Despite the rising costs, 85 percent of students and recent grads say college is worth the time and money. In overwhelming numbers, they express satisfaction with the education they've received. And they have wide expectations for that education: Most say it's very or extremely important that colleges broaden students' knowledge and expand their minds, help them gain life skills, expose them to new experiences and train them for a career.
All true. But now, the worrisome part:
Nine out of 10 expect to find a job in their field. And for most, that's the bottom line. Fifty-five percent say an education that focuses on success in the working world is more valuable than one focused on general knowledge and critical thinking. With that pragmatic attitude, many treat education like a commodity to be shaped to fit their needs and budgets.
The big problem with this attitude is that crystal balls are in short supply -- there are plenty of unemployed people who chased software jobs, thinking that focusing on the work world (that they hoped would still be there upon graduation) would assure them a place among the comfortably employed. Oooooops, major blunder. The bottom line is that the most necessary skill in any field of work is critical thinking: figuring out how to know when you're being lied to or asked to cooperate in a delusion, in both rhetoric and in numbers. A working BS detector, in other words.
The huge need for this is best shown by the horrific levels of unmanageable student debt, young people who accept rosy promises about their future employment prospects uncritically and use that as motivation to take ever higher amounts of student debt.
The most encouraging sign: the high number of students recognizing that the grossly underused later years in high school can be put to much better use:
On the other hand, lots of students are racing to the finish in order to save money. About 4 in 10 college students hope to graduate in less than four years. To get a jump start, 58 percent of students took college-credit courses in high school. And about half earned credits at a community college before moving on to a more expensive bachelor's degree program.
If you are a parent or an adult thinking about how to finance a college or continuing education for yourself, a child, or grandchild, niece, nephew, etc., I'd be happy to meet with you for an hour for 1/3 of my usual rate to lay out the options and the benefits and risks of student loans (federal and private).