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Education The Almighty Buck

Eric Schmidt On Why College Is Still Worth It 281

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-your-degree dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The wisdom of getting a college degree and saddling yourself with a huge amount of debt has been called into question recently, but not by Eric Schmidt. The Google Chairman says it's still worth it, noting that: 'The economic return to higher education over a lifetime produces significant compound greater earnings.' From the article: 'When asked about the difficulty in paying for college, Schmidt was adamant: "I appreciate it's expensive and we need to fix that," he said, but "figure out a way to do it." One potential problem with Schmidt's statement is that it was an argument for the average student. It may be more advantageous for students at the bottom and top quartiles of the talent distribution to go straight into the workforce (or get vocational training). Case in point, Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college, and I don't think anybody would say he made a mistake.'"
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Eric Schmidt On Why College Is Still Worth It

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  • by Moof123 (1292134) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @04:51PM (#46500577)

    With hindsight Zuckerberg made no mistake. But for every Zuckerberg who drops out and makes Billions anyway, there many more with equally good ideas that tried a similar path, and through worse luck ended up going bust. Anecdotes are not data.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @04:56PM (#46500611)

      there many more with equally good ideas that tried a similar path, and through worse luck ended up going bust.

      But they at least had the experience of running a business. There are PLENTY more people that finished college, amassed crippling debt, and ALSO went bust - only they ended up with a degree that had no value for getting a job, and debt that is impossible to discharge. At least the dropout who failed had a debt that could be shed in bankruptcy, if they even amassed debt to run a business!

      • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:20PM (#46500779)

        All genuine degrees have value in getting a job. Some more than others, for sure. But put a candidate who has a degree up against an otherwise similar one who doesn't and the one with a degree has the advantage.

        Not only the advantage of a line on their CV. But the practical advantage of the skills they've gained, and the character that has been built. These will help them with the job search and interview.

        Of course if they are applying for a job very much below their level, the degree candidate may be rejected as "over qualified". But that just means they are applying for inappropriate jobs. Or perhaps more likely that they simply didn't interview well and it was an easy excuse for the employer.

        Experience running and business and going bankrupt is going to count for far less, when subsequently seeking employment. And may even be a negative.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Billly Gates (198444)

          Not really.

          There are people smarter than myself without degrees. There are morons who have master degrees who I had to let go because they are book smarts but can't do shit in the real world without the deer in the headlights look when independent analysis and goals are needed.

          A degree you get an outrageously expensive education yes. You learn some cool things. But in a down economy it means you get that internship or entry level job with the foot in that door. While HR ignores you unless you have many year

          • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:49PM (#46500913)

            There are people smarter than myself without degrees.

            Sure. And in most cases they'd do better than they do with a degree.

            There are morons who have master degrees who I had to let go because they are book smarts but can't do shit in the real world without the deer in the headlights look when independent analysis and goals are needed.

            Sure, but they wouldn't be better had they not got a degree.

            But in a down economy it means you get that internship or entry level job with the foot in that door. While HR ignores you unless you have many years of experience and letters of recommendation even for the most basic entry level jobs today.

            Right, there comes a point at which your work experience becomes more important than the degree. But the point is you are at an advantage in getting that necessary experience if you start out with a degree. For people too young to have an outstanding working history, that HR door is solidly closed.

            If it's hard right now for young people with degrees to get a worthwhile job, it's massively harder for young people without a degree.

            • by Bert64 (520050)

              Depends wether you can get a job quickly enough.. If you go straight into work instead of taking out several years studying then you will build experience sooner. Of course the situation is different for everyone.

              • Work experience at the level of a 18-21 year old is going to be less important than a degree. Especially in the current economy. Flipping burgers, filing or bar work doesn't count for much.

            • by rtb61 (674572)

              Reality;
              Is a college degree of value?
              Is society willing to pay for it?
              NO
              Then that society does not value a college degree.

              Now that pretty much sums it up. Of course that society also deserves to die off mass infection and thus help to rid the world of stupidity. Greed is not a measure of intelligence, it is a measure of greed nothing more and nothing less. Thank the makers that so many people preferred to come up with life saving cures, inventions and ideas and were not pursued by the demons of greed and

              • by russotto (537200)

                "Society" is willing to pay for a college degree; people with degrees make more over their lifetime than people without degrees. Unfortunately, the dismal science of economics tells us that given such a situation, we should expect the cost of college to rise to the present value of all that extra income, leaving the hapless student with no gain.

                • by sjames (1099)

                  And a number of analysis suggest that has already happened. That is, that the expected additional earnings are fully consumed by student loan debt.

              • Devil's advocate argument here.

                How should someone's worth be determined then?

                An economist will say his or her salary is a reflection of their contribution. My economics professor challenged all of us. We all lost. Some said bankers do not deserve it. Others said a teacher deserves more. I said CEO's are overpaid.

