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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 systemidx (2708649) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:36AM (#42168473)
    You don't need a college degree if you have these two things:

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

    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 not things like art history, where you go to school just to teach other kids, so they can teach other kids, and so on) and because I can talk to people and have them see me as an asset and not a potential liability.
  • by jonnythan (79727) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:37AM (#42168495) Homepage

    This comes from the same mentality as people who skip vaccinating their children: we have a generation who grew up taking things for granted, so they feel free to reject the very things that gave them that privilege. Grow up without being surrounded by disease, and it feels safe to throw away vaccines. Grow up taking an educated populace for granted, and it feels safe to throw away college.

    It's also the same mentality that leads people to stop taking medications. I've seen so many people with seizure disorders stop taking their pills after a time because they don't have seizures anymore..... then immediately have seizures again. I know one person that died as a result of this.

    As a person who has gone to college, dropped out, and is now going back, I understand the value of the education and experience. It's not for everyone, but it really does have immense value. Very few people have the disposition and dedication to focus themselves and spend their time doing something better than college - most who drop out or don't go will spend their time doing something far less valuable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:40AM (#42168519)

    Up here in Canuckistan, 'college' means Community College. Community Colleges are mandated (in Ontario at least) to serve the local job market. That means that if there aren't jobs in a particular field, there should not be a college program.

    In other words, if you attend a community college, you have a very good chance of getting a job. Some programs have 100% job placement year after year. The statistics are available, you can check the graduate placement and starting salaries before you enrol.

    In my particular program, we often get university graduates who can't get jobs. Community Colleges don't get nearly enough respect.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:44AM (#42168569) Journal

    Students who want to avoid $200,000 in student-loan debt

    Yeah, I don't know how this happens. I mean, I know how it happens ... you go to a school on the East Coast so you have the name on your resume. I went to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities for four years and came out with $20,000 in loans (worked three jobs in college). A coworker's cousin just graduated from George Washington in DC and came out with $250,000 in loans. Tuition rates at the University of Minnesota [umn.edu] versus tuition rates at GWU [gwu.edu] (note that those are per credit hour! and they don't give you every credit over 13 free like they do at the U of MN).

    Frankly, I think this article should be titled, "skip the overly expensive college because you'll get a more than adequate education somewhere else." Okay so I have to prove myself in an interview over someone from GWU. Challenge accepted.

    And if everyone drops out of college to start their own thing, who are you going to be hiring when your startup needs to transition to a medium to large company? Other dropouts whose ideas were crap. Are you sure you want to advocate this to be a more widespread phenomenon?

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

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:48AM (#42168615)

    It's amusing that people would advocate this when statistics show that college graduates not only face a lower unemployment rate, but they average higher incomes as well.

      As others have pointed out, you'll notice that the successful entrepreneurs who dropped out either went to ivy league schools or had wealthy parents. Even if they had to scrape for their own money, their backgrounds conferred instant confidence in their abilities amongst anyone they approached. One of the most important aspects of a successful business, contacts, where there from the start.

    A second important factor here is that these guys were already actively engaged in whatever lead to their success. They would have been successful just the same had they completed college because the drive was already there. These aren't random students more interested in partying than schoolwork. But sure, let's perpetuate the idea that we don't need college so that we end up with an even bigger group of resentful individuals resentful for not having been multimillionaires.

    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. Certainly, we should be looking at trade schools, but I think the real problem in the US is perception. Most people think trade schools are beneath them. But when you've got MBA's sucking everyone else dry in a race to bottom, who can blame them?

  • a better idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lluc (703772) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:49AM (#42168629)
    Wait! I have a better idea to avoid $200K of loans. Don't go to an overpriced private school; do go to a good state school. Get a major in a technical area where you can work on internships or co-op often to cover a good portion of your tuition. Get an automatic job offer when you graduate from your co-op / internship company.
  • by halltk1983 (855209) <halltk1983@yahoo.com> on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:57AM (#42168733) Homepage Journal
    Saddling people with soul-crushing debt to pay for an education is a great way to make them desperate. Myself, I went into IT, where my skills and abilities, earned me my current job (and the last 4). They then paid to get me a couple certs. They also pay me well above the median household income, and allow me to work from home, all because I was able to demonstrate my ability. The key is to find a field you don't mind working in that needs workers. 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. The ideal that you're espousing, that anyone that doesn't pay for a degree or have rich parents is doomed to fail is complete bollocks. It just takes effort, drive, and a willingness to work for what you want.
  • by fufufang (2603203) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:12AM (#42168891)

    We're not Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.

