Is college really necessary?

By Brian Ochsner This question may sound like heresy to teachers and parents today. However, the more I think about the answer, the more it isn’t "yes."

The first reason why I don’t believe college is an absolute requirement is because of what your degree does for you. It simply says you’ve completed academic requirements, and been able to regurgitate information to a teacher’s satisfaction.

This allows you to look for a "safe secure job, with a good company that offers good benefits." The problem with this outdated mantra is that in 21st Century America, simply having such a job isn’t the best way to get ahead financially.

I realize that some college graduates take jobs in professions such as teaching and the ministry – and they’re not doing it for the money. I also realize that some people enjoy their jobs, are financially comfortable, and don’t have the desire or temperament to be self-employed.

And that’s totally fine – to each his own. However, employees should be aware of some factors in today’s changing job market.

In the 1970s and 80s, you only had to compete against other Americans for the job you wanted to land. Today you’re competing against workers from Asia, Mexico, Central and South America who are ready, willing and able to do the same job for much less than you are. Sometimes as low as 10-20 cents on the dollar.

It’s not just for blue-collar manufacturing jobs, which have left the US for Asia in droves. White-collar jobs such as computer programmers, engineers, and financial analysts are also being outsourced. India has a large number of college-educated, articulate, English-speaking employees that are eagerly taking these jobs for $400-500/month. That’s not a typo, and not what they make per week – that’s per month.

Common sense tells you whoever is teaching you to do something should have already done it. In this case, be financially successful. How many rich college professors do you know? Probably not very many - at least I don’t.

Another thing to realize is that Big Education is big business. The more they can keep the myth of college education leading to financial/career success alive, the more students they can enroll, and generate more revenue.

Along with these trends, companies and industries don’t stay in business as long as they used to. The days of a successful company being around for decades – like an IBM – are just about gone. Even if a company is in business for more than a few years, they’re more likely to downsize good, hard-working employees than they were 20-30 years ago.

Besides the financial reasons, most public universities -- just like their K-12 counterparts -- don’t advocate conservative, Judeo-Christian values. It’s usually the opposite, where they try and indoctrinate students into the cult of secular humanism, socialism, and/or anti-Americanism. Take Ward Churchill, for example – need I say more?

College does have some advantages. It helps you mature as an adult, and bridges the gap between your parents’ house and the real world. You meet friends and acquaintances that you may know for a few years, or your entire life. It’s also a great time to try new things (that are legal and moral) that you may not have the opportunity or time to try later in life.

I realize that for most people it’s much easier to be an employee instead of self-employed. A big reason for this is because entrepreneurial skills aren’t taught in schools. I also believe it’s a good idea to be financially literate, and be able to generate income from a source other than a job. This way if something happens with your job, you have a financial back-up plan.

I also realize this may be a difficult paradigm shift to grasp for many concerned parents, grandparents and other relatives. In order to succeed in business and in life, you have to know where you and the world around you are today – and are trending towards tomorrow.

The best book you can read to understand this worldview I’ve just described is called Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. It’s easy to read, even kids in 6th grade can – and should – read this book.

You may not agree with what I say. You may still believe that a college education is a requirement for financial and career success. And you may still be clinging to the old financial paradigms that used to work 20 or 30 years ago, but are obsolete today.

Don’t get me wrong -- I still believe that Americans need to believe in and act on conservative, Judeo-Christian principles in their lives. Especially in the morally rudderless and drifting culture we live in.

History is filled with examples of what happens to people – especially in business – who don’t keep up with the financial trends around them. Take the horse-and-buggy makers for example. I also understand that change doesn’t get any easier the older you get – even at my age of 37.

Going against these financial trends is like going against Mother Nature. It doesn’t matter how badly you want it to be sunny and 70 degrees – you still need to wear a heavy coat and snowshoes if there’s a blizzard outside.

No matter how badly you want the days of stable and unchanging economies and the safe, secure job to be around – it’s probably not going to happen in our lifetimes. That’s why I believe American students need to learn financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills as much as they need the 3 R's.