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September 30th, 2011


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08:36 am
Several weeks back, I was shocked to listen to a report on NPR that stated that a college education wasn't worth the money it cost in terms of the additional moneys it would bring during a career.

What I found shocking was the implicit assumption that the only reason to go to college was financial.

I've pondered that, for this time (and for that matter, I have a little time to try to post about it), and I have to wonder if they included in their assessments the value of the connections you acquire, the friendships you build, and the innate value of the knowledge you've gained in a college environment.

My own observations, admittedly non-scientific, suggest that people with a college education are completely different than they were exiting high school.

Was that just natural maturation, that would have occurred even without college? I can't say. But in conversation with such people, they make associations and connections that might not be as likely had they not the additional years of learning.

In my own background, knowledge is held in high esteem for its own sake. Perhaps that's not as true in other cultures, such as the one of the man who'd been interviewed on NPR...

(32 comments | Speak, or forever hold your peace)

Comments:


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From:rince1wind
Date:September 30th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
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I'm surprised at NPR. On the other hand, a result of getting a college education - even recognizing, from a knowledge-valuing point of view, that nothing is ever wasted - can now lead to finding oneself in such a prodigious load of debt that one may be paying for it the rest of one's life. So, while money is certainly not everything, the lack of it can certainly (as I know u know) cause great unhappiness, often canceling the positives of that horrendously expensive education. I say this as we pay for se's ed while still paying off my grad school loans... We're lucky...it looks like we may be able to do it. Tho se is also taking out some, which will not be nice for her.

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From:mycroftca
Date:September 30th, 2011 10:43 pm (UTC)
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But necessary.
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From:jamiethered
Date:September 30th, 2011 04:23 pm (UTC)
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On a competing note, it's becoming ever more important to have some post-high-school education to get and keep a job in this country. The increase of technology and its invasion of every level of the economy leaves few positions open for those who don't have additional education. Increasing specialization is having the same effect, forcing people to learn more about their specific career to succeed in that career.

I suspect they focus on the money because it's an easy aspect to relate to, but I agree that it's a shallow and simplistic measure of value.
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From:mycroftca
Date:September 30th, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
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Much too shallow. Indeed.

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From:selenite
Date:September 30th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
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There's a lot of recent grads with not-very-useful degrees finding that they'll never, ever be able to pay back their loans . . . and they can't go bankrupt because student loans are exempt from that. Friends, knowledge, and the rest are all good, but not worth ruining the rest of your life for.
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From:mycroftca
Date:September 30th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
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It might not be a fault of college, but an issue of realizing that you have to learn some useful materials as well as some for pure interest. Heck, I took Marine Mammals at UCLA, which was of no use at all in medicine, simply for interest.

I'd vote for thoughtful use of college, rather than an automatic move up, as if it were high school.

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From:stacymckenna
Date:September 30th, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
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The kinds of cost-benefit analysis they're discussing are addressed in greater detail in the documentary "Declining by Degrees", and are pretty much what rince1wind describes. They're finding nowadays that those who go into skilled labor (plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc.) are more likely to have a positive net worth and may even have a higher income level than those with university degrees in many cases. There are some degrees that absolutely require the university (engineering, medical, etc.) but for many of the business/liberal arts degrees, they're finding the cost is higher than the benefits.
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From:mycroftca
Date:September 30th, 2011 10:49 pm (UTC)
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I can see that; I mean, it's been a running joke for stand-up comedians for years that a liberal arts degree prepares one very well to work at a fast-food joint. I'd vote for judicious preparation with a wider base of knowledge that may lead one to a better future.

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From:pondhopper
Date:September 30th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
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I think that today's economy or lack thereof has conditioned many people's thoughts about education. One of our daughter's just finished grad school and the amount of debt she has is akin to a moderate mortgage. She has only been able to find a part time job and will have to ask for a hardship deferment for her loans. She and her husband struggle to pay their bills and live in a rented apartment in a not very good area of a large city.

She's happy with her pursuit of knowledge but very stressed about what it has cost her and what the debt means for their future in the circumstances they find themselves in today.

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From:mycroftca
Date:September 30th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
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May I inquire as to what areas her degrees were in?

From:silme
Date:September 30th, 2011 05:49 pm (UTC)
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The idea that a university education is only for financial benefits has been a topic of conversation in the UK for quite some time, particularly after the Tory government decided to raise tuition fees.

For years, there weren't any tuition fees here. When my husband earned his degree, he didn't have any tuition fees and he had grants for his living expenses. In the early part of this century, the New Labour government brought in tuition fees of £3000 a year. (That's for all universities, from Oxford and Cambridge all the way down to the former technical colleges now made universities.) Loans were made available, and they wouldn't have to be paid back until you were making at leat £15K a year. Students started having to get part-time jobs. (I always worked at least 20 hours, often more, a week in the US as an undergrad, and I taught high school full-time when I earned my MA.)

The Conservatives are raising the fees to £9000 a year. This past year was very competitive, as the students starting this autumn are grandfathered in at the old rate, so anyone who didn't apply the previous year, anyone who might have waited a year or two applied this year. The kids next year will be the first to pay £9000 a year. Starting next year, they won't have to repay loans until they're making £21K a year.

But all the talk is about money. Will they get their money's worth? What if they can't get a job right away? Etc.

The idea of university as a maturation process or, more importantly, the idea of learning for learning's sake, is gone. :(

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From:mycroftca
Date:September 30th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC)
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Too high-brow of me, I suppose. Still, it takes university level education to prepare scientists, doctors, lawyers, and most technical skills...

Even, dare I say it, POLITICIANS!!!
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From:moonsinger
Date:September 30th, 2011 10:16 pm (UTC)
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I met my husband in college, and I met a handful of friends that I know I can truly count on. On the other hand, I, too, have a student loan that is the side of mortgage. I was not prepared for college at all when I went, and because I had good grades, I went to a prestigious regional school and made mediocre grades. I learned a lot though, and despite everything I'm glad I went to the school that I did. When I went to grad school, I had superb grades because the work I was doing as an undergrad in my major was at the same level as my grad work.
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From:mycroftca
Date:September 30th, 2011 10:54 pm (UTC)
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I have treasured friends from college, and that I met at the time of medical school (though, admittedly, not FROM my medical school) who were in college and grad school at the time. My friends from high school, for the most part, are distant memories, with one exception.

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From:cissa
Date:October 2nd, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
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I am not currently in contact with anyone I knew during college.

However, I do feel it taught me some disciplines of thought and action which I had not received from high school, and which have been very helpful for me in many ways.
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From:mycroftca
Date:October 3rd, 2011 02:24 pm (UTC)
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Obviously, the fellow NPR was interviewing was trying to quantify experiences like yours in a monetary fashion; I think that is unfair, but I admit to cultural prejudice.

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From:cissa
Date:October 2nd, 2011 10:47 pm (UTC)
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...And probably as a result of this- and similar experiences with J- we have not been willing to fund a 4-6-year-college thing for our daughter, since she has shown utterly NO signs of wanting to learn or to get working credentials, and a LOT of eagerness to screw around, funded, for as many years as she can talk anyone into funding.
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From:mycroftca
Date:October 3rd, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
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Maybe it's this kind of attitude that's been a sea change to my era's college interest; maybe not? There's always been partiers/party schools...
Several weeks back, I was shocked to listen to a report on NPR that… - This ain't no party, this ain't no disco... — LiveJournal

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