    I don't think Bill Gates used his family money to start up the company. However Bill Gates was (possibly still is) extremely talented.

    If you read Idea Man[1] by Paul Allen, Bill Gates sneaked around WSU's computer lab with Paul Allen, fixing PhD students' code. That's before Bill Gates went to Harvard to study a degree in law. If you think you are as capable as Bill Gates, feel free to drop out.

    I happen to think that the law degree might have helped Bill Gates in running his company.

    http://www.amazon.com/Idea-Man-Memoir-Cofounder-Microsoft/dp/1591845378 [amazon.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:20AM (#42168993)

    In the mid-90's EDS had a reputation for hiring summer interns that were sophomores or juniors in comp sci and related fields, and then offering them full time in the fall if they didn't go back to school. Money that seemed decent to a college student.

    After a few years, you find you're stuck in a dead end job with no degree and no raises. Sucker.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:20AM (#42168999) Journal

    The big-name schools do provide a few benefits: 1. They have more financial aid money available, so there's a decent chance that if you get into, say, Yale, you won't pay even close to the full price. They may even have special programs specifically to help people like you if you're from a historically disadvantaged background (e.g. a scholarship fund set up 50 years ago dedicated to educating people called at the time "Negros").

    2. The future movers and shakers are your classmates. If you want friends in high places for cozy patronage jobs, that will help.

    3. Everyone around you will think you're brilliant with no other proof whatsoever. For example, my sister went to an Ivy League school, and many of her classmates were hired right out of school to work in "consulting", which is basically a job of traveling around the US giving Powerpoint presentations on topics they knew little to nothing about. They got the jobs specifically due to their Ivy League education.

    So basically your defense of these overly expensive schools is nepotism, dumbshits at the top of the pyramid and other horrors of what is wrong with America? Got it. Also I find it amusing that "you need money to make money" also applies to college ... "you need money to be unquestionably paid lots of money." This should be closer to a meritocracy not a country of "daddy has contacts."

    Also, to invalidate your first point, the article starts with the premise that everyone is coming away $200,000 in debt unless you drop out or skip college so, no, apparently not everyone gets Yale at reduced price. And if $200,000 is the "reduced" price, you should asked to be kissed first.

  • by SydShamino (547793) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:30AM (#42169111)

    You don't need a college degree if you have these two things:

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

    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.

    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 not things like art history, where you go to school just to teach other kids, so they can teach other kids, and so on) and because I can talk to people and have them see me as an asset and not a potential liability.

    So really you need at least three things - the two you numbered above, plus

    3) A desire to work in a field where money is thrown at anyone, not just college graduates.

  • by MacDork (560499) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:55AM (#42169459) Journal

    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?

    Because a college degree costs six figures? RTFA much? Colleges are the next bubble to pop. They've had sustained 10-15% increases in tuition for more than a decade. It is now 4 times more expensive to get a degree than it was when I went to school 15 years ago. The worst of it is that these kids can't default on their student loans. It's unprecedented predatory lending by Sallie Mae and friends. But just like those AAA rated housing bonds, it won't matter if the kids have no job to pay it back. Kids coming out of college today with $100,000+ in debt are a lost generation. They're now on the hook for 30 years for that 4 year party experience. The university towns are going to implode BTW. If you live in one, you might want to sell now and relocate while prices are still high.

    TFA doesn't say give up on education. There's coursera, udacity, udemy and others steping up to make education affordable again. TFA says don't be screwed by going to college. lrn2read

  • by bradgoodman (964302) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:19PM (#42169785) Homepage
    I dropped out of college (electrical engineering) after a year and a half and have had a very successful career in the twenty years since, both in my own companies, and working at others.

    That doesn't mean this is the path for everyone. This is not an invitation to every slacker on the face of the planet to drop out of school and keep smoking weed because "the man's" diploma isn't worth anything. I worked very long and hard before, during and after college, perusing engineering and computer science interests.

    In the end - College didn't fit my learning style: Hands on, highly practical, very project-oriented. Combining my need for that with my ADD, meant I learn much better staying up all night tinkering in a lab working on my own projects, than sitting in some lecture hall for a mandatory "humanities" course on "Modern European History". I still read books at home at night on DSP and Theoretical Physics.

