Friday, June 24, 2005


Savage and I had a conversation the other day about colleges. I'm convinced that you could get a good education from any college. It's really not the college, it's the student.

I went to a community college for two years before going to a four year school to finish up my degree. I thought the community college professors were excellent. The students however were divided between folks with no money who wanted an education, folks who screwed up high school and wanted a second chance to get into college, and kids that their parents said they had to go to college. The last set of the three were wasting their time and everyone else's. But of the first two sets of students, they usually got a wonderful education out of the community college.

The four year college however consisted mostly of middle-class kids who wanted a four-year degree. I even saw some of the young folk from my community college at the four year school.

So why are Harvard and Yale better than a small unknown state school? Contacts. That's it. At my school, I wasn't meeting the kids of people who owned corporations. I wasn't meeting future Senators and Presidents. I was meeting people who would be fighting for a job like the rest of us as soon as they got out.

In Harvard and Yale, a lot of folks had jobs waiting for them when they graduated. In Harvard and Yale, your roommate might go on to be a Supreme Court Justice. In Harvard and Yale, the lady you played Ultimate Frisbee with will end up being VP of Marketing for Wal-Mart. But did they get a better education than I did? No. They got contacts that I'd never meet. I never met anyone who decided America's foreign policy and probably never will. However, I got one heck of an education.


Blogger Jason said...

Well said. I'd go so far as to say in most trades, a college education doesn't really matter, but it's nice to have.

6/24/2005 2:12 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

College is all about learning HOW to learn ... that and the proper technique for beer bonging a 40oz.

6/24/2005 2:22 PM  
Blogger Sadie Lou said...

I have mixed feelings about college. I wonder how a parent can go about making sure the money, AMPLE money, they put out for their child's college education, isn't going to be completely wasted. I know people who went to college and graduated onlt to do absolutely nothing with it. They either chose a career that didn't make use of the degree they went to school for, or they are working at jobs they are WAY overqualified for. Some even partied the whole time and didn't learn a darn thing. How do I know my kids are really interested?

6/24/2005 2:41 PM  
Blogger Bridget Jones said...

Can't say that I did. Got the paper, never let anything much go to my head. I"m with Joe there...all you do is prove that you can learn.

Hey ZS, I tagged you.....Bridg

6/24/2005 3:17 PM  
Blogger tshsmom said...

You're right on about comm. colleges. I'm a CC'r too. I found that you get a lot more personal attention from teachers in CCs. When you go to the larger universities, you're just a number.
Ivy League universities, fraternities, and sororities are all about connections. You don't even have to get good grades. Everybody just assumes that a C in an Ivy League school is like an A anywhere else. *RETCH*

Sadie-Make your kids pay 50% of their education. They apply themselves much better when it's their nickel!

6/24/2005 4:19 PM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Jason - my History degree has made me $0 but gave me one heck of an education. My two years in Computer Science grad school has made me a lot of money, but now has made me almost unemployable since all those jobs got outsourced. I learned a lot more with History than with CS so I'm more glad with the History degree.

Joe - well said. In a good college education, you should learn logic and reason. And I've never beer bonged. :( I partied before and after college, but surprisingly not during. Not that there's anything wrong with partying in college of course. ;)

Sadie - Think more in terms of a well-rounded education than money. If you have to, tell them to work for five years, then send them to school when you can afford it. There's no rule about going to college in your early 20s. One of the smartest people I knew in the CS program I was in was a woman in her 50s.

Bridget - saw the tag, but I already did that one. What do I do? I'm not sure on the rules if you already did it.

Tshsmom - That's exactly why I loved my CC and my small school. I drank beers with my professors and even went over to some of their houses. How many Yale or Harvard people could say that? Oh, and I'd second the advice to Sadie. I paid for part of my college so that's probably why I took it so seriously.

6/24/2005 4:39 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

very well put ZS, I only hope I can have the same experience as you. When you say Savage who exactly are you referring to though? It's not Michael Savage is it?