                Basically a banker handles someone's lifetime of savings. As a result their customers are willing to pay as making a dumb decision can ruin a window, grandma, or your own's retirement! CEOs? Look at

                • by rtb61 (674572)

                  You ignore reality. Humans are a social species not an individual species, we by genetics share and exchange in order to survive as a social species. You then logically measure value by the ability to contribute to that. The obvious negatives being selfishness, greed and a psychopathically parasitical nature that seeks to prey off society rather than contribute to it. Logically anything other than that is sophistic bullshit, no matter how much space you take up with your comment.

                • by sjames (1099)

                  The bankers DID lose grandma's life savings and then got even more money (apparently for failing big). Elop made big bux for destroying the value of Nokia, then got a golden parachute. Am I to presume the stockholders wanted their investment gone ASAP?

                  I'm not willing to pay the barista $200 for a coffee (of course), but a barista can serve a lot more customers in a day than a doctor.

                  Humans also by nature get sick from time to time. Shall we all shoot up with the plague or should we resist it? Some humans ar

                  • The study I referred to was with children giving candy to another child on a video screen. The options were you could give the other child a piece of candy but it will cost you and the other child will never know it came from you.

                    The child was selfish every single time. Look up game theory too aka prisoners dilemma? Works with cops. Lets say you and another man did a crime. You both agree to lie and get out. Issue is the cops manipulate one of you with a get out of jail card if you rat. Your options are lie

          • by pla (258480) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @06:36PM (#46501251) Journal
            There are people smarter than myself without degrees. There are morons who have master degrees who I had to let go because they are book smarts but can't do shit in the real world without the deer in the headlights look when independent analysis and goals are needed.

            You can always find people both better and worse than you at everything, both from the pool of "amateurs" and from supposed experts. Just a fact of life.

            I'll take a bold stance and say right up front that you get out of college what you put into it - If you want, you really can get a solid education even from a crap college; and on the flip side of that, you can sleep your way through quite a few majors and still end up with a degree. That said - On average, I would say a college degree proves one, and only one, thing about you - That you had the ability to learn enough, and follow directions enough, to complete the basic requirements of that degree... And that already puts you in the top third of applicants, even if you smoked your way through a humanities major.

            Now, as watered down as that may sound, I don't mean it as quite that weak of a stance - In practice, the real world will never require 90% of what you learned in college, and college didn't teach you 90% of what you need for a real job. College does not, and should not, equal vocational training. It (can) give you the foundation you need to excel, and demonstrates to employers that you at least don't count as a complete waste of flesh. Anything more than that - Pure cake.
            • by war4peace (1628283) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @08:59PM (#46502003)

              That said - On average, I would say a college degree proves one, and only one, thing about you - That you had the ability to learn enough, and follow directions enough, to complete the basic requirements of that degree... And that already puts you in the top third of applicants, even if you smoked your way through a humanities major.

              HR: "this guy is perfect as a corporate drone".
              Hiring Manager: "OK, make him an offer."

              Two years ago I applied for a position at a large It company (*ahem*Dell*ahem*). I was nixed because I was a college drop-out (for financial reasons but who the fuck cares) and a graduate was chosen. They never actually said that (never provided any feedback except the ubiquitous "we gonna call you"), but I knew because I have friends working there. Last year they asked me to come to a "final" interview. I asked them on the phone what happened with their graduate who they had chosen and they lied to me, said he left the company for another opportunity (I knew for a fact he was fired for being incompetent). I told them to fuck off and find another graduate, because apparently the previous one was great, since he moved forward, wasn't he?

              Not saying graduates suck, but choosing one over another simply because of an extra piece of paper is retarded. But that's really not surprising when you apply for a large company with a fucked up culture.

              • by gutnor (872759)

                Welcome to real life. HR is run on a budget like everything else in a company. Even if they were technically able to, they simply do not have the resource to properly assess everybody. So like everybody else in this life, they look for external sign of competence. A degree is such a sign, recommendation of a friend is another one, resume that fits the requirement perfectly, ...

                On the flip side, it works in your way too. Why do you think that most development job is not done in cheapo place like India, Ch

              • by raymorris (2726007) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @10:26PM (#46502371)

                I've experienced the same frustration. There are certain technical circles in which I am well known, yet when I decided to get an 8-5 I had a heck of a time because I left college to run my business. I eventually took a job making half as much as someone with my experience would normally make.*

                Not long ago, my boss ask me to look over some resumes for an opening we have. Most of the resumes looked pretty similar. It's one page, after all, and they are all applying for the same position. Those that were different had positives and negatives, so they all "scored" about the same. How to decide who to call first? It felt like forensic science, trying to find some clue of who might be better among the pile of nearly identical resumes. A typo MIGHT hint that the person isn't as careful with their work. That seems silly, but those were the kind of clues we had to go on.

                We interviewed a couple of people and it was similarly "tied" - both seemed like they would be a decent fit. Without actually knowing either of the candidates, we had to choose one based on the tiny bits of information we had. Compared to the tiny clues we were looking for, a degree vs. no degree would have been huge. It's not a great indicator, but it sure is better than any of the other differences between two otherwise good resumes.

                To look at it another way, suppose you have ten resumes that look okay, ten that made it past the "obviously no" filter. You have to find some way to narrow it down by eliminating nine of the ten candidates. Four years of study and carrying a four year project to successful completion obviously helps narrow it down.

