Next month, I embark on my fourth postgraduate qualification: an MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice. I also believe that alternative credentials such as Open Badges are valuable. That’s because the answer to an ‘either/or’ question is usually ‘yes/and’.
So I have sympathy with this article which talks about potentially going too far in discouraging people from going to university. What’s missing from this piece, as usual with these things, is that Higher Education isn’t just about earning power. It’s about expanding your mind, worldview, and experiences.
I got involved with Open Badges 12 years ago because I wanted my kids to have the option of going to university, rather than it being table-stakes for a decent job. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re a lot closer than we used to be. It’s a delicate balance, because I don’t want a liberal education to be the preserve of a wealthy elite.
Wages grow faster for more-educated workers because college is a gateway to professional occupations, such as business and engineering, in which workers learn new skills, get promoted, and gain managerial experience. Most noncollege workers, in contrast, end up in personal services and blue-collar occupations, for which wages tend to stagnate over time.
Despite the bad vibes around higher education, the fastest-growing occupations that do not require a college degree are mostly low-wage service jobs that offer little opportunity for advancement. Negative public sentiment might dissuade some people from going to college when it is in their long-run interest to do so. The potential harm is greatest for low- and middle-income students, for whom college costs are most salient. Wealthy families will continue to send their kids to four-year colleges, footing the bill and setting their children up for long-term success.
Indeed, highly educated elites in journalism, business, and academia are among those most likely to question the value of a four-year degree, even if their life choices don’t reflect that skepticism. In a recent New America poll, only 38 percent of respondents with household incomes greater than $100,000 said a bachelor’s degree was necessary for adults in the U.S to be financially secure. When asked about their own family members, however, that number jumped to 58 percent.
Image: Good Free Photos