College Catastrophe

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Post-secondary education has been in trouble for a while. The current situation is just speeding us downhill faster.

What is a degree worth? And why?

How can a university shut down, put out some haphazard and meager offerings online, and then still charge the same fees with no refunds or extensions?

Is that degree worth the same amount? If so, why?

I only have a Bachelor’s of Arts degree from Sonoma State University, a decent but nothing-special state school in California. I worked my way through school and graduated with zero debt. It was rare then, but it’s pretty much impossible for any young college students to do that in the US these days.

Though I don’t have a Master’s or anything impressive, and at a few points over the last 20 years, I’ve considered going for more. It could help with my expert witness work, general career positioning, and potential opportunities to live/work overseas.

In 2017, I applied for Georgia Tech’s Master’s program in Machine Learning, which is one the best in the field and one of the first to be offered online. They turned me down. On paper, it doesn’t look like I know what I’m doing with computers, and even though I had recommendations to the contrary, I didn’t look like a very good bet to them. I get it.

Legitimizing my existing knowledge and filling in the gaps to allow me to expand it even more was the idea behind getting another degree. I don’t officially look like I know most of what I do know, and most of the time it doesn’t matter at all. But there are situations like I mentioned where the lack of official credentials is a real disadvantage.

Now even those official channels are going to have a hard time justifying the value of the college degree. It’s being degraded and cheapened to such a degree that the entire system is about to implode. I give it 18-months. By 2022, I’d guess 20-30% of the colleges that existed pre-pandemic won’t anymore, and the budgets of the remaining schools will be in full-scale panic mode.

When colleges put their offerings online, they have to compete with every other college offering the same topic. How many English 101 classes does the world need? Statistics is the same everywhere. Computer science doesn’t improve when brought into an ivy covered building, it’s the same content when its as on a laptop in your bedroom.

Since the campuses all closed, a lot more people are noticing this. And a lot of them are pissed, with good reason.

There is no scarcity when you’re online, no class limits or dorm capacity. Why not accept ALL the students who qualify? Why not scale it to infinity and reduce the costs?

Because of greed, that’s why. This is becoming more and more apparent to students and parents alike.

The information is already free, in most cases. The only thing anyone is paying for at this point is the degree itself, not the underlying knowledge or capability.

Had I been accepted to that Georgia Tech program, I’d be graduating about now. I might still get another degree someday, maybe. But you can bet I’m going to let this dust settle and bubble finish popping before I go in. I’ll just keep building my knowledge and capability in the meantime. Getting ready to test out of whatever tests they offer, or at least make it easier get more of the higher level knowledge from the institutions of higher knowledge.

No matter how young or old you are, I’d suggest you do the same.

What do you think? Comment away below…

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