Ditch the diploma
Harry Truman didn’t need a college degree to end the Second World War.
In a decision that would change the course of history, Truman – one of a dozen U.S. presidents lacking a formal higher education – authorized the use of atomic weaponry against Japan. The 72nd anniversary of that decision will arrive in a couple of weeks.
Neither Washington, nor Lincoln, nor James Monroe held a college degree- but they, too, shaped the world in revolutionary ways.
Almost two-thirds of Americans do not have a college diploma. While most of their names may never appear in the history books, they are nonetheless ambassadors for a thriving nation. Some drive Caterpillar machinery. Others lead businesses both big and small. They provide for their families, invest in the stock market, and win election to political office.
Why did these successful Americans decide to forgo the four-year degree?
Cost is a major factor. Subsidization of debt, the demand for new campus amenities, and the never-ending national push for higher education are factors that have contributed to the skyrocketing cost of a diploma. The return on investment for many liberal arts degrees can be quite low – so low, it seems, that these courses would likely face extinction if a free market was in complete control.
Organizations, both public and private, often use the degree to place the cost of vetting new employees back on the applicant. The U. S. Army Officer Corps is a good example of this. But does an infantry captain’s art history degree make him a better warfighter? Unlike our modern Army, the successful and elite Israel Defense Forces do not require a degree to commission.
The future of higher education may lie in the past – when men like George Washington learned through disciplined self-study.
Technology has placed nearly unlimited information in the public’s hands at a fraction of a degree’s cost. Innovative education services like Coursera offer certifications from leading institutions – no degree necessary. If businesses have not yet entirely embraced this new concept, they are beginning to.
The college diploma will likely stick around as a benchmark, however superficial, of educational attainment. But if it did not, many accomplished Americans would not miss it. These men and women will continue to succeed – even without that degree.
Bart Steele, Navarre Press
College is worthwhile, but costly
I am proud that I graduated from the University of West Florida and earned a bachelor’s degree, not because it means I’m “smart” or because I had the socioeconomic status necessary to pursue higher education.
I am proud to say I went to college because I can say I and my ideas have been tested.
I had an ethics professor, Dr. Michelle Jones, who once told me college is not about teaching you how to think. It is about challenging your thoughts, opinions and everything you have ever been taught. So you will grow.
College is not for everyone. Fine.
But college IS something worth aspiring to even if you don’t account for the fact that college graduates are more likely to be employed and have higher wages. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) The problem is not that college is not worthwhile. The problem is that student loan debt is out of control.
The average debt for a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree is $37,000 according to Yale University. Tuition is 12 times higher than it was 35 years ago, far out pacing inflation. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
So the cost is prohibitive for many Americans. Federal Pell Grants have failed to keep pace with rising college costs, in essence pricing the less affluent out of an education as evidenced by the research of Thomas Edsall.
Simply put, college should not be avoided because it’s too costly. Lawmakers and institutions should be reassessing how college came to carry such an exorbitant cost. College students are paying six times more interest on federal loans than banks. (Federal Reserve)
Does that make sense to you?
Not only that, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are some of the fastest growing industries in the world, but those professions require highly-trained college graduates to succeed.
By allowing this country’s student debt and tuition costs to spiral out of control, we are pricing ourselves out of some of the best job growth and innovation opportunities in the world.
Other routes of education and training are crucial, but there are some things only a college graduate can do.
So there you have it. We have brought back the “Point, Counter Point” column. This will now be a regular feature in this newspaper once more, and we invite you to send in your opinions. Just as long as you can stand up to a little debate.
Jamie Gentry, Navarre Press