Is an undergraduate degree overrated?

college graduateJust because those with higher education have lower death rates doesn't mean that bachelor's degrees are all they are cracked up to be either. In an column for the Chronicle of Higher Education Marty Nemko, a college consultant and author, shares his view that the bachelor's degree may be the most overrated product in America. Marty cites many factors and studies in reaching this conclusion but the key factor seems to be under-prepared students. Thankfully Nemko provides more than a headline by linking to supporting facts and most importantly offering suggestions to fix the problem!

Doesn't the under-preperation of students for college speak more about the job high schools are able to do than the job that colleges are doing? Not that I can blame the high schools who have to spend a significant chunk of time on standardized test taking rather than instilling knowledge in children. Sadly even a high percentage of students who are prepared coming out of high school won't make enough in the long run to justify the cost of a bachelor's degree. Another one of the facts Nemko cites is that the literacy rate amongst college graduates is currently declining. Take a second to absorb that; the number of illiterate college graduates is rising!These trends have lead to a cheapening of the bachelor's degree no matter what your field of study is. Think of this whole deal as a manufacturing process rather than education for a second and perhaps it will become a little clearer. If you produce DVD players for years and years and all of the sudden your flagship players start slipping in quality, breaking early, not reading discs and just being poor products. What does that do to your brand? That is exactly what happens when colleges churn out individuals who haven't actually gained the knowledge they need to graduate. I am all for colleges accepting students who are at a lower academic level or who have an impairment that affects literacy but only if these students are provided assistance and held to the same academic standards as everyone else. If students are just pushed through a four year school like a DVD player on the factory line without quality control the institution of higher education as a whole suffers.

What do you think? Are college degrees overrated? It seems that a masters degree is the new bachelor's degree, at least according to the wanted ads in my local paper. Is this because of the cheapening of the bachelor's degree or an increased need for people with advanced training?

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