Go Princeton!
February 21, 2001 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Go Princeton! Student loans will become grants for any who can't afford $134K for 4 years. How relevant attending college is--except for networking and the social milieu I guess--for the post-Internet teen I'm not sure. But anything which makes information and education more available and less tied to income is a fine thing.
posted by aflakete (23 comments total)
College is important for one thing above all else: The diploma. The sad reality is that almost all employers use the diploma as a quick-and-dirty way of eliminating huge chunks of applicants without having to spend time ascertaining each candidate's qualifications themselves. Until society puts a stop to this false classification system, college will continue to be indispensible, Internet or not.

(Note: Obviously there are many careers requiring the learning of actual information, such as those involving hard science, for which college is absolutely necessary.)

Anyway, I predict this won't last. Princeton can afford this now due to a combination of wealthy alumni giving big contributions and some very-well-managed investments. When the next recession hits big, this program will be the first to be jettisoned.

It is a good idea in general, though.
posted by aaron at 11:13 AM on February 21, 2001

I agree. Attending college is still important. No question. While a kid straight out of high school can be fully qualified for a position (at least in terms of technical skills), a similar person will a college degree will be paid more on average. In certain fields you simply won't be hired without a degree.
posted by fleener at 11:16 AM on February 21, 2001

College is important because it makes better, more enlightened, more liberal, more critical citizens. So there. Go tigers.
posted by rschram at 11:29 AM on February 21, 2001

College also can be, for many, the first time they encounter (and need to interact regularly with) people different than themselves: racially, ethnically and such like.

And if the post-Internet youth doesn't do college, is he/she supposed to dive immediately into the capitalist workaday stream? Geez, I don't wish that on anyone. I'm 42, gang, I've been working a long time (and like my work), and was probably smart enough to work right out of high school, but I wasn't mature enough. I relished, and relish in retrospect, those 4 years of reading, hanging out, taking aggressive impractical stands, hearing a lot of live music, meeting a variety of people. Some of the experience sucked but it was worth, and I certainly hope my post-Internet youth at home (5 and 3 years old; they'll probably be post Offspring-of-Internet youth someday) have such an experience.
posted by jhiggy at 11:53 AM on February 21, 2001

If I were an employer and had to break a tie between candidates, or thin out a list, I would take applicants with college diplomas over those without on any day of the week. It's certainly true that there are great, talented people out there who never went to college, but my outlook on the whole is that college gives you experience with different kinds of people and situations. It makes you a better person, intellectually and otherwise. A college diploma shows an employer that you know how to learn, know how to apply yourself, and are willing to put effort into things.

I'm not saying people who haven't attended college don't have these qualities, I'm saying that the diploma is a tangible representative of those qualities.

Now if only college didn't cost an arm and a leg. How can I persuade my school that this is the route to go?
posted by tomorama at 12:10 PM on February 21, 2001

Agreed! WAY too many people just want to equate a college diploma with a few extra dollar signs (or similarly, degrade certain subject areas because the dollar signs aren't there). Sad sign of the times that everything's too often reduced to that value.
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 12:11 PM on February 21, 2001

When I'm a bigshot rich person in a position to hire people, I will hire college DROPOUTS preferentially. :)

Okay, so I'm biased, being a college dropout myself. But seriously, I think that it would be good to hire people who are: A) Smart enough to get into college and capable of handling the intellectual challenge, and B) Have a low-enough "bullshit threshold" that they couldn't jump through someone else's arbitrary politically-determined hoops all the way through four years.

But then again, I'd be *looking* for brilliant revolutionary-types. (And yes, I'd want to see some transcripts to see that they were at least capable of doing the coursework at first).

p.s. I'm a former National Merit Scholar who went from the Dean's List to the Square Root Club (less then 1.0 gpa) in one semester! Woo hoo!
posted by beth at 12:20 PM on February 21, 2001

This IS good news. If I got this when I went to college, I would have had more money for booze and drugs.

that's a joke.
posted by schlomo at 12:42 PM on February 21, 2001

that they couldn't jump through someone else's arbitrary politically-determined hoops all the way through four years.

