Monday, April 27, 2009

Thoughts on Higher Education

A friend sent me this article on how student loan debts for higher education often end up weighing down those who took them on, and the possibility for increased wages with a degree often do not offset the debt load adequately. The entire higher education system in this country seems, like so many other things, to be a big, overgrown mess.

As always, I look for non-government solutions. The big Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debacle illustrates to me all too clearly that the government should not be in the business of loaning money. I also don't think a higher education is so necessary that the government should simply be financing it. A university education does not make you smarter or more productive or a better citizen. I don't want to get into this too much, since then we could tear apart the whole public school system, but I just want to cover what might seem the "obvious" answer to some.

If enough people try to find alternate solutions to college, perhaps colleges and universities will drop their prices to attract more customers. Government loans have definitely not helped the situation here. The more people who get loan-savvy, the more schools of higher education will have to make their prices more affordable. Also, potential students need to be more discerning about their chances of doing well in college. The article mentions universities who deliberately inflate their diversity numbers without revealing that most of these minority students will never finish their degree. Here's another tip: if you have to take a lot of remedial courses perhaps the university is not for you. Or, perhaps you could find less expensive ways to cover your educational gaps. The homeschooler in me says, search out ways to improve your education yourself! At least to get yourself to the point where you don't have to spend big bucks at the university level taking remedial courses.

In our own family, I'm glad Mr. BTEG went to college. In computer work, anecdotal evidence says there are ways to get a start in the business without a degree, but I think the broad computer science courses gave my husband a better foundation and helped him get ahead faster. Myself, I didn't know what I wanted to do when I went to college; I only went because of familial pressure and because that's what smart people did. I can't complain too much because I met my husband there!, and two of the jobs I had before getting married were ones where a degree was required. Knowing myself better now, I likely would have studied other things in college, but then I would have attended a different school and probably never met DH, so it's all for the best.

The Equestrienne is presently considering a course in Equine Studies; big surprise there! If she still wants to be a vet, this could be a pre-vet course, or she could just take it with an eye to having her own stable in the future. If she could get a real job with someone who has their own working stable, like the people she rides with now, college could perhaps be skipped entirely. College would cover things, though, that her stable doesn't do. And her riding coach is talking up the college that she recently graduated from, so we'll see. I don't know enough about owning horses and giving lessons to know whether a degree would be helpful enough.

The Dancer wants to be...a dance teacher. So predictable! Her own teacher took education and dance courses in college. Again, I don't know enough about the dance world to know whether a degree is a necessity or not. I suppose it would sound better if the Dancer were trying to begin her own studio. A lot of research needed before we send the girls off for more education!

Boy, this is long, isn't it? :)


Karen said...

Several of our local dance studios have teachers who simply took some dance instruction in college, after taking all the various types of dance classes as children. As teens, these instructors took classes during regional and national dance competitions.

An instructor with a college dance degree has the worst choreography of all the local studios. I don't think the college degree really coincides with the quality of dance instruction.

Shawn Cohen said...

Thanks for this post--it's a message more people need to hear.

The organization I work for has helped thousands of students circumvent the traditional college system and graduate with zero debt instead of the average $29k in student loans.

One method we use to cut college costs is to do credit by exam for the courses that parallel what they've already studied in high school. This means taking CLEP or DSST exams that are worth college credit.

The tests only cost $80 and are worth between 3 and 12 credits. Studies have shown that students who test instead of doing courses learn just as much as traditional course-going students. That way, costs are lessened and students still get an education.

Thankfully, online courses are becoming more popular and usually cost less than those on campus. The success for both of these methods lies in the motivation of the student, which the traditional system doesn't do much to encourage anyway...

skatey katie said...

i have bossily told our kiddos that i expect them to gain a tertiary (university/college) qualification - they are not gonna be a supermarket chick or whatever.
(i know, how middle-class is that statement? i guess if they really WANT to be a supermarket chick or whatever, then that's fine - i just don't want to see them waste their wonderful talents.)

i do think that "these days" secondary education is merely an entry point for tertiary study.

as far as cost is concerned - it's gonna be $NZ4,500 for me to complete this last year of my BTchg, which in NZ we pop on a student loan (no interest) and then pay back. thankfully my family trust is gonna come to the party when i pass my papers. which is not everyone's experience, and i do feel the exact same way that education is so expensive here too. Bulldog has paid $NZ1,000 for each of his (seven) Masters papers over the last few years - which the taxman makes us pay off each year.

having said that, i'll earn way more having a teaching degree than just a diploma, so it works out in the end i guess.

love X

Barb the Evil Genius said...

Student loans have interest here, Kate. :( And I don't know how the US dollar converts to NZ money but a 4-year degree at a state university can run over $40,000.

There's intellectual talents, and then there's other talents. My one sil has a great gift with hair and does well as a hairdresser. Another sil manages two jewelry stores and almost moved up to regional manager but didn't want all the stress and pressure. I would like to see college degrees become less important. Such as when I was promoted to department head when I was selling clothes, because I had a college degree. Nothing in my degree related to that job!

Kim said...

None of the horse boarding or training facilities around here are owned or managed by someone with a college degree. Maybe it's just our area, but around here you learn by working not taking a class.

My dd started interning with a local trainer a few months ago and has learned a tremendous amount about, not just horse training, but owning a small business. I'm not saying that college is completely useless but not as important as in other fields. The horse world seems to have lots of alternate routes of training which involve hands on classes and programs that won't put these young adults in debt.

I currently have $15,000 left to pay on my school loan, I've been paying it off since 1997, so we are definitely not encouraging our kids to go that route!