                It's now time for me to get off Slashdot and get back to my studies. With 17 years of experience I don't want to be narrowed down for lack of a degree, so I'm getting my degree from WGU. The "final exam" for most courses is an industry-recognized certification exam, so I'll end up with a degree and about a dozen certifications.

                * The "low paying" job turned out to be a blessing, due to working with wonderful people.

                • I have no degree, but in 35 years I've never had to be selected from a pool of candidates. What's it like to have to compete for a job?

                  I worked my way through college at the school, building exotic computer systems for grad student research projects. I noticed one day that I was learning a lot more in the job than in the classes.

                  Now, 30 year later, and after 20 years in industry, I work at the same university, building electronics for telescopes. I suppose I could have gotten further with a degree, but n
                • If I saw a resume that was a page it would go right in the trash.

                  That is your first hint. I want someone with a diverse background who is experienced. If they can't say much about themselves then they have not much to offer me. Unless it is an internship forget it. Even then I want to say lots of academic details if they only had 1 real job and a page of references.

                  In 1999 yes 1 page was the rule. Humans would read them. Today computer programs score and rank them. More info the bettter and each employer ha

            • College does not, and should not, equal vocational training.

              Why not? That's exactly what was for centuries, and it worked well enough. Folks don't seem to realize this, or that the "college is for broadening the mind" meme is a fairly recent one.

          • by Belial6 (794905)
            College and the debt that has become synonymous with it has become a tragidy of the commons. It isn't that college is bad. It isn't that taking on debt for college is bad. It is that it is bad when lots of people are doing it.
            • by mjwx (966435)

              College and the debt that has become synonymous with it has become a tragidy of the commons. It isn't that college is bad. It isn't that taking on debt for college is bad. It is that it is bad when lots of people are doing it.

              This, tertiary education was and still is a very good thing.

              It's the debts Americans have to take out to get this that's bad.

              Australia solved this problem in two ways.

              1. HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme), This is essentially an interest free loan from the government to Australian citizens to pay for university courses that can be paid back over time after university. After you earn a certain amount, HECS repayments are mandatory (garnished from your wages if they have to be). There's no i

        • At some point in your career, everyone is their own snowflake. I'm never going to compete against a candidate that is my equal in every other way but has a degree.

          I'm fortunate to be a programmer, though, because it's one of the few industries that has woken up and seen what a worthless institution our higher education system has become.

      • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

        only they ended up with a degree that had no value for getting a job

        Yeah, that's not really a problem for a CS or engineering degree, which given the context, is all we're really talking about.

      • by hoyle (89469)

        If your argument was valid, then it would be reflected in the numbers.

        The fact is that on average, college graduates earn more than high school graduates, even after taking into account the cost of a college education. That does not mean that there aren't edge cases, or statistically significant differences between the debt vs. education that some places offer and that a prudent student will take these things into account, but on aggregate, you are better off going to college than not despite the debt incu

        • When there is a correlation you have to ask which way round is the cause and effect? is it that college makes people able to earn more? or is it that people who are able to earn more because of their innate skills/intelligence are also more likely to go to college? or is the truth somewhere in between?

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @04:57PM (#46500619)

      Yeah, holding up examples of successful dropouts like Zuckerberg and drawing inferences from that is nothing more than confirmation bias. It's well established that, looking at the overall population, college grads earn more than non-grads. It's probably also true, overall, that college grads are happier with their jobs than non-grads (although I'm too lazy to look that up). I wouldn't be surprised if they live longer as well, given they probably have better health care.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Alorelith (118865)

        True, and don't forget, there are still a fair number of affordable schools across the country if one is willing to relocate for it. Not every university in the USA costs $20,000 a year. And I'd imagine that in other countries where higher education is much cheaper or "free" that this whole argument of return on investment is silly.

      • by epyT-R (613989) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:49PM (#46500907)

        All of this is only because employers might be assigning worth to degrees that may not actually be there.

        • by w_dragon (1802458)
          You could flip that around and say that degrees may not have value beyond what employers believe they have. Right now a degree gets you extra money, on average, compared to someone without a degree. That alone gives a degree value.
    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:04PM (#46500671)

      "With hindsight Zuckerberg made no mistake. But for every Zuckerberg who drops out and makes Billions anyway, there many more with equally good ideas that tried a similar path, and through worse luck ended up going bust. Anecdotes are not data."

      And I'm wondering why OP places Zuckerberg in "the top quartile of talent". He's an unscrupulous guy who got lucky and made a fortune from a website made in PHP, built on an idea he stole from someone else.

      So what?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2014 @06:56PM (#46501381)

        I agree. And did he dropout before or after he had a successful enterprise going? And did he utilize any of the resources/education available at Harvard to begin said enterprise? The answer to those questions is "yes", so I really don't see how he is an example of successful-but-didnt-go-to-college... because he did.

    • Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:06PM (#46500685)

      The entire article is stupid. And the Zuckerberg example was just the worst stupidity in it.

      "I appreciate it's expensive and we need to fix that," he said, but "figure out a way to do it."

      Those two statements have ZERO correlation with each other.

