Recent politicians have stated that a college education should be free, or if it’s not free there should be no penalty for defaulting on a loan.
What is a college education? I’ve had employer friends of mine tell me that they have not found college students to be demonstrably smarter or better able to perform the functions that their company requires of them. “They have an ability to learn the tasks, of course,” says one of my employer friends, “but their ability to apply this knowledge to the vagaries that occur throughout a workday is not demonstrably superior to those without a college degree.” They’ve told me that due to this fact, having a college degree is no longer the sole determining factor in determining if a candidate is qualified for the job. In other words, my friends said, there used to be some compartmentalization of those with college degrees and those who didn’t on the candidate list. But, say my employer friends, graduating from college shows that a candidate displays perseverance, that they value something, that they’re willing to work hard, and that they get things done as a general rule.
What will be the reward for the college graduate of tomorrow? Having to pay for your own college education is a large part of the perseverance equation. College is so expensive, you say, I think we should make it more affordable. First, making it more affordable (i.e. through government assistance) will not make it better. For those who really want a college education, the ability to attain it was there pre-Obama. It was/is expensive, but that added to its exclusivity—to those who really wanted it. To those who really wanted it, there was/is more appreciation, more value, and more input put into achieving the degree. I know, I was one of those who was given the college education I received, and I did not value it, and I did not engage in putting forth the necessary effort. I went to college because it was something you did after high school. I did not seek an education for a specific career, and I did not seek furthered education. I did it because I didn’t know what else to do when I stepped off the high school ceremony stage.
But our education ratings are so low now when compared to the rest of the world, you say, we need to do something to educate the masses on a grander scale. Well, I respond, public school is free now. K-12 provide ample opportunity for kids to receive an education, so where do these ratings against the rest of the world begin and where do they end? How much money have we thrown into our education system, only to find that it hasn’t achieved what we hoped? Now, we’re planning to spend more money on education? Now we’re going to publicly fund further, elective education? It’s not about the money. The money we spend on each student (K-12) is staggering, yet if you speak with employers they will tell you that their potential candidates (i.e. kids between 16-18) do not exhibit basic mathematic skills, they do not exhibit professional speaking skills, their problem solving skills are troubling, their work ethic is embarrassing, their inability to follow orders and rules is memorable, they take professional criticism personally, and their overall knowledge leaves much to be desired. So, will public funding for college education do anything for the kids that receive it…When they are given it? When they don’t have to earn it?
They regard the college diploma as a get out of jail free card now, say my employer friends. The job should be theirs now that they’ve put in the work to get a degree. They know little to nothing about the workplace and its demands on them. They believe that their work is done, and they should be placed in the hire category because of what they achieved in college. Will this change in the years to come, when a college education costs less? Will we be giving more opportunity to those disadvantaged individuals who couldn’t afford one previously, or will we merely be devaluing the opportunity itself?