Why We Won't Need College in 15 Years

Some things just outlive their usefulness.

By Brent Ritter

We all have that one thing in our lives we keep around without really knowing why. If you live and work in a big city, you may still have your car from the days when you used to live in the suburbs. At one time, the car had a purpose. But now? It just collects parking tickets and bird poop.

If you think hard enough, you can probably find something like this in your life. The same is true for society as a whole. Have you ever seen a pay phone and wondered why it's still there?

Some things outlive their usefulness. Is a traditional college education one of them?

Why we used to need college

Long before the Internet came along, in post-WWII America, information and knowledge were hard to come by. Knowledge was largely centralized in the universities, so if you wanted to gain the education necessary to obtain a middle-class job, you needed to go college. And the government paid you to go to college through programs like the GI bill.

Somewhere along the way, though, things changed. College tuition started rising more than the cost of living, and wages stopped increasing, making college a questionable financial investment. The quality of a college education began to decline, and employers started to realize that doing well in college didn't correlate with doing well in a real-world job. The old system started breaking down.

More: College Degrees With The Highest Salaries in 2013

Today, the Internet has decentralized knowledge and government funding for college has dried up, but we still see college as the only viable option for an education. Why? Because most employers still require college degrees.

But what if we could find jobs that didn't require a traditional college degree? And what if we could find a way to acquire the knowledge required to be successful in those jobs without incurring $100K in student loans?

With the decentralization of knowledge, we can acquire the education to be successful without a traditional college education and, at the same time, find good jobs that don't require traditional college degrees. The infrastructure for this type of system is already being built, and the disruption of the traditional university system has begun.

Why we won't need college

Have you ever watched a how-to video on YouTube? Or searched Wikipedia for an article on a topic you didn't quite understand? These are simple examples of how the Internet has decentralized knowledge over the past 20 years. Imagine if we could extend these examples to replace an entire college education.

More: How To Get Hired Without A Degree

Massive open online courses ("MOOCs") like Udacity and Kahn Academy, which give you the tools to educate yourself for free, are building the infrastructure for this new system. If you question the quality of the education you can get from MOOCs, organizations like Dev Bootcamp provide apprentice-like experience for much less than a college degree.

If these non-traditional options are too risky for you, there are more traditional options available to you that avoid an expensive college degree and still give you access to a good middle-class job.

The main reason most of us don't take advantage of this type of education is because most employers don't accept it. Lucky for you, the employment infrastructure suited for this type of education is being created, too.

Are you a computer programmer? Apple gives you access to millions of customers through its App Store. Are you an author? Amazon has a platform for independent publishers. Are you a film buff who dreams of producing videos? YouTube lets you do that.

Many of these options are still unproven, and the path won't be easy for the early adopters. There's a lot of risk in self-employment, and there are questions about the quality of MOOCs. But, with rising college costs and stagnating wages, we're not being given much choice. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. The opportunity is there for you.

You just need to grab it.

Brent Ritter is a Chicago-based writer and a recovering financial professional. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.

Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!

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msladiva

This article is such crap. It's only referring to certain types of jobs, not all of them. Are you telling me that you can learn to be a scientist just by "hands on"? Give me a break.

February 16 2014 at 3:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
preach2heal

Is the internet the answer to "learning"? No, you can find as many wrong ways to do something, as you can right ways on the internet. However, it is a useful tool to speed up and/or enhance performance. You will need to learn how to safely look for information, and discern what is good and bad.

Is supervised education required? Yes, some skills need a teacher to guide and correct methods. However, this does not necessarily require a college setting. Many jobs will provide 1+ years of hands on training, working beside a skilled worker. Education, but not a formal school.

Is college obsolete? Not yet, but they are trying. All the things that they stood for, have mostly gone by the way side. It is about money, etc; Not training the student. They have gotten soft on requirements and accountability. I was in the "jocks" writing intensive English class years ago. I was worried, but my high school teacher was 10 times harder than this class. I slid thru easily (not much competition). My high school valedictorian and salutatorian had different instructors, and struggled. Sadly, most universities have fallen to the levels of "my" college teacher.

Just using teaching as an example. Most everyone needs a rounded education to become a teacher. Yes the needed information is out there; but no, future teachers won't find it on their own. However, colleges have fallen in this area. They think that if all the information is presented and available, the students will learn. And the teachers that are coming out now think the same. But what happens when the student doesn't want to learn? We give up on them and pass them on either to the next grade, or to a special education class, or give them an IEP, where they leave the room to learn what the teacher couldn't teach them. And what happens when a student who is trying doesn't understand what was just taught? The same thing: pass them on, or ship them out to learn it. Which they rarely ever retain, because we don't know how to teach. There is very little training by most universities on how to be an "effective" teacher. Yes, they have a class labeled as that, but it isn't training that they learn.

