Is College a Thing of the Past?

            With the rise of technical schools, online learning, and a changing job market, college as many know it may soon become part of the past. It has become increasingly easy over the years to earn badges, certificates, licenses, and certifications by completing courses and passing exams. Some of these only require a one-time completion while others just have to be renewed. This allows individuals to easily gain experience and add to their repertoire without the time it would take to complete a collegiate course, according to The Hechinger Report. The traditional job market is changing and expanding upon the idea of creative thinking, and along with that, traditional degrees have gone to the wayside.

            Even when college students earn a degree, they rarely find work in the field in which they studied. The Uncollege Blog reported, “ … 44% of recent college graduates reported being significantly underemployed.” The jobs they become employed at usually only require basic training, and less than half of the time a bachelor’s degree. “ … these jobs are roles such as baristas, cashiers, bartenders, administrative assistants, business support, and information processing,” reported The Uncollege Blog. With these positions, college graduates usually remain largely in debt, as the jobs do not pay enough to support them and pay off their loans. This often leaves many former students living at home much longer than they would have if they were able to secure a steady job. With these odds, it is becoming less and less beneficial to spend the money on college in order to earn a degree that many may never use.

            College degrees are also becoming outdated due to their tendency to specialize in one area. This practice does not support the hybrid jobs that are largely taking precedence. Jobs like these require “ … skill sets that aren’t customarily taught as a package… ,” reported A Medium Corporation. This leaves many aspiring students neglecting the typical path of earning a formal degree as, “Colleges do not typically offer programs for students who want to become experience designers, social media producers, content managers, forensic technologists, digital storytellers or marketing automation managers,” said A Medium Corporation. These jobs are becoming more and more popular, and without colleges adapting to meet these needs, it is likely that many students will find training elsewhere and college degrees will soon be forgotten.

            Business Insider reported, “One of the problems in business today is that college graduates trained in a single professional discipline (i.e. design, engineering or business) end up graduating as domain experts but with little experience working across multiple disciplines.” This is a valuable technique many new graduates are missing, leaving them at a significant disadvantage to their more experienced competition.

In recent years there has also been a spike in careers requiring vocational training and education that does not require a degree. With jobs like these, individuals are able to work and learn while doing so, enabling them to earn a steady income and advance in their career all at once, reported Medium. Although many college students are able to work a part-time job while studying, those jobs typically do not help the individual advance in their career, and the money made is typically used to help pay for schooling or other daily necessities.

Colleges and universities are also becoming increasingly expensive and hard to afford for many families, especially those with multiple children. This alone could be a deterrent for many individuals looking to earn a degree. Compounding these expenses are the increasing possibilities that many will work in jobs that do not focus on the area in which they studied. Due to this, it is becoming increasingly unnecessary to spend money on a degree when the area in which many will work is so uncertain. The Lumina Foundation reported many students are forced to leave college in their first year due to financial strain. They are unable to support themselves and pay tuition, leaving them with no choice but to drop out.

Stacy Thorpe, the 10th grade counselor (class of 2021) at Cedar Cliff High School has noticed a decrease in the number of students looking to attend four-year schools. “Four-year colleges specific percentages of enrollment have gone down over the last few years. I see this as a positive because most who go to four-year schools end up being underemployed and largely in debt.” Although Thorpe has noticed a decrease of students attending traditional four-year colleges and universities, this does not mean there has been a decrease in students furthering their education. “I think many students go to vocational or two-year schools today, not because they do not have the ability to go to four-year colleges, but because they are looking to have as little debt as possible and still secure a steady job.” Due to many students wanting to remain as largely out of debt as possible, Thorpe believes dual-enrollment has taken precedence. “Five years ago we did not see the presence of dual-enrollment in high schools like we do today. Last year I was the seniors’ counselor, and I had one student who graduated in June and had an associates degree by August because of this opportunity. This is a good resource for many students who want to save money if they are looking to earn a four-year degree because he was able to enter a four-year college as a junior.” Thorpe believes we will continue to see a decrease in those looking to earn a four-year degree and an eventual leveling out. “There will always be a need for jobs that require a four-year degree because those jobs also need additional schooling after that, in the case of becoming a doctor or lawyer. I also believe all four-year degrees will not completely go to the wayside, although the majors in which you can earn them will lessen, because it’s a way for many students to avoid the responsibility of going right into the workforce after high school and still hold on to some aspects of their childhood.” Many students today also attend a four-year college due to the expectations of their parents. “I see a lot of high school graduates who just go to a four-year college because it is almost seen as a tradition and a step they should take in their lives.” Although Thorpe believes some aspects of college will never disappear, much of college as we know it today is becoming outdated and may soon disappear.

Reece Helstrom, 16, a junior at Cedar Cliff High School, believes some aspects of college will one day become outdated. “I think the fact that college is so expensive will one day lead to it becoming part of the past. I believe there will always be a need for college for people that want to become doctors and lawyers, jobs that require someone to go to college for many years. But I do think jobs that require less training, such as running a business, that people have proven possible to do without a degree, will soon be forgotten majors.”

            As Business Insider reported, “Today most college curriculum[s] are simply unaligned with modern business needs.” Due to this fact, and many schools’ inabilities to adjust to the new job market, it is likely that many will soon turn away from traditional collegiate schooling and college will become part of the past.


Photos from wikimedia commons

Header: Graz University Reading Room

Thumb: Science Center at Harvard


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