6/24/2005 4:47 PM  
Blogger Miranda said...

My dad, a Stanford graduate, was unable to find a job teaching history in California. He ended up teaching in South Dakota instead.
Even though he enjoyed spending
time with his fellow students, he
wasn't impressed with Stanford's instructors.

I graduated from a state school,
and while I am also having a hard time finding a job in California,
there isn't anywhere else I 'd have rather gone.

I was taught by outstanding professors, who had the time and the patience to answer questions from their students almost daily, inside and outside of class.

6/24/2005 6:09 PM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Ben - no, Savage is a blogger who pops up now and then on this site.

Miranda - Yes, my professors were very approachable too and actually had time to talk to students.

6/24/2005 6:20 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Isn't your experience also about the students who attend with you? I would imagine that would set some schools apart from others.

Apart from that, not much else . . .

6/24/2005 6:52 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Jason and Joe's responses are almost word for word what I've felt for a long time...

Nothing in college taught me the things I needed to know to start freelance writing. I figured that out when editors sent stories back without a check.

I certainly didn't learn that to work at a daily newspaper the really important things to master were drinking craploads of coffee, handling deadline stress and using Quark Xpress.

By the way ZS, my major was political science (focusing on the Soviet Union), so essentially I became a history major when the wall came down.

6/24/2005 7:21 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

P.S. -- I have three little nephews. I want them to get an education so my contribution to that is to set up a fund for them to travel modestly when they get to that age...

6/24/2005 7:23 PM  
Blogger jk said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you. College is a game. You can be successful in college without learning much or, conversely, you can go to a community college and get an excellent education. I could go on and on...

FYI: There's a new PBS documentary that actually debuted last night in some markets, (but Sunday afternoon in mine) called Declining by Degrees. ( Apparently, its a good close look at the ugly realities of higher education in America today. I plan on watching it and reviewing it on my blog on Sunday. However, already, it has created a lot of buzz among higher ed circles.

Here's the main blurb from the website above:

"How good is higher education in America?

In this revealing documentary, veteran correspondent John Merrow takes you behind the ivy-covered walls of our colleges and universities to see if they are delivering on their promise."

6/24/2005 9:29 PM  
Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

I went to a community college first, then a small and local university. Unlike a lot of people I know, I actually am working in what I have my degree in. Also, I am paying for my college (through student loans) myself. I was pretty serious in college because I had a child to think about supporting, so I'm not sure that which college I went to would have made much difference (except to hike my student loan amount even higher than it already is). I will be helping my son with college, if that's what he chooses. However, if he wants to change course, he'll have to take care of that on his own.

6/25/2005 7:27 AM  
Blogger Sadie Lou said...

Shawn--that is so awesome of you to be thinking about your nephew's future like that! What a fab uncle!

6/25/2005 8:14 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree completely. You get out of education what you put in.

The reason Harvard et. al. are constantly "ranked" highest is because the formulas used by US News to rank them is skewed toward traditiona, Research universities with lots and lots of money.

I think though, that the college you go to does matter in that you have to pick a school that is right for you. The location, atmosphere and mission have to jive with what you're looking for. All schools are not the same. Roosevelt, for example, has a large part-time adult population. Students who, for whatever reason, didn't go to college right away. These students do very well at RU whereas they would probably not do well at a traditional university.

BTW it's been shown time and again that students that go to community college first, get an associates and then transfer to a 4 year school have a much higher success rate... There are some people that berate community colleges but I think they're the right choice for many people.

6/25/2005 9:38 AM  
Blogger Slade said...

Amen! Glad you posted this because I was actually thinking about this the other day

6/25/2005 9:41 AM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

Education before college really has more to do with how well you do in life. If you're not prepared for college, you're not going to do well, no matter where you go. Size is an issue. It's hard to get an indiviualied education at a large university. There is less discussion and more lecture. It really depends the most on what type of learner you are. You can find the right college for you at all income levels. If your school is a good fit, and you're a good student, you'll succeed.

