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Colleges Have It All Wrong – Three Years To A Bachelor’s Degree

It’s about time; colleges are starting to realize their attendance rates will drop if they keep sending their students into the world with huge amounts of debt. Now that they are acknowledging this, what’s their plan of action? An article I read from USAToday.com says that colleges are starting to introduce the three year bachelor degree program to save on loans. On the surface this sounds like a logical idea. If students spend a shorter amount of time in college it should save them money. I personally think this is misguided.

Does a three year bachelor degree require the same amount of classes as a four year degree? I’m assuming the answer is yes otherwise everyone would want a three year degree. If that’s the case then they’re basically just giving their students a busier work load (please follow my logic):

1-Instead of 4 classes a semester they will take 5 or 6 (which isn’t anything new for devoted students).

2-Now we need to look at tuition. Every college has a ton of fees, but the most expensive fee is the cost of classes. If students still have to take the same amount of classes they really won’t be saving that much money.

3-Lastly we need to consider why people take out student loans. Generally it’s because they don’t have money for college. In order to save up money many students work and go to school. If their workload increases they will no longer have time to work. That in turn will lead to needing more loans. What this all comes down to is that we will have really busy students that may end up taking out even more student loans because they don’t have time to work. Not to mention the students being tired and stressed out all the time which could cost more money as lack of sleep causes poor financial decisions (nights out, fast food, etc.).

I know we all want a way for students to be able to go to college and not acquire a mountain of debt. That would be great, but the debt isn’t the problem. The lack of “good” jobs for college graduates is. If most graduates could find a decent job, paying down their student loans wouldn’t be as big of a deal. Schools need to address this issue by better preparing their students for what comes next. College shouldn’t be about grades, but about what their students actually learn. Maybe they received an A on their test, but can they actually apply it in real life a month from now? If we expect the companies to completely train all their employees why would they pay more to hire a college graduate? I’ve always been told that a college degree mostly shows that the graduate can actually stick with something and follow it through, and that they aren’t afraid of working hard. If that’s true then I want to know why it costs students so much to prove that to an employer! Isn’t that what probation periods are for? By focusing on student loans colleges aren’t actually fixing the main problem.

As a side note, if we want our students to take out less loans we need to do a better job explaining to them the responsibility of having them. Right now we tell our kids that student loans are OK as long as they finish school, but I can’t help but feel that that attitude is wrong. We should explain them in a way that shows that they are just like any other kind of debt. I think that this should be done in the beginning of high school. If it’s done freshman year they will have time to save money for college if they decided they don’t want to use student loans. I know that most high school students won’t take it seriously, but the sooner they are confronted with the issue the longer it will have to sink in as being important. When I started to take out loans it never seemed like I would actually have to pay them back. I mean I knew I would have to, but it seemed like so far away that it didn’t matter. I know an early introduction, combined with the attitude that student loans weren’t a good thing, would have helped me out a lot.

As college becomes an expectation for more and more people, student loans will continue to rise. Some colleges are taking action to try and “lower” costs by offering a three year bachelor degree. I personally think this is going to be as helpful as a jacket in 100 degree heat. I’m curious to know how all of you feel about this issue. Is a three year degree a good thing, or is it a tool colleges want to use to make themselves look better? Are we all ignoring the real issues (which are the job market and college curriculum)?

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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Are You Inadvertently Giving Bad Advice to Your College Bound Kids?

When I was younger I was always being told that the secret to getting a good job is getting an education. I know that I’m not the only one to receive this advice. In fact, I’m willing to bet almost every parent tells their kids this. It has been getting easier for people to get their degrees, and this means that the significance of a college education has changed. In some ways it’s more important and in other ways it’s less. It’s more important because a college degree is becoming the high school diploma. The majority of people used to graduate from high school then go straight to the work force (which is why a college degree gave you a huge opportunity at a good job). Nowadays a lot more people go from high school to college (which is why we don’t have that guarantee anymore). What this is doing is it is allowing employers to require college degrees for jobs that used to only need a high school diploma. They still pay the same wages, but they want more education. College is less important in the sense that it no longer gives you a leg up in the workforce because all your competition also has their degree. Companies are now putting more emphasis on job experience (wait a minute, my parents didn’t tell me about that). What’s a new graduate to do? We’ve always been told it’s good to be well rounded in your life for college applications, but not many of us were told that you need to be well rounded to be successful in general. As the workforce requirements are changing the advice parents give their children is staying the same. I still hear parents tell their kids, “Go to college to be success.” I feel like they are leaving out some important things:

1)      College doesn’t guarantee anything without hard work.

2)      Try out multiple jobs in college so you can gain experience in different fields.

3)      Getting an A isn’t as important as actually understanding the material.

4)      Even with a degree you’ll still have to start towards the bottom of your field.

5)      Don’t take out a ton of student loans unless you’re going to an Ivy League school or becoming a doctor.

Some of these tips may seem like common sense, but I promise you that kids need to hear these things. We all need to start adjusting out attitudes and advice to match theses changing times.

Being an MBA student I’ve had a lot of opportunities to ask business owners questions. The one I like to ask is, “what problems have you seen when interviewing recent graduates?” I like this question because it tells me what not to do when I’m done with school. Everyone always answers the same way. They basically say that college graduates expect too much when starting their careers. They have always been told go to college to be successful. This has made them think that they are owed something when their done with school. Usually it’s that they will start out with a high paying job and they’ll automatically be a manager. When they get their reality check it usually doesn’t end well for the graduate, and they remain unemployed. They don’t want to start out at the bottom. If they did they wouldn’t have spent the money it costs to go to college in the first place (which goes up and up every year). Unfortunately there is rarely a way to get around starting at the bottom of an organization because the 4 year degree is now equivalent to the high school diploma 20-30 years ago. Another comment I commonly get form business owners is that new graduates don’t want to work as hard as the baby boomers did. They focus more on their balance between work and home (which means they don’t want to work more than 40 hours a week). Business owners don’t like this new attitude because they don’t know how to deal with it. They grew up when people were more than happy to work 60 hours a week because it meant more money. This idea that free time is more important than money is foreign to them. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, but business structures will have to make this new workforce happy.

I mentioned above about keeping student loans to a minimum, and I wanted to tell you this story from my life that shows why this is important. I knew a girl that refused to work during school, and her parents couldn’t afford to help pay for her education. She also needed to go to school out of state to get the real college experience so her tuition fees were double. Her solution was to take out $50k in student loans. When she graduated college she decided that she wanted to be a teacher! She chooses a teaching salary with $50K in student loans? That was a bad choice, but she didn’t know what she wanted to do until it was too late. If her parent had given her a larger dose of reality there is a good chance she would have made smarter decisions. In many situations parents think it’s OK for their children to take about a lot of student loans because their going to college. I think they, just like their kids, need to realize there are no guarentees. That means that an abundance of student loans might not be such a hot idea. I get that parents are teaching their kids the lessons that they saw working while they were growing up. I respect that they are trying to help make their child successful. I just think it’s also important to watch the world around us and teach them lessons that pertain to here and now. Do you think new graduate feel like they are owed something? Have you seen a change in the workforce? Do you think we as a society should teach changes in the workforce in school?         

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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