Forego College?

Consider the recent higher ed news. Absent remediation, most high school graduates are unlikely to succeed in college. Too many college students aren’t learning much. Tuition inflation continues at a faster pace than even healthcare insurance and total student debt now exceeds credit card debt.

At the risk of simplifying things, there are two types of eighteen year olds (and people more generally): risk-averse single hitters who plan on working for someone else and entrepreneurial power hitters not afraid of starting a biz and possibly whiffing.

Neither group is inherently better than the other, but a college degree makes more sense for the first group since most livable wage paying organizations and businesses require at least one. One hopes the single hitters understand a college degree doesn’t guarantee nearly as much as it did a few decades ago. Like a miler standing stationary at the firing of a starter’s gun, they’re paying considerable money up front to increase their odds of future employment success as illustrated by this dramatic graphic.

Of course there are many intangible benefits to a good college education—such as greater independence and self understanding—but those things aren’t necessarily exclusive to those populating leafy college campuses.

Given the escalating costs of higher education and the unprecedented internet-based accessibility to knowledge and people around the world, why aren’t more ambitious, talented, smart, hardworking, risk-oriented, entrepreneurial eighteen year olds using the time right after high school to refine their knowledge and skills on their own in order to create new niches within the economy? Why isn’t there more of an Abraham Lincoln or Mark Cuban-like autodidacticism at work today?

Is it because everyone is afraid to go college-less first, or because parents fear their childrens’ short-term business failures and long-term economic vulnerability, or is something else at work?

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