      Going into debt for college is EASY. There's no need to "figure out a way to do it". You sign the loan papers and take the classes.

      The problem is paying off that loan AFTER you leave college. Whether via graduation or because you cannot get anyone to give you any more debt to finish.

      It may be more advantageous for students at the bottom and top quartiles of the talent distribution to go straight into the workforce (or get vocational training).

      Again, wrong. Talent only applies to the top percentage. And even then it is VERY risky.

      If you don't have the talent then you don't have the talent. That has nothing to do with skipping college.

      FUNDING is the reason to skip college and hit votech. If your family cannot afford to pay for college then votech might be your best option. Why start this generation with massive debt that you might not be able to pay off? Start saving for your child's education.

      • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:4, Informative)

        by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:41PM (#46500873) Journal

        Why start this generation with massive debt that you might not be able to pay off?

        That was the point of the first statement you were arguing against, the student loan thing in the US is what he wants to "fix". Believe it or not there are countries where you don't need take out a massive loan to get a degree. Here in Oz the government pays 75%, you pay the rest as a small weekly surcharge on your income tax, but only after it reaches a certain level. If you don't gain financially from the degree when you go back into the work force, it costs nothing. Of course if everyone had a degree then they would be worthless, so rather than limit student numbers with the cost of entry, the universities in Oz limit numbers on ability alone.

        • by kesuki (321456)

          in the corporate federation of America, college loans are government guaranteed but the debt themselves can never be bankrupted on and can be garnished with a few small exceptions. but it doesn't worry the rich, because they have millions of dollars and their kids only go to elite schools and if they have student loans it is because of their parents plan to not give them a free ride.
          and in the corporate federation of America as long as the rich are safe and sound there is no reason to worry.

        • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by lexman098 (1983842) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @07:13PM (#46501485)

          Of course if everyone had a degree then they would be worthless, so rather than limit student numbers with the cost of entry, the universities in Oz limit numbers on ability alone.

          This is not true. If everyone had a degree society would be much more efficient and productive. There is never a downside to more education (except maybe the cost). I have a feeling "Oz" is limiting student numbers due to cost as well.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Belial6 (794905)
            That is not true. Colleges have already made it well down the path of 'paper mill'. Yes, even the 'legit' ones. I don't care how many years you go to college to hone your cullinary kills, you will never get any better at flipping McDondald's burgers because of it. That is what we are facing. College has stopped being an efficency and productivity enhancer. It is now just causing employers to start demanding degrees for jobs that a college education brings no benifits to. Even worse, the colleges are
            • Well, my original point was that an increased supply of educated people doesn't devalue the education like an increased supply of sugar or some other commodity.

              It's true that forcing degrees on people because you refuse to hire someone that doesn't have a piece of paper is bad, but there is actually some value behind what they went through to get that paper. College degrees aren't *only* required more often these days because of increased supply, but also because we're moving to a more global economy. Educa

          • If everyone had a degree society would be much more efficient and productive.

            [Citation needed.]

            There is never a downside to more education (except maybe the cost).

            There's rarely a downside to education. But there are plenty of potential downsides to additional schooling. (Plenty of schools offer a very poor education, and there are plenty of ways to gain educational without extra years in school.) Downsides for schooling: For society at large, decreased productivity in lost years in the workforce, for example. For individuals, lost income and productivity during those years, which might be more helpful for families and such in many circumstance

      • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:5, Informative)

        by exomondo (1725132) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:49PM (#46500911)

        The problem is paying off that loan AFTER you leave college.

        The Australian system seems to work very well. Their degrees are government-funded loans that are only subject to interest based on inflation and I believe you pay it back by your employer deducting repayments from your pre-tax income after you start earning over a specified threshold (which I think is somewhere in the $45k region). The amount of your repayments is calculated and adjusted based on your income but you do get additional discounts for paying off lump sums yourself.

      • by khallow (566160)

        FUNDING is the reason to skip college and hit votech.

        Or because you want to go into one of the fields supported by a vocational college.

    • If you watched the movie social network his former partner and early CFO stayed in school and did an internship in New York. As a result he was terminated and lost all his shares.

      Facebook made no money at all back then so he viewed it as kind of cool, but internships is where I need to be as this thing probably wont take off etc.

      What if Facebook ended up like Friendster and the other failures? Maybe the former partner in The Social network would be Zuckerbergs boss as he he would filing paperwork since he l

      • by AuMatar (183847)

        He sued and made more money in the lawsuit than he could spend in a lifetime. He still won.

        • How much would he be worth if he remained onboard and had his shares bought out when Zuckerberg sold his?

          The lawsuit was never disclosed. Since he probably did not have tens of millions my guess is he settled for mere 6 figures or maybe a 1 million or 2. Still 30% of 20,000,000,000 is a pittance even if he did actually receive a multi million dollar pay out.

          • The lawsuit was never disclosed. Since he probably did not have tens of millions my guess is he settled for mere 6 figures or maybe a 1 million or 2.

            Your guess would be wrong. Eduardo Saverin currently has a net worth of about 2.2 BILLION dollars [wikipedia.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And not every drop-out is going to build a Facebook/Apple/Microsoft.
    They are the exception, so for most people, the best advice is to "stay in school".

