I’ve made points about this before and I always preface this by saying that I have two university degrees and value the education that I’ve received. I think there can be incredible value, for some, in a university education and I think that many employers in many fields believe it to be necessary. However, there’s something else that I believe. I believe that university is a tool, useful if and only if it suits that job you want to use the tool for, and I believe that under no circumstance is university a solution.
Now, I’m not suggesting that education is not important. I believe that education is extraordinarily important. But I believe that there are significant sources of education that are both more accessible for some and affordable for others. If I had to do it all again, knowing what I know, would I get a university education? Probably not. I probably would have gone to community college, learned how to code and I wouldn’t be looking for technical co-founders all the time. I enjoyed my university experience and I don’t think I would be the thinker or the writer that I am if I didn’t have it. But that’s not to say I’d be a worse person. I would simply be a different person.
University is NOT for everyone. I once got in an argument with a guidance councilor about the quality of a university education. A student came to me and said that they wanted to be a plumber. They were a very smart student and I suggested that they look at community college. I was told that they were too smart for community college. I’ve never wanted to scream in someone’s face more than I did that day. University vs. community college is not about smart vs. stupid. If you believe that it is, I believe that you are stupid. The difference is in the programs and the scale of those programs. Oh, and the cost. There’s a minor difference in the cost. This “guidance” councilor was suggesting that rather than pay a small amount for a degree in a program that suits their desires for their future, they should pay a lot to get a degree in a program that didn’t put them any closer to their dreams. Yeah, that sounds great.
I know people who RUN companies now with community college degrees…or no degree. I also know people who went to university, got great degrees and have incredible jobs. I also know people who went to community college that flip burgers against their will (not like ACTUALLY against their will, but you know what I mean) and I know people with university degrees that are their co-workers.
The point is not that one is better or worse. The point is in fact the exact opposite of that. The point is that for each individual there is a path that works and a path that doesn’t. We need to start thinking less about university degrees as the path for the very best and start thinking about university as one of many possible paths for the very best. You can get degrees online now for a fraction of the cost of a single university course. For some people, that works. For others, that doesn’t.
We need to stop putting people in boxes. As individuals, we need to stop trying to fit into boxes people expect us and as employers we need to stop trying to fit those people into boxes. See what people can do when you give them some wiggle room. The surprising thing about people is that people will invariably surprise you if you give them the opportunity to do so. So do so.