As a graduating student, I’m starting to question the purpose of a college education. Is a ‘degree’ really worth all the money, time and effort? Do we really learn what they think we do, does it really prepare us for the big, bad world?
I doubt it. After 3 years in college and counting, I have started to doubt that I learnt anything ‘real’ at all in college. I’ve learnt so much more outside of classes and outside of college, and that is probably complimentary to growing older. So when I consider college in isolation, I’m not convinced it’s a value-add.
I found the following video on youtube. It’s so brilliantly made and clearly illustrates the point that I’m struggling to make.
Maybe it’s just me, but spending close to 3.5 years in such a grade-centric environment has almost killed my belief in education, staggered my creativity and made me reconsider any ambition for further education. It never occurred to me that in college, everyone will be running a politically correct race for grades, with all else shut out and sealed in a box.
In fact, the closest I have come to being inspired in college is when my Advertising professor flashed a slide in his first class, with the following message:
“Good day. I rarely give A-pluses, and I rarely give Fs. However, if you work hard enough, either is possible. I, however, wouldn’t recommend you work that hard to get that A+. It really isn’t that important. Please, focus on the things that are really important. Spend energy on your other courses. Do your extra-curricular activities. Drink. Get your hangovers. Skip classes to squeeze in that Bangkok trip. Come late after breaks so that you don’t waste that cigarette. Do what you are supposed to do – enjoy your life as an undergraduate. And if I ever catch you attending my every class and giving that much effort such that I just have to give you an A+, son, you won the battle but you lost the fricking war.”
Apparently, my prof found the above on one of his ex-student’s blog, who praying that some day, some professor would start some class with such a brilliant message. I can’t exactly say that the rest of the course adhered to the words, but well, it was quite a start!
The pseudo-economist in me doesn’t like to sit still. Actually, the Signaling Model clearly supports my anti-college approach. It is well acknowledged that the returns to college education are definitely higher than those received by a high school graduate. However, economists are still testing if the differences arise due to a difference in productivity at the two levels or merely because of the signal that a college graduate has higher potential (even though his productivity might be equivalent to that of a high school grad). A signaling-styled college education can be proven by studying the returns to education (in a pure monetary sense) during the years spent in earning a college degree. For instance, if you are paid substantially higher for every year that you stay in college, chances are that a college stint is believed to be a productivity enhancer in a profession. Similarly, if a person who drops out of college midway is paid the same amount as a high school grad, it implies that college education is only a signal.
The graph above demonstrates the ‘Sheep-Skin Effect.’ It is the bump in earnings which results from finishing college, or in this case, finishing e* years of education. This graph also shows that education is only a signal, and does not enhance productivity. A person who finishes college (e*) receives higher returns, than someone who maybe drops out at the beginning of his third year (just before e*).
As of now, economists believe the productivity : signaling ratio of education to be 66 : 33. Personally, I believe it’s more skewed toward the latter.
So yeah, since big bucks were never my focus, I’m not so proud of becoming a college graduate soon, after all.