Why I Don’t Offer “Student Discounts”
I sell courses online. Sometimes a potential buyer asks me if I offer student discounts.
I tell them as politely as possible that no, I don’t offer student discounts. But each time this happens, what I really want to say is this:
“You pay entirely too much to someone else for education, and now you want to use that as an excuse to pay me entirely too little for education?”
I understand the student’s perspective.
I really do. They don’t have money, and we all want the things we buy to cost less money — especially when we don’t have money.
But it doesn’t make sense for me to offer student discounts. It would make just as much sense for a car dealership to have a Lamborghini-owner’s discount. Just because you bought something that costs more than it should, doesn’t mean you have the right to pay less for a similar thing.
Student discounts are for things that are not education. They’re for software, mobile phone service, or pizza.
My online courses are education. When you take one of my courses, as far as I’m concerned, that makes you a “student” (though T-Mobile may beg to differ). My courses can be part of an alternative to a “formal” education, or they can be a supplement to a formal education.
If your formal education isn’t teaching you the skills you want to learn, maybe it’s time to rethink your formal education.
We all know that education in the U.S. is absurdly expensive. Federal student loan debt is $1.3 trillion.
But, some people think a person needs a degree to gain the skills necessary to survive in this world. These students have no choice but to overpay for their educations, right?
I’m not so sure about that. In my recent podcast conversation with Bryan Caplan, author of The Case Against Education, I learned that most of the extra earnings college graduates enjoy come from “signaling.”
In other words, it’s not that they learn job skills while getting their degrees. Instead, the fact that they finished college “signals” to employers that they are intelligent, conscientious, and are willing to conform to societal norms. In other words, they’re employable.
Consider the fact that you can drop in on classes at many universities for free. You could get an education at Princeton — which normally costs $45,000 per year — and pay nothing. Yet nobody does it — why? Because you won’t get a degree, that’s why.
The value of a college degree.
Caplan estimates that eighty percent of the value of a college degree is “signaling”—meaning only twenty percent of the value is useful job skills. That would help explain why college students are looking for supplementary education online in the first place.
How to crack the code of how to find great employable people.
If there were a more efficient way for employers to find employable people, besides looking for college degrees, they would definitely use it. The first employer to crack the code on finding good people without paying a premium just for their degrees would destroy their competition. That’s hard to do, so degrees remain the most efficient way to figure out who is worth hiring.
Developers and Designers.
Fortunately, in some professions, there are other ways to tell if someone is employable. If you’re a developer or a designer — as most of my students are — you can have a portfolio. You have things you’ve actually done and made that you can show a potential employer. These things send a “signal” — and an incredibly relevant one at that — that you have the skills, and the ability to follow through, to get the job done.
We can only hope that more employers will stop relying on looking for a degree to figure out if someone is employable. That would loosen higher education’s death grip on the adolescents of America—and the adults still paying off loans twenty years after the fact.
I don’t want to empower a bully.
This brings me to the the other reason I don’t offer student discounts. It’s a matter if principle: I don’t want to empower a bully. When you combine overpriced tuition for a boring, outdated, and inefficient education, along with the predatory student loans industry, and throw in the widespread exploitation of graduate students, it becomes clear that the higher education system is a bully.
And just because a bully took your lunch money, doesn’t mean you get a discount on lunch.
The online educator.
I know, one online educator refusing to offer a student discount isn’t going to take the higher education system down. It won’t prevent the government from making its pockets fat from the interest it collects on loans. It won’t make a university like Stanford stop sitting on its $22 billion endowment, and start using it to educate people.
But the bullying ends where the campus ends. Maybe more alternative education providers will refuse to let the bully push them, too. Maybe employers will find better ways to figure out who is employable.
Maybe more seventeen year olds will think twice before signing up for $150,000 of unforgivable debt. Maybe the bully’s day of reckoning will come, and it will collapse, exhausted and bloody, in a cloud of dust on the barren campus grounds.
My short read: How to Write a Book will teach you — well — how to write a book. For the price of a year at Princeton, you can buy 15,050 copies »