Like PilotYIP says, Skip College

J.Otto

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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/weekinreview/16steinberg.html


May 14, 2010

Plan B: Skip College

By JACQUES STEINBERG

WHAT’S the key to success in the United States?

Short of becoming a reality TV star, the answer is rote and, some would argue, rather knee-jerk: Earn a college degree.

The idea that four years of higher education will translate into a better job, higher earnings and a happier life — a refrain sure to be repeated this month at graduation ceremonies across the country — has been pounded into the heads of schoolchildren, parents and educators. But there’s an underside to that conventional wisdom. Perhaps no more than half of those who began a four-year bachelor’s degree program in the fall of 2006 will get that degree within six years, according to the latest projections from the Department of Education. (The figures don’t include transfer students, who aren’t tracked.)

For college students who ranked among the bottom quarter of their high school classes, the numbers are even more stark: 80 percent will probably never get a bachelor’s degree or even a two-year associate’s degree.

That can be a lot of tuition to pay, without a degree to show for it.

A small but influential group of economists and educators is pushing another pathway: for some students, no college at all. It’s time, they say, to develop credible alternatives for students unlikely to be successful pursuing a higher degree, or who may not be ready to do so.

Whether everyone in college needs to be there is not a new question; the subject has been hashed out in books and dissertations for years. But the economic crisis has sharpened that focus, as financially struggling states cut aid to higher education.

Among those calling for such alternatives are the economists Richard K. Vedder of Ohio University and Robert I. Lerman of American University, the political scientist Charles Murray, and James E. Rosenbaum, an education professor at Northwestern. They would steer some students toward intensive, short-term vocational and career training, through expanded high school programs and corporate apprenticeships.

“It is true that we need more nanosurgeons than we did 10 to 15 years ago,” said Professor Vedder, founder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a research nonprofit in Washington. “But the numbers are still relatively small compared to the numbers of nurses’ aides we’re going to need. We will need hundreds of thousands of them over the next decade.”

And much of their training, he added, might be feasible outside the college setting.

College degrees are simply not necessary for many jobs. Of the 30 jobs projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next decade in the United States, only seven typically require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Among the top 10 growing job categories, two require college degrees: accounting (a bachelor’s) and postsecondary teachers (a doctorate). But this growth is expected to be dwarfed by the need for registered nurses, home health aides, customer service representatives and store clerks. None of those jobs require a bachelor’s degree.

Professor Vedder likes to ask why 15 percent of mail carriers have bachelor’s degrees, according to a 1999 federal study.

“Some of them could have bought a house for what they spent on their education,” he said.

Professor Lerman, the American University economist, said some high school graduates would be better served by being taught how to behave and communicate in the workplace.

Such skills are ranked among the most desired — even ahead of educational attainment — in many surveys of employers. In one 2008 survey of more than 2,000 businesses in Washington State, employers said entry-level workers appeared to be most deficient in being able to “solve problems and make decisions,” “resolve conflict and negotiate,” “cooperate with others” and “listen actively.”

Yet despite the need, vocational programs, which might teach such skills, have been one casualty in the push for national education standards, which has been focused on preparing students for college.

While some educators propose a radical renovation of the community college system to teach work readiness, Professor Lerman advocates a significant national investment by government and employers in on-the-job apprenticeship training. He spoke with admiration, for example, about a program in the CVS pharmacy chain in which aspiring pharmacists’ assistants work as apprentices in hundreds of stores, with many going on to study to become full-fledged pharmacists themselves.

“The health field is an obvious case where the manpower situation is less than ideal,” he said. “I would try to work with some of the major employers to develop these kinds of programs to yield mastery in jobs that do demand high expertise.”

While no country has a perfect model for such programs, Professor Lerman pointed to a modest study of a German effort done last summer by an intern from that country. She found that of those who passed the Abitur, the exam that allows some Germans to attend college for almost no tuition, 40 percent chose to go into apprenticeships in trades, accounting, sales management, and computers.

“Some of the people coming out of those apprenticeships are in more demand than college graduates,” he said, “because they’ve actually managed things in the workplace.”

Still, by urging that some students be directed away from four-year colleges, academics like Professor Lerman are touching a third rail of the education system. At the very least, they could be accused of lowering expectations for some students. Some critics go further, suggesting that the approach amounts to educational redlining, since many of the students who drop out of college are black or non-white Hispanics.

Peggy Williams, a counselor at a high school in suburban New York City with a student body that is mostly black or Hispanic, understands the argument for erring on the side of pushing more students toward college.

“If we’re telling kids, ‘You can’t cut the mustard, you shouldn’t go to college or university,’ then we’re shortchanging them from experiencing an environment in which they might grow,” she said.

