The College Delusion |

The College Delusion

admin September 21, 2012

Many of our readers know that we are homeschooling our children — unschooling them, actually.  Some like to ask us the question “What will your children do about college?  Will they be able to get in?  Will they be adequately prepared?”

While studies show that homeschooled children typically have no issue getting into college, and actually succeed beyond their public-schooled counterparts, the answer is: we don’t necessarily want them to go to college at all.

Say what?

Today (and for the last 10 or 15 years), it’s been considered necessary to go to college after high school.  If you don’t go, there’s something wrong with you.  All smart young people who wish to be successful in life must attend college.  It is simply what you do after high school, before you start life.  But I propose that college not only isn’t necessary (for many), it’s not even beneficial.  I think we’ve all been suffering under what I call “the college delusion.”

College as a Lifestyle Necessity

Please understand.  We won’t be discouraging our children, nor any other children, from attending college.  We don’t believe that you “shouldn’t” go to college.  What we believe is that you should attend college if and only if your future life plans require a college degree.

If you know you want to be a stay-at-home mom…you don’t need college.  If you want to be a truck driver…you don’t need college.  If you want to be an electrician…you don’t need college (though you will need trade school).

If you want to be a doctor…you do need college.  If you want to be a computer engineer…you need college.

We will be encouraging our kids to figure out what they really want to do with their lives, and if needed trying out internships, apprenticeships, etc. so that they are sure of their path before choosing to go to college or not.  Should they choose a path in life that requires college, we’ll do whatever we can to support them in going to the school of their choice.  (We are saving money for all of them to go right now.)  Should they choose a path that does not require college, then we’ll help them get any training or experience required for that path instead of college — be it an apprenticeship, trade school, or whatever.

That is how college should be seen: a form of education and training for a future career.  Not a lifestyle necessity, which is how it is currently seen.

The Problem with “Everybody Goes to College”

Everyone’s complaining about how much tuition has gone up over the last couple of decades.  The “solution” has been to offer more student loans.

Guess why the price is going up?  Because demand is higher!  When thousands of new students wish to go to college each year, colleges have to increase their staff, buildings, dorms, meal services, and everything else to compensate.  Or, they have to turn many students away.  College becomes more valuable, and so the price goes up.  It’s simple supply-and-demand.

The more people who demand to go to college (even if they don’t need it, go in as “undecided” major and take 8 years to finish a bachelor’s degree), the more college will cost.  This makes a college education harder to obtain for everyone.  And that’s just one problem we’re facing.

A bigger problem is the pervasive attitude about college.

We have lied to our children (“our children” being my generation).  We were told that if we did well in school and got into a good college, we’d get a degree (in anything) and we’d be guaranteed a good job.  We’d make at least the national average of $40,000 a year right out of college.  We’d be in demand because of our higher education!

Unfortunately, with a larger percentage of people with college degrees than ever before, that hasn’t exactly panned out.  Many of the graduates also have degrees in fields that are not very in demand right now.  Many of them are unable to find a job in their field.  (The recession didn’t help either; people with 10+ years of experience were offering to work in entry-level jobs just to have a job in their own field.  No one will hire a recent graduate over someone with that much experience, typically.)

These people (the 18 – 30 crowd) feel cheated and lied to.  They were promised if they “did everything right” and got their education that they would be successful.  Now they’re delivering pizzas and working at Home Depot.  According to research conducted by companies that deal with cash advance apps, they also usually have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans that they have no means to pay back.  Many can expect to be paying their student loans into their 40s, nearly until their own children will be facing a choice to go to college.

Meanwhile, skilled labor jobs, like construction, plumbing, electricians, etc. are desperately needing more employees.  But these jobs aren’t valued because they are blue-collar jobs that do not require a college education.  They are looked down upon.  They pay perfectly decent salaries, but people don’t want to take them!

It has been suggested that to “fix the middle class” (a problem which I believe has been exacerbated, if not caused, by this college delusion) we ought to raise the minimum wage and make every job a “good job.”  Well, there are lots of “good jobs” out there right now!  Skilled labor jobs.  (Which Mike Rowe has been desperately trying to bring attention to.)  And raising the minimum wage only means inflation will get worse, and things will be even harder for the poorest people to afford.

College is Not the Answer

There are many paths to success in life.

It is not true that if you don’t go to college, you are somehow uneducated or dumb or lazy.  A lot of people act that way, but that’s simply ridiculous.

We need farmers, plumbers, construction workers, garbage people, SAHMs, and all manner of other skilled and “unskilled” labor!  If you are happy with your path in life and you can take care of yourself and/or your family (depending on your life situation), then you are a success.  You do not need a piece of paper saying that you have knowledge to be considered successful.

I hate that we are telling our children there is this golden path to success — which is not even working out — and not allowing them to explore all the options available to them.  I knew a guy in college who said “What I really like to do is sit on my [butt] and listen to music, and drive.  I’d like to be a truck driver.  But my mom would kill me.”  So he put himself through a rigorous and expensive architecture program instead.  What would have been wrong with being a truck driver?  He would have enjoyed it, not had student loan debt, and made enough money to support himself!

If knowledge is what you’re after, you can take most college courses for free if you don’t expect anything from the college when you’re done.  Reading books on your own is education.  Attending workshops or learning from a friend is too!  College isn’t necessary to gather knowledge.

College is also not a necessary part of the “life experience.”  The “experience” people are talking about is basically an immature extension of adolescence.  It glorifies drinking and partying and going on missions to “find yourself.”  It pushes people to wait to “settle down” until they are in their late 20s to early 30s.  And I have even heard some speak very rudely about those who choose a different path — how ‘crazy’ and stupid it is to choose to settle down in your early 20s because you “couldn’t possibly be mature enough.”

I find that very sad.

All people are ready at different times, of course, but we shouldn’t set our children up to expect to mess around and wait to start their “real” lives until they are nearing 30.  Of course, this phenomenon could also be because of the angst that these young adults feel because their plans haven’t worked out the way they thought….

