start your own business in an industry that is not heavily credential-sensitive, and you have a capitlization plan that does not involve stuffy bankers and conservative investors, and feel that you can spare 4 - 6 years gaining experience, I absolutely recommend jumping in to industry and reading Drucker, Kaplan and Norton, etc. on your own as opposed to getting a degree. 4 - 6 years in a real career will be much more valuable than a degree once you're your own boss.

    If you will "only" be a highly competent and consistent performer looking for a decent, stable job, GET A DEGREE.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:26AM (#42169071)

    *this* so much!!!!

    Lets look at it by the numbers.

    There are 320+ million people in the US. Of those about ~1000 of them will 'hit it big in business'. That is about .000003%. Of that ~1000 or so people a small percentage 'dropped out'.

    So we are look at anomalies and saying 'this is the way to do it'?

    Bill Gates/Zuckerberg dropped out because their business was taking too much of their time to finish. You can 100% bet if they had failed they would have went back and finished.

    They were already driven. They had already started something. To say 'dont go at all' is silly. For example Zuckerberg would not have even started facebook if he had not gone. Same for Gates.

    I have over the years met maybe 2-3 people who are driven enough to start their own business in that way. I have met hundreds who start them to just 'make money' or dodge taxes in some way.

    You also have to have passion about what you are doing. They love making money and screwing someone out of a buck. It takes a certain mindset that most people I have met do not have. Oh sure people like having money (because it buys them things). These guys like just having money and there is never enough.

    They are the guys who in highscool is selling pencils, pens, paper, and snacks out of his locker to make some money. Not your average schmo who just wants to graduate and get the hell out of there. He sees an opportunity not a chore. Everyone is a possible customer who will give them money.

  • by vlm (69642) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:28AM (#42169093)

    The become a tech billionaire thing is exactly like pro sports. Occasionally someone makes it big but the vast majority of people who try are going to end up disappointed, 30, and with nothing to fall back on.

    Humorously, you've just described the "higher ed industrial complex", although you forgot to mention due to explosive growth in tuition its now horrifically expensive compared to the expense of becoming a wanna be basketball star.

    There's nothing wrong with higher ed, other than costing too much. I like that my coffee barista and waitress both have 4-year degrees. Education gives life meaning, it gives you a lifetime of interesting things to think about, if you bother to pay attention, anyway. The problem with my barista and waitress having 4 year diplomas is they paid WAY too much money and thought they were getting middle class job training, when all they got was debt and an education and no job. If only they could have paid $200/semester like my parents paid for personal enrichment, that would be a perfectly good situation..

  • Re:Yeah, right. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:30AM (#42169113) Homepage Journal

    Of course, we should be talking about the cost of an education. College tuition is seriously overpriced but instead everyone harps on student loans. And the government backing those loans simply adds fuel to the fire, creating a massive bubble.

    Student loan debt problems are just evidence that fiscal irresponsibility starts young in this country. I'm not sure who we should blame for that, it doesn't seem right to blame the kids... kids are supposed to be stupid. But whatever the reason is for this widespread foolishness, it's foolishness. Just because someone will loan you far more money than you can pay back doesn't mean you should borrow it. Government backing of student loans is clearly a piece of the problem; lenders would be far more cautious in the amounts they loan without that assurance.

    None of this has anything to do with the "cost of education", however. High tuitions are the result of the foolishness, not the cause. If students (or their parents, or advisors, or lenders, or...) weren't being stupid, they'd look at the high tuitions of the big schools and realize that's a bad idea. They'd go to smaller state colleges, or even to community colleges and then transfer. They'd work summer jobs, and part-time during school to help pay for it. The result would be downward pressure on tuitions where there currently is none. Big, expensive schools would see declining enrollment rates and have to reduce prices, which would require them to economize and become more efficient.

    As long as students are willing to pay whatever the schools ask, and as long as there are government backed avenues to rack up whatever levels of debt are required to cover those bills, it'll just keep getting worse.

    (My own experience: I went to a small four-year state university near my home so I could live with my parents, worked a part-time job -- writing code -- kept my grades very high so I could compete for academic tuition waivers and joined the Air Force Reserve to get GI Bill money. The GI Bill + tuition waivers more than covered the cost of school, and the part-time job made my car payments, bought gas, etc. I graduated with two BS degrees, some good work experience and not only no debt, but some money in the bank. It's really not that hard to get an education without a pile of debt, it just requires some hard work and some compromises.)