But Ms. Williams said she would be more willing to counsel some students away from the precollege track if her school, Mount Vernon High School, had a better vocational education alternative. Over the last decade, she said, courses in culinary arts, nursing, dentistry and heating and ventilation system repair were eliminated. Perhaps 1 percent of this year’s graduates will complete a concentration in vocational courses, she said, compared with 40 percent a decade ago.

There is another rejoinder to the case against college: People with college and graduate degrees generally earn more than those without them, and face lower risks of unemployment, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Even those who experience a few years of college earn more money, on average, with less risk of unemployment, than those who merely graduate from high school, said Morton Schapiro, an economist who is the president of Northwestern University.

“You get some return even if you don’t get the sheepskin,” Mr. Shapiro said.

He warned against overlooking the intangible benefits of a college experience — even an incomplete experience — for those who might not apply what they learned directly to their chosen work.

“It’s not just about the economic return,” he said. “Some college, whether you complete it or not, contributes to aesthetic appreciation, better health and better voting behavior.”

Nonetheless, Professor Rosenbaum said, high school counselors and teachers are not doing enough to alert students unlikely to earn a college degree to the perilous road ahead.

“I’m not saying don’t get the B.A,” he said. “I’m saying, let’s get them some intervening credentials, some intervening milestones. Then, if they want to go further in their education, they can.”
 

waveflyer

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John Stuart Mill: "A pupil from whom nothing is ever demanded which he cannot do , never does all he can.*****"

just note that this article still doesn't promote ignorance and avoidance of the classroom- just a different format than a comprehensive college education.

Ignorance, however, is not bliss
 

pilotyip

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Exactly!!!!! As I have been saying for years. You need an education with a marketable skill to survive in today's job market. College is not the only place to get that. Story riding home on an airliner, chatting with my seatmate. He finds out I am retired Navy. He tells me how disappointed he was that his daughter, Valedictorian of her class, turned down a partial college scholarship to join the Navy's Nuclear Power Plant Operators rating. I told him he a daughter with extreme wisdom, that almost anyone can get into college, but most college grads could not pass the entrance test to be a Nuke. She would get training that allows her to demand six figure salaries upon leaving the Navy. That her skills were so special that she would be offered a $100K to sign up for another tour. Not to mention she would have a full ride scholarship available when she left the Navy. He felt much better about his daughter's decision after we had talked. Most parents seem to want to cut their wrists if their kids do not go to college. There many ways to prepare for a job, college is only one of many.
 

waveflyer

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That's well said Yip- The difference is educated v uneducated- the educated will always have a leg up- too many think a piece of paper means something all by itself
 

8sugarsugar

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Life is a lot easier if you grow a pilotyip mustache...its that simple
 

pilotyip

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not just ditch diggers

As Judge Smails said: "well the world needs ditch diggers"
As well as automotive mechanics, Nuc Power Plant operators, pilots, Nurses, para-legal, radiation lab technicians, and host of other workers, all of which do not require a four-year degree.
 

MD11Drvr

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As someone without a college degree I would still encourage getting it. I will not disagree in that get a useful degree or face difficulty with jobs. With that said as someone without the degree I have had many doors closed to me despite flying a clean airplane and having the rest of the boxes checked off. Another consideration would be fall back career choices. My fall backs are an A&P and a Class A CDL, by any standard not much of a fall back. There has to a balance struck between education and career building but the stats show your chance of going back and finishing a college degree once in the work place are slim to nil. Say what you want but the right practical work experience and a college degree are hard to beat. Just ask anyone at FedEx or Delta etc....
 

Whine Lover

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" without the degree I have had many doors closed to me "

That's exactly what my Dad told me...

" Son, you go to college for 2 reasons:

1) To learn a little about Life from classmates of various backgrounds, cultures, and upbringing.

2) So that you never miss an opportunity just because you don't have a silly piece of paper."


It's not so much about getting a job...It's all about not being denied one.

YKMKR
 
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pilotyip

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Don't ask Don't Tell, Won't ask, Don't care.

Again we get degrees to make HR people smile, not to really learn anything. However I suppose getting laid and getting drunk are learning experiences. BTW I feel the same way about college degrees and gays. Don't ask, don't, because I won't ask don't care. For all those have interviewed with me, did a college degree ever come up in the discussion, or your grades, or why you chose your degree field? Reminds me of my famous UAL interview question "Why did you get a "C" in Diffy Q back in 1963?". What did that have do with anything about flying an airplane. I would guess less than 1% of the pilot every took the course.
 
