Selecting A College or University Part II

Earning a degree is now more important than ever.  Experts predict that the majority of new jobs that will be created over the next decade will require a post secondary degree of some kind.  Today, less than 40% of Americans hold such a degree.  The mismatch between current supply and future demand is obvious.

   Buzz TodaySource:  Your Future is Calling.  When you have earned credits in your prior education you actually have those credits.  But there is a problem when you want to use those credits in a degree program.  It is not where you got those credits that is important in American higher education.  It is where you are trying to use those credits, that is most important in American higher education. It is very important that you understand this.  Even though you earned the credits and you paid the tuition, and those credits are on your official transcript they might be worthless. Not the U.S. Department of Education nor even God himself / herself can guarantee that those credits will be accepted in a different degree program.  It is only the university you are entering that has the authority to grant those credits as being valid toward the degree you are seeking. 

Today an education is more important than ever and represents a huge investment in time and money.  You would think that the information required to select the right school is readily available.  Wrong!  Given the complex world we live in there is more information than ever.  But good clear information is scarce.

So, how can this be?  The answer is that our world is far more complex.  Today the choice of a college involves not only the selection of a place to call your alma mater, it involves your life choices.  This is especially true for adults returning to education.

A high school graduate entering a freshman class has several years of general education to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their life.  An eighteen year old filling out their second semester class roster has little risk of getting their course selection wrong.  Their choices at that stage have little impact on the life they will lead a decade later.

For an adult with a prior education who has a spouse, has kids and works every day at a job – filling out their class roster has more risk in their choices.  These choices include the college or university they plan to attend.  How the courses are delivered (online or in class), what majors are available and how much of their strained income tuition consumes are all related to the school selected.  Unlike the typical recent high school graduate, this adult is particularly sensitive to time to graduation and cost of enrollment.

So how are you to decide which college or university is right for you?  The answer is that you need detailed and reliable information about the majors available, credit transfer policy, grant availability, scholarships and accreditation of every college you are considering attending.  One place all of that information is available is in:  Your Future is Calling.

Selecting A College or University

           If you have already taken college courses or worked on a college degree, this is probably how you did it.  First you picked the college then you enrolled in the course(s).  Buzz Today  Source:   Your Future is Calling University -> Major 1 -> Major 2 -> Major 3 -> Degree -> Look for a job->Hope job fits “who you are”

The BUZZ Today shows how you are likely to have made your education choices in the past.   Notice this decision starts with picking the school first, then what you are going to study, followed finally by the degree.  If this has been your experience please raise your hand (virtually).

At this point you are probably thinking “of course this is how I did it.  How else would you do it?”   I will answer that question in a moment, but first let’s look at this decision making process in more detail.

You probably picked the university first because of something about the university – it’s location near you, in state, it’s where your friend went, it had a good football team etc etc.   The decision looks innocent enough.  What we will see over the next string of posts is that this decision first is in fact loaded with all kinds of dangers and pitfalls that are not obvious at all.

For now, I want to suggest that a far better way to make this decision is also in Your Future is Calling.  That decision process is:

Who You Are -> Career -> Major -> University -> Degree -> Find the Job that Fits Who You Are

Over the next several weeks I invite you to join me at this blog to explore some of the important implications of this new approach.  I assure you it will be well worth your while to explore with me why these choices are so important to your future.

As a departing idea here let me briefly return to the university selection decision shown in the BUZZ Today.  I suspect that when I said that your decision to enroll at a particular university was based on it’s location, it’s where a friend went, it had a good football team etc.,. you thought “yeah, what about it?”

For right now I want to leave you with the thought that the things I listed were all about the university.  They were not about you.

More to follow.   Join me further down the road at a future post.

There’s Debt Then There’s Debt

Student debt gets a lot of attention these days and rightfully so. As a country the total bill is over a trillion dollars and growing. Buzz TodaySource: The Wall Street Journal “Young people are racking up larger amounts of student debt than ever before”

The debt is real and a serious issue for both the borrowers and our nation. Here is why.

Under current law, our federal government only has so much money it can lend to college students. I know this seems counter intuitive in our world where the federal government just keeps on borrowing and borrowing as though the bank account is without end. It’s not. In the case of student loans it is easy to see the problem.

A college student can borrow only a specified total amount of loans. When those have all been used, there is no more to borrow. This defines a total amount that the government can lend in total. Over a trillion dollars of that lending capacity has been used. There is a trillion less that can be loaned in the future.

We have already looked at why this is a serious issue for the borrower in the earlier post titled “Debt”. But though we have talked about one aspect of the issue, let’s return to look at it from another perspective. You can reduce the amount of debt needed to earn your degree in the first place.

When you buy a house, you consciously take action to manage the amount of debt you take on with the purchase. In the case of the house purchase you have professional help. The bank is looking over your shoulder. They will not allow you to take on too much debt. They do this by looking at your credit score which tells them about your repayment history. This is to help them determine if you are a good risk which means they have data that shows them you are likely to repay your loan back.

In the case of the home loan, the bank also looks at your personal income. This is to give them (and you) data on how likely you are to have the money to repay the loan. This protects them… and it protects you. It does so by protecting you from your temptation to take out more debt than you can handle.

No such factors exist when it comes to student loans. You are on your own.

Beware, the temptation to take on more debt than is manageable is real. Millions have already fallen into the trap.

So, when it comes to debt, not all debt is equal. Beware. Look hard before you leap into student loans. They can bite like no other.

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.