The cost of college, the failure of the government to come to a decision on the subsidy for Pell grants, and just the general value of a college education have come into question.
A recent 60 minute segment examined these issues and the radical proposal that young people might better prepare themselves for life in other ways. This segment is worth the watching and considering.
I see this situation from both sides – I am an academic having spent 30+ years as a college faculty member, I am a parent with three grown children with loans – two from graduate programs focused on health care (PT, OT). We were able to help our kids, but they must still cover a substantial debt. BTW – our kids are doing very well and I assume they would share my perspective that they owe some credit for their success to their educations.
I would guess that the issue is not so much whether an advanced education is helpful, but rather whether the education is cost effective. Maybe I am wrong. The notion of “open source” education seems attractive to some because it appears the resources are there to self-educate (see 60 minute segments). Do I think that self education can work. Certainly!! Would I recommend the approach? Very rarely!!
Don’t get me wrong. I think the idea of natural experiments is great. People of means might want to volunteer their kids for a few years to see how it goes. This is actually how I think this will play out. There will be some successes, but we will want to carefully examine the variables associated with these successes. How frequently will the necessary characteristics exist in most of the 17-19 year old population?
My experience working with Introductory college students suggest that few have the self discipline or the perspective to guide their own education. The students who could be successful are the students who are already successful in the existing system. This is what I think is deceptive about the perspective of the 60 minute piece (the position of the advocates). Students from good homes with supportive parents and life experiences that provide them with a perspective on the possibilities may be able to make this work. If it does not after a few years, mom and dad are their to support a more traditional development process. Many of the entrepreneurs held up as role models were not necessarily rich, but dropped out of premier colleges with generally supportive parents.
To me, this is another of those social issues society is failing to deal with realistically. College costs are high because many expect those who experience it most directly to pay for it. We cannot seem to come to grips with universal health care. We cannot seem to come to grips with universal advanced education. We are creating a selfish society that is all about us and our kids. Let everyone else fend for themselves.
Pursue your passion. Consider how many have argued against this lack of reality in many who do. Maybe you do not recognize the topic that brings this to my mind. This reminds me of the campaign to get inner city minority kids to value education and to carefully evaluate the odds of them becoming the next sports mega millionaires. Would those proposing that formal education needs a new direction argue against the advice given those who were 6’8″ and had a 40 inch vertical as 17 year olds? Now the new role models are the kids who drop out of college and self educate to achieve as entrepreneurs. The odds of becoming the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg are probably not that different than the odds of becoming the next Michael Jordan or Lebron James.