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jonjuan

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Again we get degrees to make HR people smile, not to really learn anything. However I suppose getting laid and getting drunk are learning experiences. BTW I feel the same way about college degrees and gays. Don't ask, don't, because I won't ask don't care. For all those have interviewed with me, did a college degree ever come up in the discussion, or your grades, or why you chose your degree field? Reminds me of my famous UAL interview question "Why did you get a "C" in Diffy Q back in 1963?". What did that have do with anything about flying an airplane. I would guess less than 1% of the pilot every took the course.
And when your company goes out of business and you're interviewing for your next job, be sure to discuss your philosophy about not needing a college degree. 9 out of 10 HR managers will tell you, "thanks for coming in today. Don't call us, we'll call you.".
While you're at it, please explain to those aspiring 121 pilots how to get to the interview without the degree (and no references to Bill Gates or Michael Dell, please.).
 

waveflyer

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Yip- in aviation- whether you agree or not- any advice to not get a degree is bad advice. Why limit your options? It becomes a question of "why not?" more than "why?"

as far as your C way back- that question is all about how you answer- but they asked not bc of the material- but bc they want to know about your attitude, work ethic and discipline-
I took a lot of classes where the subject matter doesn't really apply- but the character developed in learning how to be successful in the class was valuable.

And then social skills- say what you like, but that IS a big part of the job- not just connections- but how to get along and enjoy all kinds of people is something you need to develop somewhere-

what muddies the water for the current generation is how baby-boomers don't prioritize education and how EXPENSIVE it is now- more than 2-3 times what it was back in the 90's - the debt we saddle our kids with starting out their life is inexcusably weak on our part. Just another example of the weakest generation concentrating more on pulling up the ladder behind them than paving the road in front of them...individuals are often great- but as a whole- boomers are a sad, empty bunch.
 
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waveflyer

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Besides- 'your MOM went to college'
;-)
 

tomgoodman

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"as a whole..."

..individuals are often great- but as a whole- boomers are a sad, empty bunch.
Coming from someone who claims to deplore stereotypes and prejudice, that is a remarkable statement.
 

LearLove

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its becoming so expensive to go to a private 4 year school you may as well go to the military, get trained in some skill as an enlisted (equiv. to a 2 year degree), get out after 4 years and get a civ job and have a reserve/guard gig. You'll be 22 no debt, start at 40K+ and have the reserves/guard green checks. As long as you settle in an area that is not too expensive (like the Carolina's) by the time your 30 you will be way ahead of someone that did the 4 year school and came out with 200K in college loans and got a job that will be downsized ect.

A great example of this would be my old neighbor in CLT. After high school he straight to the Navy. He tested well enough to get air traffic control. He trained and was active until he was 24 or 25 then got picked up by ATC (he now works CLT approach). While he was on active duty he got a 2 year (AS) degree (can't remember what it was). He joined the NC army guard and works in the JAG office. When he was my neighbor (last year) he was 30 and way ahead in terms of cash and saving than others. Plus he had 2 secure jobs. As I was moving back to PHL a few months ago he was buying his first home in the CLT area.
 

ASA_Aviator

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That's well said Yip- The difference is educated v uneducated- the educated will always have a leg up- too many think a piece of paper means something all by itself
Exactly. College is about education, not getting a job. If you want a job, go get vocational training. If you want to be educated, go to college.

The main problem is that being educated is not valued in the United States.
 

no1pilot2000

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Interesting article. If looking into an education after college, try taking a skillls and/or aptitude test. Discover what you are realistically able to do vs. what you would like to do. "IF" you pursue a technical school, be weary of what they try to "sell you". I made the mistake of going to a local technical college in Baltimore for electronics. I had a lot of difficulty learning the material and they ended up "pushing me" through the course. They said I passed the course. I asked them how I could I have passed the course when I was getting poor grades on my tests and projects.

When choosing a post secondary education...CHOOSE WISELY!!!!!! The recession we are slowly recovering from has changed the job market forever. Many jobs that were once lucerative, have become extinct. That's one of the reasons why people in their 40's and 50's are going back to school. They are now out of jobs that won't we coming back and need to be retrained in a new career.

Good luck to all.
 

BornAgainPagan

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So the consensus seems to be that it is more desirable to get a degree....even if it's in Basket Fiber Sciences? After all, (given the necessary accreditation) an easy bull$hit degree checks the same boxes at FedEx or Delta as a more challenging field of study.

You're fooling yourself if you think airlines require/prefer a degree because it shows a higher caliber, commitment or ability to complete an objective. A degree (even in Professional Aeronautics:rolleyes:) has NOTHING to do with one's skills, judgment or professionalism in the cockpit. The bottom line; To the airlines, it is only for image. Otherwise there would be a standard above basket weaving. Yes, if you want an airline job, get a degree to check the box and greatly improve your chance of getting hired. Nevertheless, what a sad philosophy.
 
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Whine Lover

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So, basically...Those without Degrees explain away all the reasons they don't/have not needed one and tabulate data explaining why they are correct.

Those with Degrees really don't care either way. They have the Degree...

Much like Penis Envy there are "Haves" and "Have Nots".

Human Nature always dictates that we want what the other person has.

Glad I had a great time in Daytona and Prescott in the 70's and now have a piece of paper to prove it.

Whoopty-Doo! And, What-Ever...


YKMKR
 
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