  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:31AM (#42169119)

    " It fucking depends on you."

    That's about the size of it. College is great for some people, military is better for others, entrepreneurship for others, and just getting an entry-level job out of high school for others still. There's no "right path" for everyone. College will provide more opportunities for the vast majority of people (assuming they think about the school and degree they choose before committing), but no, it's not right for everyone. I've seen many people flounder and fail with a college degree, I've seen many people succeed without one and I've seen quite a few put off college until their 30's or later when they've already established themselves in their field of choice (an option many people overlook but it certainly valid).

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:34AM (#42169161)

    Yes, there are a lot of examples of people becoming successful without a degree, but there is MORE examples of people living on the streets because they don't have a diploma and cannot find work, or are working their asses off just to barely scrape by.

    To say that college is completely a waste of time and money is just plain irresponsible. There are far more career paths that must begin with a diploma then those that can start by being self taught. Even in software development just because you can code doesn't mean you are good at it, and there are far more skills learned in school then just how to code, such as better problem solving skills, social and organizational skills.

    College is a 4 years sacrifice that prepares you for a 40 year career.

    A generation of kids not going to school because of schmucks like this telling them they don't need a diploma to get a job will be the last nail in the coffin that is the decline of the USA into a 3rd world country. An entire generation of kids thinking they can get rich quick without education and instead saturating the welfare system and social assistance programs will bankrupt the government and force more American companies to use outsourcing solutions.

  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:37AM (#42169191)

    I've seen a few different numbers for "average loans for a Bachelor's degree", but they're pretty much all in the $23-$27k range, which isn't too bad for a ten year loan. The huge six figure numbers are usually the result of bad financial decisions such as repeated deferments, etc. I graduated with about $24000 in loans at the beginning of 2010. As of now, I have $3800 remaining in spite of being paid far below industry average for this area and having an nice townhouse for nearly double the rent of a basic apartment. The main problem most people have is a complete lack of money management. We have a Wii and a handful of games. We subscribe to Netflix but don't have cable and our 32" TV is plenty big enough. Most people make plenty of money to handle student loans, they just handle it poorly. Of course, there are some truly useless degrees out there that aren't worth it (I'm looking at most of you people with a BA) - I just wish a guidance counselor would have the balls to tell students "Are you sure that's the degree you want? It won't net you any more money than you'll make without it"

  • by Zephyn (415698) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:48AM (#42169353)

    Now that you mention it, people were saying the college degree was a waste of time in the mid-to-late 90s as well, although tech jobs were so plentiful then that they actually were hiring people right out of high school.

    Then when the bubble burst, the lucky ones found themselves in a dead end job with no degree. Most of them didn't get to keep the job.

  • by BlackSnake112 (912158) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:53AM (#42169423)

    The cherry picking can also be attributed to the times. Remove Zuckerberg, the rest started in the 1970s. Dell was probable the 1980s. Do you think today that if Jobs or Gates were an 18 years old they would have made the same choices? Back then there were no big hardware of software companies. Computers were a new thing. For Jobs and Gates to succeed today, they would need another new thing.

  • by stranger_to_himself (1132241) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:53AM (#42169425) Journal

    I agree that it would be much more sensible and fair if you were always judged by what you know and not by what title you have, but unfortunately that is not always the case.

    I'd also like to judge people on their ability to think, to listen to others, research existing knowledge, to appraise and weight up ideas, and this is a large part of what college teaches. This goes beyond 'knowing stuff' and 'people skills' (although these are undoubtedly important).

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:55AM (#42169473)

    It just takes effort, drive, and a willingness to work for what you want.

    Thought about using modpoints, decided to pick up on this point instead, just because it's a common and very misleading argument.

