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Is college worth it?

February 09, 2012|RedEye

A New York Times blog surfaced last week featuring a 20-year-old man named Dale J. Stephens who has not gone to go college. Stephens presented five arguments contradicting all of the main reasons people go to college, and how one does not have to go to college to get the same experiences. We polled RedEye staffers to see where they stood on the argument, asking "Is college worth it?"

YES
Sure, you can skip college and gain some "real world experience" instead, but doesn't it look better to fill out both the "Education" and "Past Experience" sections on a resume? There's 168 hours in a week. That's plenty of time to not only do what you want to do, but learn to do it the right way, too.

You could choose the "unschooling" route and maybe, possibly, somehow become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, but multi-billion dollar startups aren't for everyone. I'm willing to bet that for every great idea, there are a million bad ones out there as well. I certainly had a lot of them when I was 18 years old. I needed that four years of semi-cushioned development before I could tell the bad ones from the good ones, and I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one.

In a day and age where everyone is fighting to stay in the job field, an argument like Stephens' is a bit disapparaging, especially as the daughter of two teacher--one of whom is a college professor.  I know I'm going to be a bit biased, but I still think my dad is a little better than Google. Okay, a lot better. Suggesting we revolt against the idea of formal education and put teachers out in the cold seems like a backward way of fixing this economy.

Stephens claims that, "A lot of learning isn't happening on college campuses." Sure, those hilarious college dorm stories aren't worth thousands of dollars by themselves, but where else are you going to learn to get along with people in such an intense environment (because you never really know someone until you share a bathroom with them) before you're thrown into the office and forced to work with them every day?

It might sound corny, but you can take as much away from a college experience as you want to . Or you can start a website that grumbles about how stupid it is.

--Katie Karpowicz, RedEye intern

NO
I must admit a touch of bias on this subject. I left college for years, working as a waitress and living on my own until I returned to get my degree. Having a university education was essential for my profession, but I never regretted my time off.

I had always assumed I'd go straight to college. That's what everyone--all of my friends, anyway--did at my high school. And I did it, too, for a time. But there was always something missing. I definitely wasn't ready for school.

Eventually, I realized I was there more for appearances than for my personal desires. I didn't want to be in school. I wanted to be traveling, going places and experiencing life, not hunkering down with Psych homework.

And yet it wasn't socially acceptable to be out of school. One guy never called after our first date once he realized that I wasn't a Northwestern student, like he had assumed, but was instead waiting tables to pay the bills.

After going back to college, getting pretty much straight As and graduating with honors, I can now say I don't regret any part of my process.

College isn't--and shouldn't be--for everyone. It certainly doesn't work for everyone at the same times in their lives. You can often make more money with a degree, but only if you plan on being a white-collar office employee. If you're going to be a mechanic, a construction worker or a fireman, you need training, no doubt. But do you need college?

In any case, whether someone decides to get their degree or instead goes into a field that doesn't require one, the choice should be yours. No one else's expectations for your life or demands should matter. Get a degree or don't--it's really your call.

--Georgia Garvey, RedEye general assignment reporter

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