So you have just graduated from university, incurred a $100,000 student loan, and had the best 4 years of your life (or at-least the bits you remember between the parties and beer pong). Now you have a piece of paper and you await the world to reward your wisdom. But first you deserve to take a 12 month Holiday before you settle down into a financially secure career. Or so goes much of the conventional wisdom.
The reality is that vocational career pathways can look like a Boulevard of Broken Dreams. For the majority who have not sown up a job prior to graduation, the end of college can feel like arriving at a cliff with a hungry Sharks at the bottom. The system has funneled you through its programs and now you are emptied out into the world. It is enough to make one consider going back for a Masters’ degree. Is the whole system an invention of some American Idiot?
Now, I am not at all dismissing education. I work in the education industry and I myself have degrees. However, in Australia, our education system is one of our highest export industries. It behooves us to analyse its outcomes to see if the return on investment is stacking up. We must ask ourselves if universities bring us closer to universal truth and preparation for life. Or are the outcomes they are delivering far from that?
The implicit contract that universities have with potential students vary.
1. Religious Colleges: Many of our readers may be familiar with religious colleges of the American persuasion. Their goals are often to prepare the Christian single for life by facilitating marriage opportunities. Along the way, they may impart some knowledge (but not vocational skills) about various industries. The pure Bible college varieties often impart training in certain theological systems, but the application of this knowledge is generally expected to be gain post-graduation. Now if at the end of 12 years of school, that is what you want to sign up for – then go for it.
2. Secular Universities: While the stated aim of tertiary institutions is to prepare students for life and fulfilling careers, in reality, universities are businesses. Their very nature of existence relies of their accreditation and thus credibility with potential employers. Recent surveys indicate that Australian’s who graduate with VET (TAFE) qualifications earn on average $4,000 more than those who graduate with bachelor degrees from higher education institutions. In the USA, debate is raging about the lousy investment that a college education is – with many declaring that college loans are the next housing crisis. The Daily Beast reports that “more than half of all recent graduates are unemployed or in jobs that do not require a degree, and the amount of student-loan debt carried by households has more than quintupled since 1999.”
In this century we have more facts and knowledge at our fingertips than ever, yet we as individuals and a society seem further away from peace, certainty and civility than ever before. 50 years ago we did not have the internet and formal education ended at year 8. From the age of 14, most boys and girls had become adult men and women. They worked full time, married and had families. While university education was rare, valid and life-long learning still did occur and they did not live in caves.
3,000 years ago, the wisest of all men was King Solomon. God used him to write the book of Proverbs in which he imparts truths and sayings that have stood the test of time. Solomon never said that a college education is this beginning of wisdom. Solomon did not enter into debt to become the richest man of all time. No, Solomon knew that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. Regardless of whether you go to college of not, know this:
- You are of equal value regardless of how much education you receive.
- Education can be good, but it can also blind us with pride and false knowledge
- Your success in life has more to do with your character than your degrees.
- Education can bankrupt you and/or the government, and that is not wise.
We would be wise to instruct our children to place more empahsis on God and aptitude and less on the HSC/VCE and college degrees.