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I studied engineering in an engineering school for two years. Then I went to a liberal school for two years and majored in English. The first thing I would say to anyone contemplating college is that there is not just one kind of college or one kind of education.

In engineering, problems must be solved, based on physical realities. In liberal arts, problems are solved based on group think and relativism. I respect engineering. Failure is not an option. It can get people killed. And there is no passing the buck. It is obvious who made the error that caused the problem. Liberal arts are in our head. Reality is a minor, secondary consideration. Having the 'courage of your convictions' is considered a satisfactory substitute for knowing what you're talking about. Right and wrong are determined by a democratic vote rather than by rational examination of reality.

You need to go to college to learn engineering. You don't need to go to college to just make things up as you go along, and to follow along with the majority. Or, do you????

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Funny, but even for this you don't need college! K-12 should suffice. "You don't need to go to college to just make things up as you go along, and to follow along with the majority. Or, do you????"

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It *should* suffice, but it doesn't. Requirements for "training" and "certificates" have been created - probably in the last 15 years or so - for work that used to need none of that. Just pay for a license to do the job, apprentice (also now has become something you pay for or do for free) and then you're off.

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Yes, and those barriers to entry hurt poor students the most.

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Yes! "The first thing I would say to anyone contemplating college is that there is not just one kind of college or one kind of education."

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Jun 14Liked by Ted Balaker

Immigrants and second-generation Americans go to college because they have been told that’s what they need to get a job (soul-crushing when they have debt and realize that’s not accurate) and get their badge of “education” which is a privilege for so many in the country of origin.

This was very much true at one point and it remains true for those who are still praying their child gets into “Ivy” school/ etc. due to the parents’ need of proving that one’s efforts and sacrifices were worth it.

The issue now is that college is an extension of high school. Majority can’t read or write and are needing the skills that were once accomplished by 8th grade.

So, college will become a place for those who have finally matured enough to realize that basic literacy is needed for any job.

And jobs will continue to require a college degree for this very reason.

BUT there is hope.

My former students whose parents took primary and secondary schooling seriously regardless of quality of teachers available, are choosing colleges and majors very carefully now.

Why get into debt for a very basic education?

Maybe debt for a Master’s.

Those who are majoring in the humanities genuinely want to teach or pursue non-STEM and I believe we most certainly need secondary educators (have you ever taken a look at what courses constitute a B.A. in education to become a certified teacher?!) who are deeply invested in the content they are teaching.

Additionally, a lot of immigrants elsewhere have realized the gap in our economy and are getting their degrees overseas but getting jobs here via visas.

The issue this presents is that a people have to feel like they are part of a country not just paying insane rents with ease in Palo Alto to actually care what’s going on in their cities, states, and….country.

Lots of people who now come here to work have no desire to stay in America once they make enough money which didn’t used to be the case. :(

I hope you are able to see the circular nature of this college-pipeline.

Make learning great again.

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I'm all for learning a trade instead of college, especially now with the current unrest on campuses. Besides, the level of debt to learn a trade is minimal in comparison.

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Yes indeed. One bright spot is that more students are open to a career in the trades.

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I think all of this poo pooing of college is too much. The experience is what matters most. Being around others who are intellectually curious and being independent. These are incredibly important life skills. Sabrinalabow.substack.com

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Yeah, as you suggest, it's easy to fall into the opposite extreme and just dismiss college. I'm hoping people think through their decisions, and don't just default to whatever everyone else is doing.

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Jun 11Liked by Ted Balaker

If you are unsure of what you are passionate about wait a year and just work a 40 hour job. Working is a great education in itself. It worked for me and waiting a year made the difference for my oldest son.

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I don't know the stats on it, but it seems to me that gap years are becoming more popular. And frankly any kind of real-world job is great, like during the high school years.

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Jun 11·edited Jun 11Liked by Ted Balaker

I think it's very important to be careful about how to pose the "college or...? after high school" question, and what to expect when we give black and white answers - it's complicated. I've read articles on "gap year" after high school, but honestly, I think that's for students who already have the means and cognition to actually explore; it's dangerous when that same concept is applied to kids who want to live at home and pretend they're still children. That year bleeds into the next five years, and then becomes the norm to stay home, "help" with family bills, and never have to figure out how to do anything. I say this because I see this outcome far more often than I see students who COMPLETE college and can't find a decent job, owe a ton of money, etc.

