Eric, co-founder of jobZology, discusses the revolution that is taking place in the education world today.
Summer is here and means it is time for celebrating the accomplishments of those finishing school. At family celebrations and backyard BBQs everywhere, new graduates are reveling in their achievement all the while being endlessly asked the question, “So what’s next for you?” or my personal favorite, “How was your college experience?”.
“How Was Your College Experience?”
It’s the latter question that usually garners the most revealing and sincere responses. These answers are less filled with family placating statements about summer plans and hopes about landing that good job. They are more about the emotional toll they endured during the past four to six years of their life. Some graduates will even talk about the fear and uncertainty that still lies ahead. Some may even say that they continue to hold fears about choosing the wrong path and have an inability to see how their education could actually connect with a clear, stable and fruitful career. The sad reality is, many graduates will tell you how relieved they are to have it over with. Wasn’t college supposed to be some of the best years of our lives?
Graduating with a Degree in Depression
I recently learned depression reported among students is quickly growing to crisis levels. Today’s learner reports that feelings of anxiety are ratcheted to new heights given the burden of rising education costs, and the dread of debt. More than any time in history, students are facing a reality that some educational paths just won’t ever have a return on their financial investment. How is that possible?
It turns out that somehow, we have gotten to this place where the world tells a learner that their quality of life is directly tied to the completion of a college education or attainment of advanced degrees. But the reality is, too often, attaining those degrees could actually dilute the quality of their life because they can’t pay for the education they received. While they are trying to figure out how to pay for it, they fall into a deeply depressed state and often will take employment where they don’t even use the degree they attained. What’s going on here?
Revolution on the Value of College
Like me, so many of my generation report that we, “Forrest Gumped”, our way to where we are today. We had the chance to view college as time spent in self-discovery and exploration. We knew that the value of a college education was in attaining the paper and that having the paper ensured we could get a good job, a well-paying job. Times have certainly changed. The cost of a college education has not paced with slower increases we see in wages. The cost of tuition for the graduate in the mid 80’s (at a public institution) was $1,595 a semester. That same education today has had a 170% markup, while pew research reports that wages really haven’t budged in decades. No wonder students feel burdened by debt. I think we would all agree that things have to change.
What Can We Do About It Right Now?
When I think about changes that could happen, I do so less from an institution or governmental fixes that will take forever to offer results. Instead, I think about the problem more from the genesis of the cause. I ask myself, what is it that we can control and actually do? How can you and I fix it now? I believe we need to start thinking about training and education differently.
I believe we should make it much less about the place our learners are accepted to study and the time we intend to spend while in study. Instead, I believe we should challenge ourselves and our learners to truly understand where life could be spent doing something filled with purpose and meaning… and then, and only then … become passionate lifelong learners in the pursuit of it. Doesn’t it make sense to find the right compass heading before you start any journey?
Break Free From Degrees
What would happen to our quality of life and our mental health if we stopped being degree seekers? What if we pursued ways to connect with training and programs in order to quickly achieve skills and certifications? And if we used those certifications to get sustainable jobs, and on that job learned a meaningful vocation? How amazing would it be if, during the time we were doing that job, we took advantage of the employer’s education benefits to pay for and collect ongoing education? What if that education focused our upward mobility and helped us attain a relevant degree steeped in the original alignment of our passion, purpose, and sense of meaning?
The Revolution of Education
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to take anything away from all the recent college graduates. God bless them all. And I am certainly not saying that a college education is not valuable. What I am saying, is that in order to improve the process of education, there needs to be a revolution. A revolution that future college students and those in college now can start today.
To start the revolution, we need to build a movement. A movement where learners pursue education differently for the status quo to change. Students are not just four years of tuition payments but rather lifelong learners that seek certifications, badges, and diplomas. Colleges need to help connect them with actual employers that need talent. Employers have to think about supporting their future talent with critical training programs for the skills they want. Employees need to truly be lifelong learners in order to professionally grow into meaningful roles, and all of us, need to know where we will find joy, purpose, and meaning in our education, career, and employment pathways.
Triumphs Worth Celebrating
Personally, I like parties. I bet you do too. How cool would it be to attend, not just one party celebrating the completion of an education process and the achievement of spending tens of thousands of dollars to get a diploma, but instead get together six or eight times in celebration of the milestone achievements within a person’s education through career lifecycle? What if instead, we celebrated that they created a sustainable and meaningful, purpose-filled career where they found joy? Now that would be triumph worthy of a celebration and I am sure, many folks at that party would be far less fearful about the future.