    I also think the analogy to people like Gates or Zuckerburg is stupid. There is a one in a billion chance of doing something like that - but when correctly executed for the correct individual, a VERY good chance that they would have a very good career, rivaling those of a [typical/average] college grade.

    It's totally dependent on the person.

  • by StormyWeather (543593) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:38PM (#42170033) Homepage

    ^^THIS!!!

    What I get so frustrated by is that there is this mentality that people can somehow "fall back" on a degree. That's bullshit. There are tons of people with degrees and even advanced degrees selling refrigerators at Sears. A degree doesn't magically bestow ANYTHING. People that think they have a degree and somehow get to start a rung higher than someone without one are sadly mistaken as well. One of my best friends used to bitch nonstop about how he had his masters degree, and his boss only had a high school degree. One day after a few beers I had enough of it and said "Look, you went to school for 7 years, he started two businesses after high school, both failed, but he learned a lot from his failures, then went to work making nothing as a call center manager, worked his way up the management chain reading books on it, and going to conferences to get better at it. His trade is management, yours is Java development, and just because he is your boss doesn't mean he automatically makes more money than you. Great developers are harder to hire and fire than great managers." He never said crap about it again.

    College now is the high school diploma of years past. It's good, but it's a fairly cheap commodity now. If someone doesn't have one, then they are just missing a cheap commodity.

    Yes I have a bachelors degree, and no I don't think it's really helped me at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:47PM (#42170165)

    I have the perfect example of that. I applied for a job that required a B.A. in a particular area even though I did not have it because I have a doctorate degree in that field. Well, turns out a friend of my father worked for that company and was the person who made the hiring decision. A few months later, my dad introduced us at a meet and greet and he asked my why I didn't apply. I told him I did and his reply is that he definitely would have remembered seeing a doctorate but all he got to choose from was 5 B.A.s. He found out, after a little digging that tons of people with a B.S. in that area as well as myself and a few other master and doctorate degrees did not even make it onto his desk because the resume scanner threw us all out because we didn't have a B.A. in that field.

  • by gtall (79522) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:05PM (#42170355)

    Your number 3 is spot on. Programming is more or less code monkey work. Businesses are increasing asking for domain knowledge of some field to which programming is applied. Most of those fields require a college degree.

  • Networking (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Niris (1443675) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:12PM (#42170453)
    They forget to mention that one of the best parts of college, apart from being introduced to new things (not necessarily taught new things, but shown that they exist so you can look into them yourself in your spare time), is networking. During my upper division coursework, I've spent far longer at the bar than I should have, but that time at the bar has been with guys from my computer science classes and we've discussed a lot of ideas, brought in our laptops and worked on some awesome things (released an Android game recently that was programmed 100% at the bar, and usually after a drink or two. Comments galore so I could keep track of my thoughts >.>). You meet people that are _awesome_ at things that you barely grasp, and vice versa. You make friends and team up and work on projects that would take you far longer on your own than if you hadn't collaborated and met people along the way. Example: I generally handle a lot of the Android, web and database stuff for my group of friends, whereas another guy handles circuitry if we want to do something with the Audrino, and is awesome at C and 80x86 assembly, and the last guy is _great_ with math and algorithms for making things "just work."
  • by Loughla (2531696) on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:17PM (#42170521)
    The issue isn't that the barista and waitress paid the money, the issue is that they did it wrong. I advise students on a regular basis at the very beginning of their college careers (right before they go to be exact). I tell every single one the following:

    You will hear people tell you that there are good and bad degrees. This isn't inherently true. Some look good on paper, some don't. Some specialize you, some don't. What is important are the connections you make while you're in school, how much you spend on it, and what you want. If you don't spend much money, then sure, get the art history degree - you'll be no worse off financially, you'll have fun and learn some useful skills, and you really won't limit your job prospects at all. BUT, if you're looking at 200K in debt, maybe don't. If you want to grow up to design cars but you're bad at art and don't own/can't afford a computer, don't go to a four year, go technical - be a mechanic and get your hands dirty. Earn some cash and go into design later, once you understand what people really like in cars. If you like computers, but don't really want to learn about the software - be a repairperson - 18 months and you're out, or work for a big-box and take their little training course. If you want to get an English degree and be a writer, great - but be prepared to kiss every professor's ass to make connections, and brace yourself for 20-30 years of bitterness and disappointment.

