College: A Total Waste of Time?

Last Updated Jan 21, 2011 1:07 PM EST

College is a waste of time?Recently BNET's Cait Murphy asked if $50,000 a year for tuition is really worth it, and it seems she isn't the only one questioning the value of higher education. Marketing guru Seth Godin recently made a departure from his usual koan-like blog posts to pen a lengthy prediction of the upcoming meltdown in higher education. He offered five reasons for his bold prediction:
  • Most colleges are organized to give an average education to average students. Pick up any college brochure or catalog. Delete the brand names and the map. Can you tell which school it is?
  • College has gotten expensive far faster than wages have gone up. As a result, there are millions of people in very serious debt, debt so big it might take decades to repay. Word gets around.
  • The definition of 'best' is under siege. Why do colleges send millions (!) of undifferentiated pieces of junk mail to high school students now?... Biggest reason: So the schools can reject more applicants. The more applicants they reject, the higher they rank in US News and other rankings. Why bother making your education more useful if you can more easily make it appear to be more useful?
  • The correlation between a typical college degree and success is suspect. College wasn't originally designed to merely be a continuation of high school (but with more binge drinking). In many places, though, that's what it has become.
  • Accreditation isn't the solution, it's the problem. A lot of these ills are the result of uniform accreditation programs that have pushed high-cost, low-reward policies on institutions and rewarded schools that churn out young wanna-be professors instead of experiences that turn out leaders and problem-solvers.
And Godin isn't the only A-list blogger questioning the value of a traditional college education. Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and a number of other companies, has declared that if you want to be an entrepreneur, drop out of college (A sentiment our latest interviewee, a 23-year-old mogul in the making, agrees with). She says:
College works on the factory model, and is in many ways not suited to training entrepreneurs. You put in a student and out comes a scholar.
Entrepreneurship works on the apprenticeship model. The best way to learn how to be an entrepreneur is to start a company, and seek the advice of a successful entrepreneur in the area in which you are interested. Or work at a startup for a few years to learn the ropes.
Both Godin and Fake seem to agree that the current model for higher education is thoroughly outdated. Do you agree?

(Image of proud graduate by Josh Parrish, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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