    Yes, step one to success is effort and drive, as well as having a vision of what you want to achieve. But that's just step one. To take the NBA example for inner city kids: they all believe that all it takes is hard work and determination. Little do they know that millions of others also have that. It also takes athleticism - or at least height - fine motor control and good hand-eye coordination. Actually, to play in the NBA, it takes exceptional levels of at least one of these. If all you have is effort and drive, you will be a side note in your high school's hall of fame. And on top of that, you need luck: don't blow your ACL in high school and get bad care for it. Don't get hit by a bus. Don't be forced to pick of a McDonald's job because you need to support your family in high school. And don't be subject to chronic injuries, for whatever genetic/random reason. See Greg Oden as the poster child for how that can kill your NBA career.

    Same thing in tech. If you don't have the brains and ability to absorb code and technical documentation all day long, all your drive and vision won't help. If you can't schmooze people, forget about leading a business. And that's why I think that people like Thiel are well-intentioned, but doing much more harm than good. They're the equivalent of the basketball clinics, but instead of just saying "here, you'll be a better basketball player if you pay us", they're saying "we'll make you an NBA star".

    In short: not everyone can be a business mogul, and there's nothing wrong with it. We need to stop telling people that a) they will be if they work hard enough, and b) they're not a business mogul only because they're lazy. Neither of those statements are true, and they're behind a good chunk of the problems the US is facing.

    That said....

    Electricians, plumbers, welders, mechanics... the world needs more of these. They make more than most college graduates, after 4 years of getting paid instead of paying to learn a craft.

    More people should take this to heart. There's nothing wrong with being a blue-collar worker. Some of those jobs pay very well. Notice though: some of them do. You can pull down $150k as a welder, but it's hard, technical work that you won't be doing forever.

  • by locketine (1101453) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:05PM (#42169629)

    There are cheap but excellent schools out there. I paid 12k/year (all-inclusive) for an engineering degree that paid for itself in just one year. The people with all this debt aren't good higher education shoppers, both in terms of school selection but also degree selection. Or maybe they just weren't cut out for getting one of the degrees that actually pays off.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:05PM (#42169639) Homepage

    I'm making more money than all of my 4-year degree friends because I decided long ago to educate myself in a field that's likely to GROW...

    And this is the problem right here. A college education is not a four year technical school. If the only thing you go to college for is to get trained in a field where you make money, by all means don't bother.

    A college education is an investment in becoming an educated human being trained in disciplined critical thinking and broadly knowledgeable about the world. It is not job training. While being an educated human being should help your job prospects, if that is all you focus on you have missed the point.

    But it may be that, in turning our economy over to the aristocrats, the "1%", we have created a situation where educated human beings are no longer in demand in the job market.

    And it's certainly the case that in reducing government support of education, we have not only fantastically increased student debt and transferred yet more wealth to the capitialist class, but have made education less available -- thus decreasing the proles understanding of how they're being shafted by the aristocrats.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:13PM (#42169717)

    and this is a large part of what college teaches.

    As an employer, I only wish that were true. I find myself far more amazed by people who self-educated than people who put themselves through college and received crushing debts in return.

    Remember, information and education aren't restricted to formal education environments.

  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:16PM (#42169751)

    In order to drop out of Harvard or Princeton and start your own (hugely) successful company, you first have to get accepted to, attend, and pay for the aforementioned schools. You just might already have a leg up on the majority of potential entrepreneurial dropouts.

  • by fredprado (2569351) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:19PM (#42169783)
    Again, depends on what you are meant to do. Listening to others is some fields is a liability instead of an asset. The problem of trying to standardize requirements throughout tasks is that you end with a lot of generalists that can't really perform adequately the tasks they are attributed with. For many projects I would rather have a single anti-social savant programmer than a handful of sociable mediocre ones, for example.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:20PM (#42169789)

    exactly. what I've noticed from my many friends without college degrees or any education above high school is that they don't like to hear or discuss things. They've fixated on ideas and concepts and that is it. And then they tend to lack critical thinking when issues come up. In general, any secondary education seems to expose people to many different ideas and concepts and it builds critical thinking methods and processes many would not ever get without it.

    Not everyone needs a secondary education but it sure helps many. And then there's the lottery.

  • by The Gray Adder (2786897) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:27PM (#42169879)
    I can pretty much guarantee you that zero people get past HR at any of the companies listed in the parent article without a BS. So yeah, you pretty much need a college degree.
  • by strikethree (811449) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:33PM (#42169977) Journal

    1) Technical Skills - The skills actually needed to do your job. Essential.

