Friday, November 13, 2015

College is a SCAM

I haven't written in a long time, for various reasons. I'll spare you all my whining and instead treat you to the spicy rantings for which I am not famous.

One of the crazy things going around the internet these days is an interview by journalist Neil Cavuto of a young woman who is agitating for this mysterious '1%' to fund college for all AND forgive student loans. This poor benighted soul believes she and her friends should be given a free ride. Honestly, the whole thing is painful to watch, because this poor girl (womyn?) comes across looking like a complete idiot. She should either, a.) not be in college at all or b.) spend a whole lot more time there to learn to develop a cogent argument.

I really feel quite sorry for her. Just like the poor fool at Yale, who is presumably reasonably smart because she got into Yale in the first place, but has absolutely no sense or emotional control. She screamed at one of her professors about Halloween costumes. Yes. Halloween costumes. I would love for her to go attend one of the groups at the little darlings' school that helps the littles determine what is a 'big problem' and what is a 'little problem.'

These events make me even more thankful that I am old enough to have done the vast majority of my young stupid stuff before the internet. These women's actions will live in perpetuity, just a click away. Lord help them!

Anyway, the point of this post is to share my deep thoughts about college. For the record, I went to college, but I'm here to say:

I think college for the masses is a scam.

Before everyone gets their knickers in a twist, I'm not suggesting college should only be for the economic elite. Certainly, there are plenty of people from working and middle class families who have gifts and motivation to pursue career fields that require college and maybe graduate degrees. And they should go! College should be more affordable so people of all walks of life, whose gift mix suits them to professions that require that type of training, are able to pursue it.

However, not everyone fits that criteria. In fact, most don't. Plenty of kids in America today are graduating from mediocre public high schools with mediocre grades and absolutely no clue what they want to do for a living. So what do they do? They borrow pots of cash and go to college.

Some go to college and spend time taking REMEDIAL classes. Yes, people. Remedial. They're staying at the dorm, partying and screwing around, taking basic math, reading and writing. Stuff they should have learned in high school, but didn't. I don't know why they didn't learn it in the FREE and COMPULSORY k-12 American system, but they didn't and now they are PAYING through-the-nose to learn it in college. This is insane. Why are they even being accepted into college if they can't do college work? Why are the colleges not saying, 'hey, God knows we need your cash, but you're really not quite up to snuff here, so why don't you brush up on a few things and come back next year? We'll hold a place for you!' It strikes me as totally insane. And wrong.

And it's not just America. I earned my master's degree at a British university. They loved non-EU students because they could charge us more. I met a sweet Korean guy who COULD NOT SPEAK ENGLISH. Seriously, I could hardly even have a conversation with him, his English was terrible. I managed to get out of him that the University had required him to complete a six-week English immersion program in Newcastle before he started, but he still couldn't hold a conversation with an easy-to-understand American (his words, not mine.) Let alone read 16th century texts on the British Reformation... I ran into him a few months later and things were 'very bad,' he said. The whole situation made me crazy. It was WRONG to take this guy's money. Wrong.

According to this article from Time magazine, part of the reason students are graduating (if they're graduating at all) with so much debt is because it's taking them longer than the traditional four years to finish. This is partly due to the remedial courses they need, and partly because THEY DON'T KNOW WHY THEY'RE THERE. They don't know what they want to study. They don't know what they want to be when they grow up. So they switch majors and need to take additional classes, or can't get into the ones they need.

I'm sorry, do students not get advisers anymore? When I was in college, I had an adviser who... you guessed it... ADVISED me. She told me what courses I needed and made sure I was on track. I had to get my course sheet signed by her. My college was pretty hands-off, but they still made me go through an adviser. Is this no longer required? Seriously, I'm asking.

We have to stop convincing people that they absolutely need college or they will live a life of misery. Yes, college graduates tend to earn more than non-graduates, but I'm betting if we teased out those statistics, we'd find the very super high earners and the minimum-wage earners probably skew the results. There are plenty of people who don't go to college and do just fine. Managers of restaurants, retail, plumbers, electricians and others who learn a valuable trade. They don't necessarily NEED college. If they want to go, great! But need? Maybe not.

We also have to get over this whole college-as-rite-of-passage thing. A friend of mine is Canadian. She's married to an American and she almost had a fit when her husband said he'd be happy to pay for room and board for their kids to go to a local school, so they could have 'the college experience.' My Canadian friend thought it absolute madness that they should pay thousands for their kids to basically drink, party and hook-up when they could live at home for free.

And sadly, I think that's what college boils down to for many. I'm not saying college shouldn't be an option for anyone who really wants to go and has the ABILITY to GET ACCEPTED, DO THE WORK, GRADUATE and GET A JOB. But we need to stop making it a requirement--be it an employment requirement or a social one--when it isn't really required.

I totally agree that the cost of college is insane. It just gets more insane by the year. Many of my friends are doing the college visit thing with their high school children. The stories I hear of the luxury and opulence at some of these places is unbelievable. I hear tell of 24-hour sushi bars in student centers, dorm rooms with private baths, student gyms with amenities rivaling any posh Manhattan sweat spot. The dorms are like hotels! It's crazy. And for what it's worth, the really good schools don't tend to do this stuff. They don't need to. Yale has enough screamers clawing at their doors, they don't need to fluff up their facilities.

So I think we need to ask our kids, do you really need to go to college? Is there a profession you really want to go into? What interests you? Do you even like school? Or are we just looking at college because that's what's expected? Are we willing to value work--ALL WORK that is good and honest and decent? If a high school kid really loves Snap Circuits and really wants to be an electrician rather than an electrical engineer, can't we be ok with that? Electricians can do very well. Believe me. We've had our house rewired. We know, you know?

Sigh... there's so much more I could say, but I need to empty the dishwasher, which is also good, honest work, by the way.


  1. I so agree with your sentiments! It seems that in today's world everyone has to be EQUAL even though they may not be so. Promoting a person not on ability but because the person will feel better about themselves. The PC environment is changing our country in so many ways that it may not be the best for society in the long run! Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Yes, Stephanie. Sing it! I just can't comprehend how people are swallowing the hogwash corporate America is doling out. I went to NYU, which cost a fortune in those days (15K per yr when I started and it increased 1K each year I was there. I graduated in 3 1/2 years to help save my parents - and me - money.) What happened to the cost of living increase governing the marketplace? Bill's daughter went to NYU and graduated 6 years ago. Her yearly tuition? 50K. I am beyond outrage on this subject. Especially when handymen, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc. all have MUCH greater earning potential than I do. Who is everyone kidding? I would much rather have been properly "advised" and gone to a trade school myself. College always felt like a luxury to me, honestly. When I graduated - my high-priced NYU tuition qualified me for a job that paid 18K per year in Manhattan. I couldn't even afford rent. Ludicrous.

    1. Yes, yes, yes, same for me. I will say I loved college. I loved the education, I took it seriously, and I am profoundly grateful for it, but I did not earn pots of cash to justify the expense. What I resent is more that kids who are really not ready for the work load or don't know what they want to do are pressured into it, or made to feel like losers if they don't go. We have to get over this obsession with college.