I have so many issues with our college education system I’m not sure where to begin. I’m not sure there is an institution that is in more disarray, or is in worse shape than the college and university system in the United States. The cost of education, the enrollment numbers, and even the common everyday perceptions of what the education system is what it is for is skewed beyond belief. The other day I was having lunch with a friend of mine, a very liberal guy, and the subject of education began. My friend stated that everyone deserved an education. I asked didn’t he mean to say that everyone deserves an opportunity to get an education and reiterated no, that every American deserves an education and a country that is as great as ours should ensure that everyone gets an education.
First of all we, as a society, have created this notion that everyone in this country deserves an education. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hate to be the harsh and realist that I am but not everyone is college material. Everyone who graduates from highschool should not be expected to go to college, much less graduate. I think we do our young adults a disservice by implying that they are required to go to college, be successful, and graduate. For example, I worked with a guy several years ago who had a college degree and worked in an environment that required a college degree. He struggled in his position and admitted the position he held was not for him and the he would much rather be operating heavy equipment or something similar. He stated that family pressure influenced his decision to attend college and now he felt that if he worked a job that didn’t require a college degree he would have wasted the years he spent and college and that it would have been a total waste. I’m not going to say my coworker was unintelligent, but he was a very simple-minded “country boy” who would be much happier driving a bulldozer or some similar heavy equipment. Ironically our employer had heavy equipment operators employed and he applied for a transfer several times, but was turned down because of his resume. What’s even more ironic was the fact that the heavy equipment operators were paid a better salary than the position my friend had. In other words, my friend made effort to get a degree (that neither wanted nor needed) that did not benefit him at all. This brings me to my next point.
I know some of you are thinking that since he graduated and obtained the degree he obviously was deserving of the degree and should be able to secure a career coinciding with the degree, but I disagree. Because we lived in a society that pushes everyone deserves a college education, the pressure does not rest on the students alone. Colleges and universities are under pressure to turn out these kids as fast as they can. Our college and university system has become less of an institution and more of a business, and when it becomes a business it’s about enrollment numbers. It’s more about quantity than quality. What makes this such a conundrum is that it floods the market and work force with college graduates applying for jobs in which they “perceive” a college graduate should have. This causes a huge problem for employers who can’t tell the difference between college graduates and people with a college degree who are pushed through for society’s sake. That’s why we have job websites and job openings flooded with applicants, who probably had no business applying for the job to begin with. This where it causes problems for college graduates who deservedly have a college degree, they get lost in application process. How can businesses adequately go through a hiring process when so many people are applying for every single job? I applied for a position one time recently that I believed I was highly qualified but I didn’t get the job. I was so bewildered by not even getting an interview that I called the person in charge of hiring and just asked him why. His honest answer was that it was just impossible to go through everyone that applied for the job, so they developed a system to organize the applicants and sometimes good applicants were excluded. He stated that the system was not perfect, but it was the best they could do. When we created the culture that everyone deserves a college education, we created a culture and expectation that everyone deserves this grandiose job with all of the bells and whistles. Nothing could be further from the truth, for more on this watch the video . Because of this mindset, society has made it seem less than successful to have a skilled labor job or learn a trade or a vocation that doesn’t require a degree. The ironic part of all of this is the lack of people learning trades, vocations, and skills, has driven up the salaries of good skilled workers and tradesmen. In my close circle, I have friends with bachelor degrees, several of us even have graduate degrees, but the biggest earners in my group of friends are one with trades and vocations. I have one friend who has nothing more than a high school education, but is a very successful small business owner as an electrical contractor. But the one who tops them all, the most successful one in my circle only completed the ninth grade. This guy dropped out of school when he was 15, he has told me numerous times that school just wasn’t for him. When he dropped out of school he learned a trade and then eventually purchased the business in which he is employed. This friend of mine easily makes over six figures. I know, before you say it, these examples are purely anecdotal. Maybe so but look at the trends and wages of these types of workers in certain areas and tell me there’s not a correlation.
Another point that really puzzles me is the cost of a college education. Why should all college degrees cost the same? If you go into a restaurant is a 20 oz rib eye steak the same price as chopped steak? of course not, but why is it when you enroll in college is the cost of a degree in physical education the same as a degree in chemical engineering? How do we as a society justify going thousand’s of dollars in debt for a degree where the starting salary isn’t much above the poverty line or even that much different from a skilled or vocational worker who paid far less for his knowledge and skill? When you quantify it in that way it really makes you think, doesn’t it? How many people go to college as soon as they graduate from high school for no other reason than that is what their family, peers, and society tell them they should do, only to get a degree that gives them no benefit or edge whatsoever in the workforce? Another aspect is you can look around your office, circle of friends, or whatever and just see exactly how many people with degrees actually do what they studied in college, or many people’s degrees are directly related to their job. Unless you work in an environment with people who have professional degrees such as engineers, chances are not very many.
Now I’m not against college, I love going to college and have taken classes in some form or another since the day I graduated from high school. What I don’t like is how our society has cultivated a mindset that tells our younger generations that they aren’t successful unless they have a formal college education. College is a government endorsed “racket” that is teaching our young adults very little while putting them in serious debt during a very important time in their life. When responsible young adults should planning a family and buying a house, too many have the stigma of outrageous student loans hovering over their heads. Listen up, every damn kid in the United States doesn’t DESERVE a college education. Every child born in this country does deserve the same chances in life, and to roll the dice and let them land where they land. Some make decisions that put them on the track to be doctors and other make decisions that lead to other less desirable professions, but it’s life. There is nothing wrong with the electrician working, making an honest wage at a respectable profession. We’re not all Wall Street investors remember that. If I had it all to do over again, knowing what I do now, I might have just learned a trade or a vocation.