    Irrelevant. Lots of morons getting paid well that can't do shit. Lots of highly skilled folks underemployed.

    2) People Skills - The skills to actually talk to people and convince them that you're not an idiot. Convincing people that you're worth the time and the money is the 2nd most important skill you can have.

    Absolutely; however, if you never get the chance to talk to someone, does it really matter?

    I am in a similar position to you: No degree and making much more than most of my "friends" who did get a four year degree. Let's be real here, there was a large chunk of luck involved to even get where we are regardless of the primary two skills that you listed.

  • by Niris (1443675) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:36PM (#42170009)
    What insanely overpriced school is that? Here in California, a State university tuition is 3400 a semester after our most recent increase. At community college I was paying about 500 a semester. After graduating this semester, I'll have managed to pull off only paying 25k out of pocket for 5 years on a CSCI degree with a math minor.
  • by strikethree (811449) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:39PM (#42170049) Journal

    I'd also like to judge people on their ability to think, to listen to others, research existing knowledge, to appraise and weight up ideas, and this is a large part of what college teaches.

    It would be nice if having a college degree was any sort of indicator towards possessing those qualities. Just because a person made it through college and has been exposed (in theory) to those things, it does NOT mean that they actually have any of those qualities.

  • by buddyglass (925859) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:43PM (#42170097)
    FWIW I've been in "discuss the candidate" meetings where the powers that be decided not to hire a guy not because he didn't have a degree, but because he didn't have the right degree. And he was already working in the field and interviewed fairly well. I suspect that if he lacked a degree altogether he wouldn't even have made it to the interview phase. Could someone without a degree do the job he was interviewing for? Most definitely. But signalling matters. The trend may be that its importance is decreasing, but plenty of employers still "care" about degrees that (IMO) it's worth getting one, if only to increase the "surface area" of employers who'll consider you.
  • by slew (2918) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:48PM (#42170179)

    Tell that first mover story to Altair, Compuserver, Altavista, Netscape, AOL, Friendster, Myspace....

    There have been many studies in many industries that show that there isn't any inherent first mover advantage. In fact, there is more advantange in being a fast-follower (market is already evident, finding/stealing customers, raising money and hiring good people is easier).

    The general average over all industries for first movers that caputured more than 50% pre-mass-market share is a 60% failure rate (50% for tech, 70% for others). The long-term first mover mass market share averaged a mere 5% (6% for tech). And these studies don't count the failure rate for those first movers that don't even reach the success level to capture more than 50% pre-mass-market share, or those that failed because the mass market didn't materialize.

    Ideas are a dime a dozen, the ability to execute those ideas are the keys to success... Maybe you don't need college to develop the abilites to execute those ideas (and I don't just mean writing code, you have to run a business, raise money, etc.) that but don't throw away college just to be a first mover... The odds aren't necessarily with you.

    On the other hand, if you think you can out-smart someone that currently has something going in a market, perhaps that's something to think about chasing quickly... That's the real story behind people like Bill Gates. There were many incumbents in that OS market, before Microsoft stepped in. Just tell that Bill Gates first mover story to Gary Kildall (and his predecessors)...

  • by skids (119237) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:01PM (#42170323) Homepage

    Many colleges are taking seriously the gap (both the perceived one and the real one) that has emerged between curriculum and the needs of employers, balancing it with the need for well-rounded education/experience both inside and outside of the workplace, and engaging in initiatives to adapt their programs. In fact, where I work it is the Big Thing(TM) being pushed from the top.

    I won't go so far as to call TFA out as having drunk the Trump cool-aid, I'd just point out that *which* college matters a lot too. There are those that evolve, and those that are behind the curve. It's important for both employers and enrollees to get a feel for which is which.

  • by Jmc23 (2353706) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:07PM (#42170387) Journal
    Or maybe they think the present and doing something they enjoy is much more important than a dollar figure in the future?
  • by Synerg1y (2169962) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:11PM (#42170433)
    These "resume scanner" things are why you'll never find the best and brightest in corp. america. And those that do wind up there, quickly realize their folly. Also, I don't know how to destroy this stereotype myself, but HR are just people folks, they aren't smarter, more superior, or better than anybody, though a lot of those little f'ers act like they are because of how much personal info they're exposed to. A few things to remember here:
    I hear HR lady disclosing my SSN randomly, she loses job, I get big settlement.
    They can't do anything without permission from higher ups that's not in their limited job scope.
    It doesn't require much education to work in HR.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:12PM (#42170449)

    Listening to others is some fields is a liability instead of an asset.