I was always in awe of what many one-room schools taught by 6th grade. It was as much as my high school education. Now, I'm hoping that my kids leave high school with more than just what I had by 6th grade. And my advice to them so far has been, "What do you want to do with your life? Do you need a college degree to do it? If yes, seek out how to get the best, and make things cheap to avoid extra debt. If no, stay away from the debt! It's not worth it just to be 'rounded' and deal with all the other garbage that most colleges are now claiming as education."

September 30 2013 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tommyjen1976

I actually think the beauty of this discussion lies within the number of people saying how college teaches and proves problem solving, logic and social skills.

Personally when I look to employ I ask a candidate to prove how they have used their learned (degree or self taught) skills to overcome a problem. Most of the time it is the self-taught that come back with real world examples of how they overcame problems. The degree candidates just cite which modules in their course gave them this 'experience'.

People arguing that using a search engine isn't a viable way to solve problems are really way off the mark. Go back 40 years ago and people would ask a librarian to point them in the right direction to find resources on their chosen problem. That person would then use the resources to solve the problem and progress their knowledge. It is not the search engine that provides problem solving ability, it is a tool to be pointed in the right direction. The real skill I look for is the ability to take learned skills and put them into real practice and I feel that 90% of college graduates just do not have this ability as they rely on academic merit alone.

Occasionally you get the great college achiever who has projects outside of the 'college experience' that utilize skills learned in college. These are unfortunately the exception and not the rule.

I agree with the article, I think a huge revamp is needed in order for colleges to stay a legitimate route to meaningful employment.

September 30 2013 at 8:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
skipmeister.mike

The entire problem with college education is explained with 5 letters. GREED. College began as a sharing and passing on of knowledge for the betterment of the country. In other words, for the long haul or the big picture. Now the fact is that post high school graduate education, whether anyone wishes to see the forest through the trees, has prostituted itself out for one purpose - to make money. Where did the knowledge-is-number-one philosophy go? The answer lies within a simple question. Why do college football coaches need to make two million dollars per year? Of course the Deans have to make more than they do, just because. Then the president's have to make more than they do, just because, because. Next years budget has to include raises for all those prestigious just because positions. Meanwhile, Johnny and Susie freshman eat mustard sandwiches and go in debt for many years - on the hope it will some day wash. You can be sure those multimillion dollar salaries aren't based on hope. Deans, coaches, etc., put your blinders on, don't look ahead 5 or 10 years - don't SEE what your greed is really doing to this country. Do what you really do best - pretend you are not a MAJOR part of the mess this country is in.

September 30 2013 at 12:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stieg1

Have you ever read Ulysses and just understood it..Can you teach yourself Algebra, Trig or Calc. Can we socialize our society on the internet...Who writes this crap as an authority opinion and gets away with it..Shut Up!

September 30 2013 at 12:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
doxyland

Beyond learning a skill, college teaches you how to synthesize information into new ideas, a skill not taught in high school educations. I don't believe college will ever go away.

September 29 2013 at 11:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lbriggs864

I don't think I want to be treated by a doctor whose learning came solely through YouTube videos or drive over a bridge designed by an engineer who got his plans off of Wikipedia.

September 29 2013 at 11:05 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Trisha

What do they mean FIFTEEN YEARS? We dont need it now! As a matter of fact in the last 30 years Im pretty sure the people who made out the most on college educations are the lenders and the schools. Stop agreeing to be educated on someone elses bankroll and watch how the prices plummet to accomodate you.

September 29 2013 at 10:11 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Don Schnickelfelter

Pure unadulterated nonsense!!!!

September 29 2013 at 9:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
trailofechoes

The basis of this is a virtual economy. Yet the consolidation of jobs taken by the virtual jobs will never be sufficient for a growing population. Essentially this will be mass poverty as virtual entrepreneurs don't hire people and in fact destroy the jobs of those who make physical goods. It is true that college degrees do not equate to talent, but maybe that is the real problem. The American educational system is well funded and well suited to find talented athletes, maybe that attention to detail needs to be turned towards academics instead of athletics. Or else the US economy is "virtually" on the rocks.

September 29 2013 at 8:22 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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