Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Are Too Many People Going to College? ran this article about the low graduation rate of college students.
Just 54 percent of students entering four-year colleges in 1997 had a degree six years later -- and even fewer Hispanics and blacks did, according to some of the latest government figures. After borrowing for school but failing to graduate, many of those students may be worse off than if they had never attended college at all.
Maybe too many people are entering college that shouldn't be. Or, maybe, they should allow a longer time span for graduation. It took me six and a half years because I didn't want to take out a bunch of loans and worked to pay my way through college. This also necessitated not taking classes at times in order to build up funds to pay for college.

Coming from a family that amassed two Phd's, a law degree (Doctor of Jurisprudence), four M.S. degrees and seven bachelor's degrees, questioning the value of a college education is sacrilege. But, many don't have the self-discipline and perseverance to complete the rigors of college. Others simply aren't smart enough.

My oldest son, a junior in high school, loves working on cars and wants to go into some sort of automobile related career. He talks about mechanical engineering. Unless he improves his math skills this may not be an option. What if he simply decides to be an auto mechanic?

According to The Oakland Press "the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates dealers face an annual shortage of 35,000 technicians through 2010." This is a shortage! There are also all the garages and auto repair businesses not attached to auto dealers. This article discusses a program for minority students that includes guaranteed jobs that pay almost $40,000 a year. Not too bad. Better than B.A. degrees pay starting out in my company. Several years ago, I read an article in Reader's Digest regarding a drive across the country in search of an honest mechanic. (They found one in Falmouth, Kentucky not far from where I live.) In the article they mentioned how the ratio of cars to mechanics had doubled in since 1970, i.e. twice as many cars per mechanic. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the article online.

If a mechanic manages to open his own business and have others working for him, he can earn an excellent living. One of my schoolmates in high school father owned a gas station/auto service business. My schoolmate was able to buy the area Mercedes-Benz dealership with his father's help. He later became a major car dealer in Atlanta. Not bad.

Still, I want my children to go to and graduate from college but maybe it's vanity talking.

BTW - the highest money earner in my family constellation is my sister's husband who flunked out of college after one quarter.

For the benefit of generations to come, questioning the value of a college education is definitely something that needs to become less taboo.
I remember reading in The Millionaire next door that parents placed too much emphasis on college--many of the millionaires in the book had no college degree or had poor college grades. I sometimes question my own stupidity of getting 4 graduate degrees--if I had gone to work fulltime at 21 right after college--I would probably be better off financially than I am now as a forensic psychologist.
My two most successful friends staked their futures on computers rather than college. Most of us got our degrees and are now entry level somewhere if not straight up underemployed, looking for something better. Heck, even my roommate, a server at a high end restaurant, makes about double what I do a year.

But my Moms and Pops had me prepping for college at a very early age, telling stories of my eventual employment as a ditch digger should I let my grades slip. They spent a good bit of the family treasure to help me get my degree. I'm grateful, to be sure, but it really isn't the ticket to success it was billed as.

I didn't used to think it was worth anything, then I moved back to South Georgia where a UGA degree lights up people's eyes.

I know a lot of folks who went to college more because they were 'supposed to' rather than to better themselves.

I also know a lot of folks who are getting "back" into school (mostly guys) who have already started careers and want a degree for reasons of pride or pay grade. They generally tend to do very well and retain a lot of what they learn. I guess that has to do with paying for it themselves...
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