  • Old thinking. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2014 @04:54PM (#46500595)

    'The economic return to higher education over a lifetime produces significant compound greater earnings.'

    That has been true in the past.

    And, let's take the bottom line: let's say it IS true and you have "significant compound greater earnings." - if you are straddled with obscene student debt while working at a shitty retail job, your net is going to be less than if you worked as a plumber [yahoo.com] let's say.

    And let's stop this crap about how all unemployed college graduates majored in English or some other liberal or fine arts. EVERY major is having issues with employment in this economy.

    • And let's stop this crap about how all unemployed college graduates majored in English or some other liberal or fine arts. EVERY major is having issues with employment in this economy.

      From what I can tell that simply is not true. CS majors are not having issues finding jobs. It doesn't seem like engineering majors are either. If you learn a valuable skill you can still find a job.

      • by Alorelith (118865)

        Nope, if one is willing to relocate, engineering jobs are pretty plentiful and well-paying. If you go the route that I did (tech school -> four-year degree), it's in many ways even easier to get a job and much cheaper.

        And frankly that's all this topic seems to be about. Cost of college vs return in lifetime wages. If that's the argument, then one should strive to lower the former while still gaining the skills and know-how, and then try to raise the latter. Of course many will argue that that is not

    • by grcumb (781340)

      'The economic return to higher education over a lifetime produces significant compound greater earnings.'

      That has been true in the past.

      Not exactly. You know what was true in the past? That a good education made you a better person.

      Now, I won't deny for a second that there were numerous social and economic factors in getting the 'right' education from the 'right' schools. It's true that being a 'gentleman' was inextricably tied up with class, economic status and the clannishness of the privileged. But it was still about being the right sort of person rather than a more-or-less necessary precursor to employment. The cost in those days was pr

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @04:55PM (#46500603) Homepage

    If you go to the schools we like, major in what we like and are good enough to work for a company like us, it's still worth it. However, if you are John Smith Liberal Arts major at Typical State University, you've just guaranteed that four to five years of partying will result in at least a decade of misery assuming you can even make enough to pay it off.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      An Ivy League education's greatest value is partying with well-connected rich people who are obviously going to spend their entire lives well-connected and rich. Earning the friendship of these people makes you well-connected, and eventually rich.

      Beyond that, the advantage-creating quality of higher education has dissipated as it has become ubiquitous. It has ceased to be a differentiator in the market, meaning ever-increasing numbers of graduates are failing to land those high-paying awesome jobs that hi

      • by nbauman (624611)

        An Ivy League education's greatest value is partying with well-connected rich people who are obviously going to spend their entire lives well-connected and rich. Earning the friendship of these people makes you well-connected, and eventually rich.

        So George W. Bush was right to spend his time at Yale and Harvard partying, getting drunk, and smoking pot, rather than studying business management and boring old wars.

        • by tomhath (637240)
          Bush was one of the well connected rich people others went to Yale and Harvard to meet, same as the Kennedys and John Kerry; except Bush did better in school.
      • by Belial6 (794905)
        College and it's debt has become a tragidy of the commons.
    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Sunday March 16, 2014 @06:11PM (#46501071)

      I seem to recall some numbers that the differential value of a college degree is actually highest outside of STEM. Can't seem to find them again, but would be interesting to look at.

      It makes sense if you think of it from the "negative" side: how do you fare looking for a job without a degree? If you are looking for tech jobs, a degree is valuable but you can still get a good job without one: CS degrees are not required for all tech jobs, not even all six-figure tech jobs. The incremental value of being a programmer vs. being a programmer with a degree is positive but modest.

      But if you are looking for non-tech jobs without even having a liberal-arts degree, then you are effectively hosed. All those mid-five-figure white-collar administrative jobs in a typical Fortune 500 company are filled by people with liberal-arts degrees. Why? Because companies find it a useful filter. Not perfect, but better than nothing: if you want to select for "likely to be a decent employee, show up on time, follow directions, write English sentences coherently", and you have 50 applicants with degrees and 50 without, you just pick someone out of the 50 who have a degree.

      • I seem to recall some numbers that the differential value of a college degree is actually highest outside of STEM.

        I know of no study that has found that. If you google for "value of college degree by major" you will find plenty of references that show STEM degrees are the best investment. This study [georgetown.edu] found that petroleum engineering is the best paying major, and psychology the worst, with other STEM degrees clustered at the top, and other non-STEM degrees clustered at the bottom. The best non-STEM degree is business.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Trepidity (597)

          I'm not looking at highest overall pay, but highest incremental pay, vs. if you self-taught that field. CS degrees pay a lot, but their incremental value is not nearly as high, b/c self-taught programmers also get good salaries. Therefore, if you are going to do CS, the incremental value of getting a degree in it vs. just self-teaching is not that high.

          Now compare people with liberal-arts degrees to people who are looking for liberal-arts jobs without having a degree. Now here you see a big differential: pe

        • by i.r.id10t (595143)

          And at the same time, working in the trades wtih no degree or "just" a certificate (not even a complete AA or AS) can also make you some serious money. Yes, for some trades you'll end up going to specialty schools for a few weeks or a few months, and pay several thousand to do it, but just like IT these are extra certifications ontop of the base job.

