Thursday, June 3, 2010

college gospel

The education gospel is that if you go to college you will get a good job. (Good translates to high paying.) But more studies are questioning the economic impact of a college education.

And, it is true. The economic impact is not always there. Some of our lowest paying jobs require the highest degrees (capital investment), like social work, teaching, marine biologist, or marketing.

As a result of the education gospel we have more students in college than ever before. We also have more students flocking to college under-prepared academically, under-advised for financial aid, and under-mentored to maneuver the system, firmly carrying the burning bush of the education gospel.

So what do we do? Stop open enrollment colleges? No. We cannot punish a student who, for whatever reason she is under-prepared, to not have a second chance by attending college. Many of these students described are very surprised that they are under-prepared. It is just as much a shock to them to be sitting in a college classroom staring incoherently at a professor who is equally in shock. Deer in the headlights all the way around.

There are many ways in which this economic impact can be adjusted; not all easy actions to accomplish. But there is one that can do it pretty quickly. Monitor and mentor students about the amount they should borrow.

These easy to get loans have allowed colleges to continually raise costs. Lending agencies are very generous with government backed loans. But this free and easy lending falsely convinces students they can take out money that will pay for college and lead them directly to a high paying job. Didn't the bank and college affirm that they believed it was a safe financial risk for a liberal arts major to borrow $60,000?

So, encourage students to be poor now to be rich later. Low or no loans on graduation makes even low paying professions an economic benefit. And, lets not too quickly blame college for a degree losing its positive economic impact for students.

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