The College Delusion

A Different Definition of Success

We’ll be teaching our children that working hard at whatever path they choose is what makes them successful.

If they go to college and earn a pH.d. and go on to become some world-renowned expert in something — that’s great!

If they are SAHMs or farmers or ditch diggers — that’s great too!

College is simply another potential tool in one’s arsenal.  It is a way to get an education for certain paths in life.  It is not the be-all, end-all experience that everyone must have.  We need to stop glorifying it and return it to its place as a useful choice, but not one that trumps all others.

It’s time to start valuing hard work, parenting, blue collar labor, and familial relationships just as much as we value education now.  I could say a lot more about our society’s warped values (just look at any TV show — watch Jeopardy and see who’s on there and what kind of questions they ask!), but I won’t.

We’re out to change things.  We’re out to give our children a sense that who they are and their God-given talents are more important than society’s standards.  We want them to enjoy and appreciate all the things in life that really matter.  We want to feel strong and confident and not inferior if they choose a path that the world currently considers “lesser.”

And that is why we homeschool.  That is why we unschool.  That is why we expose them to a wide variety of people and work and all kinds of different things in this world.  We want them to grow up knowing they have options, but that each of them is unique and each of their paths to success is equally valued.

What do you think about the College Delusion?

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  1. First let me say how excited I was to see Grady Gammage in your picture. I grew up within five minutes of that beautiful building and have been there many time and attended ASU.

    I agree with almost everything you have said here. We feel the exact same way. We will not. Be discouraging our children to go, but we will not tell them it’s the only way to a successf life. Things are changing, especially with education. That being said, I don’t agree with you when you say that if you are going to be a SAHM you don’t need a career path. I know too many women who were SAHMs that ended up divorced, husband not able to work, or widowed. I think it’s just as important for women to have a career path ( either college, trade school, etc) and then if thy decide to stay at home, great! I thinks it’s a bit naive to think they will never need a career. I’m a SAHM and love it and hope it never changes, but I have something to fall back on if it does.


  2. Hi Kate,
    I plan to homeschool my son and any future kids. I agree that the expectation that anybody who is going to be successful is going to go to college is wrong, and that it is not for everyone. I love your blog, and I respect your decision to put that emphasis on college or not in your family as you see fit. However, as a stay-at-home mom with a college degree and a graduate degree, I would like to point out that while a college degree is certainly not necessary for a stay-at-home mom, it is not worthless either. My graduate degree — eh, we call that “insurance” in case something happens to my husband and I have to work. I could do without it…in fact, I do kind of regret that one! But I would not trade my undergraduate years at a small liberal-arts university. I met my husband, made wonderful friends, deepened my faith, and I grew as a thinker, writer, and researcher. And, perhaps most important, I loved it! I enjoy learning, and while lifelong learning doesn’t require a formal institution of learning, how many times in our life do we have to so deeply immerse ourselves in our studies? Even if I never return to the workforce (which is a distinct possibility), I do not regret my college degree. I won’t “push” college on my kids if they have a firm idea of what they want to do and don’t need it, but, at the same time, I will share with them that college can also be about more than the degree, especially if they aren’t sure what they want to do (I didn’t). Just a different perspective! I was lucky enough to have a scholarship and parents who covered the rest. Coming out of school in debt and wanting to be a stay-at-home mom would be a whole different story, as I’ve seen, unfortunately, in the lives of a few of my friends.


  3. I agree with you on this. I went to college because “that’s what you do after high school” and now in some ways I wish I didn’t. I have no interest in the degree I chose and now have high debt to pay off and didn’t make very good decisions .I won’t say I regret it though, since I feel God worked through all the bad decisions I made during college. I am working a job now that doesn’t require a degree. Just a brain on your shoulders to make use common sense and make smart decisions. And I built that brain when I was homeschooled! I remember more from those years than the few that I spent on a college campus!


  4. I went to college out of high school at 17, nearly 18. I ended up having an emotional breakdown in November/December of my Sophomore year and moved home to complete school. It took 5.5 years due to the move and loss of credits (and two major changes) for me to realize I was going to owe school debt for a long time and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. So while I met influential people and was taught to think critically and research thoroughly, as well as had some fun, I don’t find much value in my college education. I ended up with about a 3.0 give or take. Maybe 1/4 of the cost of paying for it was worth-while and that was the fact, mostly, that “the piece of paper” allowed me to qualify for a series of jobs with increasing responsibility and pay.

    When I went to graduate school in 2005 (because my current employer, a university, paid 100% tuition, so why not?) I did much better, took my studies more seriously, and got a 4.0. Who would’ve thought that a 26-year-old would do better than an 18-year-old (sarcasm)? And then in 2008 I went to trade school for massage therapy and did the best I’ve ever done and have a career I can do very PT to earn extra money while staying home most of the time with our (soon-to-be-born) child as a 90%-time homemaker. THAT trade school was about $10K and was the best value of all of my education, save the fact that grad school was technically free (but I didn’t finish).

    So I say all this to say that working in various parts of public and private higher education (I still teach and work for the massage school I attended and have also worked for two Universities, a cultural center, a seminary, and now a private trade school) since 1998 that “the college experience” is NOT for everyone. That said, I will encourage my children to do whatever they feel the call to do and not pressure them to go to college if it’s not for them. My husband highly values education for males and females, but even he said, “I hope one of our kids is a mechanic or an electrician! We need more skilled tradespeople in our family!”


  5. Over twenty years ago, I finished high school and went straight to college. Initially planning to major in pre-law, I ended up graduating with degrees in accounting and Spanish. Part of my college experience included several short term mission trips to Latin American countries and a semester in Costa Rica. After graduating in 4 years, I went to work for an accounting firm where I met my husband. We never, ever, would have met were it not for my accounting degree. Today, I am a SAH mom to our three boys, ages 13-8. We homeschool (and always have). My college degree may not be necessary for what I am doing today, but it certainly has come in handy. We are studying Spanish as a family and I can always help the boys with their math homework.
    I agree that going to college should not be assumed. Young adults shouldn’t go until they know what they wish to study. And they certainly shouldn’t be racking up thousands upon thousands of dollars of loans while they are figuring this out! Work and save. Go part time and hold down an outside job. Live at home and attend a local school. Take advantage of community colleges. But borrowing tens (and even hundred) of thousands to attend a school that will give you a degree to allow you to earn $50,000+? That seems silly to me.