    • by fermion (181285)
      I was listening to a converstaion between aTeach for America and a student teacher at the store the other day. They were talking about how hard it was to teach. One complained that a student walked in when she was student teaching and yelled 'Party!'. This seemed to really make the student teacher think twice about teaching. Seriously, if you are going to be a teacher you need to know these are kids. The don't have a lot of impulse control. That is one of the things you are supposed to be teaching. Yo
    • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Sunday March 16, 2014 @08:43PM (#46501923) Journal

      This article needs to distinguish between education and college.

      Education is worthwhile. But is college still the best way to get an education? I'm not too sure, not with the ever greater swing in thinking towards profiteering and monetizing. Was bad enough being vicitmized by the occasional parking ticket over a cheap technicality (your front bumper was hanging 1 cm over the line of the deliberately too short parking spot, etc.), taken for hundreds by textbook publishers, and finally, if you graduate, hounded for donations to help out your poor, poor alma mater. But now I hear tuition has rocketed up far faster than inflation, and many professors are the new victims of the relentless push to turn every job into a temporary position with no benefits and no security, and their research is being patented and locked behind paywalls more than ever.

      College should be free, just like high school. Students pay for room and board, but not tuition or books. I'm hopeful that copylefted MOOCs and ebooks will break 2 of these rackets. For those who think students should pay tuition, should all things of value be paid for? Sunlight and air are quite valuable, should people pay for that?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The reason even the top quartile needs to stay in school... is because even the top quartile person writing the lead doesn't understand that top quartile and top whatever Zuckerberg would be aren't the same. And not that Zuckerberg isn't smart, but he got insanely lucky with something that dozens or hundreds of other companies tried, but failed to do.... dropping out after you've already had your low probability event is an easy call. Doing it prior isn't supported by any analysis.

  • Both (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @04:58PM (#46500633)
    The best college students are also self educating students. In order to make best use of college training a few students have great histories of forcing all kinds of self education upon themselves. The great scholars can not be stopped. A kid who is a born scholar who is isolated in a tiny village with poor schools will still somehow find a way to learn. These are the personalities that we need the most as a nation.
  • Case in point, Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college, and I don't think anybody would say he made a mistake.

    True, but for every Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, there are probably hundreds of others who drop out of college and never make anything of it.

    Just because a small few did well out of it, doesn't automatically mean that everyone will.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Bill Gates himself even says that he's a dumb example of a college dropout. Not only because the odds of following his trajectory are small, but because he was basically at the point of graduating when Microsoft blew up. Had Microsoft gotten its big break 6 months later, he would've graduated, but it got big and he ran with it. He didn't drop out and then roll the dice.

  • Wow, one whole case. How many people are extremely successful that are college educated vs not college educated? One out success out of millions of non-college-educated is utterly meaningless, and to bring it up without additional context is intentionally misleading and deceptive. How about citing the percentage of people making 7 figures or more that are college educated vs. not?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      There are at least three numbers which are critical to the calculation of whether college is worth it or not. One is what percentage of successful people are college-educated, one is what percentage of college-educated people are successful, and the last one is what percentage of college-educated people actually applied their education to their life. I have none of these numbers, and you'd have to rely on survey responses for a study asking these questions, so it would probably be a jerkoff waste of time. B

    • More importantly, who thinks Zuckerberg would be where he is if he had gone to vocational school or straight to work out of high school? Not finishing college is a very different thing from not going in the first pace. I don't disagree that college is not the best choice for some, but holding up Zuckerberg as an example is just stupid.

  • Let them eat cake (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:08PM (#46500703)

    Billionaire says "figure out a way to" pay for it. Meanwhile, he will be figuring out ways to collude with other companies to keep your salary low [mashable.com] and to bring in thousands of people from Asia [go.com] to compete with you for jobs [entrepreneur.com].

  • Ummmm? (Score:3, Funny)

    by NEDHead (1651195) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:09PM (#46500705)

    " Case in point, Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college, and I don't think anybody would say he made a mistake.'"

    This would imply that Facebook is not a mistake...

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:10PM (#46500713) Journal

    Even though I am in a technical position I decided to major in business. I now know the mindset of accountants, finance, and management. I can speak and understand the language. If I want to progress my small business I know what an asset and a liability is and how to setup books.

    For my electives in computer science I learned what object oriented programming truly is outside what I read on slashdot and books. I know what algorithms are and real time means. I may not even have that much as a real computer science major but I recieved an education.

    When the economy tanked after I graduated no one would hire me except for one temp contract job. It required a degree and that is how I got it. Without that I would be substitute teaching and working fast food at night to make up for my crappy wages.

    Those who argue I DO NOT NEED A DEGREE got in in 1999 when you didn't need one. If you are one of these try being born 15 years later and getting a job today? ... no degree? How does $12/hr aka 20,000 a year sound? Great! Here is a set of headphones and go read this script at the techexpo call center etc. Make sure you mommy reminds you not to be late since we do not pay you enough to move out etc. That my friends is what the economic reality is today regardless of skillsets if you have no experience or education. Programming wont mean shit as HR will throw out your resume if it is not work related somehow.

