Thursday, November 08, 2012

Why Go 100k Into Student Loan Debt When You Can Learn For Free?

I keep meaning to write a review of Aaron Cleary's book "Worthless". I believe it should be required reading for anybody looking at going to college. Making it required reading would be tough though. I have several friends with children getting ready for college. I always recommend this book (the Kindle version is $5). Isn't $5 a very minor expense when you're looking at enslaving the next 10 years of your life to Sallie Mae, causing you to defer marriage and family and all the things you could enjoy about life? But my suggestion is always ignored. And child after child goes on to study ministry or finance or art or music.

In Worthless, Aaron Cleary analyzes the trend of a vast majority of COLLEGE GRADUATES being unemployed or under employed. On his blog, he links to articles about people with $80,000 in student loan debt who cannot find work.

One thing he does in the book is explains an exercise he does when teaching economics to college students (he is an Economist). He asks them to state what they'd like for Christmas, then tell him what their major is. Invariably, the Christmas list involves things like iPhones, cars, TVs, computers, etc. Engineered and manufactured goods. The degree list rarely consists of the subjects that would allow the college student to participate in the creation and production of those goods. Most are "liberal arts" students: art, music, women's studies, etc. He asks them "When was the last time you put 'I'd like a lecture on women's issues' on your Christmas list?"

Aaron states that what he has to say will piss you off, but he's doing it because he cares. Sure, your parents and counselors care about you, but they don't exactly know what they're talking about. He shows some sad cases, like the dude who got a Master's degree in Puppetry! who is terminally unemployed.

He explains the major degree areas, and analyzes which are good and bad, especially from the context of which will give you the best expected starting salary upon graduation. Obviously, the best are engineering fields.

He also proposes alternatives to college, like trade school and the military.

This is a great book, and you need to read it. You should buy it for everybody you know with a teenager getting ready for college. (And of course, buy them from my affiliate link, please). Don't let them waste their lives getting a worthless soft degree that leaves them shouldered with student debt and insufficient qualifications for entry level jobs.

I see a lot of children told "You better go to college and get a degree. Any degree. I don't care. Just graduate." Many think "Philosophy sounds easy. I'll do that".

I personally wasn't ready for college when I graduated high school. It would have been a waste of time and money for me to go to college at the time. And the only prospect I had was Kentucky Fried Chicken was willing to make me a manager, which wouldn't have been too bad in the short term. I joined the Navy, learned electronics, then when I was 31 and ready went to college and got a degree. I graduated with a 3.87 GPA with two children who weren't sleeping through the night and a full time job. I could not have pulled that off out of high school.

My degree is in Information Technology (a subject area Aaron Cleary endorses in Worthless). I'm working on a Master's degree, again in an IT subject. I still use information I learned in college in the daily performance of my job. Say what you will about the University of Phoenix, but I have NEVER been told "forget what you learned in college; we'll show you how it works in the 'real world'". Not once.

When it comes to what we now consider "liberal arts", Aaron Cleary recommends self-studying them. That's a conclusion I came to long ago. I love subjects like History and Philosophy, but I'm under no illusion that a degree in either subject will do much to enhance my employ-ability. So I eagerly self-study them along with many other subjects, including the classical Liberal Arts.

With services like iTunes University, Khan Academy, and so many others, I have to wonder why anybody would spend upwards of $60,000 on a soft subject. Roosh posted on his Return of Kings blog about a new free course service called Coursera. Just looking at the home page, it has courses from Johns Hopkins.

The dynamics of education are changing across the spectrum. Even K-12 is going to have to change from its outmoded 19th century assembly line one-size-fits-all union controlled model eventually.

Textbooks are going to have to change soon too. Under the current model, some textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars. It's a cash cow. But now there are movements to produce open source textbooks.

I almost feel bad for those in the current system. Almost. About as bad as I feel for horse whip manufacturers when the car started to catch on. If that had happened today, somebody would start a political movement to subsidize those poor buggy whip manufacturers who no longer have a market to sell to. I recommend if you're in a dying industry, it's time to look for something new.Yes, it's scary. Yes, it's hard. Yes it's challenging. But it has to happen.
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