Posted By

Cory Jackson's picture

Ubind Now

May 24 2013
Owning the Railroad

A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education he may steal the whole railroad.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

In the day of Theodore Roosevelt it was viewed that there was nothing more important to the success of a person’s future than a university education. With today’s rising college debt the age of higher education feels to be in the cusp of a cross roads.  Using technology as a catalyst learning a new skill is as easy as typing a search in Google or watching the latest video of the subject on YouTube. The new universe that is the internet, along with the new issues facing American’s middle class, is challenging the validity of a college education.  Current unemployment (7.8) has saturated the market with a more experienced work force for current college graduates to compete with in the hunt for jobs. It is critical for employers to start building a workforce for the future, but with current economic setbacks it is hard for an employer to take youth over experience. So when faced with the decision to go to college or not it is easy to see why students might opt to find another option that will yield them practical work experience.

Everyday a new start up breaks through and becomes the next hot thing.  Even though bubbles are made to burst, some would argue that it is more valuable to come up with an idea and invest money saved or borrowed in building that idea, than to spend that money on an education at one of the nation’s top universities. This thought is the new wave that is stimulating growth in America today. There are thousands of young teens learning how to develop programs and apps. These enterprising teenagers are not only the developers, but they are the managers and owners of large scale projects that are turning over millions of dollars in revenue.  With more and more business tycoons like Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks)  giving students start up resources for business ventures rather than giving  scholarships for students to attend a Harvard or Yale, the ideal of how to produce a successful educated  work force is truly at a divide.

The bottom line of attending college is to gain knowledge to create wealth for one’s self. Is there a necessity for a student to go to college when using money saved for his/her education can be a seed into fueling their own enterprise? There are many debates over this issue, but there has to be a justification of the rising cost of colleges. The root of the problem could be inflation, the rise of foreign currency over the dollar, or politics as it relates to student loan debt.  The problem with the cost of college is indeed a mixture of all socio economic issues previously listed, but the main problem in the justification of cost is innovation. If colleges are soliciting higher funds in exchange for attendance they have to give students just as much in return.  This means international, technical, and corporate dots need to be connected with a guarantee that an education gained will yield value.

Life in the capitalistic United States of America is all about return on investment (ROI). Are students gaining the same ROI on an education as those in the day of Teddy? The answer to the question can be yes and no.  It all depends on the student’s choice of major and mind set towards going to college. It is proven that some majors yield higher ROIs than others, but if a university education is to stay relevant in the technology age, they cannot continue to give students the education needed to own a rail road.   In some ways colleges have dropped the ball in improving and implementing practices to help students thrive and innovate in today’s flat world.  If America’s universities continue to serve their students with skills taught under the traditions of Teddy Roosevelt’s day, the need for a university education may very well become a thing of the past.   As the world pushes to become more connected, and students become savvier in their quest for knowledge the value of knowledge gained will be in a market that will be ruled by ROI.  Knowledge gained through practical use is always in high demand. If students can gain the functional knowledge needed through the diligence of their own drive, imagination, and savings the need to walk on a college campus may soon be in its last days.

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