It’s my weekly post about why kids shouldn’t go to college.
To be clear, I write these posts to convince myself that my kids should not go to college. I remember, about ten years ago, when I wrote that entrepreurship is a safety net. I felt like I was writing the post to justify the fact that I really wanted a cushy corporate job, but I woudn’t get to see my kids if I had that job, so I had to make my own job. The blog post was convincing myself that I was doing the right thing.
I was doing the right thing of course. But it’s hard to see in the moment when it feels so unstable and out in left field.
And that’s how I feel now. I’m certain that college is useless, but I cling to the idea that even though I have decided my kids are skipping school, I have this nagging feeling that somehow my kids will have an easier life it they do go to college. All I want, really, is for my kids to have an easier life. It’s so hard to do laundry and bathe and eat food before it goes bad. Life is hard. Getting out of bed each day is hard. I want to do something that makes things easier for my kids.
But really, college is not one of those things.
Here are the big arguments for not going to college that I have found in the last week or so:
1. Even if you still think college is a good idea, you probably can’t afford it.
Paul Frankenberg, author of Burn Your Resume, points out that college tuition has increased 600% since the 1980s, student loan debt is passing one trillion dollars, half of all recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, and 85% of the 1.8 million new grads are moving back home with their parents. Mark Cuban, one of my favorite pundits, argues that college tuition today is incredibly similar to the housing bubble: Unlimited lending from the government pushes prices up to nonsensical heights where you could never justify the cost.
2. Colleges are lashing out like terrified beasts defending vulnerable territory.
Schools have started refusing to give transcripts to kids who are not caught up on loan payments. This practice is particularly suspect because the students don’t owe the money to the schools. The debt is to the government. But in any case, the net effect is that the student has no proof of academic qualifications if the student is late on loan payments, which seems like extremely harsh punishment, and also, a punnishment that damns that student to low paying jobs.
If colleges would just take responsiblity for placing kids in jobs then they wouldn’t have to be so crazy about enforcing loan payments. If kids had money to pay loans they’d pay the loans.
3. The culture of college is making kids nuts.
When I was in Las Vegas with my son, he was watching TV, which is a treat, because we don’t have a TV on the farm. In the hotel room the TV is huge and bright with surround sound. My son says, “We need to set up a Gerber college savings fund.”
“What? Did you hear that on TV?”
“I am not saving for your college. You’ll get a scholarship. Do you know what that is?”
“No. It’s a big discount on college so we don’t really have to pay anything.”
“Why do we get that?”
“Well. Because you’re Latino. And you live in the middle of nowhere on a farm. And colleges like that stuff. And you are a very good cellist.”
I say this stuff and I hate myself for thinking this way. But I know that we are going to have to play the Latino farm kid card to get the kids into school. And I can’t believe we are worrying about paying for school right now. It’s messed up. I don’t want this to be the future of my kids’ learning.
He says, “What if I don’t keep playing the cello?”
I say, “That will be fine. You should do what you want.” And then I think, “But I know you won’t quit and every day I think about taking out insurance on your fingers.”
As he arranges the tickets he won to exchange for prizes, he says, “You can have these. Maybe you can exchange them for tokens for college.”