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Matters of Degree

Kristine Hayes

AS SOMEONE WHO’S been employed in academia for more than two decades, I often wonder about the future of higher education. One trend seems clear: At a time when more companies are doing away with degree requirements for new hires, more colleges are doing away with studying. The so-called college experience appears to be more important than academics. Indeed, grade inflation has been running rampant since the 1960s.

Meanwhile, student debt loads are the highest they’ve ever been. The pandemic has also created financial hardship for many colleges and universities, and it may take years for some to rebound.

Twenty-somethings have access to a variety of college alternatives these days. Coding boot camps promise high-paying jobs after just six months of schooling. An infrastructure bill could create hundreds of thousands of jobs for those interested in working in construction and building technology. Military enlistment, starting a business and paid apprenticeship programs are all viable options for young adults looking to avoid accumulating large amounts of college debt.

From my own perspective, I don’t know whether to be worried or encouraged by the trends I see in higher education in my own state. Last year, Oregon’s largest private college announced it would be closing forever. But this year, several institutions in the state are also seeing record enrollments.

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IAD
IAD
1 year ago

Interesting observation. I agree…up to a point. In my company, we find we are hiring more foreign educated as they have the hard skills…engineering, accounting, etc that we need to stay competitive. US educated seem to have focused on the “college experience” or social justice issues. I see the trend as those that are highly educated with real usable degrees and those who were referenced in the article with real tangible skills. For the many that go to the universities for these made up degrees (gender studies, etc.) will be working as a barista complaining that the world is unfair.

Mik Cajon
Mik Cajon
1 year ago

Ethnicity and gender definition/s are now part of the job qualification requirements…academics not so much…facts don’t have feelings.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mik Cajon
R Quinn
R Quinn
1 year ago

I agree with your observations. I believe we need to rethink the post high school education process entirely. A college degree is no guarantee of anything, never was but perhaps more so today. A degree should be accomplished in three years except perhaps professional type degrees.

Instead of rhetoric about free college, we should be focusing on raising the quality and proficiency of K-12 educations. Half or more of our graduates can’t read or write with proficiency nor do basic math. Just look at how the US stands with other countries, especially Asia.

IAD
IAD
1 year ago
Reply to  R Quinn

Based on my observations, the public school experience is broken beyond repair. Generally speaking, homeschool, private schools and some charter schools are the only hope for a good education. Teaching to the lowest common denominator is not a successful path forward.

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