A bachelor’s degree in the social sciences is a relic of the late industrial age. There were few learned scholars. Books and manuals were scarce. There was little to no way of broadcasting to and sharing that information with the rest of the world. A college degree may have been the only way to preserve certain knowledge in that era. It is not an investment, but a liability in the digital age. It is a liability because the likelihood of employment is decreasing, while the cost of a college education is increasing. To pay for a four year college education in French history in 2012 is like paying for a boat to take you from New York to London to deliver a hand written message. You could exceed bachelor level knowledge in most social sciences or humanities through online videos, digital archives, and Skype interviews with experts from around the world; all free to little cost. Are we losing nuance, rigor, and perhaps even a bit of thoughtfulness? A little. But mostly we’re just reducing time and cost. Before my thoughts are misrepresented, let me be painfully clear. Knowledge of French history (just an example, not picking on anyone) has an intangible value. The cost of a bachelor of arts has a much more tangible price. Therefore, a bachelor’s degree in that or any similar field is ineffectual. Knowledge of current medicine, engineering, and technology have a tangible value (as well as an intangible one), partly because its cost can be justified by employment and income. The world has changed. The speed at which it is still changing is ever increasing. The new economy favors precise and technical knowledge. There is an increasing pool of available jobs in this country that employers cannot fill because there are not enough Americans with the matching skills to apply. These are well paying jobs. Most of them are high-skilled manufacturing or trade jobs, but not all. A former client of mine had to use his advertising budget for hiring because he said “there are more accounting jobs available than there are qualified accountants”. These are the fields on which we have to focus our efforts and resources. We are economically crippling ourselves otherwise. More on that in the next post.
Are you a skilled tradesman? Please share your thoughts.