This WSJ piece offers a compelling compromise to the raging college vs. workforce debate. While I am convinced there is a bubble in higher education, I think some critics of a college education go too far.
There is always a need for the trades such as plumbing, carpentry, etc. But every industry is undergoing a data revolution. To be a car mechanic today can require significant computer programming abilities, for example.
Advancing to a management position in the trades still requires some post-high school education. Whether that has to be from college is debatable. With so many fine online learning resources, the brick-and-mortar college needs to make a better case for itself.
The College of the Ozarks seems to be doing this.
Each student works his way through school, graduating debt-free. What a great program. I worked as an RA through college, and I found this one of the more rewarding parts of my education.
I met people and engaged in activities that would have never happened through my studies. Employers often asked just as many questions about my college jobs as my actual studies.
I wonder how much of this real-world experience can be replicated for online learning. While so much less expensive, you do get what you pay for. For specialized training to those who already have a network, online education is a deal. But for young people still making their connections and drafting their career plans, there is no substitute for a good college campus.
The debt-free feature of this program is almost unbelievable. So many young adults are deferring retirement investments, buying a home, etc., because of the crushing student debt. Leaving college with no debt will open up so many doors to these graduates.
The College of the Ozarks “business model” should get college administrators thinking. While college is not for everyone, it can still be a good investment for a motivated young person – especially when the cost is nearly free.