6/25/2005 2:11 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

ZS, you haven't met me yet but I plan to be in that postition hopefully someday.

6/25/2005 7:19 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Well, I never went to college. Or, rather, I went to night school for a few years and never finished. My accelerated classes were taught by the professors of the United States Military Academy. I was taught by some of the best minds in the world. Yet, still, I'm almost ashamed to admit my scholastic history. I always add the qualifier "Oh, but I was taught by West Point professors." But I learned so much, both from the books and from the people around me (mostly soldiers trying to complete their own degrees in the little time they can afford to sacrifice.). And, although sometimes I wish I could go back to when I was 18 and gather the motivation to go, I don't feel I'm any worse off because I decided not to go. The only time I feel a twinge of regret is when I have to admit, in my resume or on a job application, that I have no degree.

6/26/2005 12:57 AM  
Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Laurie - some of the smartest people I know personally have no degree. But unfortunately, yes, they are discriminated against in the job market.

Ben - that would be very cool. I would love to run for Congress one day. You already know my beliefs.

PC - That's why I'm lucky to have a good CC. I almost dropped out of high school twice (bored out of my mind), but did exceptionally well in the CC then eventually my four-year school. A good CC can correct past mistakes if you're willing to do the work.

Slade - great minds... ;)

Laura - there's absolutely no question that the CC was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Jen - I have yet to do anything with my history degree, other than fact check for friends with their books and screenplays.

JK - colleges supposebly are dumbing down because they're "too haaard" for some people. For those people, I'd tell them don't complain that they're too hard. They need to try harder.

Shawn - Colleges don't teach enough about practical business skills and whether you like the title or not, a freelance writer is a sort of self-employed business person.

Kris - you will find both studious folk and slackers at any school. It's important to hook up with the right people.

6/26/2005 4:12 PM  
Blogger Bo Salisbury said...

Your community college experience matches mine... I've gone for personal enrichment. As a parent who has put two youngins' through private colleges and one half-way through college, the only practical wisdom I could contribute concerns financing.

My advice about government grants and student loans? Don't count on them... they are a sham (I wish they would just shoot the program and throw it over the side). My parents bought each of our children $500 worth of Exxon-Mobil stock at birth for college. When the time came for Sam (the oldest) to go to school, I learned the sad truth about what our hard-earned taxes get us in the form of student aid -- debt!

On the other hand, I sat down and computed how much my son would have had for school if I had a $500 annual education tax credit from birth, invested in a blue chip stock or fund and it worked out to enough to go to Harvard, Yale or the uber-art school he actually attended. He probably would have graduated with a tidy little sum to get started in life, as well.

My advice to folks with young kids... $500 apiece, invested over 18 years... if the kid goes to school, great! If he becomes a postal worker, you can buy a vacation cottage or help some other enterprising youth through school or keep a couple of families in Uganda in relatively good health.

6/26/2005 5:59 PM  
Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

I agree about the financing, Bo. I'm in debt up to my ears because of school, but I still am glad I went. I think you even have to put more than $500 down (at your child's birth) to have it mature to the extent to cover any kind of college costs. This is especially considering the cuts in federal funding of college education combined with the proposed increases in tuition (like those at the U of W). :-/

6/26/2005 7:46 PM  
Blogger Bo Salisbury said...

Oops... what a dork I am... I needed to make that clearer. I was saying that, if you put invested $500 a year per child, that would cover it all. With the gubment scheme, you pay your taxes and the student aid comes in the form of loans at about 1% less than the going rate... it's really no help at all and no return on your tax dollars. If you are really poor, you can get some grants, but not much.

6/26/2005 9:32 PM  
Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

Bo, you're not a dork - I didn't read your post correctly. You did mention "annual" - I was just spacing. :-P

6/27/2005 7:15 AM  

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