College graduates on average make a million dollars more in their life time then their non college degree holding counter parts. This is always spouted of as being some truism and the reason why everyone should go to college. However I have always wondered about that statement. Obviously there has to be some truth to it right? Well maybe not, it most likely depends more on what you get a degree in and who you know or where you came from.
People who went to college in the past were people who were already well connected and could afford to go and get a degree in something. This is probably not the case for most people today. Think of it this way, if your dad was a wealthy man will you most likely be wealthy? Probably. If your parents are well connected, will you be well connected? If your parents were poor are you likely going to be poor too? According to most statistics, yes. Unfortunately the statement about making a million more doesn’t account for this. It is probably just as likely a child of a wealthy family would fare as well with a college degree then without. Just look at some like Bill Gates.
As a caveat, getting a degree in a hard science is slightly different and I have to interject that. If you want to be an engineer, doctor, nurse or scientist you will need to go to college to become one. These, on the whole, are the exceptions. Most persons can learn a job well enough by being in that field and as well as learning from videos or job-specific training online. The focus in much of high school and society at large is to get a prestigious degree from a 4 year institution. As long as this remains the norm, it will remain hard to change the paradigm of education.
The questions you have to ask yourself are, “Can I achieve the same end by working or educational alternatives?” and “Does my prospective career path justify the expense of college education?” A degree is expensive, and as many millenials are discovering, no guarantee of gainful employment, despite the well-meaning assurances of high school counselors. The alternatives to college are not discussed much nor are they easily organized in one place, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Khan Academy, free university lectures, Youtube videos , free training software, online training programs with certificates, blogging, on the job training, apprenticeships, and many other resources are just some of the type of alternate training programs. Some companies do look at alternatives to college and there are values put on those tools. However, college degrees are the gate keepers and most companies use them to weed out people. Until this ends and there is a “formalized structure” set up for alternate learning it will remain hard to gauge the value of alternative learning.
While college degrees have a lot of value in society the bottom line is that the world is changing and the internet has opened a whole new world of learning to every one. Disillusioned, un- and under-employed millenials are changing the game. Free or low cost educational alternatives are cropping up all over the place online. With so many people gaining college degrees, businesses are going to be looking for something else that sets a person apart from the pack. This may or may not be the skills that one can obtain from learning online or on the job. Keep in mind when weighing the options that this is your future, and no one else’s. Each situation is unique and therefore all options (traditional and alternative) should be carefully evaluated before any real decision is made. You have options. Do not get a degree and saddle yourself with years of debt just because it is what every one else is doing after high school, there are many alternatives available if you look.
Image courtesy of: thegoldguys.blogspot.com/