Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Down with the Four-Year College degree! Another nail in the coffin?

I've spent much of the last ten years looking into homeschooling because of the many defects in public school. My wife and I feel strongly that homeschooling is a better solution for most children.

Recently, as my oldest gets closer to college, I've started thinking about the value of a college degree.

A friend sent me a link a column also questioning the value of getting a BA. Charles Murray starts Down with the Four-Year College Degree! with:

"The proposition that I hereby lay before the house is that the BA degree is the work of the devil. It wreaks harm on a majority of young people, is grotesquely inefficient as a source of information for employers, and is implicated in the emergence of a class-riven America."

Pretty strong words, but he backs them up with many examples and arguments in his column. Dr. Murray sees great value in education, but argues that our current system of four years of advance education, whether the students learn or not, does a huge disservice to our children.

I value education, but given the choice between a piece of paper saying our daughters served their time of four years at some university, and a real education, I'd pick a real education. I expect that our daughters will go off to college, but I wonder if my grandchildren will experience a college equivalent of homeschooling.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, public school, public education, education


Angela said...

It doesn't have to be 4 years. Most colleges will accept 30-60 hours of 'test out' credits. I think the normal range is 30 hours of CLEP/DANTE/other major test, and another 30 of departmental placement credits, etc. I CLEPed out of my first history courses (History of America parts 1 & 2, History of Western Civ parts 1 & 2) and Sociology 101. 15 credit hours=one whole semester shaved off my time in college. There were other CLEP I could've taken, but chose not to for different reasons.

Encourage your girls to test out of as many classes as their college will allow, to take 18 hours a semester (15 is average), and to take classes in the summer. It'll drastically reduce the amount of time they spend in college, and the money spent on it as well.

By taking the 15 hours of CLEP I mentioned above, taking 18 hours both semesters of my sophomore year, and summer classes this past summer, I'm getting a 4-year degree at the end of my 3rd year in college. I could have graduated sooner if I had taken classes the summer before last as well (and how I wish I had!).

My philosophy is if you've made the decision to go, get in and get out.

Crimson Wife said...

At the risk of sounding like a total cynic, the value of a college degree is not in the education it offers but the social network it provides.

A large percentage of the married couples I know are alumni of the same college/graduate school (though not all dated as students like my DH and I, my parents, and my maternal grandparents did).

Also, most of the job interviews my DH has gone on recently or has coming up have stemmed from referrals by his college or grad school classmates. He just yesterday made a similar referral for his old college lab partner when a headhunter called him about a position that isn't a good match for him but would be great for his friend.

It's kind of sad really that college has become like an expensive country club...

Sandy said...

I find I'm more willing to consider non-traditional choices for my daughter, who ultimately wants to be a "mom" (and as a college grad myself, that is certainly not meant to imply that her education is less important than her brothers', even if she chooses not to pursue a career). My sons will most likely be the primary bread-earners in the family, and since my eldest is set on a being an Chemical Engineer, I'm not willing to take chances on his future by following a non-traditional route.

We intend to take advantage of dual credit, CLEP testing, etc as much as possible, but we have told all of our kids that we will not go into debt to send them to college, and we will not allow them to go into debt either. It could be a long road for them, unless there are significant changes in the way higher education is offered.

Janine Cate said...

I CLEP'ed my freshman year and started college as a sophomore. I graduated from college in less than 4 years. At the end of three years, I was 1 credit short of a degree. Since I had a scholarship, I continued for another semester and graduated in the winter term.

My only regret is that I left to work in California and didn't return for the graduation ceremony. I didn't mean a thing to me, but it would have meant something to my parents.

Anonymous said...

Henry, I just wanted to say thanks for posting the last few articles on this subject. I have been considering the same thing for my children: the "life cycle" cost of a college degree, instilling entrepreneurial drive rather than subservient white-collar qualification-by-degree, etc.

I also believe our state's lottery-based college scholarship education is dumbing down the academics even more. Below average scores are "required" to get in, and then pressure is put on when those who can't make it are failing academically or doing poorly enough to lose their lottery money (all of which is completely expected with below average students). College standards are/will be lowered so nobody "fails".

On the other end of the spectrum, in the engineering field, the NCEES (testing body that produces professional engineering licensing exams) is now recommending that states require engineers to have a master's degree (in addition to the existing requirements of passing the 8-hour Fundamentals of Engineering exam (typically taken senior year in college), plus four years work experience for a PE) in order to sit for the exam. This is an exam that, like the CPA Murray references, regularly has a passing rate in the 50's.

Nice job protection for me as it will require 10 years for a new student to get a license. Nice for the school's graduate programs $$$, but the engineers will not be much better - certainly not in terms of test preparation. I would rather they had two years design experience than two more years of class time.

Marni said...

I've heard that students are the only consumers that want to least 'product' for their money - get in, get the degree with as little work as possible, get out. I enjoyed many of my classes, but I agree that my main reason for being there was the piece of paper at the end, not all the learning while I was there.

In my opinion it comes down through the entire school system. Study for the test, purge.

Knowing what I do now, I would love to go back for the education and not just the paper.

Anonymous said...

Homeschooling is better because the teacher would give his/her full attention on your kids compare to School that there are tons of students in one classroom. But once in college, I still prefer a true college degree given by University.

Henry Cate said...

I acknowledge that there are advantages to going to college, more than the education. As Crimson Wife points out the social network can be very helpful.

But again, I wonder if the value proposition has shifted enough over the last couple decades such that going to college is now a poor decision.

community college said...

Homeschooling is better because in home schooling teacher would give his/her full attention on our kids.