Are We Over-Valuing a College Education?

CAM00085First I want to make the point that there can be a difference between obtaining knowledge and going to college. True learning can be done anywhere, anytime. It doesn’t have to happen in a classroom and usually doesn’t…

I grew up in the 80s when going to college wasn’t absolutely necessary to find a decent job. As long as a person was willing to work there was usually something they could do. White collar careers were something in the distant future.

Then all of a sudden the blue-collar baby boomers – have you ever wanted to find the nearest boomer and shake them long and hard? – got it into their head that their children needed to have the education they couldn’t have. And of course computers took off and businesses were scrambling to find employees who knew how to work them.

So for a long time there was a legitimate need for a college degree. It was an efficient means to disseminate knowledge everyone needed. Sure there were still kids going for degrees with no practical application, but they could teach, right?

*Insert disgusted laugh*

So now we have a bunch of Gen Xers who believe that the only way to be successful and find a rewarding career is to go to college. But this is where I get confused. I personally, being a Gen Xer, didn’t go to college until I was in my late 20s. My parents were the exception to the blue-collar baby boomers.

So I worked for nearly a decade without a college degree. Granted, they were low-paying, dead-end jobs, but I probably couldn’t have gotten somewhere if I was a psychotic bitch back then. But, here’s the important part, I was helping to support my family and we were doing okay – 2 decent cars, three meals a day, and a mortgage.

Back to the confusing part. Why don’t the Gen Xers bother to share their knowledge with their kids? I know, I know, I was 19 once, you can’t really tell them anything that they’ll listen to, but come on. The parents are the one’s footing the bill or at the very least co-signing on the student loan. You can’t tell me there’s not a moment when they go ‘wait a minute, if college costs this much, why are we taking out a loan for double or triple that amount with compounding interest?’

Never mind that the degree little Katie wants is in hypothetical bull shit…

With no hopes of ever landing a job that will allow her to pay off the interest, let alone the principle.

We can make the banks and the loan companies out to be the villains in this scenario, but really all they’re doing is trying to make money. Which seems to be an iffy proposition with the amount of students defaulting on their loans.

Then there are people who seem angry because they think the loan companies should tell these kids how much these loans are really going to cost them. But they do. It’s all there in extremely small type. It’s not the loan company’s fault no one seems to be able to do math or what the concept of interest really means.

Or that teenagers seem to be incapable of thinking any farther ahead than the upcoming weekend…

I know, I was there once. I made some pretty stupid mistakes myself when I was 19 concerning money and credit cards. But once I dug myself into a pretty deep hole – it only took a matter months – I began to realize that there had to be a better way. There had to be a way to manage my money and my income so that I had enough to cover all of my expenses without panicking and being stressed out all the time.

And I think there are a lot of kids out there now that feel the same way, but no one is bothering to show them how. Is it because their parents suck at managing money too? Is it because they’ve been told to screw off so many times they’ve given up on trying to teach their kids anything? Or are they just so wrapped up in their own lives they can’t be bothered to help their kids? Or are they afraid they won’t be their kids’ friends anymore if they tell them the hard truth that they can’t always have what they want?

I wish I knew, because it’s one of our society’s biggest problems now. And just wiping out the student loan debt is not the answer. No one will learn anything from that except that someone will always be there to bail them out when life gets too hard.

But that’s just not reality. At least it shouldn’t be. Because then we have a whole generation of people with no discipline and no problem-solving skills.

So what is a college education really worth?

It’s beginning to look like it’s not even worth the degree it’s printed on…


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