While our culture often praises attending university, the price of education has only grown. Additionally, the gap between the salary of a college graduate and a skilled worker has shrunk. As debt climbs and salaries drop, you may be questioning whether college is the sound investment it used to be. Read below to hear what experts have to say!
There is still one powerful reason why many of us attend college despite the enormous financial burden: because we feel we should. Whether you can afford a full ride or nothing at all, many adolescents have heard a similar story — get good grades, so you can go to college, so you can get a good job, so you can make money. Truth or myth, this story is still a traditional path many of us have been encouraged to follow. Although you may save some upfront money, you may later feel that diverging from the college track leads to social repercussions.
Although the investment has changed, a degree offers more than just an education. While increasing your academic chops, earning a bachelor’s degree also adds to your social capital. The collegiate world offers connections you may not obtain otherwise and can introduce you to the ways in which successful people in your field think. That mindset can unlock tips for how to speak and dress in interviews, how to approach connections, or simply, what jobs are available and how to apply to them.
You may feel tempted to roll your eyes or laugh at the idea of discovering the “successful mindset.” Aren’t there many forms of success? And who decides what is successful and what is not? These questions are valid, but they ignore a reality: that the system of financial achievement is so ingrained in our lives that we must understand that system in order to succeed within it.
Having a bachelor’s degree or higher education does not determine if you are smarter than the guy sitting next to you who doesn’t, or vice versa. It usually indicates who has more privileges, whether financial or otherwise. However, holding a degree or degrees does act as a third-party stamp of approval. To employers, it proves your intelligence as legitimate by an institution dedicated to shaping intelligence.
Sir Ken Robinson addresses the idea of academic inflation in his Ted Talk “Do schools kill creativity?”, which has been viewed almost 66 million times. While the price of university has grown, university itself has been accessible to more groups now than ever before: women, minorities, the disabled etc. Although this availability serves great social purposes, it also generates the unintended consequence that the bachelor’s degree holds less value now — as earlier stated — than before as more individuals obtain it. This surplus creates an academic inflation: jobs that needed a high school diploma now require a bachelor’s; a bachelor’s, now a master’s; and a master’s, now a PhD. So, does this mean you need a PhD to work an entry level job? How is that realistic?
Author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and personal finance expert Robert Kiyosaki dismantles the idea of traditional education in episode 70 of the Franchise Secrets podcast. After returning from the Vietnam war as a decorated airman, Kiyosaki watched his highly educated father lose his job, buy a franchise, and fail the business in a short amount of time. In comparing his own father’s experience with the path of his best friend’s successful father, Kiyosaki crafted “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” to prove how traditional education is not always the key in reaching personal and professional monetary goals.
But wait! What about earlier when it said how individual degrees mean less so now you need more of them? If Kiyosaki’s PhD recipient dad fails to make money, how do we have a chance? Kiyosaki’s answer? Practice, practice, practice.
As Kiyosaki says, real world experience teaches you every day. If you flunk out of university, you won’t receive a degree. If you make mistakes in the real world, you still can learn. Whether a good or bad day, you gain valuable lessons that are applicable to the world outside of academia. In addition to being less expensive, practice fosters in you the same discipline and a work ethic as school.
While Kiyosaki attended undergrad, he believes there is a key difference “between being an accounting major and being an accountant.” What he’s really saying is that studying a subject in school doesn’t always lead one to expertise. He does recognize the degree as an important part of the job market. He was not saying that education is useless, but rather, a degree can’t act as a placeholder for experience. Experience is what employers will care more about as you progress in your career. The knowledge you gain through practice will solidify you as an expert in any field. As Kiyosaki says at the end of podcast, he is the least educated in his family with the greatest amount of wealth.
One or the other? Or both?
While Robert Kiyosaki makes some interesting points, he also makes bold claims. To discredit education would be to disregard an entire employment system that relies on degrees. Yes, a fancy degree can exude privilege as much as it does intelligence, but that school’s name encourages employers to give you a chance.
It’s important to note that not everyone can afford to spend 5–7 years studying for a PhD, or even the approximately 2 years for a master’s program. And not every job requires that either. Where Kiyosaki’s points feel less extreme is the idea that nothing can replace experience.
Perhaps your path isn’t years of school, but sprinkle that in with some real-world knowledge, and you reach a balance. Everyone’s balance will be different, depending on their needs and access, but they are all valid. Ultimately, there are many paths to success, and all you have to do is find the best fit for you.