Friday, July 29, 2011

Is College Really for All?

The Common Core Standards are being adopted far and wide and sprinkled throughout is a new acronym that concerns educators like me.


It stands for College AND Career readiness.  This concerns a lot of people for a lot of reasons. You can read what I’ve written about this here. Here are five obvious reasons not everyone should go to college:
  1. Many of our most successful entrepreneurs didn’t graduate from college and many of those who did question its value.
  2. College-ready shouldn’t be a requirement for blue collar workers.
  3. The artists, musicians, photographers, actors, of our world don’t need a college degree.  
  4. College debt has surpassed credit card debt in our country.  Do we need to force everyone down this path?
  5. High school students are given less and less choice when it comes to focusing on what they are interested in.  They may need time in the world before picking a path in college.  Heck ask around and you’ll see that many people who did graduate from college aren’t in the field they went to school for.  
  6. Not everyone is, or should have to be, academically-minded.  
Many innovative educators know that it’s common sense that the common core should not require college for all and if they don’t there’s tons of press coverage to inform them.  Here’s a round up of some stories that have caught my eye lately.

'College for All' Campaign Getting a Second Look
Catherine Gewertz - Education Week
This article points out that some say students should also be prepared for postsecondary options that could lead to a bright future—but not necessarily a four-year degree.  It identifies that while research shows that today’s students need “some” postsecondary education or training to make a good living in today’s economy, the nation has yet to flesh out what that means short of a baccalaureate degree.

Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century
Harvard University Graduate School of Education
The report contends that our national strategy for education and youth development has been too narrowly focused on an academic, classroom-based approach. It summarizes some of the concerns that practicing educators have been expressing regarding the notion of pushing students into a four-year college path.  The report argues that job-market and college-completion realities demand that schools pay more attention to the large group of students who graduate from high school but might not earn four-year college degrees. The report advocates development of a comprehensive pathways network to serve youth in high school and beyond.

This pathways system would be based on three essential elements.
1) Broader Vision
2) Employer Involvement
3) Social Compact

The University Has No Clothes
By Daniel B. Smith - New York Magazine
The notion that a college degree is essentially worthless has become one of the year’s most fashionable ideas, with two prominent venture capitalists (Cornell ’89 and Stanford ’89, by the way) leading the charge.

Why the Future of College isn’t on Campus
Kate Fridkis - Brazen Life
Kate Fridkis shares that in her experience college doesn’t prepare anyone for life after college. She identifies a big college issue, imagines alternatives, questions the structure and provides suggestions.

College isn’t for Everyone
Michael Prater    -  Growth Through Learning
In this post, Michael Prater asks, “Shouldn’t rigor be accompanied by corresponding relevance for the student?”  He goes on to say that not all students will be successful at the college level, nor should they be. He advises common sense tells us that many people do not have the academic ability, motivation, or learning style that is necessary to succeed at the four-year college level.  

He provides this smart advice for educators.
  • Educate parents and students about career opportunities outside of the typical four-year college track.
  • Remove the elitist view that some in education have.  Trade school isn’t “just” trade school.  
  • Partner with those in vocational/career education and industry.  
  • Provide more curricular options for students in grades 9-12.  
The End of Higher Education Enrollment as we Know It
Admissions Lab White Paper
The Pew Foundation reveals we’ll have less students applying to college, they will be less prepared, and they’ll need more financial aid.  This white paper address the changes colleges will need to make for future students who among other things will be less likely to respond to old-fashioned recruitment measures.  Colleges will need to speak their language in their social media worlds.

Is College Worth the Investment?
By Mark Schneider  | American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, recently released data on the return on investment (ROI) from over five hundred colleges and universities.
Key points include:
  • The return on investment (ROI) from a college degree is higher at more selective universities and at public universities.
  • Within each level of selectivity, ROI varies widely among individual colleges.
  • With many colleges simply not worth the investment, we need to find ways to collect and publish ROI data so students can make better decisions about what college or university to attend

Will Higher Education be the Next Bubble to Burst?
By Joseph Marr Cronin and Howard E. Horton – The Chronicle of Higher Education
Early warnings suggest that higher ed could be the next bubble to burst. There is a growing sense among the public that higher education might be overpriced and under-delivering. For instance over the past 25 years, average college tuition and fees have risen by 440 percent — more than four times the rate of inflation and almost twice the rate of medical care. The article shares solutions being proposed by several colleges which includes ideas such as offering more online options, increasing the number of semesters each year, and studying abroad.

Drowning in Debt: The Emerging Student Loan Crisis
Education Sector
As recently as the mid-1990s, borrowing was the exception. Now it’s the rule. This article sheds light on borrowing trends.


  1. I think its a really interesting discussion AND its an interesting snapshot of edpolicy and the choices we make as an education community. The incredibly narrow focus in the past 20 years on college enrollment has made us miss huge opportunities to make more meaningful changes. We reached a historical high in 2009 and now all the clamor that it doesn't really work.. because.. it doesn't really work! Not at getting jobs, changing marketplaces and improving lives anyways. Sir Ken Robinson just gave a riveting anti-college for everyone talk at TED this past year and the work of people such as Salman Khan and the Zero Tuition College project shows that there are definitely new avenues opening up.

    In other news, I just stumbled upon your blog from twitter today and have really enjoyed all the fresh ideas and discussion. Thanks!

  2. I think you're absolutely right that college shouldn't be a requirement for everyone. Still, I think that your point about debt needs to be taken in a very specific context. If you look at where the majority of that debt sits, it is in the for profit college space (Phoenix, Kaplan, etc.). Those schools promise far more than they deliver in terms of actual qualification and opportunity for students, and create huge debt burdens along the way.

    That point is huge in and of itself, and merits an entirely different discussion.


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