In a recent conversation, I had a friend explain how he was trying to talk someone out of going to college. The young man he was referring to was going to a community college to appease his mother who wanted him to go to a university. He was talented at computer repair and my friend thought he should drop out and focus on acquiring more computer troubleshooting skills.
I disagree with my friend’s assessment, but it made me wonder why I value college education so much. Surely there is something to be said for someone who enters the workforce and learns everything then need to know through on the job experience. Is my belief that getting a degree is better rational or is it just because that is the path I took?
According to this article the actual wage for people without a college education dropped by 23% over the past 23 years while the actual wage of college educated individuals grew by 20%. Now I’m sure that there are people who didn’t go to college who are making millions, just like there are people who went to college who are flipping hamburgers. However, I, for one, would rather be in the group that does better statistically.
If the next 23 years are like the past, following my friend’s advice will result in an average drop in income of 13%. I hope the student in question listens to his mother.
I hope the young man listens to his own heart. I didn’t do this years ago and I failed university because I never wanted to work just with my “brain” but also with my hands. I am earning less money now but I am happier. And happiness is what counts – at least for me :)
Greetings from germany
chi lee says
Forbes 2005 list of the top 10 of the world’s wealthiest show that many of them are college drop outs. Yes, some of them were bright enough to make it to some outstanding ivy leagues (Harvard, MIT…) but they never completed their education despite being a part of the prestine institution that enrolled them. I went to design school and a great majority of the most famous designers (Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Donna Karen…)in my industry all dropped out of college.
School can be overrated. What’s important is to have passion and the motivation to learn. It helps to network but not neccessary. It also helps to be a product of an institution but I admire those that do well without requiring what others feel they need in life.
Dollar for dollar, I’d be interested to see a statistical analysis on the ratio of the number of working college dropouts and working people that never attended college to that of all the combined salaries of each individual who completed college.
Ricky Spears says
If you are going to look at an average 13% in salary over 23 years, you must also factor the cost of college along with the income that would have been warned working instead of in school.
Mark Shead says
Keep in mind it was a 13% drop (without college) vs. a 20% increase (with college). Also keep in mind that this is from their starting salaries. So if a college grad had $40,000 of purchasing power in 1979 it went up from there. If a non-college grad had $20,000 of purchasing power in 1979 it went down from there.
But I do agree that you need to factor in the costs and benefits. Not EVERY degree is going to be as beneficial as the average and not EVERY non-college career is going to do as poorly as the average. Someone who gets a job out of high school working for a master electrician and works their way up to run their own business is probably going to do better than someone who majors in art history and ends up working at Sonic.
(By the way, in looking at the article, it is citing a 23% decrease in earnings for non-college grads, so I think my 13% was actually a typo.)
I got a science degree and now have my own business that is completely unrelated. The experience was OK and I benefited from college level scientific thinking, English, math and writing just in general. However, college for all is over emphasized. Several years later I went back for some supplementary classes more related to what I ended up doing. Night classes were attended by serious adults with objectives. Day classes were, jn essence, 13th grade. Kids marking time on daddy’s dime, partying, getting laid and learning how to make a bong out of anything. That’s when I started saying “education is wasted on the young”. The teaching was higher quality at night (part time lecturers actually applying their knowledge) than the day profs (often teaching from 10 yr. old syllabi). I had a house mate about that time who made the point that in his IT industry, someone going through a 4 year program tended to come out 2 years behind the industry. He was very glad he took an AS instead, learned the basics and jumped into the work world. There are disciplines, like engineering, EE, chemistry, physics that require extended, in-depth study. There are lots of other soft degree programs that should be deleted, because those folks will never get a job.
Mark Shead says
I think anytime you can work in your field while going to school, you’ll get the best experience because it makes the classes more relevant and useful. It is a lot easier to remember stuff that is applicable to you that day than something you might use in 4 years.
I think the young man should at least get an Associates Degree at the Community College. Then he will always have the ability to look back on a benchmark of accomplishment.
When I worked for an IT dept at an insurance company they were hiring people to be programmers who had a 4 year degree and could pass their programming aptitude test. The 4 year degree could be in anything. One of our best programmers was a History teacher before he came to be a programmer.
Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard before his senior year. However, he had some extraordinary circumstances that took him to the top.