Education, Employment

Why you probably shouldn’t send your kids to college

Molly with Mike Rowe and UFC CEO, Dana White.
Mike Rowe is probably best known for his role on the Discovery Channel series, Dirty Job.Molly with Mike Rowe and UFC CEO, Dana White. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning, a friend of mine shared an interesting article on why Mike Rowe thinks most people should not pursue a 4-year college degree. Click here to read the article.

Personally, I think Rowe is absolutely right. In fact, I have been saying this myself for a while. I’ve been teaching at a 2-year technical college for two years now, and for two years, I have watched my students graduate and find jobs right away. Not just any jobs, but good jobs that pay far more than mine does. I keep trying to tell people to stop pushing their kids to go to a 4-year college, and they just look at me like I am crazy.

I think this is part of why our economy is so screwed up. Hordes of Americans are flocking to 4-year colleges to earn degrees for jobs that no longer exist. They are graduating and getting jobs as waitresses and baristas instead of stepping into the high-powered office jobs they thought would be waiting for them once they crossed that legendary stage. Disgusted, many of them are going on to graduate school with the misconception that a Bachelor’s degree just isn’t enough anymore. The Master’s is the new Bachelor’s, right?

Wrong. The Associate Degree in Actually Doing Something Useful is the new Bachelor’s degree. Unless you want to be a teacher or join a similar professional, your potential future employer is far more concerned with what you know how to DO than how many advanced-level college credits you have earned.

If you are thinking of going back to college or have children who are nearing that critical junction, you need to stop and take a good, hard look at what is really going on in the employment world. Evaluate your options. Ask yourself what you really want to do with your life. Then find out if that type of job even exists.

Unless you are interested in being a teacher, or a doctor, or a lawyer, you need to go check out the offerings at your local technical college. You might be surprised to learn that a local employer is just waiting for someone like you to graduate from a specific program so he or she can hire you right out of school. (Just do me a favor and try to avoid corporate technical colleges. They often amount to little more than diploma mills. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

In the U.S., we are dealing with record unemployment rates while employers are simultaneously unable to find qualified workers to fill high-quality (and often high-PAYING) jobs. How does this happen? Why aren’t we checking to see what kind of jobs are needed before dedicating years of our lives to college degrees that will leave us worse off than when we started?

I have two master’s degrees. I obviously value education. I could never agree that a college degree is a *complete* waste of time for the simple fact that I enjoy spending time around educated human beings. My degrees have been of tremendous value to me. Unfortunately, they have not provided much in the way of monetary value.

I never wanted to be a teacher. However, at this point, I seem to be overqualified to do much of anything else. I am just an adjunct, so I have zero job stability. I never know if I will be overworked next semester or relying on unemployment to see me through to the following semester. I make good money when I am working, but I have to sock away every single extra penny to pay the bills in those in-between-times. Let’s not even discuss the massive student loans that will be hanging over my head for the rest of my life.

Yesterday, I applied for a custodial job that would provide me with steady hours and more time off-the-clock for writing. I am not even joking. Unfortunately, they probably won’t even call me for an interview because I am grossly overqualified for the position.

Do you have a degree but can’t find a job in your career field? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

~Amanda L. Webster

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3 thoughts on “Why you probably shouldn’t send your kids to college”

  1. I was haunted by this post almost all day yesterday. I too am an “overeducated” graduate drowning in student loans, but also like you, I value my education.

    I’ve only landed a few jobs in my career that pertained to my education, and I was never promoted in the jobs that I worked to support myself that didn’t pertain to my schooling because it was assumed by my employer that I wanted to succeed in art or writing, the two subjects I majored in. It’s been a struggle, one that has often made me resent my decisions to go to college. But in defense of our awkward placement in society; outcasts forced to do the dirty work for low pay because we decided to follow our dreams without first looking to see if we could make money afterward:

    When I look around at the people who are succeeding finically, they don’t have a fancy degree adhered to their titles. They work humble jobs for a comfortable living. My two dearest friends from high school did not go to college, yet they graduated at the top of our class and were eligible for scholarships. It was their choice. When they saw how much money they would have to spend to receive a higher education, they decided to just get jobs. One chose office management and now runs her own businesses as a massage therapist. The other landed a job with USPS and she is doing better than anyone I know. Granted, they must do what they do now for the rest of their lives. What else can they veer into? Just how many years can one massage or deal with mail without going insane?

    Also, with a technical degree, does the curriculum to graduate with one include Humanities? I don’t know where I’d be without them. A product of a town surrounded by corn and filled with closed minds, I may have never been introduced to: art, writing, dance, NPR, travel and all the things that have brought me such joy! Without my education, I would’ve probably gotten knocked up at a young age by a boy with bad teeth who lived on his mother’s front porch and thought everything he saw would make a good bong. I’m being serious. Anyway, I would hope that even without my education, experience and time would bring me to become a cultured person, but in all honesty, I believe it would’ve missed me completely.

    My only concern with the education and career route you speak of is that it might eventually erase culture from our society and then, or numb it in the least. Then what kind of society would we live in? Innovation could very well become idle. I say if your going to go the route you suggest, travel first. See the world. Take in everything. Learn a new language. Maybe the experience of travel will nurture and mature one’s ideals, and with that we might be able to choose a suitable career path more clearly, and bring fresh ideas and experiences into whatever job we tie into. Our jobs make up what we will do with the majority of our time and youth. I think it’s important to investigate everything before we decide what to do with our precious time, and to do that, we have to know ourselves first, and I believe travel or a good batch of Humanities classes will assist with that.

  2. I can’t speak for all technical programs, but the one I teach in requires at least a few Humanities courses for almost all 2-year degree programs. Our school also has study abroad programs similar to what you might find at a 4-year college. I believe most state technical and community colleges have similar requirements and opportunities. For example, my sister has a cosmetology degree from a community college in Illinois, and she had to take core courses beyond just learning how to do hair and nails. She had to take English, business, math, and I believe a couple of social sciences as well.

    However, there are a lot of corporate schools that simply train students on one specific skill without incorporating any of those extra humanities courses. I don’t know anyone who has actually completed those types of programs, so I’m not sure how their success rates compare to those of a state community college or tech school. I personally do not have much faith in those types of programs.

    One of the great things about a 2-year tech degree is that it can get you a foot into a career field that you may be overqualified to get into with a 4-year degree. I know several students who are getting into the workforce in their chosen career fields, but then are continuing their education so they can work their way up. My biggest gripe with a 4-year degree is that you will often graduate with no work experience related to your career field. You can’t get that experience if no one will hire you because you are considered overqualified for an entry-level position. It seems like it’s easier to get into those entry-level positions with a 2-year degree than it is with a 4-year degree.

    I also think a lot of people hold misconceptions about what types of degrees you can get in these 2-year colleges. I am often surprised at what some of my students are learning in their degree programs. I often find myself thinking, “Wow, that sounds so much more interesting than what I am doing!”

    At any rate, artists like you and I usually have to reconcile ourselves to either being “starving artists” or working jobs we don’t enjoy until we are able to “make it” with our art. My thinking is, if I have to do a job I don’t enjoy and write on the side, I could just as easily be sorting mail and building up a retirement fund while I’m at it.

    Ultimately, I believe some people will choose to educate themselves and some will choose not to ever learn about the world around them whether they go to school or not. I know closed-minded college graduates who aren’t interested in learning about anything other than what they went to school for, or who haven’t read a book since they graduated. I also know high school graduates who have never taken a college course but are more well-read than a lot of college graduates I know. It all comes down to the individual’s dedication (or lack thereof) to lifelong learning.

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