  6. A friend of mine who was unschooled has an advanced degree in some incomprehensible kind of mathematics and computer science and works for the government in cybersecurity. His sister, also unschooled, went to beauty school and became a hairdresser. Society says my friend is a success and his sister isn’t, but the truth is, they’re both happy and doing things they love to do. Your kiddos will be fine.

    That said, some people just don’t know what they want to do. I’m 26 and still have no idea. I have an undergraduate degree in English and German (no debt, full-ride scholarship), which doesn’t steer me to any particular career field but has made it possible for me to dabble in a lot of different fields since graduating. For me, the experience was valuable even though it hasn’t led to achieving any particular career or life goal. But if you’re just looking for some life experience and time to think through your own head, I’d encourage spending time living abroad as much as or more than college (college enabled me to do that for free, since my scholarship paid for everything, but you could look for a job overseas or do missionary work).

    Finally, I would say that there are a lot of jobs that right now require college or advanced degrees that shouldn’t. My husband is a lawyer, and he says that an apprenticeship/journeyman sort of program for lawyers would be much more practical, useful, and effective at producing good lawyers than is law school and the bar exam. But try changing that system….


  7. I have not homeschooled. (I prayed over that many years ago and felt like I got a “no” answer) I thought college was the answer. I oldest went and dropped out after a year. He is living on his own but barely making it. Now at 22 he has decided he does want to go and get a degree but we are begging him to go to a tech school instead. My daughter is currently in college but she has an academic mind and is studing engineering. My youngest is in 11th grade. We are looking at technical schools for him. I do NOT think all kids need to go to college, even though I work in a public school guidance office where 99% of our kids do go to a college. However I DO think all kids need some sort of training. They need to go to a 4 yr school, a 2 yr school, a tech or voc program or the military. I have family who are farmers and even those cousins went to college and are better farmers for it. I see too many kids who do not go onto any sort of training and they struggle financially jumping around retail jobs, etc. We need skilled people today and many are trying to do it through a 4 yr school. There are many ways to get skilled though. And no, not everyone needs a 4 yr college!!


  8. My husband and I talk about this often! We don’t expect that our kids will go to college, but will support their decisions either way. I have an education degree, but am currently a SAHM. My husband has an AA and a BA, but is now in grad school because he can’t find a job in his line of work. A career change to what he wants to do requires more schooling. On the other hand, my brother took some computer classes from my aunt during his homeschool high school. He went through one year of general ed college courses before leaving college to work in IT. He hasn’t had trouble finding a job since then.


  9. I grew up with parents that felt this way and who discouraged me from going to college. While I appreciate that you plan on encouraging your children to do what is best for them, I think it is easy for parents to swing one way or the other. There is not a cookie-cutter approach that works for each child. Some children should go to college and others should not. I think picking out the college very carefully is also important. Some colleges are hugely expensive and are not worth the money but if you search around you can find more reasonably priced schools that give you more for your educational dollar.

    I wish that I had been encouraged in my desire to go to college. I wanted to go to college since I was 13 years old. I finally enrolled in a Christian University after I was married and had children. I take classes as time allows it and I love it. We don’t go into debt for college, I have to have the money before I take the class. The going is much much slower because of that and because I have children but making those choices means that college won’t be a detriment to my family.

    I think that college is worth-while for a stay-at-home mom and I was a little put-off by the statement that it isn’t necessary. I have learned a great deal through college and how can that not impact my children? I have found that college has made me a better mom and I am very grateful for the ability to work on a degree. Plus, I have a long-range plan on what I want to do when my children are grown and gone. Not all stay-at-home moms need a degree, but some will benefit greatly from it.


  10. I totally agree with this. I went to school the first time for accounting and got my CPA degree. Went to work and hated it…I was stuck in a corner desk and never seen anyone. While I was getting my degree, I was working as a CNA…I loved it. So after a year of working as a CPA, I went back to schooling for a nursing degree. Best thing that I did. Then I met my husband, got married, and stopped working. Still had to pay off those student loans for both degrees. I highly recommend for the young to really really contemplate what they want to do, and try to make a plan of what they see themselves doing in five, ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road. See if it is worth them to take all that schooling and then to just drop it because they instead decide to be a stay at home mom. By the way, I think that one of the most rewarding jobs there is .

    Now we have a teen that is homeschooled for all his schooling, and is wanting to go into computer field…I want to encourage him but at the same time feel that this field is flooded right now. I honestly wished he would go into like heating and air or learn to fix engines etc….he would need computer knowledge on a lot of that too. And next thing is trying to find an apprenticeship for computer and/or heating and air etc…


  11. I knew for a very long time in junior high and high school that being a SAHM was far more important to me than a degree. I’m an artist and was largely self-taught. I planned on going to college anyway to improve my skills with the idea that art is something I can always do from home. Fast forward to my freshman year of college and I was anything but happy with college. I loved the experiences that didn’t involve my professors beating my style of art out of me, which were few and far between do to a epic homework load (most of the “successful” students in the art department did an average to two to three all-nighters a week!).

    I transferred to my local community college, and while the professors were much more understanding of one’s personal style, I was mostly spinning my wheels. But I honestly thought this is what I was supposed to do after high school, despite how miserable I felt. Imagine my surprise when my mother sat me down one day and said that I didn’t have to keep going, that this may not be what I’m supposed to do. She pushed me because she loved me and wanted me to have opportunities she didn’t have. I’m very blessed that God didn’t let either of us keep fooling ourselves about this.

