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8.03.2013

Is College Worth It?

With college costs on the rise and job opportunities limited, many college students face a dilemma. Is college the best option? If so, which one? Ivy League? Community college? Technical school? If not, how can they gain the skills needed to be gainfully employed? So many questions with so much riding on the answers. 

As the mom of two sons in college, I know the dilemma all too well. One son is a perpetual student who doesn't mind the idea of being cooped up with a pile of books in a dim library for the next twelve years, or whatever it takes to complete several degrees. All he lacks is the funding to do so. He might be able to get through his bachelor degree without borrowing much, but what then? What are the prospects for becoming employed?

My other son is a great student, but not a fan of school in the traditional sense. Yet, he has scholarships and grants enough to cover his freshman year at a four-year state college. So, he will go, even though the thought of being indoors for any length of time freaks him out. His passion is in something of a more mechanical nature. 

What about the student who isn't fortunate enough to receive scholarships and grants, and whose parents, like me, have nothing to offer in the realm of college funding? Is college worth it.

Book Review

These are the questions that William J. Bennett and David Wilezol ask in their book Is College Worth It? This former US Secretary of Education and a liberal arts graduate tackle the questions prospective students want to know. The book is backed by a fantastic amount of research support, and an impressive knowledge base.

The authors approach every angle of the issue and provide answers that will help today's parents and their high school students decide if college is right for them. The book includes some scenarios for students to see where they fit, along with answers after each scenario about whether college would be a smart thing for them. 

The book addresses the perception in our society that a young person without a college degree will not be able to get a job. The authors debunk some of the myths around the benefit of a diploma. They also address the growing problem of debt and the return on investment for a college degree. 

The book is not against college in any way. It is just an objective look at the decision-making process. The approach is meant to keep parents and students from making blind assumptions. 

I like the bold approach the authors take with exposing some schools that have less-than-rigorous programs that lead to a degree. They talk about slipping academic standards and programs that are so tailored to students' desires that they aren't getting much more than a piece of paper. 

They also boldly go where few dare to go when it comes to what some tenured professors really do. The authors refer to "teachers who don't teach." They explain how in some schools, professors have adjuncts, teaching assistants, and grad students who teach, while they spend their time in research. From page 137, "To attract students and research
dollars, schools feel compelled to draw star professors, the schools have to compete with one another in ways previously unknown--including paying teachers not to teach. In lieu of teaching, many professors build up their professional identifies in ever specialized and arcane ares of published scholarship. But what contributions to knowledge are being made? As it turns out, most academic work is ignored."

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has children in high school. I also recommend the students read the book as well. It's time they inform themselves before making a decision about college. Perhaps the book will help some student convince his parents that college isn't for everyone. Perhaps it will help another realize her parents were right; she ought to give college a try. 

I received this book from Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program for review purposes. I was not compensated for my review, and I was not obligated to write a favorable review. 

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