Sunday, June 12, 2011

College: Worth it?

It's Graduation time. My brother, Kevin, is graduating from UC Davis today. He joins hundreds of thousands (millions?) of other people getting a Bachelor's.

Maybe you've heard about the Thiel Fellowship. It gives young entrepreneurs money to work on their projects. The catch is they cannot be enrolled in a college or university. The thinking is that these promising creators can learn, grow, and do more in the real world than they could in college. Consider rising tuition costs and an ever-increasing debt load on graduates, and you can't avoid the question: Is college worth it?


Dale Stephens is 19 years old and in the Thiel Foundation. Naturally, he's firmly in the No camp. He wrote an opinion piece for, from which I've pulled a few excerpts--

"Failure is punished instead of seen as a learning opportunity. We think of college as a stepping-stone to success rather than a means to gain knowledge. College fails to empower us with the skills necessary to become productive members of today's global entrepreneurial economy."

"Of course, some people want a formal education. I do not think everyone should leave college, but I challenge my peers to consider the opportunity cost of going to class. If you want to be a doctor, going to medical school is a wise choice. I do not recommend keeping cadavers in your garage. On the other hand, what else could you do during your next 50-minute class? How many e-mails could you answer? How many lines of code could you write?"

"It's not a question of authorities; it's a question of priorities. We who take our education outside and beyond the classroom understand how actions build a better world. We will change the world regardless of the letters after our names."


Jessie Rosen is a self-proclaimed "20-nothing" living in LA who, in her spare time, writes a blog the same name. She says "it depends," but it seems like she's actually saying Yes. Excerpts--

"I graduated from that college and took a job that I got through a connection from my college. Worth it? Yes. Very much so."

"During my college years I focused on four extracurricular activities (NERD ALERT!!). I wrote for the school newspaper, produced and hosted a weekly news show on BCTV, participated in volunteer programs, and started/ran a website that provided weekly reviews of Boston-based events and businesses...

I could have easily done volunteer work and started this website without the help of Boston College - so that goes in the "not worth it" pile, but it isn't likely that a real newspaper or real TV station would give me the kind of hands on experience that my college versions allowed - so that's a "worth it" feature.

But here's the thing. I didn't know I wanted to do any of those things until I entered college - specifically Boston College. These activities/programs/projects grew out of interests I developed based on friendships I made and lessons I learned about myself and my abilities inside the classroom. College - for me - was a place to realize my potential - to incubate, if you will."

My thoughts.

I'm in the same mindset as Jessie, there was no real skill or technique I need for work that I could only learn in college. Reading, writing, shooting, and editing. Only a bit of reading and real-life experience can teach you that. As Matt Damon's character in "Good Will Hunting" said, "you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a education you coulda got for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library."

But, it's all about the contacts. People I met in college are now my closest friends, grooms for whom I'm best man, and the references who got me the job I'm at now.

Plus the real world experience. I got to shoot, edit, write on super high quality cameras and computers.

And I lied earlier. There was stuff that I learned that I use everyday at and away from work. Critical thinking, public speaking, team leadership skills, and a humble, humanistic worldview.

So, yes. Yes, college is worth it.

But I'm biassed.

Your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. Education is the key to success!! College fosters the development of intellect, higher level critical thinking skills, problem solving abilities, listening and learning from others, gathering different viewpoints and creating your own unique point of view, meeting professors and classmates from a variety of cultural and geographical backgrounds, and provides experiences one may not encounter if not enrolled in an institution of higher learner.
    Since I am an educator I am most definitely biased, but I am also right!