    Now I’m my own teacher, and though I haven’t learned the discipline I need to balance everything yet, I’m confident in knowing that I can be far more open to what God is doing in my life because I don’t have homework and my debt my husband has so willingly taken on will not get any bigger.

    Thank you for posting this. I’m so glad others feel as I do!


  12. Great post!! I could write a book on this topic – it is SO loaded. My kids are only 2.5 and 1 right now but I am planning on some form of home schooling, with a similar stance on college as you – if what you want to do requires it -go for it, and we’ll help you get there. Other wise, it’s a waste of money and the environment of many colleges is not conducive to growing in faith and maturity. I’m a SAHM with one year of college, and VERY glad I didn’t finish (in fact my one loan is being paid off today -woohoo!). My husband and I were engaged or married through most of his college education, which was pretty much a joke. After only a couple years in his field he is miserable and desperately in need of a change. I’m not sure who thought that most people would know what they want to do with their lives when they are a mere 18 years old (and again for most) with school as their main life experience. Plus the fact that if they go to school at that point it is extremely difficult to do it without going in to debt (my room mate and good friend did this – I think she spent as much time working and writing essays for scholarships as she did studying). I’ll stop now before I ramble on anymore – again, thank you for this post! It’s reassuring to know that there are others out there who think this whole situation is as ridiculous as we do!


  13. This post is great. I agree with nearly everything you’ve said.

    The thing that gives me pause when thinking about how I will encourage my own children, though, is my own experience. I was also led to believe, when I entered college), that I was going to college in order to be trained/prepared for a career. 4 years later, however, I realized that the only people for whom that was true was nurses, engineers, computer programmers, and those doing prereq’s for graduate school. I studied sociology and social work. I’ve been out of school 5 years and never held a job that required more than a high school education. I’ve realized though, that an education and job training are distinct things, even though we often assume they are one and the same. The education was invaluable to me, though it will never get me a job.

    For non-career related reasons, I highly value the opportunity I had to go to my midsize, Christian college. I never partied in college, never drank, didn’t stay up all night or find it to be the socially blissful experience that seems to be expected. It truly was a thoroughly enriching time– I had the opportunity to attend countless lectures with brilliant , inspiring speakers on a huge variety of subjects (majority of which were outside classtime), I had the opportunity to travel abroad while learning intensively about economy/church/culture/language, basically–my whole mind and worldview was expanded beyond what I could have conceived! I came away with a stronger faith due to increased knowledge of the world, and a much broader understanding of the way human society works. I came into relationship with people from all over the country and world. My Christian professors inspired me personally and spiritually, not primarily vocationally. I’ve been an avid reader since I learned how and self-educated a lot along the way, but college gave me light years of experiences and exposure that our small-town library never could’ve. I also met my husband there. 🙂

    My husband now teaches at a enormous state university, where the majority of students are having no such rich experiences. The faculty aren’t role models, students are indifferent to learning, they are there to get a “good job” some day in the future. Going to college is not a guaranteed quality experience by any means.

    The things is…my parents are less than 5 years from retirement and still trudging along with loans they took out for my sister and I. This grieves me. They’ve given me such a gift, and I am so glad to have had it, but I don’t believe in going into crazy debt for “job training.” So, my question is–how can I give my children an opportunity to have such a deep, horizon-broadening experience as I had in those formative years without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a degree if they don’t need/desire one?


  14. I. Love. Reading. Your. Blog. Can I make that more emphatic?
    I couldn’t agree more. I had no idea that I had “options” after high school – except the “options” of too many colleges! Especially being a “smart” student who would be “wasting” her brain by being a mother. Ludicrous.
    Thanks for saying all of the things that I try to say, but in much clearer English. 🙂


  15. But I am glad that I met my husband at that private Christian college not so long ago. 🙂 Our meeting there just cost us a heap of debt that we could do without. Ha!


  16. love, Love, LOVE this post!!! My husband and I are on the exact same page as you on this one! We teach our children to put God first in their lives, seek His will and then follow their heart’s desires. When they have that relationship with Christ, their desires should coincide with His making for a peaceful, fulfilling life.

    Very well written! Thank you!


  17. I very much appreciate your post. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of guts to post such a post in today’s society as too many have bought into the lie of the “normal” way to do things. Just like eating real food, cloth diapering, not vaccinating and homeschooling are considered alternative ways to live, not going to college has become that way as well. Too many people today blindly accept the idea that college is for everyone, while more and more adults with college degrees lack real vocational skills, goals, jobs, and even basic life skills. We have bought into the lie that college is the answer for everyone and the savior of every child. Just like there are different ways to learn and teach, why would there not be different paths to success? I am a stay at home mom with a college degree, who was a teacher, and I am homeschooling my children with the intention of teaching them first how to follow and serve the Lord, then for basic life skills, and then for knowledge and understanding of school subjects. College is a tool for those who are choosing a career that requires such an education. It is not a requirement for success and fulfillment, but a stepping stone for some. And, to foolishly choose to get into debt hoping for the possibility to one day get a job makes absolutely no sense.


  18. My dad bought his own house when he was 18 and has been working since he was 13. now he owns and is the boss of a popular auto repair shop. he didn’t go to college!


  19. My husband is From Switzerland, where they have a very highly developed apprenticeship system. College is for doctors, lawyers, scientists, etc.–not for self-exploration. He came out of his apprenticeship with an equivalent to a BA in business, no debt , and plenty of real world experience. I have a BA, which gave me some nice memories and plenty of debt. Wish I could get those tens of thousands of dollars back. This post is right on.


  20. Yes, I agree! My college years and degree (B.S. Neuroscience, while rigorous, was still not necessary for SAHM life) were NOT worth the price tag. I think this “alternative” choice will mainstream VERY quickly in the coming years, as people do the math and realize it’s not worth it. Glenn Reynolds has been warning about the “Higher Ed bubble” for years.