    Point is the degree is required in 2014 to get your foot in the door unless you feel working at techexpo call center can get a you a programming job as that and GeekSquad is all you are going to get.

    • Those who argue I DO NOT NEED A DEGREE got in in 1999 when you didn't need one. If you are one of these try being born 15 years later and getting a job today? ... no degree? How does $12/hr aka 20,000 a year sound? Great!

      It's funny you broke everything down that way, because that's pretty much my life. Except it's not and I don't have a degree.

      See, I joined the military in 1992 and quickly learned the technical side of my vocation since it was always mostly OJT in the first place. In between I took a few co

      • "Back then the GI Bill covered $12,500 for college tuition, which in 1997 was around 3 semesters at the school I attended. ...You don't need a degree, you just need to be smart."

        You just proved my point. The 1990's HR would hire you if you had anything technical on a resume that was 1 page.

        Today there are people with 8 years experience who have been out of work for awhile who are desperate to make $30,000 a year since unemployment is about ready to go away.

        In a recession/depression you compete for jobs. In

      • You don't need a degree, you just need to be smart.

        And lucky. And willing to put up with quite a bit (like moving frequently). And no doubt the veteran's preferment points helped you land that government job.

        If you think it was just because you're "smart", you actually aren't.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Also, one can't look at the lifetime earnings of people in their 40s or 50s to do this analysis. the question facing the high school graduate today is a looking forward one, not "what was the effect of choosing college or not in 1970-1980". In 1970 the job market was very different today. Manufacturing and similar jobs which did not require a degree were still a large part of the market. Today, there's many fewer non-degree jobs beyond the "would you like fries with that". (Not that a degree is require

    • by nbauman (624611)

      Also, one can't look at the lifetime earnings of people in their 40s or 50s to do this analysis. the question facing the high school graduate today is a looking forward one, not "what was the effect of choosing college or not in 1970-1980". In 1970 the job market was very different today. Manufacturing and similar jobs which did not require a degree were still a large part of the market.

      That's true. I read a classic analysis of inequality in the U.S. (sorry I can't remember the citation), which concluded that for people from the lower classes, a college degree with any major was a guarantee of a professional job. This was based on data of people who were working when the study was done, which was probably in the 1960s. So it was true in the 1950s.

      Another problem is that correlation is not causation. The one factor that most strongly correlates with your income is your father's income. In g

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:18PM (#46500765)

    Increasing the supply of trained workers lowers the cost - economics 101.

    Of course tech companies always more workers, even if they are looking to offshore as much as they can, and replace the rest with visa workers. But, just in case, doesn't hurt to lower the cost of domestic workers.

    Forget the situation today, look towards the future. There is no way for western workers to compete with third world wages.

    • by Billly Gates (198444) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:39PM (#46500865) Journal

      Increasing the supply of trained workers lowers the cost - economics 101.

      Of course tech companies always more workers, even if they are looking to offshore as much as they can, and replace the rest with visa workers. But, just in case, doesn't hurt to lower the cost of domestic workers.

      Forget the situation today, look towards the future. There is no way for western workers to compete with third world wages.

      You know I have heard this on slashdot for 10 dang years!

      The worst advice I ever took in 2004 was that computer science was a waste of time and so was engineering! They would pay $12/hr by 2014 due to Indians taking jobs etc. Go get that useless business degree.

      Let me tell you that was the worst advise I have ever taken.

      My friends who graduated even in 2008 all make $70,000. I ended up unemployed, divorced, and moved back into my parents in my 30's as no one would hire people with a business degree.

      It took 2 years just to get back into the white collar market. Working 13/hr and then 15/hr then 18/hr and up while I lived at home because I got my degree in the wrong area because people like you said NO TO IT H1B1 will take it all.

      I am now starting to make ok in IT again but lost 5 years of my life and marriage since I had to work any call center or low wage job I could find and worked for free paying my student loans.

      • I put your mistake down to getting married. If you're not making enough money for the lady now in charge of your life, it can only go downhill and put you in further debt.

  • by feranick (858651) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @05:34PM (#46500833)
    The article seem to imply, that real and best enterpreneaurs only make software companies. But actual innovation takes place in many other filelds. My point is that what makes the difference and is precursor to success is knoledge and ingenuity. While you can argue that the latter does not require formal education, for knowledge that might not be true. For a software company once you actually master the tools required, education is probably not always needed (although, it won't hurt or actually may be beneficial, see Jeff Bezos). The "kid coder" prototype is what made Zuckerberg and the likes. Other fields are much much different. How can you run a biotech company based on your own non formal education? Or a nanotech company? All of the companies where knowledge cannot be acquired simply by having a computer at your disposal, require some form of formal education. Look at any biotech management to see what I mean.
  • we do need more vocational training that can buildup to some thing as well more being put on 2 year schools.

  • Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college, and I don't think anybody would say he made a mistake

    Zuckerberg may not have graduated from Harvard, but he is the product of a traditional liberal arts education:

    He transferred to Phillips Exeter Academy in his junior year in high school, where he won prizes in science (math, astronomy and physics) and classical studies. On his college application, Zuckerberg claimed that he could read and write French, Hebrew, Latin, and ancient Greek. He was captain of the fencing team. In college, he was known for reciting lines from epic poems such as The Iliad.
    Napster co-founder Sean Parker, a close friend, notes that Zuckerberg was "really into Greek odysseys and all that stuff", recalling how he once quoted lines from the Roman epic poem Aeneid, by Virgil, during a Facebook product conference.

    Mark Zuckerberg [wikipedia.org]

  • by nbauman (624611) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @06:14PM (#46501091) Homepage Journal

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08... [nytimes.com]
    Germany Backtracks on Tuition
    By CHRISTOPHER F. SCHUETZE
    Published: August 25, 2013

    (German colleges are now free again, like the Scandinavian countries. Under the German constitution, the 16 state governments control finance and education. A 2005 federal court decision allowed them to charge tuition. 8 states, in former West Germany, did, but it was unpopular and they reversed their policy. Lower Saxony charged €1,000 ($1,300)/year. An economist estimated that tuition caused 20,000 potential students (6.8% of all students) to forgo enrollment in 2007. Denmark, Norway and Sweden have free tuition, although Germany, with 2.5 million students, is the largest. Britain raised its tuition caps to £9,000 ($14,000). In France, most public universities charge a few hundred euros per year, though the grandes écoles are more expensive.)

  • Sure Zuckerberg is currently worth billions in theory. But if he were to try to cash out his stock options into actual money on Monday the market would react so swiftly and severely that the last shares he sells would be nearly worthless. And frankly, in another couple years, the company will likely be worthless regardless as they have no long term business plan beyond "acquire and sell users' information" - which is not a meaningful plan for growth.
  • Everyone assumes similarity to themselves and their lives.

    This is why rich people look at poor people and don't see how poor people live, but how absolutely lazy or irresponsible someone who grew up rich would have to be to wind up in those straits. They cannot assess the huge differences in opportunity, education, social connection, or positive expectation. They can't imagine seeing the world from a place of limited opportunity. Even the best-hearted of them can take a "poor vacation" and try to live th

  • The reason college degrees were valuable: they revealed extraordinary ability on the part of the student.

    Why they're worthless now: everyone has them, and they're easy or at least predictable enough that they have little predictive value.

    How to fix this: make high school more challenging, and test problem-solving as opposed to recombinant memorization.

    • by metlin (258108)

      Why they're worthless now: everyone has them, and they're easy or at least predictable enough that they have little predictive value.

      Nope. There is an assumption in your statement -- that all college degrees are created equal.

      There is a reason certain schools and certain programs are given preferential treatment. You see, in statistics, there are two types of errors -- Type I and Type II.

      Imagine a candidate applies to a top school -- pretty much all highly ranked schools and programs would err on the side o

      • But now, credentialing is a process that rewards the slow and dutiful, not the thoughtful.

        Rock star status is achieved through acts of dubious worth that nonetheless demonstrate desired skills, but not thinking ability.

        The private colleges have jumped the shark on this one.

        I agree on PhD programs however.

  • by asmkm22 (1902712) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @07:34PM (#46501597)

    The world is basically starting to overflow with way more people than positions. As a result, it's dividing into societies with vast gaps between the very few people who control the money, and everyone else just looking for a chance to serve (or be employed). Some societies are further down this line than others, but you can look at China as an example of what the end-game will be like for the rest of the world within the next 100 years. All the nice things in life will become scarce enough that only the wealthiest can afford them. The rest of us will simply work to make them happy. Upward mobility will become as unlikely as jumping across the Grand Canyon, without the middle-class as a bridge.

    These weird educational issues are just symptoms of it happening here in America. We're pushing everyone to "go to college" while the businesses here continue to eliminate employment opportunities due to outsourcing and automation. Even the outsourcing strategy is starting to backfire, due to companies realizing that when they aren't employing people in America, then they can't sell stuff to the people in America. It's why most companies right now are looking at China as the next (and final) phase. The "1%" in China is still a huge number of people, so that will work for a while.

    I'd be surprised if we don't have an "Arab Spring" or "French Revolution" happening in this country within the next 20 years. The average white conservative male has been able to blame the misfortunes of minorities on rap music, or skin color, or laziness, or whatever, but now that they are starting to share demographics with such "undesirables" shit is going to hit the fan.

  • by Livius (318358) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @08:32PM (#46501863)

    1. Go into debt to obtain college degree
    2. ...
    3. Profit!

    So, all this time, step (2) was "figure out a way to do it"!

  • Places with state-paid or state-assisted university programs tend to have a sieve mechanism (like entrance exams) that sort people into programs of different cost (and life outcomes). E.g. a test determines if you enter vocational school or a university program.

    In the US, there is still a test-score aspect of things, but if you pay for it, generally, we let you do whatever you like. That's good, in its own way. Some people are tremendously motivated folks who are bad at taking tests. They ought to be f

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