College Degree: One Size Fits All

One size fits all? Of course it doesn’t. Yeesh. I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck, you know. There are multiple ways to get a college degree….

All? All? For most of us it is a foregone conclusion that everyone should aspire to and attain a college degree, by whatever method works best for them. Attaining the degree may be two years at a community college, transfer to a 4 year institution; or, 4 years at the best your loan can cover and the outcome degree finance…

Why should everyone attain a college degree? To maximize their income potential, of course!

What is a college degree? A commodity which helps me maximize my income potential… WHERE is this tedious blog post going?

No, no, no… there is a human spirit, a LIFE, at stake. To maximize a life, there are certain attributes individuals could choose to foster for which the traditional process of gaining a college degree may actually be detrimental. And oddly, horribly, for some individuals the valued attribute of “a love of learning” will be killed by the traditional process of gaining a college degree.


Especially in an age where technology now supports so many different lines of inquiry, so many different methods of learning and even gaining practical expertise about almost anything.

6 thoughts on “College Degree: One Size Fits All

  1. Hi Laura,

    I agree with the assertion in your post. For various reasons we seem to be an obstacle rather than a conduit for growth. I look forward to talking with you more about this.

    Take care,

  2. Have you seen this quote? Improving lifetime earning is a major reason why many students go to college.

    “Students who are in school or who have chosen a major for instrumental reasons – in order to get a better job or to make more money – are much more likely to cheat than students who have chosen a course of study because of their interest in in the subject matter. (p.124)”

    When discussing the state’s cut to education during the 2003 recession, the previous chancellor used the love of learning argument for why higher ed shouldn’t get cut. The legislature increased the cuts. The current chancellor used higher ed is an investment in the state’s future, aka the higher earning potential. We’ll see where that gets us.

  3. EZ –
    Very interesting. I too would like to know what happens in the case you’re citing. Love of learning is the one thing we want to cultivate in the higher ed process. For some people, the higher ed process as it exists today would kill any love of learning they may have had. SKodai thought I was saying dumb people shouldn’t be allowed to go to college, but instead I was saying people we tend to label as ‘dumb’ aren’t directed toward the kind of opportunities that would foster the learnings their non-standard intelligences would be best suited for and thrive in.
    Commodizing higher ed has left us with a one size fits all culture.

  4. Yeah, Diana Oblinger did the keynote at Educause #mwrc10 starting with a bunch of stats as to how countries with more college degrees per capita have a higher GDP, and the US is falling behind in the global market. I wonder who is influencing whom. US Dept of Ed -> The Chronicle of Higher Ed (they say they’re an independent newspaper?) or the other way around.
    I’m trying to get my mind around how the GDP (GDP = private consumption + gross investment + government spending + (exports − imports)) can be more effected by the # of college degrees issued per capita than it is influenced by stupidity, excess, and other bad choices. But it’s possible. I mean the cost of a college degree keeps going up and adds to the ‘private consumption’ category in the equation. I think we could increase the GDP more readily if we have bachelor’s and associate’s degrees expire or become obsolete such as technical certifications do. Then we could sell many more of them. THAT should raise our GDP.
    I just don’t know that it will benefit the US in the global economy as much as cultivating minds through higher quality learning for everyone.

  5. It seems to me that “higher education” is only tangentially about learning for the sake of learning. It’s obviously much less expensive, and arguably much easier and more efficient, to learn without the overhead of a degree-granting institution and its stipulations on what you should study to be considered worthy of a formal degree. The Internet has made it possible to become an expert in almost any subject area, either by providing direct access to knowledge or by connecting you to resources that you can use to gain knowledge. There is no reason I need to learn about geology if my goal is become an expert in economics… unless I want a degree and need to fulfill my general education requirements.

    No, the purpose of a college degree is to easily demonstrate to others that you have jumped through some agreed upon hoops. It’s a shortcut to a level of assumed skill/understanding/competence for employers or others. If I have an undergraduate or graduate degree in some area, then it can be assumed that I have some level of understanding or competence in that area without the need to specifically test me. It can also generally be assumed that I can work with others, follow rules, stick to a goal until it’s done, and navigate a relatively complex organization. Does it guarantee any of those things? No. Does it mean that those who don’t have a degree don’t have competence in those areas? Absolutely not, but it makes for a handy tool to sort job candidates in an early screening process. Weeding out those who have not put in the effort to gain a degree may not be the best way to find the most qualified candidate, but it certainly cuts down the time required to narrow the focus to relatively qualified individuals.

    How does higher education affect GDP? I would argue that, although the primary purpose of higher education may not be to maximize a love of learning, it’s a fact that much learning does happen in the course of acquiring a degree. The more people that acquire degrees in a society, the more ideas will be generated and explored, and the more production will be created. Could this happen without the degrees? Sure, but I would submit that the number of people willing to put forth the effort to learn would be much smaller if you didn’t provide them the carrot of a degree (and the possibility of higher wages) in the end.

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