  21. Completely agree. My husband and I have talked about this many times. We both went to college, now he’s a plumber and I stay at home, working as a bookkeeper very minimally for the plumbing shop. Our first priority is our kids, who we plan on unschooling. They are why we chose this lifestyle. It is simple and works well for us. We are unschooling for the same reason. To provide our kids with the tine and opportunities to discover what they truly desire and make it happen. Great post.


  22. i’m glad you are enjoying homeschooling your children.
    research shows us that a college educated mother is a better and happier mother.
    mothers are models in reading, character, and delaying gratification.
    you have offered absolutely no research for these assertions.
    are they simply your opinions? studies have been done on these things–which those of us who believe in science use as guides in ife.
    anti intellectualism is the greatest evil parents can pass onto their children.


    • Linda, your rudeness is not at all appreciated.

      I’d be happy to say my children grew up to be happy, to be good people and model citizens who love the Lord. I’d be quite UNhappy for them to grow up being rude to random people on the internet….

      You’re free to choose what you want in life and what you value but you don’t have any place to tell others that they ought to believe the same things as you do. Have you not yet learned that many different lifestyles and worldviews are equally valuable, and that you ought to be accepting of others? And also that golden rule…do unto others…would you want people to speak to you in the same manner as you’ve spoken to me? Would you be proud of your child for doing it? I somehow doubt that.

      Finally, this is a blog. Not a research paper. It doesn’t require any sources, especially since, yes — this is my *opinion* based on what I see going on around me. Not everything is science, and not everything should be. Nor am I concerned about what sometimes corrupt scientists, who themselves are so interested in intellectualism that they forget how to be people, say. Not one bit.

      In the future if you speak to me or other commenters this way, it will be deleted. I don’t tolerate rudeness.


      • Hmm, I know this comment is from a while ago but Linda wasn’t rude at all! Perhaps you read her comment with the wrong tone.


    • I agree with this completely and I do not construe your comments to be rude in the least bit.


  23. College is a way to find out what you are interested in and what you prefer to avoid. Not everyone participates in the college parties. In fact parenting really comes into play here. Balancing work and play is a life skill brought into the work force regardless of your trade. If you don’t go to work, you have no money for play. If you don’t study, you get suspended. If you’re lucky enough to know where your life is going at 17 years old and it doesn’t require education then good luck but most mid life adults are still trying to figure out their happiness. So no, college shouldn’t be required but still recommended.


    • No, I disagree. College is an incredibly expensive way to “find out what you are interested in and what you prefer.” In fact, the point of the post was to explore this in other ways before you choose to attend college. Take some free online classes, do an apprenticeship or internship, get a few different jobs. There are *lots* of ways to find out what you are interested in besides paying thousands of dollars to go to college.

      I also wouldn’t even go as far as to say that college should be “recommended” across the board. If there is a child who is strongly interested in an intellectual field, then yes — recommend college to them. If there’s a child for whom academics are boring and they clearly would rather do something else — don’t recommend college to them. We need to worry more about individuals than we do about broad recommendations.


      • I have to agree with Kate here. I work with a woman whose daughter is now on year who-knows-what and is in who-knows-how-much debt because after three years at a women’s college to be a veterinarian she realized just how long it would take and how much money it would consume…so she changed her major to something nursing related and is still in school.

        Like anyone who went to public school and got decent grades, me included, it was “only natural” for her to go to college and if she “wanted to succeed” she had to have a degree.

        I think they should start saying that it’s “only natural” to be thousands of dollars in debt by the time you’re 25 and have no guarantee that you’ll find a job in your field or even want to work in your field…..

        I’m very thankful that we have midwives, doctors, law enforcement and even internet gurus that went to college but that doesn’t mean everyone’s purpose in life is higher education.

        Before we allow are children to make the decision of higher education they should be educated by the Higher One who knows what our calling is.

        College does not equal a successful life.


  24. Linda, that is a very rude comment, especially on someone’s personal blog who actually has the right to voice her own opinions about what she believes and wants to impart to her children. I am a college educated woman and my father is a college professor. I am grateful for my education, but all it really did for me is show that I can complete something in an allotted period of time and it gave me credentials of some sort to include on my resume. My success in my career had nothing to do with my college experience. I was in the top 2% of income earners for women my age, but it wasn’t due to the degree…it was a love for what I did and hard work. Science is a bogus excuse for many people who lack understanding of the big picture…it’s highly corrupted by people who have their own agendas. I am not saying that I don’t believe in Science, but I do know that Education is BIG BUSINESS. A lack of respect, lack of love and lack of compassion is really the greatest evil parents can pass onto their children. My mom, who is one of the most intelligent people I know, has no college degree and that is totally FINE.


  25. My husband and I completely agree with you on this! College is an option, not a necessity. My husband was making more before he finished his degree than after, due to a new job in a new place and the economy. If he had been encouraged to apprentice and get some experience in some possible job fields and then decide what would best prepare him for that field (be it college, trade school, apprenticeship, etc.), I believe he’d be doing exactly what he loves, right now! We were very blessed to be able to get him through college without debt, but it did take ten years and many nights and weekends of hard studying.

    Thanks so much for stepping out there and making this important point, Kate!


  26. What a gutsy piece. Our generation would not be in such a crisis of hopelessness and debt if many would take this wisdom to heart. I’m a SAHM with a graduate degree, and I don’t regret getting my education (I still use it for blogging and writing!), but it’s just not for everyone. My sister dropped out of college because it just wasn’t for her and she didn’t have any direction. Yet because of societal pressure she feels like a complete failure. It shouldn’t be that way.


