Archives for February 2013

What Is Your College Degree Worth?

Academics debate North Carolina governor says The Wall Street Journal.

The Issue? What is the value of an education?  The debate feels like a riot at a European soccer match.  Lots of people have an opinion on the subject.   Buzz Today  Source: The Wall Street Journal Students can get a minor in “Social and Economic Justice” without ever taking a course in the economics department (at UNC – Chapel Hill). Businesses aren’t lining up to hire them. U. S. colleges and universities aren’t immune from criticism.  .

The real issue is who gets to decide what is valuable to you?  The answer is you do. Value to you starts and ends with you.   Value depends on “who you are”. “Who you are” is something I explore in great depth in “Your Future is Calling”.

To create value you have to make good choices.  This is true whether the value is your personal value or what employers are willing to pay you. If you want to study whatever, you are free to do so.

The rub is between things you value and what the rest of society values.  If the two align you are blessed to be able to do what is valuable to you and get paid for it.  This result is ideal.  If they don’t align, you can still be happy, but if society doesn’t want what you learn you don’t get paid for it (no job) or get paid very little.

Professors are little help.  They are subject matter experts.  They know a lot about their subject.  They hope you like their subject too so that they have a job.  The unfortunate truth is that most know little about who you are, especially if you are an adult learner.  They know less than you think about the over 950 careers listed by the Department of Labor on O*Net.

The bottom line is that you well may value subjects in school that have little economic value in today’s global economy.  If that is what you value, more power to you.  The problem is in the expectations – both yours and others.

So even though you may hold a diploma with your name on it from an Elite American University, it is no guarantee of value to either you or potential employers.   Value is first about your knowing who you are, then learning what society is willing to pay for.

In the end the best outcome for you does not depend on the debate between the governor and the professors.  Real value is for you to decide.  But decide you must.

Your Personal Degree Strategy

The theme here is the relationship between you, your choices and value.  When it comes to creating value for yourself and your loved ones, it is about you.   Buzz Todayfrom: The Wall Street Journal         For many students, college is a smorgasbord of easy courses chosen for their lack of academic rigor.  There is no serious “core curriculum”.  Students spend limited time studying.  Faculty and administrators make matters worse by allowing students to fill up their time with courses like UNC-Chapel Hill’s “Dogs and People From Prehistory to the Urbanized Future” and “Music in Motion: American Popular Music and Dance”. .

Here we are not talking just about economic value but about a much broader concept of value.  In this conversation, the value is much like beauty.  It is in the eye of the beholder (in this case you), not merely on the spreadsheets of accountants.

All of this brings us back to the taxicab driving college degree holders.  What is clear is that a personal strategy to just take colleges courses and majors just to get the degree may have worked in the past, but it certainly does not work in our world today. You are free to make choices of courses on the basis of any value standard that works for you.  But it is not reasonable to make study choices that have no economic value in the job market and expect to get a great job merely because you “have a degree”.  The choices about value are yours.  You need good information to make those choices.

Control What You Can – Make Sure You Are In The 64%

Who decides?

Neither the governor nor the college professors have responsibility for the degree you decide to earn.  You do.   Only you can determine if your degree fits you and your desired future.  So let’s get specific here.   Buzz Today Source: The Wall Street Journal:  Many liberal-arts graduates, even from the best schools, aren’t getting jobs in large part because they didn’t learn much in school. They can’t write or speak well or intelligently analyze what they read. In the research “Academically Adrift” researchers found that 36% of college students made no discernible progress in the ability to think and analyze critically after four years of school. .

Notice that this finding is about the performance of students while in school, not about what they study.  When it comes to what you study, I am not of the opinion that math and science are good and liberal arts degrees are bad.

The choice of the degree is important, especially in terms of employment opportunities.  But the Academically Adrift research indicates that the learner has real responsibility for studying enough to get something of value out of their educational experience.

It’s not simply about getting that piece of paper with your name on it. Much of the discussion in the education world focuses on institutional responsibility and policy options intended to improve institutional outcomes.

My conversation is more about individual outcomes and what you can (must) do to improve those for yourself and your loved ones.  Those you have control over.

You have almost no control over institutional outcomes. While important, our conversation here has much more to do with you and your decisions than with any university or the US Department of Education policies. A personal strategy to just “get a degree” provides no guarantee to a good job in an increasingly competitive global economy.

In the end, it is not the governor, nor your professors, nor your parents, nor your employer who are responsible for your employability.  It’s you.  You need good information and a mentor to make good choices in this decision.