Replace four years with 30 years and you have most jobs. My experience is that both school and work suffer from this problem, work moreso-- except it rarely follows you home the way University life does
posted by cell divide at 12:48 PM on February 21, 2001

Wait, I don't understand. What are the reasons that college is irrelevant to the "post-internet teen"? Is this because of the popular legends that the internet has all the information anyone ever needed, or that self-taught tech mavens make more money than any former English major? I'm genuinely curious, being a person who appreciates both college and the internet and the benefits particular to each.

I agree that job app triage by degree qualification is often lazily and inappropriately applied--especially since, given the sky-high tuitions, it amounts to a way of ensuring a certain socioeconomic class effectively has exclusive access to many jobs. At the same time, though, a degree might stand for a lot or a little just like any other signifying claim you put on a resume; there's no sense dismissing it out of hand.
posted by Joe Hutch at 12:49 PM on February 21, 2001

as a "post-internet teen", i think it's incredibly shortsighted to say that the only thing you need a degree for is a job. some people like to learn. i think education is necessary for an enlightened, functional society. i don't think college is any sort of anachronism. in my mind, college is meant to make you reexamine yourself outside the confines of your parents, to help you decide where you stand on things, to teach you to think critically. many people can do that out of high school, yes. but that's why they should go to higher-powered universities to learn to do it better. there's nothing more frustrating to me than someone who thinks they have nothing useful left to learn.
posted by pikachulolita at 1:36 PM on February 21, 2001

Philip Greenspun is a longtime advocate of a free education from MIT.
posted by websavvy at 2:52 PM on February 21, 2001

...or that self-taught tech mavens make more money than any former English major?

That was the argument I heard from the "college is irrelevant" folks in my sphere of existence, anyway. "Why do I need college? I can code now. Any programming I learn in college will become irrelevant anyway. Plus then I'd have to deal with that 'humanities' crap. And I can make more money with four years' experience than I can with a college diploma. Screw college."

That route certainly wasn't my cup of tea -- I needed the "personal growth" and "new experiences" time touched on by pikachulolita et al. -- but I really couldn't fault their logic from a purely economic standpoint. :-/
posted by youhas at 3:11 PM on February 21, 2001

That route certainly wasn't my cup of tea -- I needed the "personal growth" and "new experiences" time touched on by pikachulolita et al. -- but I really couldn't fault their logic from a purely economic standpoint.

You mean from a monetary standpoint. Economics is about making choices to maximize personal priorities, not about making more money necessarily (although that may be most people's number one priority).

To some people, the different viewpoints learned in the humanities, arts, and social science classes are worth the extra time spent in college. To others, the money is worth skipping out on all that. It's called opportunity cost. They're giving up the experience and learning gained in college, college-goers are giving up the money (temporarily, anyway, sometimes the extra time of getting that degree makes up for itself, income-wise).

Me, I went through college sticking mostly to classes in my major (well, besides the required gen-ed--there wasn't much room for experimentation, though: my major took up all the hours between gen-ed and my degree...). But now that I work for a university, I can take classes for free, and I'm enjoying the benefits of taking classes totally unrelated to my bachelor's degree or my job.

[Sidebar: I wish the director of my department would acknowledge that taking such classes actually is work-related in that learning new viewpoints gives greater perspective on problem-solving and decision-making. Then I could take them during work-time and work late and not have to find early or late classes to fit around my work schedule, a situation which severely limits the kinds of classes I can take. ]

"You're taking economics for fun? Are you psycho?"

It all depends on your point of view...
posted by daveadams at 3:51 PM on February 21, 2001

I keep wishing that my missing Bachelor's weren't. (The worst of it is that I went for five years and still managed to screw myself out of graduating.) I've scrambled to get myself into a position where I don't really need one, mostly succeeding, but in this business you're in job interviews quite often and I hate it every time it comes up. (Heck, it came up even when I was a consultant.) In evaluating my current between-gigs situation, and developing a five-year plan of sorts, I've concluded I have to go back to school. I think I want to go on to grad school in CS, for one thing. I love to learn; I even expected, originally, that I'd most likely end up in some liberal arts college teaching literature.

