Post Academic


What’s up with the anti-college screeds? Part 1

Posted in The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on August 7, 2010
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"Against the river" by Me, My hero, and I (Creative Commons license)

OK, this might be a case of pot meeting kettle, but we’ve noticed that there’s a rash of anti-higher education screeds happening these days.  For the record, I don’t think we’ve ever explicitly said not to go to grad school to get a M.A. or a Ph.D. or a J.D., though it is true that we’ve written that doing so might make you puke or die or not get a job no matter how much blood, sweat, and tears you put into it.

But really, we’ve never gone so far as to say that you shouldn’t even go to college by questioning its economic value, as James Altucher of Daily Finance and journalist Claudia Dreifus (who–get this– is an adjunct prof at Columbia!) have suggested.  This shouldn’t really count against me, but, at one point in my freshman year, I did think about what I could’ve done with the $100,000 in tuition money going to Stanford University, since I told myself I could’ve done all the reading and writing on my own.  The best argument my friends could come up with to convince me I was wrong was camaraderie–and that I needed a degree to legitimize me, of course.  Hey, Stanford, how’s that looking to you now!

But I digress.  We’re gonna cover these pieces one at a time, starting with Altucher’s piece, “Seven Reasons Not to Send Your Kids in College”, today.  His argument seems to be purely financial, although it’s certainly guided by an anti-establishment streak.  He begins with the premise that his intended audience–parents of future college students of a particular affluent social status–could have an extra $1-$3 mill in the bank, simply by not sending their kids to college.  Of course, you could probably save even more if you never bought new clothes, went out to a nice restaurant, took a vacation, did anything beyond basic subsistence, too!  This leads to Altucher’s money quote: “But in my view, the entire college degree industry is a scam, a self-sustaining Ponzi scheme that needs to stop right now.”  Strong words, as many Tweeters have remarked, from a holder of a B.S. from Cornell and a M.A. from Carnegie-Mellon in computer science.

Indeed, you start to wonder whether Altucher is pulling some kind of Jedi-mind-trick satire on you, though such a suspicion is dispelled when he launches into his seven reasons against college…

See Altucher’s “reasons” below the jump…

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