Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Are College Degrees a Waste of Money? : NPR

Marty Nemko has written a compelling piece about the value of a college education in the Chronicle of Higher Education and The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, or you can hear him talk about it on NPR:
Are College Degrees a Waste of Money? : NPR

His basic argument is that most students who attend college aren't getting their money's worth. He writes:
Today, amazingly, a majority of the students whom colleges admit are grossly underprepared. Only 23 percent of the 1.3 million high-school graduates of 2007 who took the ACT examination were ready for college-level work in the core subjects of English, math, reading, and science.
He also notes that only 40 percent of those who enter college graduate in six years. Additionally, he argues that those who do graduate don't get much out of the experience.
A 2006 study supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that 50 percent of college seniors scored below "proficient" levels on a test that required them to do such basic tasks as understand the arguments of newspaper editorials or compare credit-card offers. Almost 20 percent of seniors had only basic quantitative skills. The students could not estimate if their car had enough gas to get to the gas station.
Nemko presents universities as scam artists. They're selling their "customers" a faulty product.

This is a harsh depiction of my chosen profession, so, it may surprise you to find that I agree with much of what he said. I've seen many students in my introductory classes who lack the basic skills required to pass. Since these students were not high academic achievers in high school, they are paying full tuition, but have little chance of ending up with a degree. So the university gets their tuition for one to four years and the students ends up without a degree. Additionally, when classes are full of unprepared students, these classes must move as a slower pace, limiting opportunities to explore topics in-depth. This makes the classes less interesting for those students who are prepared.

If you are considering a university education, you should have full knowledge of the risks and costs of doing so. And, you should be aware of the available alternatives (community colleges and trade schools, for instance). Universities need to do a better job of presenting a realistic view of their product. There are some who would still take a chance on a university education even with this knowledge. Universities should welcome these students with open arms.

1 comment:

Person(Also Known As Mommy) said...

Hi! I found your blog through Angela's (on All That Naz) and I think it's very interesting. Would you mind terribly being on another "mom blog" blogroll?

In response to this post, it's my opinion that when a person goes to college they are essentially paying for people to listen to them. Whether or not you are prepared, and whether or not you come out on the other side with a full and useful understanding of your chosen profession, if you have that piece of paper, it is my experience that people-employers and even the community in general-have more respect for what you have to say and, in the case of employers, are more likely to hire you if you have a college diploma. I think that is what people pay for when they go to college.

I personally put very little stock into this because I consider myself an exception to this generally accepted rule-and if I am an exception there are surely many more like me. I did not graduate high school, and yet I know that I have spent more hours learning than many of my college educated friends. I know that I have a greater love of learning, a greater knowledge base, and a better practical understanding than many of them as well.

And yet in the workplace I am considered less qualified for job positions (I am not speaking here of specialty degrees like nursing or engineering, I'm mostly speaking of those who graduate with a generalized degree). In the community I am considered less knowledgeable. People generally have less respect for me once they find out that I do not have a diploma.

Unfortunately I don't have the type of disposable income or time to get a degree and, thereby, the respect of other people but I certainly understand why some people pay $60,000 or more for it.