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Education News

Just Say No To College 716

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 fredprado ( 2569351 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:51AM (#42168651)
    You certainly don't need it, but it helps. If it helps enough to compensate the additional time spent on it depends on what you plan to do though. In some areas, for examples, you must have a specific graduation degree to be even allowed in.

    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @10:56AM (#42168715)

    I went to Cornell University in the late 90's. I majored in Chemical Engineering and graduated with a bit under $12,000 in debt. And my parents made about $70K a year total. We got a decent deal on tuition because I was a good student in hs. The people piling up $200K in debt are the people who were marginal students in hs who decided to major in medieval history or religious studies.

  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:35AM (#42169169)

    Along the same lines as your point:
    All Of Nation's Resources Dumped Into 50 Children Who Are Actually The Future []
    If we could just cherry pick those kids now, we wouldn't need to worry about everyone else! ~sarcasm

  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:41AM (#42169249)

    Here's another example: []

    So for that school, in-state is $9100 a year, while out-of-state is $27600. That's in-line with the grandparent poster's estimates.

    Here's another example: []

    So for that school, in-state is about $9800 a year, while out-of-state is about $32000.

    Both of these ignore the possibility of a community college for the first two years of school, which can save a lot of money for someone working his or her own way through college.

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:42AM (#42169279) Homepage

    To first get to talk to people, they need to pick you out of 100 other resumes.

  • by BlackSnake112 ( 912158 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @11:45AM (#42169317)

    Without meeting HR's checklist, you will not get through the door. Unless you are starting your own company or know someone on the inside you will never get past HR. One more maybe if you made something the company wants. The days of getting the tech cert and finding a good job are gone. Someone with no experience has very little chance. Sorry but coding at home to learn something is not experience in the real world. If you can't get through the door, just how are you going to talk to the people to show them anything? I have seen people lie on their resume to get past HR. That doesn't end well.

    I hate the chicken and egg problem. You need experience in order to get hired. You need to be hired in order to get experience.

  • by Drethon ( 1445051 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:28PM (#42169889)
    I paid about half a year's starting wage for my degree in computer engineering. I don't think the problem is college, I think the problem is people thinking they have to spend ridiculous sums of money for it.
  • by Missing.Matter ( 1845576 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:38PM (#42170035)

    Because a college degree costs six figures?

    Correction: Some colleges cost six figures. There are many paths to a degree which cost less than 50 grand out of pocket. At the time, my undergraduate university had the top tuition in the nation ($35k per year + room and board), and I graduated with a total of $30k in government subsidized (government pays interest while I'm in school) loans. I did this through merit based scholarships, need based grants (1/2 off tuition), work study, living off campus with roommates, cooking for myself instead of using the meal plan, taking the bus to school instead of driving a car, and working part time on the side.

    Other paths to a cheap education include:

    • *Start at a community college and transfer credits to a state school
    • *Go to an in state college, especially a satellite campus
    • *Go to a state college other than Big State U with the expensive football team and partyschool reputation. Here in PA Penn State is that school and it actually can be very expensive if you go to the main campus, but we have other state-run colleges here which are much cheaper.
    • *Go in with a plan: Don't spend 2 years not knowing what you want to do and finally settle, ending up with a total of 5-6 years. Get in there, do it right, and get out.
    • *Choose a 3 year or accelerated program, and get a 4 year degree for the price of 3 years.
    • *Choose a major with job prospects. Math, science, and engineering are all worth the money, even if you spend 6 figures because a) it's the best way to learn the field and b) you'll pay off the loans with a job, even in this down economy all my STEM friends got jobs after college. Art, English, and drama... maybe not so much.
    • *Take time off before you go to college to work and save for your education. It will cost a lot less than having to take out loans.
    • *Choose a college that offers a fifth year masters if for free. Many schools do this, which basically saves you $20k - $30k and you leave more qualified with the potential for a higher starting salary.

    Any one of these methods I've outlined can lead to a college degree at a fraction of six figures. Sure, it means you're not going to the most expensive brand name. Sure it means having to worry about your grades or risk losing your scholarship. Sure it means working after you get out of class instead of partying. But you'll probably actually grow up of the course of the 4 years by taking some personal responsibility, instead treating college like an extension of your adolescence and leaving as a twenty-something with the mentality of a high school teenager like most college grads.

  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @12:53PM (#42170241)

    Speaking as a history major, if you go to school for a subject that isn't going to be related to an actual opening in the middle class, you're not going to get a middle class job. That's math that even a barista can do, if they want to.