  27. Interesting post, lots of food for thought. I do have to take exception with a few statements, however. The college or university experience, from everything I know about it, has little to do with drinking and partying, and everything to do with enrichment, eager learning, and incredible ideas both discovered and thought up. I’m speaking from my own personal experience, naturally, and that of my son who is studying engineering at a flagship school in North America. He and his friends (not yet 20) think that learning is fun and exciting, and they go to school every day eager to learn and experience new and wonderful things. None of them parties or goofs off. They all love what they are studying, and it shows. Of course this particular school has amazing professors who are themselves involved in cutting-edge research and discoveries, so I suppose that helps. The thing is, I think it is such a generalization to say that the college experience glorifies drinking and partying. For the serious student, who really wants to be there, this is simply not true. Right now I’m a SAHM, and I went back to school when my son was a young teen. I have almost completed my BA, and I can honestly say that the years I spent in school (in this same, flagship university) were invaluable to me, even if I don’t continue on or even decide to have a career (only the one, mostly grown son). I am a different, better, richer, deeper, far more knowledgeable person because of it. If I had young children now, I believe I would be a far more competent educator as well, should I decide to homeschool.

    Having said all this, I do agree that not everyone wants to go to college or university, and those who aren’t keen on it shouldn’t be pushed into going. The elites of our society decided that anyone worth their while needed a higher education, and anyone who didn’t have one, wasn’t worth much. I don’t share this view necessarily, but, since we are a somewhat academic and intellectual family, I always knew my son would go to university. And since I raised him with this idea, this just seemed natural to him and there was really never any question that he would go. And as it turns out, he loves it and it is absolutely right for him. But had I not impressed him from an early age that this was the best path for him, who knows if he would have gone? I have a feeling he would have, but it’s still possible he would not have.

    I guess my point in all this is, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Higher education is definitely for some, not for everyone, and not every experience is about drinking and partying. Some young adults really are keen on learning.

    I just think it’s important to present a balanced view.


  28. I agree with Jana – the ‘university experience’ is not all about ‘drinking and partying’. I went to university not really knowing what career I was going to end up with, and it was the combination of exploring different options (I started out majoring in economics, then political science, and finally got a degree in English) + extracurricular activities (such as working at the student newspaper) + meeting a wider variety of people than I had in my hometown + living away from home in a somewhat protected environment which really helped me learn about the world and grow up.

    Parents just don’t know everything – mine are smart, educated people who tried to expose me to as much as they could, but they simply couldn’t provide the depth and breadth of additional experience you can get in a university setting.

    What’s more, there were plenty of people who thought my English degree was ‘useless’, and for the first few years after graduating, I guess it kind of was. However, thanks to the internet and its endless demands for content, over the past 10 years my English degree has come to be seen as a terrific asset and gives me credibility in the work I do.

    Do I think college/university is for everyone? No – and you’re right that skilled trades are highly in demand these days. Do I think it can be a good idea even if a kid doesn’t really know what they might do with their degree in the longer term? Absolutely – most kids at 18 just don’t know enough about the world to know what they want as a career, anyway, and post-secondary education can be a way to help them find out.


    • It depends on who it is. There is a group of people for whom college is about learning — my husband and I both fell in that group. And yet, we were surrounded by people who *did* spend quite a bit of their time drinking and partying. Maybe I just went to a party school (or two), but that seemed to be a large percentage of what was going on around campus. Far more than it should have been, given what college *should* be about — education.


  29. SO glad you wrote this.

    As a university professor (and my husband is a university administrator), I can’t tell you how often we have had this very same conversation. There are _so_ many kids being shuttled through higher ed right now who have no business being there. That is not to say that we don’t think kids who want to learn shouldn’t be in college. There are those, and they absolutely should be there. And their ethnic/racial/economic background shouldn’t have anything to do with it. But the experiences of those kids, who really care about learning, are severely compromised by the scores and scores of other kids who don’t care a bit, whose sole focus is on their grades and the superficial finish line, as if, like you said, reaching that finish line is going to ensure a bright and promising future.

    This situation forces the large majority of professors (and administrators as well) to deal with students like numbers and not like unique individuals. I am taking over this semester for a professor who basically gives her (100+/section) students a list of the information they need to know on the three (non-cumulative) multiple-choice exams, has a strict attendance policy with penalties for more than a couple absences (like a prison? as if sitting in the class listening half-awake to someone talking at them is going to ensure learning), and basically requires strictly rote memorization to pass the course. This all flies in the face of most up-to-date pedagogical research on how students actually learn. But it’s the only way most professors can manage the work load that is required of them (and that isn’t even taking into account the dramatic increase in part-time professorial labor that we’ve seen as this college crisis builds). The increased demand that you speak of, accompanied by the increased pressure to lower costs, and also the scores and scores of students entering college just to get that piece of paper (with little to no interest in actually learning while attaining it) has resulted in a situation where it seems that an increasing number of courses being offered at colleges operate on this faulty pedagogical model. So much so that when students get to my courses, which actually require them to think independently and critically, assess evidence and large arrays of information to decide what is important and make conclusions (all skills that will benefit them in becoming productive citizens and leaders in our society), they (sometimes aggressively) balk at the work that I ask them to complete. I don’t lay it all out for them, I make them think and ponder, I emphasize to them that learning is hard work and learning is transformative. They don’t want any of it! They want what is easy for them (and would be easy for me too! I just refuse to compromise!) so that they can get their slip of paper.

    The crisis that is looming in American higher education needs more voices like yours. If we as a society actually valued higher ed more for what it intrinsically is worth (and I believe that that is constituted by more than just classroom experiences, of course — it’s a holistic picture of social, intellectual, physical, moral, and spiritual experiences), rather than as a requisite life-step, perhaps we as a society would fund it more appropriately and would encourage kids (and adults!) who can really benefit from and are ready for those experiences to participate — and encourage the others who aren’t at a place in their lives where they’re really into learning for the point of learning itself and for the point of developing professional expertise in college-degree-needing fields, to go on to other socially-enriching, self-affirming, family-supporting occupations.

    /RANT 🙂 Thanks for publishing this.


