Is College Right for Everyone

Is College Right for Everyone

Going to college has become part of the American dream. But a recent study found only one-third of future jobs will require a bachelor's degree. Re-thinking whether college is for everyone.

President Obama has called on every American to receive at least one year of higher education or vocational training by 2020. For most young people, that means heading to campus in the pursuit of a college degree. But for a small, influential group of educators and economists, pushing the college experience is wrong. A recent report from Harvard backs them up. It found that only one-third of future jobs will need a bachelor’s degree. The report’s researchers said it’s time to offer stronger alternatives. The debate over the value of a college degree is not new, but the current economic crisis has renewed discussions. Diane and her guests re-examine the “college for all” movement.

Guests

Claudia Dreifus

co-author of "Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids and What We Can Do About It"; adjunct associate professor at Columbia University; science writer for The New York Times.

Jeffrey Selingo

editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

James Altucher

New York-based venture capitalist, and the author of the new book “How To Be the Luckiest Person Alive,” which includes the chapter: “8 Alternatives to College."

Nina Marks

president of Collegiate Directions Inc.; principal of Marks Education.

Jan Bray

executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE).

Program Highlights

Is College Worth the Expense?

A growing group of educators and economists say paying increasingly high rates for college and racking up thousands of dollars of debt does students a disservice - especially in a down economy, when even having a four-year degree from a prestigious university can't help boost graduates' job prospects the way it might have in the past.

"We're basically graduating a generation of indentured servants. I think this is the downfall of the American dream," said New York-based venture capitalist and author James Altucher.

Jeffrey Selingo, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, said he thinks that there has been too much emphasis on the 4-year B.A. program, when many students don't stop to consider certificate programs, 2-year programs, and other alternatives to the more traditional (and, arguably, expensive) college path.

Student Options as Costs Skyrocket

"When I left high school in 1954, less than half of our graduating class went to college, and yet them seem to have done fairly well," Diane said. "What's the difference between back then and now?"

Altucher said that because a lot of employees in hiring positions are college-educated, they tend to trust prospective employees who are also college-educated. Back in the 1950s, Altucher said, there seemed to be greater opportunity for career success among those who were not college-educated, especially if they were "achievement-oriented."

"The big deal is to focus on some sort of credential," Selingo argued. "The fact is that a high-school diploma doesn't cut it in this day and age. The types of jobs going to be created within the next 50 years - we have no idea what they're going to be," he said.

Do Degrees Translate Into Jobs?

"When I left high school in 1954, less than half of our graduating class went to college, and yet them seem to have done fairly well," Diane said. "What's the difference between back then and now?"

Altucher said that because a lot of employees in hiring positions are college-educated, they tend to trust prospective employees who are also college-educated. Back in the 1950s, Altucher said, there seemed to be greater opportunity for career success among those who were not college-educated, especially if they were "achievement-oriented."

"The big deal is to focus on some sort of credential," Selingo argued. "The fact is that a high-school diploma doesn't cut it in this day and age. The types of jobs going to be created within the next 50 years - we have no idea what they're going to be," he said.

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