06 September 2008

College Drop Outs - The "Why" is Simple

According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette headline, there’s “No simple explanation for college dropout rate”. The article relates the story of one person who left college and never went back. She is, according to the piece, “one of more than a million people in Pennsylvania and a quarter million in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area who are older than 25 and categorized by the U.S. Census as ‘some college, no degree.’”

Oddly enough, the article hits on what I think is the reason those who leave college sometimes don’t look back: they can earn a decent living and live happily without a degree.

The above mentioned student ended up “[making] more money than she expected waitressing in a Downtown restaurant”. And even though the “drop out” says she regrets it now, it’s only because she feels that her college experience (and possibly a degree) would have been “done and over with it by now”. Not a good reason to attend and spend, and spend.

One of the great fallacies in our society is the idea that one must go to college to have a good life. I simply do not believe that to be the case. The “must go to college” mantra, mixed in with plenty of “you can be anything you want to be” and a perceived “right” to success (whatever that may mean), leads many students down a blind alley – the first bit of their college experience. Many of them don’t know what they’re getting into, nor are they prepared for serious college-level work. (In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t ready, and I was a pretty decent student.)
Nor, I would argue, should they waste time and effort worrying about getting a college education.

Many high school graduates can, I believe, find something to do for a living that doesn’t require a college diploma. This is especially true if the high school graduate has learned to read and write with some proficiency, has gained some sort of work ethic, and knows how to employ that work ethic day in, day out. These things can be learned in high school. And specific trade skills can be learned at a trade school or through on the job training.

Of course, employers may have to realize that they do not need college graduates, either. But that perhaps is another post for another time. But I’ve got to think that if a motivated, articulate, enthusiastic young person goes into a place for a job and is willing to learn the trade, an employer would be excited to train and employ that person.

I’m not saying that college isn’t necessary. I’m not even saying that it’s a bad thing for anyone to further their education. But the myth that college leads to a better life, simply by virtue of possessing a sheet of paper with an institution’s name and a degree emblazoned on it, is folly.

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