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The Learning Spotlight

The College Paradox – Are we Sending the Wrong Message?

There are some interesting dynamics in the world of higher education and some trends are quite remarkable.  As a parent of a college student and the one who is paying the tuition bills, I am acutely aware of the need to secure employment upon completion of a very expensive higher education.  The employment reality after school is what the paradox is all about.  And this writing is more about creating a discussion rather than taking a position.

While I am a strong advocate and firm believer in higher education, it seems to me that we have created a culture today that makes a child feel like a failure if they do not complete a four year degree in something.  As a result, I am seeing millennials chase a diploma that may limit their opportunities for success upon completion.  At the same time many are being saddled with extremely high debt to pay for the education they never intended to use.

While speaking at a recent event, another speaker shared that his daughter recently completed a four-year degree in marine biology yet had no intentions of leaving St. Louis, Missouri to find an opportunity in the field. And she is not alone.  Many of the young people entering my life through my son are experiencing the same conundrum.  “My parents wanted me to get a degree so I did” is what I am hearing.  As a result, I am seeing the same millennials get the piece of paper in disciplines that have little or no opportunity in today’s complex job market.

As a Generation Xer, I believe we are mostly to blame.  I expect my boys to go to college and get a four year degree.  I think we have very innocently and unintentionally planted the seed that if they do not choose the path we have prepared them for their entire life; they have let us down somehow.


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