  30. I have mixed feelings about College, with a capital “C.” I was not home schooled, and wanted to go to college right out of high school, but was unable to afford it. I suppose it’s fortunate that I didn’t take school loans out to finish, but my life would be quite different right now if I had a degree. The trick is, with the culture we live in these days, if someone wants to get a job in corporate America, HR departments assign certain requirements to certain job roles. Before I go on, let me say that I very much agree with your comments on blue-collar workers, and agree that we need more of them, and the attitude of our culture towards them could use a shift to the positive–we can’t drive if we can’t get our cars serviced, wouldn’t have food on the table if not for farmers, etc.
    Now, I have meandered (again, I didn’t have the focus that so many folks are giving their kids now to “know” what they want to do, and recognize their calling) from job to job, and have found a field that I LOVE, and I excel at my work. However, because I do not have a degree, I cannot attain certain levels of professional “certification” that are offered in my profession (there is a national association that has several levels of recognition where folks can put alphabets behind their names), regardless of how many years of experience that I have. The job requirements read just like the certification prerequisites: must have 4-year degree, must have 5-7 years of active experience, must be able to do a headstand and walk 10 feet on hands. Okay, I threw that last on in there for yuks, but the rest of it is pretty standard. Now, I have over 15 years of experience, and I have kids coming out of college with no experience and they have NO idea how to do the job, but they will be able to apply for supervisory and management positions, while I (20+ years their senior) will not–these kids will be my boss someday, if I don’t do something to change that.
    It’s quite the rub: no matter WHAT degree I would have gotten, it would count as a degree, even if it had been in underwater basket weaving. As I have none, there is no amount of proving my ability that will change the situation, unless and until I finish my degree. As a full-time working mom, it’s a very tall task to contemplate, but I know others have had more on their plates and done it.
    I don’t say this to whine and complain about how unfair life is; rather, to suggest that if a kiddo doesn’t know what they want to do in life, don’t automatically discount going to college as a next step. Honestly, when I was 17, I wanted to be a research doctor, researching degenerative diseases. Knowing what I know now, if I HAD gone that route, I’d either be contributing to the epidemic of what I call Big Pharma Insanity, or trying to find a way to make a living doing something else, because the industry is generally not very trustworthy and I wouldn’t want to be a part of it once I realized that–what a waste of a college education that would have been! I enjoy reading this blog, and numerous other natural-healing blogs as a hobby, and certainly love all things “real” health, but I can’t imagine leaving the job and the work that I do now, and I would certainly not be doing this if I had become an MD.
    ALL that to say, there are alternatives, and things that will help kids decide if they even want to do college. I am enrolled in a program that will help me get my fully-accredited degree, called CollegePlus. It works for high school kids (especially works well for homeschooled kids), where they can earn college credits while in high school (dual-credit), and save those credits for later, or apply them immediately to a college and get their degree 2 years earlier than their peers. There is a book called Accelerated Distance Learning by Brad Voeller that explains lots of options to get transferable college credits that can be applied now (or later!) to a degree. I highly recommend this book to anyone that has kids that might be entering college in the next few years, or are already in college, and also for adults like myself, who want to finish what they started in order to take their current careers to the next step. It encourages young folks to have some adventures to see what life might look like, to learn what they may and may not like to do, before heading straight off to college.
    For the record, by going the CollegePlus route, I will probably finish my degree in 1 to 1 1/2 years, and for significantly less than a typical college education–probably less than $10,000 TOTAL. And no, I do not work for CollegePlus and I’m not getting paid to tout them, I’m just TOTALLY sold on the Christian-based program!
    This was a great post to get people thinking–you always pick such great topics, Kate!


  31. I kept meaning to comment on this but forgot, so sorry to be late to the party! Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly. I think that common sense and a desire to learn and ability to problem-solve are a lot more useful than most degrees. I live in a college town and am surrounded by “students” almost constantly. I’m not impressed with their attitude towards education or anything else, really.
    In some ways I can see how college can be useful- my husband works for an IT company and is one of the most valued employees. He learns super fast, rarely misses work, and is honest, and has learned on-the-job to do new tasks that no one else there can perform. But, he is paid less than other employees who don’t have a good work ethic, who come in late drunk, and don’t have all of the capabilities that he has…because he doesn’t have a degree and they do. So although he didn’t miss out on college from an educational standpoint, he would make more if he had a degree, but since his field changes so often, he probably wouldn’t even have gotten a degree in what he’s doing now! So it’s a catch-22.
    I got a scholarship for an Associates Degree and that was great for me. I spend my life learning things that I want to learn, not what a degree would have me learn. And I’ve always had a good enough job.


    • _”I think that common sense and a desire to learn and ability to problem-solve are a lot more useful than most degrees”_

      Yesssss…. I’m amazed sometimes at how uneducated many of my colleagues are, lacking professionalism, lacking basic writing skills (and spelling!), yet they have letters after their names. Some of them can’t problem-solve themselves out of a paper bag. What exactly did they even LEARN while in college?!


  32. This post is right-on. It’s become a little out of hand. People say you need a degree. Why? Because, you just do. It’s become so common that they’re now putting a degree as a requirement for jobs that 20 years ago was filled just fine with people with high school diplomas. I have to admit, I thought my dad was a little nutso when he refused to send me to college until I had a concrete decision on what I wanted to do. “But Dad, everyone goes to college not knowing what they want to do!” It was true, but I’m glad my dad did that. In his country, in HS you were already taking courses towards your chosen profession, and college was just an extension of that. Here in the US, college has become an extension of HS, for so many. I ended up never going to college. I have yet to really feel like it’s held me back in some way. My husband went to college for an assoc. degree because his dad said it’s the proper thing to do, but he needed to work full time, so school was part-time. We’re still paying off his $30,000 student loans that got him nothing but a piece of paper. No more money in his field, no promotions… just debt.


  33. I had my 17 year old high school senior read this. She has wanted to be a teacher ever since she was 4. Obviously, she needs to go to college to become certified, but I wanted her to read this to gain a different perspective and to read the comments about paying back loans. Thankfully she has a year of college basics already covered through AP classes.

    I’ve encouraged my kids to develop skills that suit their interests from which they can earn money. One daughter tutors, the other is working toward becoming a piano teacher. They can use these better-than-minimum-wage paying skills to help pay for college or use them later when they are moms.


