Alternatives to college education


Here is a question that interests me a lot: Are we pushing too many high school graduates into university/college education? Recently on Mercatornet Thomas C Reeves suggested that we are. The New York Times last week discussed the same question, and the Wall Street Journal implied it with an opinion piece on graduate unemployment. Is it just because of the economic downturn, or is there a long-term issue to address?

We’ve pressed alternatives to the brick-and-mortar model for years. Far better to gain an education without sinking deeply into debt that will take years to overcome. It’s great to see more and more mainstream sources coming around to this idea and promoting it. Read the rest of the piece here.

5 thoughts on “Alternatives to college education

  1. Thank you for posting this article. Unfortunately, when I graduated high school, I was under the impression that I had to pick a major, go to college, and get a career. Now 12 years, four majors, and two degrees later, I realize that I would have been much better off if I had not gone to college. I think, especially, female high school students need to be told that there are other options than college, and I thank you for spreading the word.


  2. Hi,

    let me preface what I am about to say with this: I absolutely believe 100% that a full four-year college education is not for everyone. Getting a four-year degree on campus isn’t for everyone either. I myself am getting my degree through Oregon State’s distance program.

    I DO believe, however, that some form of post-secondary education is beneficial to everyone. I have worked 5 years as a retail sales-clerk post high school, and let it be known: no one wants to do this for the rest of their lives.

    “Working well with others” is a good skill. Is it a skill that will get you a raise? Sorry to say, not for most low-skill jobs. For well-paying, stable jobs, some form of post-secondary skill sets is essential.

    What bothers me, honestly, not the fact that there are college students graduating and not get getting jobs, it’s college students getting irrelevant degrees. For example, my sister has an English degree. She works with dogs and cats at an animal shelter. That’s not to say her degree is “wasted” (no education is ever a waste), but she could have maybe majored in Management, or Business administration, since her job entails A LOT of management skills. $30,000+ for an English degree. Yowch. I’ll be getting a degree in Natural Resources and Business with less than 10k in debt.

    The reason college grads, I believe, are scrambling for jobs is 1) because of the downturn. There’s no denying that. 2) the lack of specific marketable degrees. Someone has an MA in Folklore? Really? I’ll be over here, with my degree, working for the EPA. I think too many kids go to college and get generic degrees because they don’t want the challenge.

    What I honestly, honestly believe is that there needs to be a greater emphasis on the Sciences and Technologies in our education system. When my dad graduated college in the 70s, there were so many engineers graduating the job marked was overwhelmed. America was at the forefront academically and technologically. That competitive edge has been lost in these 30 – 40 years since, which is incredibly dangerous. We NEED highly skilled, college educated persons. Now we’re a nation of Liberal Arts degrees. I’m not knocking LA degrees at all, but there needs to be a balance, and that balance is wildly off.

    So basically, what I’m saying is this: if you want to go to college, go, but don’t get a “convenience degree.” Do what works for you, what you feel called to do, whether that entails a full degree or not.

    I apologize for the essay; this is a subject I am very passionate about! I see a few points in here that need clarifying – forgive me for not doing so. I am pressed for time!


    1. Hi, Zoe!

      Our beef isn’t with higher education itself — it’s with the notion that the only way to gain one is to spend tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars to obtain a degree or gain knowledge requisite for success in the real world. One of my husband’s past employers often lamented the fact that a degree was no longer a guarantee that you’d gain a skilled employee. He had to put dozens of college grads through remedial English courses just to get them up to speed on basic writing skills. It was frustrating and costly. Those of us who have been homeschooling for two generations (three, in my case), have found that there is no hindrance to gaining the skills and information needed for just about any job out there–and no need to go deeply into debt to do it. We love alternatives like “College Plus!” and other accelerated degree options — not to mention hands-on apprenticeship, mentor training, etc.

      I totally agree about the “irrelevant degrees.” The piece of paper has been held up as the goal rather than the whole process of working toward the skills and knowledge needed for a particular field. Time to rethink the system! Great comments!


  3. I can testify firsthand that the system described in the article works. First of all, I do have a college degree. I actually have two and I do not regret either one of them. Then again… I probably spend less on getting both of my degrees than a person in the US would spend on one year in most colleges.
    But just as not everyone is called to be a brain surgeon, not everybody should be ready at the end of highschool to start training to be one.
    In Belgium high school has a three pronged system. You have ASO for people who prepare for college or higher education outside of college, TSO for people who might persue some further education outside of college, or immediately look for a job that they will be qualified for. And there is BSO for people who prepare immediately for a job. From future brick layers to hairdressers, to nurses or doctors… each person can graduate highschool with a degree that prepares them further. The only real need is a good attitude and a willingness to work.
    As I have taught in a school that focussed on the vocational levels (BSO and TSO) I have seen students who otherwise would have given up prepare well for a future job. Of course there are always students who do not have the right mentality or willingness to work (sometimes because these things have never been modeled for them, or never expected from them), and those will fail regardless of what system is in place. School can not take the place of a healthy home environment, but a good system adjusted to everyone’s needs and talents can do a lot of good.


  4. I studied Ancient History and Archaeology and absolutely loved the course – I was less wild about the social side of university, the drinking culture etc though I did meet my husband at university, so every cloud 😉 I could have had a similar experience, but cut out the social side by attending a “just as good” university nearer to home – but the Lord uses all of our experiences, good and bad, to mould us into the people he wants us to be.

    Thankfully, in the UK, fees and living expenses for University are nowhere near as high as they are in the US. My course fees cost £1500 a year, and I was blessed that my parents were able to fund my living expenses. Most students *do* have to take loans out to cover living expenses and so graduate with £15000 of debt on average. However, you pay the loans back in very small amounts over the course of years and with very low interest rates, so the debt burden is not at all onerous. It sounds like the situation in the US is rather different.


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