A rewarding education, earned on time, for less money, all possible when you discover…you!

In 2013, the Harvard Business Review carried the following post by Andrew McAfee. It speaks to us today, no it shouts to us today to make certain that our kids, our students are aware of their personality traits, talents and strengths and that they use that awareness to select and pursue an education path suited to their unique, innate characteristics and interests. Because wandering aimlessly from major to major through college piddling away precious time and wasting tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and lost earnings is no longer tolerable.

Excerpts from Stop Requiring College Degrees follow:

If you’re an employer, there are lots of signals about a young person’s suitability for the job you’re offering. If you’re looking for someone who can write, do they have a blog, or are they a prolific Wikipedia editor? For programmers, what are their TopCoder or GitHub scores? For salespeople, what have they sold before? If you want general hustle, do they have a track record of entrepreneurship, or at least holding a series of jobs?

You’ve noticed by now that ‘a college degree’ is not in this list of signals. That’s because I think it’s a pretty lousy one, and getting worse all the time.

There are two huge problems... One is that college is really expensive, and getting more so all the time. According to figures compiled by Jared Bernstein, while median income for two-parent, two-child families went up by 20% between 1990 and 2008, the cost of a four-year public college education went up by three times that amount. Total student loan debt is now larger than credit card debt in the US, and it can’t be discharged even in bankruptcy.

The even bigger problem is that, as I mentioned above, I believe college degrees are getting less valuable over time even as they’re getting more expensive. There’s a lot of evidence piling up about what’s happening with actual learning on campuses these days, and most of it is not pretty. It’s taking students longer to complete their degrees, and dropout rates are rising. The most alarming and depressing stats I’ve come across are that 45% of college students didn’t seem to learn much of anything during their first two years, and as many as 36% showed no improvement after four years. Whatever’s going on with these kids at these schools, it’s not education.

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Andrew McAfee is principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is the author of Enterprise 2.0 and the co-author, with Erik Brynjolfsson, of Race Against The Machine.

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