Sunday, April 05, 2015

Higher Education

Window Featuring the Liberal Arts - Rollins College, Winter Park Florida 

There is a odd debate going on in our society that a college education is not a good idea.  There are arguments that college or university degree is unnecessary, does little for a person and simply costs too much. As someone who has earned (and paid for) two degrees, I have to disagree for the most part.  Now let me start with my agreement, not everyone has what it takes to finish a college degree.  There was a movement to try to make a university education as universal as high school and honestly there are high school graduates who don't have what it takes.  Some of them are poorly prepared, by school systems that passed them through without expecting much from them. If the have the ability, they can earn a college degree, but they have to be committed to learning what is missing  in the basic skill set.  Some are simply not smart enough to complete a college education.  I know all men are created equal, but not all have the same abilities. A college education should require a higher then average level of intelligence to finish and not everyone has what it takes.  

Some will argue that many jobs don't require a college degree.  Take for example a paint and body mechanic who repairs and repaints cars.  A few months of trade school or a couple of years working with a good mentor and many people can learn the skills that are necessary to perform this work.  Given the choice of hiring the applicant with an art history degree and couple of year's apprenticeship, or the applicant with a high school education and a year in a trade school, I am going to hire the one with the art history degree.  Why, when a customer asks for a clean modern red paint scheme, or something in an impressionist blue, the person with the art history degree is going to know what they are talking about.  The person with the art history degree will understand why purple with yellow accents works, but purple with orange accents does not.  

A person with a better education, who is ready and willing to seek out and take the jobs that they are capable of, should earn more then a person without the education.  Most of the people who complain about having a "worthless" degree are unwilling to go where the jobs are, or take jobs that are available.  They are not willing to accept the change.  There are some schools that are overpriced.  A solid education from an affordable state school, probably has a better return on investment then a degree from a private institution that cost twice as much. (My BA is from a small private liberal arts college - I paid for it - it was expensive. My JD is from a state school and cost less then what my BA did and rewarded me with better earnings capacity.)  

Higher education changed me as a person.  I learned to understand myself.  I learned to think outside of my life experience.  I learned to see other perspectives.  I learned that no matter how difficult a task, if I dig deep and apply myself, I can do it.  There were some concepts that were a struggle, not all brains are wired the same, but if I work at it I can do a good job on most and a passable job on those that are the biggest reach for me.  I was not well prepared from high school to go into college.  Early intervention by a community college professor, who I owe a HUGE thank you to, helped me to understand some of the oddities of my brain and the areas of basic skills that I needed to work on, still have to work on. I did well in college and law school, in part because I worked very-very hard, I have a very strong fear of failure.  It might have helped that I was paying for it and knew it was my money on the line.   

I do think that anyone who has the ability, should earn a college degree. As s country we need to do more to make college accessible to those with the ability and desire.  


  1. my BIL teaches auto body courses at a trade school. some of his high school students can't read. now how in hell are they going to succeed in business? also, my BIL never went to college. and it shows.

    my spouse has a BA and an MA; unlike his brother (above), he's got the smarts. but sometimes he flunks logic and common sense in life situations.

    I have a BA (parental units paid) and an AAS (for which I paid). I have never used either degree in a job situation. but I am a quick visual learner and I have logical thinking and common sense.

    college has become waaaaay too expensive, even the state schools/community colleges (at least in THIS state they are). why is that? why should someone graduate with a huge debt pile? talk about disadvantaged before one even begins working for a living!

    and you are correct, not everyone has the smarts to make it through college. they are condemned to work at wallyworld or similar retail. sucks to be them.

    1. A.M. - earning the degrees changed the way you think, and that makes you a more valuable worker everyday.

  2. When I went to College in 1977 my small private women's college cost about $3K a year with r&b in MD.

    In 2014 a public state school in PA costs over $22K a year with r&b. My private school in 2014 cost $50K a year to attend.

    Average household income in 1977 was about $14K.
    Average household income in 2014 was about $51K.

    In 1977 dollars, my private college was about 22% of an avg. yearly media income.
    in 2015 dollars, my private college is about 98% of an avg. yearly media income.

    I can't compare the 1977 to 2014 public school costs since I don't have the numbers on public college costs in 1977.

    My problem is that the median us income hasn't kept pace with the inflated costs of higher education.
    School administrations aggressively seek out monies from every source possible to enrich it's own coffers, much like the government these days. Inflated pay rates for professors(they have to, to retain the good ones), and spending on non-essential campus plant improvements(luxury dorms and amenities and grand new building spaces and sports program costs)are all done on the backs of students and their parents wallets.

    So the government makes it easier for students to get loans to "afford" school.
    Then the schools can raise the cost to's a vicious cycle with no end in sight.

  3. When in high school, I wanted to take the academic courses, preparatory for college but my Mother told me "We're not paying for your college education." Thus I too the commercial course (so I could get a job after graduating). After school I joined the Army and when I got out I used the G.I. Bill to get a college degree (associate = two year - at three nights a week after work for four years I didn't want to go another four years). The college degree (in Economics) made zero difference in my bank operations job but I'm glad I got it because it helped me to grow as a person. These days, the value of a college degree is greatly diluted because of cheating and poor teachers but still, a college degree will put you a leg up in getting that first job. A high school diploma will not, except to join one of the branches of the service and, as you know, many of today's youth is more interested in partying and drugs than serving their country for the freedom that they take for granted.
    I greatly admire people like you who worked their way through college and are now very successful.

  4. Kids in wales are lucky
    The welsh givernment will subsidise college fees........

  5. Your last sentence says it all. If they can do the work, desire to do the work, then let's make it affordable.

    A young blogger I stay in contact with is a senior in HS. His family is low-income (both mom and dad work at relatively low paying jobs). He is quite smart and very artistic. One of his high school assignments (a required one) was to apply to colleges. He got accepted to at least one of the ones he might want to go to, but money is an issue (and he sees little need to go to college if he doesn't know what he wants to do in life). At the same time, he realizes that the trades are a noble way to make a living. The community college offers training and guaranteed apprenticeships at far less cost. So he is torn.

    I am not sure I buy the argument that an art history degree coupled with some mentoring would make someone a better bodyshop or paintroom person than someone with a couple of years of specialized training and a year or so of apprenticeship. Orange versus yellow stripes are in the customer's mind, and if that is what they want, they can have it! I certainly wouldn't get all preachy and suggest that my art history degree allows me to second guess someone's favorite school colors that they want on their car!

    As far as that goes, my degree is in Speech/Broadcasting, but I've been an engineer of some sort all my career. The degree absolutely helped me when I worked in the broadcasting and production field because it allowed me to interface with other departments and people who thought and worked very differently than I did. It has allowed me to carry on intelligent conversation with many, many people from many walks of life, with interests as diverse as our universe, and not feel out of place. I don't think you get that without Liberal Arts.

    One of the biggest problems with our educational system today is its one-size-fits-all approach. We hold back the gifted (can't say that any more) and stymie the lower level kids (can't say that any more - they're ALL EXCEPTIONAL ED!) in an attempt to make them all pass a standardized test or ten. The smart ones don't do well because they're so bored they're lost in space during class, the others because they simply can't. And yet we want more and more to take IB classes, and AP classes, and Dual Enrollment classes. Yeesh.

    Sorry to go on a rant, I just live with it every day, and am dismayed at the state of our public education system, from Pre-K thru BA.

    Peace <3

    1. This one brought out the rants, it is nice to engage as long as I don't enrage.

  6. Oh the horror. What an awful nation we are when we think education is a waste.