Is College Right For Everyone? Or Even Worth the Cost?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

College tuition for a four year public school rose, on average, seven percent last year.  That rise came in a year where many American families are already feeling squeezed for money.

All this week we’ve been talking about the college admissions process.  We’ve heard from families trying to figure out where to send their kids, from deans who’ve explained how money can factor into who they accept.  But underlying these issues is a bigger question: is college always worth the money? Put another way: Is a college education right for everyone?

Anya Kamenetz, staff writer for Fast Company and author of the new book, “DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education,” says people should reevaluate how they look at the cost and worth of higher education.  29-year-old Lily Landhauer is a student at Columbus State Community College; she says she's doing that reevaluating by necessity.

Guests:

Anya Kamenetz and Lily Landhauer

Produced by:

Jen Poyant

Comments [7]

Andrew from Jamaica Plain

It has taken almost a month for me to calm down from the horrific conversation I heard on 25 March, when I tuned into the two hosts discussing the merits and downfalls of a college education. What shocked / traumatized my senses from the conversation was the complete lack of any discussion about the love of learning, the knowledge you bring to your communities (family, neighbors, colleagues etc.), the ideals of lifelong learning etc. All of these things are more than possible with or without a college degree.

However, the college experience is often the place where life long learners are developed and the rigor of learning is disciplined and refined. The radio dialogue honed right in on the quid-pro-quo of a college degree. That is just ridiculous. A degree does not and never has and never should be primarily about placing your bets or investing in the volume of your cash flow. As we know from the SEC, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. This is not only an important investment strategy, it is a life lesson.

The bottom line in America is quite simple: work hard, do the very best you can, and be prepared for your death. You will waste enormous amounts of life playing chess with your personal, career, and spiritual life. Do what you love and everything will come together. You do not need the trappings of a lush / flush life showered in cash to find your happiness. Find (or at least enjoy spending your life finding) and follow your bliss.

Peace and happiness to you all!

Jun. 18 2010 09:49 AM
Andrew from Jamaica Plain

It has taken almost a month for me to calm down from the horrific conversation I heard on 25 March, when I tuned into the two hosts discussing the merits and downfalls of a college education. What shocked / traumatized my senses from the conversation was the complete lack of any discussion about the love of learning, the knowledge you bring to your communities (family, neighbors, colleagues etc.), the ideals of lifelong learning etc. All of these things are more than possible with or without a college degree.

However, the college experience is often the place where life long learners are developed and the rigor of learning is disciplined and refined. The radio dialogue honed right in on the quid-pro-quo of a college degree. That is just ridiculous. A degree does not and never has and never should be primarily about placing your bets or investing in the volume of your cash flow. As we know from the SEC, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. This is not only an important investment strategy, it is a life lesson.

The bottom line in America is quite simple: work hard, do the very best you can, and be prepared for your death. You will waste enormous amounts of life playing chess with your personal, career, and spiritual life. Do what you love and everything will come together. You do not need the trappings of a lush / flush life showered in cash to find your happiness. Find (or at least enjoy spending your life finding) and follow your bliss.

Peace and happiness to you all!

Jun. 18 2010 09:44 AM
Hannah from New York

I think John Hockenberry was misleading and borderline irresponsible when he said that his lack of a college degree has had NO impact on his career. He has absolutely no way of knowing whether that's true. There may have been job offers he didn't receive, or jobs he wasn't recruited for, because of his lack of a BA. And, as a former journalist, I think he should also acknowledge that the journalism industry has changed drastically since he entered the profession. I'm sure it's possible to succeed without a degree, but these days anyone without a BA will be competing for internships with college grads and people with master's degrees in journalism. Journalism is a highly competitive field, and a lack of a degree is a really good way to get your resume thrown in the trash. Plus, school is a great place to build skills and a network that will help you succeed in the field. Perhaps I missed the show where John discussed his lack of a degree in more depth -- I didn't listen on Monday. If not, I think you owe it to your listeners to discuss it in a more open and honest way.

Mar. 26 2010 09:35 AM
Terry Godlove from Forest Hills, NY

You seem to have left out the single most important rationale for higher education--democracy, and the flourishing thereof.

Mar. 25 2010 06:08 PM
Rick Evans from Massachusetts

Sadly, whether everyone should be expected to go to college has been largely decided by a society that can't handle ideas bigger than a soundbite.

Then there are the simpleminded statistical soundbites parroted by journalists who can't or think we can't handle nuance; usually true on both counts.

How many times have you heard the population statistic that says college grads earn double over a lifetime that high school grads earn applied to individuals.

There are three reasons I can think of to go to college.

1. You want the knowledge professors have to offer spoon fed to you.

2. You need a college degree to qualify for your desired career.

3. You want the advantage that bosses will pick you over equally or better qualified or smarter high school grads because you have a BS diploma.

Most students attend college for reason #3.

There is no shortage of college grads working as secretaries, driving city buses or commuter trains.

J schools notwithstanding a real high school education, not the kind that leaves college freshman needing remediation, is enough to prepare you to be a journalist. Why does one need a college degree to manage a chain fast food restaurant? Note: we're not talking about business degrees.

For some fields, Hockenberry's right. Ironically for Celeste's college major, music, she's mostly wrong. It's talent and luck that determines whether you succeed as a musician; unless you want to be a public school teacher.

Mar. 25 2010 10:35 AM
Marissa Solomon-Garcia from Staten Island, NY

The push for every child to go pursue an academic diploma in high school and then move on to college is extremely detrimental on many levels. We expect every child to meet the exact same standards at the exact same age, and have the same types of intelligence. There used to be three types of diplomas in the NYC public school system, Academic for the college bound, Professional for the trade school bound, and Vocational for the work force bound. Now we hold them all to the same standards and then push them to take out loans and go into debt in order to go to college when those children, the community and the economy would be better served by allowing children to pursue things that they excel at with vocational training programs while still in high school and then showing them the options of trade school and apprenticeships. I have been a NYC high school English teacher for the past 13 years. During that time, the quality of the education that children receive has decreased dramatically. What would garner a failing grade of 55 in my classroom now receives somewhere along a 75, according to the standards of the State Board of Regents, in order for the graduation rates to rise and no child to be left behind. As a result, the knowledge that my students 10 years ago graduated high school with they now must learn in college.

Mar. 25 2010 08:29 AM
Louis from New York

Personally, I attended undergraduate and graduate because I wanted a better future than my parents. I respect my father as a blue collar worker, but he was at the mercy of his employer having no college degree or even a high school diploma. Having an education gives you the opportunity to be financially free from employers, and sometimes higher education can open our minds to ideals and opinions we never knew before. I know tuition is rising every year, but we should not be deterred from continuing to better ourselves. If we really want to fix the tuition crisis, we need to pressure the federal and state governments to treat private and public universities and colleges as corporations by pressuring them to change. Hiding behind the phrase "educational institution" or "institution of higher learning" should not excuse them from conning students into debt because of tuition costs, or manipulating them into ridiculous housing contracts to live in overpriced housing.

Mar. 25 2010 12:31 AM

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