There's also the possibility that a career training is viable, depending on what the person wants, but (and this is a big but), this GenZ ideology of getting it fast, getting the money *now* has lent itself to a saturation in certificates that lead to topping out early and having zero leverage in the workforce. And hey, that might work for some people. In my experience, it doesn't.

While college *can* be cost-prohibitive, it can also be completely affordable. A state school in CA is 7-10G a year, most of which is covered by the Pell and many get the Cal Grant, too. It's an investment, like any educational training. I don't think it's really a question of whether to attend college, but how to encourage young people to break away from childhood things, explore who they are outside of screens and parental influence (even mine) and the false narrative of constant comfort. College may be the answer. Kids don't explore anymore. They are often not encouraged to go to college to find out what they like, they are told they already need to know or it's a waste - and I think that messaging is a waste. We can't tell kids "Sorry about the screen thing your whole childhood and how you've been bamboozled to think that's real life and now you have to break away and do something else" and then turn around and say "Gee, college isn't really the answer because colleges now suck - your money, your creativity, your time, and your future". Because honestly, I'd be hiding on my phone in my my childhood bedroom, working at the pizza place and helping mom with bills too, if that's all I heard.

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Ha! I hadn't thought of that re gap years, but I could see how it would be the case! "it's dangerous when that same concept is applied to kids who want to live at home and pretend they're still children. That year bleeds into the next five years, and then becomes the norm to stay home, "help" with family bills, and never have to figure out how to do anything. "

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Jun 11·edited Jun 11Liked by Ted Balaker

It all comes down to money and your planned major. If your family (or someone else) will pay your tuitiion so that you graduate without debt, sure, go to college. Four years of studyng humanities and history and English lit sounds fun! Almost like a vacation!

EXCEPT you will have acquired few hard skills and will be at a competitive disadvantage once you graduate.

If student loans *are* required, do the math. And then figure out what sort of job would allow you to easily pay back your loans. Then choose your major accordingly. If the thought of four years of engineering course sounds unbearable or impossible, then...dont go.

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Yes, good advice. Unfortunately, too few students have any real idea of what a real job in those fields would actually be like, which is why anything that allows them to dip their toe in the real world (e.g. apprenticeships) could be really helpful. "If student loans *are* required, do the math. And then figure out what sort of job would allow you to easily pay back your loans"

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From what I see, high school students aren't looking for funsie majors like English Lit - they're looking at stats on how much money a major pays in the end. I see a grip of kids going into engineering because some stat says "you can make XXX$$$", but they could never get past Math 2 in high school. Even if they do make it through the program, they hate it so much they never get a job that pays what they were promised by the college poster from 5 years back.

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Jun 11Liked by Ted Balaker

Good point; just because you dutifully decide to major in engineering doesnt mean you'll successfully complete the courses

I read somewhere (reliable) that the top major at Stanford was now computer science. Sounds good---the kids are making wise decisions! Except I can't imagine myself surviving one year of CS courses, much less four. At any school.

So I would likely drop the major after one semester and crawl back to some poli-sci courses.

But this is where money and the prestige of my college come in...if I'm not paying for it (and my parents arent yelling at me) I would of course stay in school to get my soft-topic degree. But I would network like crazy during my four years to compensate.

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You would, I would, but many kids stop at "drop the major" and just drop. IT majors are hitting hard, but if you 1. Just aren't adept at that shit and/or 2. Don't like it anyway, *and* your parents aren't yelling at you to do anything...you don't. We may both be from a generation before the search for constant emotional comfort + the easy way=success (until you're 37 and realize that pushing tires for your uncle's friend's brother's boss' shop isn't your dream).

One thing I see often is that young people have a harder time networking outside of social media/screens. Cold calls, eye contact, verbally representing yourself...seems to be much harder for them. I think they'll get it in the end, I just hope they don't live with mom and dad until they do.

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As a professor I would say it’s not just about whether or not to go to college but how to navigate it if you choose to go. Here’s my simple advice on that, particularly if you’re a Christian on a secular campus: https://pierpoints.substack.com/p/navigating-college-as-a-christian

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Yes indeed. As you say in the post, "You can’t navigate without a map or a course setting."

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