Additionally, I wasn't able to get a great college experience, because I was clinically depressed well over half the time. That, plus the lack of a diploma, means very little post-college networking, which I've seen to be valuable to many others.

I'd love to be a cynic about this and say it only matters in certain situations or to certain types of people, and I'm sure that's true for many values of the variable person. But more often than not, in the corporate world, or especially when you're older and looking for a stable career, it can be detrimental not to have one.
posted by dhartung at 3:52 PM on February 21, 2001

Hey, Dan, I think you just described my post-secondary story. :)Having now put a few years of distance between myself and university, I wish I had managed to stay the course and get my degree (even though an English degree probably isn't worth the paper it's written on). In any case, what I learned in university more than anything else were critical thinking skills, and while I don't have an official proof of purchase for said skills, I'll never see my five years in school as a waste of time.
posted by jess at 5:12 PM on February 21, 2001

Actually, I think an English degree is a very valuable asset. Not only does one spend a great deal of time thinking critically, the writing skills one develops are very useful in any career.

As an English major, I got a great deal of practice speaking in front of large groups, defending my beliefs and interpretations, and writing clearly and concisely. I also got to read great books. I don't regret my decision to major in English for a second, and I think it's been a huge factor in the success of my career.

I once read someplace that the majority of Fortune 500 CEOs were undergraduate English majors.
posted by megnut at 5:57 PM on February 21, 2001

I was going to mention the free MIT education idea too but I found this a few days ago in my many random surfings. Middle of Nowhere. A little out of date perhaps but I take it the Paul Allen Foundation award is worth some recognition.
posted by brent at 6:07 PM on February 21, 2001

Anyway, I predict this won't last. Princeton can afford this now due to a combination of wealthy alumni giving big contributions and some very-well-managed investments. When the next recession hits big, this program will be the first to be jettisoned.

Uh, with an endowment of $8 Billion it is going to be a while before they fall on hard times. When Yale had half that amount, they estimated they could go for 40 years without anyone paying any tuition at all. And loans are loans. I'm sure they could do this indefinitely and still have more cash on hand than many countries.

(p.s. philosophy degrees rule!)
posted by sylloge at 7:00 PM on February 21, 2001

And loans are loans.

Sorry, meant for those who don't qualify for the grants ...
posted by sylloge at 7:02 PM on February 21, 2001

And loans are loans.

Well, yes and no. Not all loans act the same. Subsidized student loans have no payments due and accrue no interest while you're in school; unsubsidized student loans accrue interest while you're in school, though no payments are due.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:18 PM on February 21, 2001

As far as the whole 'value of college education' thing goes, I think you have to look at it as more than just the classes and the piece of paper. It's the experience as a whole, the environment, the people, the freedom to discover yourself and grow without the pressure of being out in the real world yet.

As an undergrad at a large research university, I can't say I've gained much in the way of great inspiration or knowledge in the overwhelming majority of my classes. Sadly, most of it is rote memorization in preparation for scan-tron tests, and writing what the professors want to hear in lots of papers and reports that I never want to have see the light of day. There's just not much in the way of critical thinking or freethinking being promoted here, sadly.

At first, I was greatly disappointed by those realizations, but then I realized that there's much more to it than that. That's just the stuff I slog through so that I can get the grades and keep my scholarships going. It's a tiny trade-off compared to working a real job. Being here has allowed me the freedom and opportunity to read, write, create, explore activism, and participate in a stimulating intellectual community both online and off. To discover who I am and what I stand for. To make friends, many of whow I will likely have for the rest of my life. And so on. That's what I live for.

And I have sacrificed my grades and resume somewhat for that, but I don't regret it at all. I do sort of regret my choice of where to go to college in retrospect, but never the decision to go. It's all in what you make of it. And I think I've had a lot more leeway and opportunity to do just that here than I could ever dream of having while trying to work for a living without a degree.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 11:14 PM on February 21, 2001

And yes, philosophy degrees do indeed rule. I'm going to have one myself if I ever get out of here(in addition to another, more viable degree).

Great deal of good it will do me in the real world... but I just like the idea of it, of having a degree in philosophy in this day and age. It's almost like studying a dead language.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 11:18 PM on February 21, 2001

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