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What Do You Get For The Cost Of A Degree?

With so much money being spent on post-secondary degrees, students must constantly ask themselves what they’re getting for their investment. Photo by Dan Moyle.

Student Loans can be a huge financial burden

A recent report of outstanding student loans in the USA got my attention and anger. Currently, government-supported low interest rate college loans held by graduates is a staggering $870 billion. The more troubling fact is the rate of increases for tuitions, and university facilities, staff and operating costs—which, of course, will drive up the student loan values even more.

Recently federal grants totaling $9.2 million were sent to eight high schools in the Atlanta area that aren’t making the improvements necessary to meet CRCT scores. Most is earmarked to coach and show teachers “how to teach”! What? Show teachers how to teach!

Stakeholders across all 21 metro Atlanta counties are facing severe budget cuts for a fourth consecutive year and are FINALLY seriously asking, “How did we get into this position?”, in order to avoid it in the future.

Most cited the fact that more money spend on the wrong items or not reaching student learning benefits is obvious. We have spent billions on our public education system with poor oversight and increased entitlements. How’s that been working for us?

Moreover, we all know the job skills gap is widening every single day. Depending on the skills or competencies required, there are 3 to 10 applicants for each opening, but still the gap widens. Even in this poor jobs climate, 2.15 million American workers quit their jobs in March while job openings for the same month increased to 3.74 million, according to the Department of Labor Statistics. Why?

Students from high school through MBA degrees are not getting the curriculum they need to be gainfully employed in this new global marketplace. The U.S. ranks 24th in providing math and science—STEM—education. What?

“That can’t be right”, most say, but it is, and it will get worse before it gets better—unless we change the way we think about and deliver higher education. We have too much emphasis and resources dedicated to a holistic educational approach and too little on the fundamentals of business, math, science and economics. We also have a ton of idealistic professors, many of whom have never held a non-academic job, portraying socialistic activities as an alternative or complement to capitalism. As we can easily see in the news and politics, there are far too many who think the greatest nation on the planet can be all things to all people. It’s true we can do better—but not the way of Greece, Spain or any other socialist society. No matter how you try to disguise it, if it walks, talks and acts like a socialist, it’s a socialist.

Socialism is not what we should be teaching our students for them to succeed as taxpaying citizens. Taxpayers have bankrolled $870 billion in student loans to keep America’s economic engine running and creating industry and jobs. The government can provide a healthy, less regulated business climate, but it is NOT the job-creating genius that has made it possible for everyone do more than just get a fair deal, but a great deal of opportunity. Without the driving force of a quality education built around free enterprise, we are passing off debts and difficulties beyond our imagination to our next generations.

If you are mostly working your way through college by whatever financial means, you should be even more vigilant about what courses you spend your hard earned money on, or loans you will be expected to pay back.

You should be asking yourself, “Where’s the beef? What’s the payoff? Did I get the right degree? Is it applicable to the new global economy?”

Obtaining a piece of paper stating you competed coursework totaling so many hours of instruction doesn’t guarantee employment. In fact, it guarantees nothing. Its value is in what you learned in a formal environment and how you can provide that knowledge and skills gainfully to make a profit for yourself or an employer. Then you start learning all over again, because you have that $870 million to earn and pay back taxpayers who loaned you the money to get that piece of paper called a diploma.

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