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Nick Powills: The Value of College May Be Overvalued

In a supply-demand world, how should we measure the value of a college education?

You may disagree with me—and I definitely want to hear the boo birds’ argument—but I am questioning the complete value of college. What is the value of college? 

Full disclaimer, I have put aside money for my kids to go to college. They are set. Should they choose to go—it will be paid for. BUT, recently, I have been reevaluating the value of college. Why? Simply this: cost and return.

Costs are skyrocketing up and the value is going down. The depth of knowledge students can get is decreasing, and to the work world, there is a change in mindset (not wrong or bad, just a change in loyalty, commitment and the pursuit of a career). 

There is certainly an argument that businesses will have—quality is changing. But that’s not the argument for me. The argument for me is the value to teens who take on oodles of debt, for what? And for parents who do the same, for what?

What is weird to me is that, in a world where ROI is everything (every little thing purchased must have a return of value), college hasn’t been as challenged.

So, first, a few perceptions:

  1. There are too many schools. This is a supply and demand issue. Decrease the number of schools, increase the value.
  2. Costs are going up, but why? Are professors paid more? 
  3. Don’t get me started on whether athletes should get paid or not. 
  4. In a world where the rich can write a check and get their children into a school—that’s messed up.
  5. Are students getting higher salaries when they get out—thus, the school systems need to bite off more?

What else is happening?

  1. The kids who are going through college grew up in an age where they wanted an answer, all they had to do was Google it. No library. No encyclopedia. Simply Google.
  2. The kids grew up in a world of spell check. The quality of writing is on a decline.
  3. The kids grew up in a world without landlines. They knew who was calling without asking. 
  4. The kids grew up in a world where a map is Google.
  5. The kids grew up in a 100% digitally accessible world—GPS, social media, cell phones.
  6. FINALLY (and I could go on), the kids grew up in a world where they want to learn something, there is a training video on YouTube.

Thus, what’s the point of college?

The amazing teachers who give the kids foundations—through high school—are saints. Even with the above and an increase in entitled parents, they fight on. But, then, what’s the value after that?

In my opinion, the system needs a shake up. When I talk with people about college, they talk about their experiences, not their classes. After high school, I am not sure the classes do much. But the experiences do.

Thus, the change will come when experiential value goes to the top. Students should be placed in a four-year program to learn how to work, to think for themselves, to be adults. Adulting. That’s the future.

So, I am in a camp of ‘I don’t know.’ When my oldest goes to college, I am not sure if I will push him. He will have to see the value. 

One thing I am not worried about is him being able to formulate that opinion, certainly based on the above points.