Over the last few months there has been a lot of media coverage over whether we are in a higher education bubble and if so, is a college degree today worth the expense. During the June 21, 2011 edition of #CollegeChat we will discuss this issue.
NPR took a look at the issue in their recent article “Making Headlines Since the ‘70s: Is College Worth it.” As part of their story, NPR interviewed Kevin Carey, policy director for the think-tank Education Sector. Carey argued that the recent stories debating whether college was worth it was not a new story at all but one that creeps back up during economic downturns.
“It’s missing a lot of really important long-term trends,” he says. “If you look at wage data, what you see is that people with college degrees are making more and more and more money, and basically everyone else is either staying the same or falling back.
Carey went on to point out that college graduates “are the only segment of the economy where employment has actually gotten better during the first five months of this year.”
“If you’re a parent and you’ve spent your whole life trying to get your son or daughter into a good college and spent a lot of money, the last thing you want to hear is that that was a bad idea and they’re going to be coming home and they’ll be unemployed soon,” he says. “And so people gravitate toward stories that speak to their fear and their anxieties.”
Pay Pal founder Peter Thiel has also joined the debate by offering 20 talented college students under 20 an opportunity to earn $100,000 over two years by leaving school and beginning a company instead. According to Thiel’s interview with TechCrunch, he believes:
“There’s been a sea-change in the last three years, as debt has mounted and the economy has faltered. This wouldn’t have been feasible in 2007,” he says. “Parents see kids moving back home after college and they’re thinking, ‘Something is not working. This was not part of the deal.’ We got surprisingly little pushback from parents.” Thiel notes a handful of students told him that whether they were selected or not, they were leaving school to start a company. Many more built tight relationships with competing applicants during the brief Silicon Valley retreat– a sort of support group of like-minded restless students.
Dale J. Stephens is a 19-year-old entrepreneur and one of the first recipients of the Thiel fellowship. According to his recent CNN byline “College is a Waste of Time”, he is also the founder of UnCollege, a social movement supporting self-directed higher education and building RadMatter, a platform to demonstrate talent.
In his CNN byline, Stephens reported:
College is expensive. The College Board Policy Center found that the cost of public university tuition is about 3.6 times higher today than it was 30 years ago, adjusted for inflation. In the book “Academically Adrift,” sociology professors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa say that 36% of college graduates showed no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning or writing after four years of college. Student loan debt in the United States, unforgivable in the case of bankruptcy, outpaced credit card debt in 2010 and will top $1 trillion in 2011.
For Stephens leaving college made sense. He wrote:
We must encourage young people to consider paths outside college. That’s why I’m leading UnCollege: a social movement empowering individuals to take their education beyond the classroom. Imagine if millions of my peers copying their professors’ words verbatim started problem-solving in the real world. Imagine if we started our own companies, our own projects and our own organizations. Imagine if we went back to learning as practiced in French salons, gathering to discuss, challenge and support each other in improving the human condition. leaving college and accepting the Thiel fellowship made sense.
What’s your take? Join us Tuesday, June 21, 2011 to discuss.
#CollegeChat is a live bi-monthly conversation intended for teens, college students, parents, and higher education experts on Twitter. Questions for each #CollegeChat edition can be sent to Theresa Smith, the moderator of #CollegeChat via http://Twitter.com/collegechat, by entering questions online on the CollegeChat Facebook page at http://ht.ly/1XIqV , or by email. CollegeChat can also be found on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/collegechat.