    Again, the issue isn't that kids are going to college in record numbers, or that there are jobs you can do with and without a degree. It's that we have a college-going society who is still early enough in the cycle to remember the days when few people went to college, and a bachelors actually brought you accolades. It's that we have a values structure of "college will get you there" in a "debt will crush you" society. If students had a more realistic assessment of what they can/can't do with a college degree, I think we would be a lot better off. Also, if students had a more realistic view of what they actually have to do in college to apply the art history degree in the future, I believe less would go.

    Why are there so many psychology degrees working as waitresses? Because you can coast through that degree, it's interesting and people don't look down on it. Why are there so many baristas with English degrees? Because it's fun, it's easy to coast, and you learn some good skills. Why are there so few psychologists and (good) authors? Because few students take the time to make connections and apply themselves in college to map out their futures.

    Honestly, the fault is about 75/25 split between the individual and the school. Schools sell students programs, the government sells students schools, and someone makes money. BUT, students really should be personally responsible for their own futures. A small amount of planning can turn that bullshit English Literature degree into a comfortable, upper-middle class job. (I can attest to that)

  • by nbauman (624611) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:00PM (#42170993) Homepage Journal

    At one time, getting a college degree in any field would guarantee middle-class success. There was a sociologist (I forget his name) who wrote a couple of books about that, based on studies of lifetime career progressions of large numbers of people, and that's what he said.

    Unfortunately, you have to follow people 50 or 60 years to find out what childhood experiences made them successful, and by the time you get your data, the world has changed. After World War II, a college degree was a ticket to success for a middle-class and especially a working-class kid. It was class mobility. There were businesses that needed a kid who had basic math and physics, and they were willing to train them.

    Today we've eliminated a lot of labor, and outsourced a lot more. There's no more class mobility, the lower-class kids are getting stuck, and competition (with China) is driving wages down.

  • by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:23PM (#42171221) Homepage

    Unlike a high school diploma, the path to a bachelor's degree isn't exactly cheap.

    It depends on how you go about it. There's an articulist at LewRockwell.com, Gary North, an anti-establishment Christian libertarian, who routinely writes about alternative paths one can use to obtain a bachelor's degree for VERY little, roughly $11k to $15k (total). It seems he sells an ebook about this for about $100, but if you Google him you'll find articles providing the gist of the method, which basically boils down to mixing "(1) night school, (2) dual-track (high school/college), (3) daytime community college, (4) quizzing out (CLEP, DSST), (5) distance learning, (6) portfolio courses (life experience), and (7) in-state resident tuition" (from http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north988.html [lewrockwell.com]).

    Good thing here in Brazil we have some very good free universities with a single requirement of passing on a high enough position in an (admittedly hard due mainly to competition) entrance exam, but nothing more. I can't imagine myself spending $200k+ on a bachelor's degree. If I lived in the US I'd most certainly try every single approach in the above list, no second thoughts about it. $200k+ is, simply put, completely and utterly insane.

  • by Synerg1y (2169962) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:54PM (#42171633)
    Not in the real world bud, I know a guy who wanted to go back to his college's IT Dept. and work as a tech lead, he knew the IT director, who said he'd green light him if he applied. So he did, HR never passed his resume on because he didn't have the minimum 5 years of experience listed on his resume, what's funny is he did have 5 years of experience. HR wasn't able to decipher it from his resume (his problem) and the resume never made it to the right person, and now somebody else works there.

    Also, I can make a strong argument for there's no such thing as a "smart company" that has hiring managers... hiring manager positions are only available at fairly large companies, and there's no such thing as a "smart" corporation.
  • by geek (5680) on Monday December 03, 2012 @04:15PM (#42172499) Homepage

    I have an English degree. I had 10 years of IT experience under my belt before I got it however. Strangely enough, my boss made the comment that she picked me over the other folks because I had an English degree. It was kooky enough to make her take a look and take notice of me.

    Most people I know don't work in the field they have their degree in. I know physics majors that work in HR. I know math majors who work as executives. I can probably count on one hand the number of people I know who work in the field they got their degrees in when set aside Engineers and Doctors where a specialized education is required.

    Hell, these days even law grads go into other fields (mostly politics it seems).

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