Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What is it worth?

Glen Reynolds has talked about the higher education bubble.

A lot.

Now here's Cracked on the same subject with: The Question You're Not Asking: Should You Go To College?

This is how it starts:

If you have (or are currently attending college in pursuit of) an engineering, law, computer science, medical or any other kind of degree that qualifies you to do something with a tangible effect on the world, this is not the column for you. You're not going to get anything out of it. Well, maybe some well-earned Schadenfreude at the expense of all the little grasshoppers who didn't till for winter, but aren't you above all that? Why don't you go somewhere and understand some math, asshole.

For the rest of you, I need to tell you something, and it's probably going to hurt: All that talk about how a higher education improves you as a human being, instantly launches a stellar career and hurls you screaming into the transcendental nirvana of financial stability -- yeah, that was all bullshit. Unless you're going for a professional degree, you really should not go to college.

Yes, Cracked a humor web-magazine for young people is doing something quite subversive. This is also not the first time either. Read their aticle on "5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won't)" and see the end on what will make you happy.

Edit: Though I don't really agree with the last point. Yes, college will not automatically put you into a "transcendental nirvana of financial stability" but it can still be worth it even if you are not in a "professional" degree. Though given the expense of college, one really has to consider what one wants to get out of all that time and money.

However, this requires a degree of direction and passion...

But then, I never quite understood the professional degree kids who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives before they were even legally allowed to smoke. At 18, all I actually "knew" that I wanted to do was girls, bong rips, and handstands - and I never did get that handstand down. We live in a coddling society, and our culture is extending mental adolescence further and further into the late teens and even 20s. I, for example, didn't really feel like a grown, responsible adult male until any day now, hopefully. The kids that have a life-map at 18 were always somewhat rare to start with, and now they're a dying breed. But even the lost teenagers still have that drive. It kicks in the second they get out of high school, and it's propagated by one of the most pervasive PR campaigns ever: "Go to college. You're nothing without a college education. It doesn't matter what you want to do, or even if you know what that is at all. Go to college. College fixes everything."

And why would the government be so gung ho about it -- willing to offer you all that free money (hey, you don't have to pay it back until college is over, and that's a lifetime from now! That's basically not even you anymore! Ha ha, fuck that guy!) - if it just ultimately screws you? Because of something called SLABS. If you haven't clicked on that link, that's okay: You're probably high right now and muddling through the second half of Jackie Brown. You're in no shape for the finer points of finance, but the gist is this: Remember what collapsed the housing market? The repackaged loans being traded with no capital behind them? This is the exact same deal.

Emphasis added this time. This is not a line of thinking you don't normally expect from an "edgy" and funny source, but there it is.

I was one of those "professional degree kids" and knew what I wanted to do and exacly what I wanted out of university. That made things easier.

However, for someone who is looking at a giant money-hole and does not know what they want out of it... well, that's a challenge. It's even more daunting for those that don't even want to go to class, and treat college as four years at an expensive, but crummy, resort.

Read the rest. And realize that some people are looking at higher education as an investment (and a real one not just code for spending money) and weighing the cost versus benefit.

Edit: This is not to say that college (even the non-professional programs) is worthless. On the contrary: this raises the question of what is it worth. Because as a student (or parent) you will pay for your time there. So the question becomes, what is the value you get from the education?

Is it worth the cost and the time? Why are you there? Expanding your horizons and knowledge are laudable goals, but they do not exist in a vacuum.

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