    No, it is not. The ability to listening to others is never a liability. You seem to be confusing "never makes a decision without polling the public, and goes whichever way the wind blows," with "actively seeking out and understanding other peoples' perspectives and input."

    There is NO 'anti-social savant programmer' who is better at his job because of his inability to listen to other people. If he functions at a high level, it is because he is smart enough to function at a high level *despite* his handicap, not *because of* his handicap.

  • by adonoman (624929) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:23PM (#42170583)

    It's worse than pro-sports. In pro-sports, at least, there are amateur leagues in place that do a pretty good job at identifying and developing the best of the best. There's no doubt that Gates and Zuckerberg are talented, but they're talented in the way that pro basketball players were talented in the 1940s. When your selection pool starts out by excluding 99%+ of the population due to lack of wealth or connections, you severly limit the number of superstars you'll be able to find.

  • by adonoman (624929) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:31PM (#42170683)
    Without that degree, or some other paper, you aren't "qualified" for shit as far as HR is concerned. There are 50 other people who do have the certification they want. Unless you (or, more likely, your parents) have good connections you don't get past that filter. The best bet is to work at both education and connections at the same time.
  • by Rakarra (112805) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:10PM (#42171077)

    Listening to others is sometimes a hindrance and a sign of indecisiveness.

    Doing what others tell you to do and being unable to formulate and defend your own opinions and decisions is a hindrance and a sign of indecisiveness. Listening is not. Those are not the same thing.

  • by malkavian (9512) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:10PM (#42171081) Homepage

    No, it's definitely not. Opinions have information. The sign of someone who really knows what they're on about is the person who listens, sifts, and then makes a decision based on that. Listening doesn't mean rule by committee; it just means you're acting with all the information you can get, which leads to a more informed choice.
    The person that "knows" what to do can get it disastrously wrong, and frequently does.

  • by s73v3r (963317) <s73v3r.gmail@com> on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:30PM (#42171327)

    Listening to others is some fields is a liability instead of an asset.

    There is absolutely no field where this is true. If you don't have the comprehension to know what to do with what you listened to, that's a different problem.

  • by PRMan (959735) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:10PM (#42171873)
    Because we've hired ITT/devry/UofP people in the past... When you advertise your college to losers in the middle of the night, you end up with a college full of losers.
  • by n7ytd (230708) on Monday December 03, 2012 @04:41PM (#42172717)

    and this is a large part of what college teaches.

    As an employer, I only wish that were true. I find myself far more amazed by people who self-educated than people who put themselves through college and received crushing debts in return.

    Remember, information and education aren't restricted to formal education environments.

    So is the point of the "college experience" to produce a well-rounded, educated individual, or a worker bee well-suited to what an employer is looking for. A college education used to be the former, and only the wealthy could afford that luxury.

    What I'm hearing from the article and this thread is: "people who get a 4-year degree to become software jockeys are stupid, because they should have had the initiative to self-teach."

    Some people who go to college later decide that they would rather spend their time developing software, which they happen to be passionate about and rather good at. It is not surprising that those people are successful at doing what they enjoy and are passionate about, but that doesn't mean that everyone else who stayed in college is a chump.

  • Um, yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Safety Cap (253500) on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:06PM (#42172955) Homepage Journal

    I put myself through college and ended up with ZERO debt. Yes, it was a pain and I ate a hell of a lot of ramen (and oranges, to prevent scurvy), but I not only got my degree, but gained much knowledge in fields outside of my major, which have surprisingly proven to be more valuable than my degree.

    In my view, a degree in and of itself means nothing, except that hopefully a person is more well-rounded than some "self-made" person who has a very narrow vision of the world. Like unvaccinated people, people without lateral knowledge are bad for society. Without knowledge of history, sociology, literature, engineering, art, music, science, foreign languages, etc., those people will be little more than idiot-savants.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]

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