Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is Your College Degree Worth It?

Last week during SXSWedu, I attended a screening of Educaution, a film bringing attention to the student loan crisis.

As a former teacher of juniors and seniors, I often faced the college question: which way to do you steer students? To a university, a community college, a technical school, or to career? However, at the time, the question always focused on the student's strengths and abilities - not finances. When I was a senior in high school, I applied to a variety of universities - some more expensive than others - and I believed that degrees from some universities would steer me to better jobs and better-paying jobs. However, what I did not realize at the time was the cost.

Had I chosen a more expensive university, would I have earned a better job (considering my career as a teacher)? The filmmakers mention that there is over 1 trillion in U.S. student loan debt. That number is astronomical. They also mentioned that, due to their 100,000 dollar debt, they have decided to withhold marriage and starting a family. These are life decisions that have been affected because of their debt. They also note that students graduating are not stimulating the economy any more because of the debt. And, this - to me - is the largest problem. It's a combo - college is too expensive and the degrees students are earning are not preparing them.

Five years removed from college, do your employers focus on where your degree was from or if you had a degree? I would argue for the latter. In my interviews, my employers have focused on the quality of work, my willingness to learn, to innovate, to create, and to work as a team member. And, these skills are not specific to any one university.

So, as we guide students down the college path, what should we tell them? Should we tell them that they may enter a debt that may take years to get out of and that their job may not be tied to where the degree was from? Do we tell them that life is more than a university? Do we shift our focus in college guidance?

How can we shift this? How can we produce the innovators, the creators, the team members, the learners without putting them in a life-altering debt?

Check out Educaution's Facebook page and Website to learn how you can help!

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