A Degree? Bah Humbug!

Does your career potential justify the cost of higher education?

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Marty Nemko
Marty Nemko
Many people think, "The job market sucks so I'll go get a degree." That's often a mistake.

The evidence is ever clearer that higher education often results in insufficient learning and growth in employability to justify the years and fantastical cost.

Your employability may improve more simply by explaining to prospective employers that you derived more of value at You U than you would have from that degree. For example:

Dear (Insert Name of Employer),

You may be tempted to toss my application because I lack the required degree. But having read solid studies plus anecdotal evidence on the limited practical value of degree programs, I decided to get career-related training by finding a mentor, taking the most relevant courses (online and in-person), workshops and conferences worldwide rather than taking a prepackaged program where my choices were limited to one university's professors and largely impractical theory-larded courses. (Insert a list of what you've done and learned at You U, perhaps attaching a portfolio.)

But now comes the moment of truth. I chose to emphasize substance over form, but will you interview me? Hoping to hear from you.


Ollie Out-of-the-Box

Wouldn't you consider hiring or promoting Ollie?

When you stop to think about it, a You U education offers many crucial advantages over a university degree program, even if the latter weren't wildly expensive:

  • Instead of the mountain of material taught in degree programs, most of which is usually forgotten soon after the final exams, at You U you can choose how much you care to learn on a given topic: from a one-hour webinar to a weekend-long bootcamp, to a MOOC short course to a full in-person course, to a certificate program.
  • Instead of being forced to take courses from whoever happens to teach them at your university – who may barely speak English or otherwise be as boring as watching paint dry – you can search in or outside universities, worldwide, online or in-person, for outstanding, transformational instructors.
  • You learn what you want and need to know rather than what the often arcana-obsessed university professors think you need to know. Indeed, ivory-tower types are frequently out of touch with what is needed in the real world. Just think back to any university courses you've already taken: stacks of books you didn't read (or perhaps didn't even buy), endless soporific lectures during which your note-taking consisted heavily of doodling, doing homework and writing flirting notes to the cutie next to you.
  • At You U, you learn at your own pace rather than the pace chosen by the professor. Again, think back to any previous college courses you've taken: How often did you find the pace and difficulty level just right? Goldilocks likely had a better batting average.
  • You learn at your own convenience. In degree programs, you're usually required to show up at specific times, and the professor doesn't care whether you can't park or find child care, let alone that you'll have to miss your yoga class.
  • You U costs 90-plus percent less. Think of what you could use the money for. A house? Five cars? Fifty career coaches to help you land a good job? And if you have to take student loans, know that Congress has now made student loans virtually the only loans not dischargeable through bankruptcy. If you sign on the dotted line, you are stuck, ball-and-chain stuck. So much for higher education being the benevolent entity its marketing machine has manipulated the public into believing it is.
  • You may not even make sufficient career connections to justify all the time and money it takes to get a degree. You may more likely make useful connections by becoming active in your professional association.
  • So before joining the lemmings willing to pay big bucks and big years to get a degree, consider You U. A degree? Bah, humbug!

    Editor Note: Next in the "Bah" series, Marty Nemko tackles job seeking. It will be posted next Monday.

    The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach." His latest books are How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. He writes weekly for AOL.com as well as for USNews.com. More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com.