    Don't get me wrong, I like the subject I studied, a lot. It's extremely important to have perspective and know how things were, and not what people tell you they were. On the other hand, if I hadn't had a solid technical background, a tech job in college, and some CS classes, I was looking at being a lawyer, a stockbroker or a waiter.

    I really only needed college to get my first job, but it was directly related to getting my first job. You also probably want the degree so you can get into a graduate program. You don't need it, but it may help to get your MBA at some point if you want to be a manager, or at least, an MS in a technical field to move up that track.

    I am just going to state, you are going to need a college degree on your resume to get past HR, but I will also say *it doesn't matter where you get it from, if it's accredited* all they care about is your degree being written on your resume after your first job unless it is an academic job. If it's academics, you better have gone to an Ivy League or other notable school and been in a very good graduate program afterward. Otherwise, you're teaching community college, buck-o.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:09PM (#42170415)

    There is an issue here.

    People with degrees have a lower unemployment rate than those without.

    So, statistically, it makes a difference.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @01:16PM (#42170495)

    Who do you think was paying for Gates to go to Harvard, who supported him before the company got going, and who just happened to be on a board with the chairman of IBM who took a chance hiring a small software company named Microsoft to develop(buy, really) an OS for their first personal computer?

    Yah, Bill never used his family money.

  • Wish I could mod you up. I picked up BS, MS, and PhD (why on this last one... I'm not entirely sure) in CS without I or my parents having to pay for it. There are scholarships available for undergrads and assorted "graduate assistant" positions if you continue to the graduate level. The biggest thing most people I've dealt with need to understand is there is nothing wrong with going to a state school.

    At the college level your degree is heavily what you make of it. If you want to learn a lot about the field, you can. If you want to skate by and barely do what's required, you can. However, if you interview with for a position and it's clear that you never did anything beyond the basic coursework and never cared enough to dig deeper on anything you're probably not getting a job. Pick a field somewhere in the intersection of "you're interested in it" and "you can get a job in it" and actually apply yourself. Look at the edges of what's taught in school and find bits and pieces that are interesting to you. Learn several programming languages, just so you can see that they're so inter-related that you can pick up whatever the new hotness is well enough to get through a basic interview. Learn some basic desktop IT work along with that CS degree so you could identify how the OS ate itself or what part the magic smoke escaped from and replace it. Learn every trick you can find for debugging tough problems from debuggers, to profilers, to writing your own logging routines, to breaking out wireshark because god only knows what's ACTUALLY traveling over the wires.

    None of these things necessarily require a degree but if I were to roll a die on either a programmer who has a degree and one that doesn't, with no other knowledge, my odds of getting someone useful are slanted toward the college degree.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @02:17PM (#42171165)

    If we could just cherry pick those kids now...

    This has been tried [], more or less, in a large study spanning over 70 years(!), but without great success: "In his book Fads and foibles in modern sociology and related sciences (p. 70-76), sociologist Pitirim Sorokin criticized the research, showing that Terman's selected group of children with high IQs did about as well as a random group of children selected from similar family backgrounds would have done."

  • by quetwo ( 1203948 ) on Monday December 03, 2012 @07:49PM (#42174383) Homepage

    I'm in middle to low-level management. The last two positions I had to hire for (both IT related... one was for a technician, and one was for a technical project manager) had over 1,000 resumes that were submitted to the job posting. We only had our posting online for two weeks.

    There is no way I could ever comprehend that many resumes. So, I'm only left to do some filters. First filter is for a college education. Why? It's one clear thing that sets people apart. Sure, I'm throwing away 60% of the people -- many of them who are probably really good, but I have to filter on something.

    Next thing I usually filter on is certain technologies. I put a lot of "required" technologies in the job posting. If you aren't smart enough to put those same words into your resume and/or cover letter, you are out. That usually boils down the number of resumes I need to look at to about 120 or so. From there I somehow have to figure out how to not spend the next two months interviewing people.. I usually get about 10 - 12 in the door to an interview.

    It's a sad fact, but you have a 88% chance of having your resume NOT hitting my desk. If you are applying for a job, you have to look at the requirements, the posting and every other clue the company gives you to get past the filters. You have to treat applying for a job like a job. Once you get in the door is when you can bedazzle them with your knowledge. The resume is just to get IN the door.

    Oh, and I know you personally, that always helps. I will tell you specifically what I am looking for and help you get around the filters. You will still need to stack up to the best of the crop that I'm looking at.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"