As most of you know by now I live in a college town. The college population in the fall and spring semesters actually exceeds the population of the town’s residents. Combined with the cottage people along the lake and the small unique businesses that result from this mix of people and ideas it’s a lovely place to live. One problem I have being so close to the college students is watching their disappointment when they graduate to learn they can’t find employment. I have a few ideas about college education today.
This is not a negative post, but one with ideas that have been flowing though my brain for years now. It’s a post about finding happiness, for that reason all the pictures here are things that make me happy.
First off I want to state that I am a college graduate, and enjoyed many of the classes I took. My college had a wonderful daycare and elementary school right on the campus which my children also loved. My children were taught by individuals with Doctorate degrees who taught using the Montessori method. The education they received far surpassed what they later received in the public schools. They were able to have many field trips around the campus which included the planetarium, science museum, art gallery,and theatrical and musical performances just for them, and so much more.
Why did I go to college? Finding myself a single mother with two small boys, I feared I would fail in supporting them properly, so looking at my job history and what I could combine with a degree I choose Business with a minors in computer science and psychology. I basically fell into the trap of believing the piece of paper at the end of the experience would guarantee my financial security.
I graduated in December of 1990, but knew I was in trouble by the summer of 1990 when the economy changed and the business positions I had envisioned applying for began to be eliminated, leaving the job market saturated with plenty of experienced people seeking the few positions I was seeking.
I never found work in my field. Since my past working experience was tied to my degree I now found I couldn’t return to what I did beforehand as employers now saw me as over qualified.
I struggled more after college than I ever did before. Which brings me to today.
When I graduated my total expenditures for one year was under $6,000 as tuition was $2,500 per semester. The same college now lists on it’s website an estimated $16,427.80 per year!!!
So is a college education mandatory today?
I still live in the same community as the college I attended, it’s a beautiful town and don’t want to live any where else. But this also gives me a close look at what graduates are encountering when they graduate. Many of them are finding jobs that are totally unrelated to their degrees, when they find jobs.
The graduates I am talking about didn’t choose a degree that at the time appeared to be one in which they would struggle. These are people who studied Elementary Education, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Social work, even Environmental Science (which you would think would be a good field with all the “green” jobs popping up), Accounting, Computer Science, and so on.
Instead, these graduates are working as restaurant servers, painters, maintenance/janitorial, cashiers at grocery stores….if they find work at all. I watch as many resort to walking around with their heads hung low as they are drowning in student loan debt and can’t see a way out of their situation. These are lovely people who should be happy to be living in their early adult years thinking life holds out promises of happiness in their future, but instead they can’t see past today.
A couple of days ago I spotted an article that said college graduates make $21,000+ if they get a college degree, the headline to the article asked “what are you waiting for?” It seems we have been brainwashed to believe the only way to a good life is to receive a college education. But do we really need it?
Marty Nemko states:
Colleges are quick to argue that a college education is more about enlightenment than employment.
What? If that is true, then our young people need to be told that a college is in the business to make money, pure and simple. Their whole reason for being is to make money, not to worry about what happens to you once you graduate. If they really cared what happened to you after graduation, they would partner with local businesses and large corporations to frame their studies to what the businesses want. They would only accept as many students in a course of study as there are jobs available for that position.
We are hearing now that only 1 in 4 graduates will ever find work in their chosen field. It is reported that in 2011, 53.6% of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed (and not working in their chosen field) What can we do instead? First we need to know that we are perfectly matched for the field we intend to study. We can only know that after being in the work force for a while.
When young people ask me about college here’s what I tell them:
- After high school, move out of your parent’s home and get a job. You can experiment with several types of work during a 2 – 4 year period to see what you like
- Then apply to college if you still want to go.
Why would I tell them this?
- Most find something they enjoy and are successful at and choose not to go into debt for college
- Some businesses will pay to put you through college to allow you to advance within the company if they see you as a good investment
- Once you are out on your own for at least 2 years, you won’t have your financial aid based on your parent’s income, which means you may very well have much lower debt to pay off once you graduate. Check the college you want to attend to learn exactly how long you must be free of parental support before you apply.
Of the individuals who I’ve told these things to, not one has attended college. They are successful in what they have found, like what they are doing, and every one of them has expressed that they would have been miserable in the field they were going to major had they found a job in that area. They are working in corrections, management, sales, as a mechanic, and even in the veterinarian field. One surprisingly found she loves working as a restaurant server and is able to earn enough in four mornings to be home with her daughter more as a single mother, completely disregarding any plans of attending college…ever.
Most of us don’t know what we will want to do at the age of 18, especially if we haven’t tried out various employment opportunities prior to attending college. Wealth Pilgrim, has an article on the 19 great jobs you can get without a college degree. You will also find a checklist which will help you find what work you are suited for.
So how should we be using the colleges?
As I see it, we shouldn’t worry about receiving that piece of paper which is supposed to enable us to find our dreams. We should instead use the college facilities as a resource, like the public library, or even the internet. If a college is there to “enlighten” us, then we should use it as such.
- Get rid of the fees associated with each class, the student unions, activity fees, medical center fees and so on
- Publish the classes available and let us choose if a class is worth our time to take.
- Lower the prices of the classes, allowing more people to study ideas important to them
- Instead of applying for work and listing your degrees, list the classes you took freely to show you are well rounded and interested in continuing to learn.
With the economy the way it is currently, and in my opinion not about to turn around, we need to first know how we want to live, then decide how to live that life. Courtney found she was simply working to buy crap, not to make a living. If you want to take a new look at life check out Courtney’s article.
Let’s look at life a new way. What makes you happy? How little do you need to work to have that happiness? Is there something you want to learn just for your own benefit? Le’s remember a college is a business, it’s like any other business, take advantage of what they offer to benefit your happiness, not as a means to an end.
Do you see college differently than I do? Please, leave your comments, it’s only through open discussion that we can explore new ideas to learn and grow from them. So what do you think?