  34. I agree. I think, especially with the cost going up so drastically, that college is not necessary. There’s a large amount of college graduates, even those with jobs, who are not using their degrees. We are saving for our children, if they choose someday to attend college … or maybe to help pay for a wedding or a house or a car. It’s impossible, however, to convince my MIL that college is not necessary to a happy and fulfilled life. I also personally think that, in the coming generation, we’ll see less of a push for a college degree and, hopefully, more of a push back towards internships and apprenticeships.


  35. Very well-writen! I totally agree with you. Many of the people I know who went to school wasted money just to drop out early, or worse, never even use their degree after spending the full price! You only need your degree if you plan to get a job that pays enough to pay back the money spent on your degree, AND if you need the knowledge.
    But I do have to say, having a degree does help ME, and a lot of companies hire only people with degrees for jobs that may not need degrees just because everyone has one now and they CAN be picky. Sometimes I’d argue that the person without the degree may be more qualified, but it’s all about how you look on paper.


  36. Thank you for always sharing the hard things – I really appreciate it. This is well-said!

    Neither my husband or I finished college and I feel *complete* in my traditional role as homemaker and mom (and in the future: homeschooler).

    My husband creates his own path and although we don’t have formal schooling – we regularly grow and expand our knowledge to improve out lives.

    31 Days to Living a More Intentional Life


  37. […] studies show homeschoolers in general are highly successful in higher education.)  But remember, kids don’t *have* to go to college to be successful.  And with unschooling, a child who knows that college isn’t for him/her can pursue other […]


  38. Odd, I shared this, but it didn’t come up on my page.

    I’m a victim of this, though not in a way one might think… I wasn’t pressured to go to University… but I did end up pushed into programs I didn’t want and I flunked community college the first time around.

    To be a SAHM, you need to find a partner who is working and willing to do that. I’m lucky to have found that now… but I’ll be 34 the end of March. Like others have said, if something happens to the husband… it is good to have something to fall back on. Same goes if you cannot find a husband at all, let alone one willing to do that. It’s because of this kind of thing that I have dated guys who wanted to wait a long time (or were already done in the case of divorce) to build a family. I’ve always wanted to be a SAHM, maybe take in some kids, and a family resource centre/drop in play group/care focusing on attachment parenting and natural birth, etc. is also quite appealing to me.

    I certainly don’t regret my early childhood education training. The web design & digital publishing diplomas prior to that assisted me in landing a tech support position with Sun Microsystems (also with the help of my former boyfriend), then onto Bell Canada, then I moved here to pursue the ECE diploma, which has helped me learn a lot, as well as realize that overall institutional day care does not fit in my philosophies of child care.


  39. While this is months after the original post, I must make a comment about not needing college if your heart’s desire is to be a stay at home mom. That was my heart’s desire. I went to a small Christian, liberal arts college and studied elementary education. However, God’s plan for me was that I would not get married until 35 and then struggle with infertility for four years. Prior to marriage I even got a graduate degree in education. All to say that there is no guarantee that marriage or kids is in the future just because a girl desires that. I know way too many single women who want marriage and kids, but God isn’t answering their prayers. Single women must be able to support themselves according to what God is calling them to, which may not be marriage and family in their early 20s. I’ve also seen way too many women married to Christian men have their husband leave them and others get widowed. My mom married young, was without a college degree, and ended up as a single mom most of my growing up with no marketable skills. We lived below the poverty line and used food stamps. Childcare was more expensive than earning minimum wage. This topic isn’t so cut and dry for girls who just want to be a stay at home mom.


    • I think what we can take from this is that you should live for the life you have, not the life you want or might have. If you are in your late teens or early 20s with n marriage prospects, you do what you need to to take care of yourself. Should your husband die or leave you, then you deal with that. I do not think it is wise to try to prepare for all eventualities; you’ll drive yourself crazy. It’s also unwise to refuse to get a job because you’re hoping tomorrow you’ll meet Mr. Right. Live for where you are.


      • Live for where you are, but also prepare for the future. You don’t have to prepare for “all eventualities,” but being able to support yourself and have a marketable skill is a pretty big piece of the puzzle to leave empty just because you have a prospective husband at 18. (Why we are pushing so many young girls into the huge life decision of marriage–a decision bigger than choosing a college major– at that age is beyond me). Many jobs require a bachelor’s degree, even if it isn’t in your major. So if something happens to your husband and you need to get a job as a secretary, certain types of sales (like jewelery), manager of a store or restaurant, etc., to support your family, you can’t do that without a bachelor’s degree. My degree is not in any of those things, but it qualifies me for those jobs. It is unwise to marry off our daughters if they have nothing beyond a high school education.


  40. I absolutely love this post! I taught high school for years and believe without a shadow of a doubt that public education is a broken system. This is why we decided for me to quit my job & homeschool. I agree whole heartedly about college! We will nurture our kids post school plan based on their personality, interests, and the career path they choose. I spent 6 years in college getting a Master’s in Special Ed and never made over $38,000. My husband, on the other hand, did not and makes double what I did. College is no linger needed for someone to be successful in life.


  41. Absolutely! I wish desperately I could sell my degree back. The experience was “fun”, but not nearly worth the cost.


  42. Amen! Thank you! Its sad that our kids are being lied too….College is NOT the answer for everyone! My 2 oldest, NOT, my 3rd YES, God has gifted her with a love for teaching, she just graduated with a teaching degree and will teach at a Christian school. Child #4… who knows! 🙂 and it is OK!


  43. For the most part agree with your article. However, what’s wrong with Jeopardy? Not asking to be antagonistic, just genuinely want to know what you take issue with…


  44. Great post! I often find that I am considered heretical when I suggest this same thing (particularly where both my husband and I have fancy degrees), but you are absolutely right that college shouldn’t be the ultimate goal– or entryway– to a fulfilling life. ~Kerry


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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