The value of college education has been discussed for decades, if not centuries. This topic is interesting to the youth and adults alike. For some, it is a question of which path to choose and others think about the future of their children and the country as a whole. In her essay “Where College Fails Us,” Caroline Bird presents her opinion in this debate. She argues that college education is becoming largely unnecessary for many high school graduates. Her main points opposing college education are that the graduates cannot find jobs that correspond to their degrees and that colleges produce more specialists than there are vacancies (Bird 3). Bird also states that much information given in college can be found elsewhere (5). It can be argued that Bird cannot fully show why college education is insignificant. Rather, this essay demonstrates the failures of planning college education and research disregarding future innovation. A college education is still relevant today as it offers students the most important information in the sea of available knowledge as well as an opportunity to adapt and continue learning.
It appears that the main argument that Bird makes is that it is impossible for all college graduates to find a job in the same position. While the article’s statistics support this statement, the point itself is flawed. For example, Bird notes that most holders of a sociology degree do not work as sociologists (Bird 3). However, the profession of a sociologist as such does not exist in most fields apart from research. At the same time, many positions in business, marketing, social work, and other areas can benefit from a person with a deep knowledge of sociology (Conrad and Dunek 3; Fischer 19). Therefore, this education gives people opportunities to work in a variety of adjacent fields and apply their college-acquired knowledge. The same argument can be made for all degrees, both technical and humanitarian. Many graduates go into private enterprises, create their own companies, or go into teaching and adjacent fields without losing the value of their experience.
Moreover, as this article is more than forty years old, its arguments do not account for the changes that happened in the world of technology. Today, the education system is different in the degrees it offers and in the way it delivers information. Many professions appear every day, opening new opportunities and workplaces, and most of them require a college education to move forward in one’s career (Abel and Deitz 3). In this case, college graduates are more likely to find a higher-paying job and secure a position with potential for future growth (Tamborini et al. 1387). It should be mentioned that the earnings are still higher among college graduates than those who did not obtain a degree (Hout 383). Higher education graduates can find a better job as they possess soft skills and are experienced in learning and dealing with data (Hout 385). Thus, the value of a college degree is not only in the profession that a person acquires but also in the time and effort that is put into learning and balancing their life.
Finally, another argument that can be questioned is Bird’s claim about the availability of information. As Bird states, one does not “have to go to college to read the great books or learn about the great ideas of Western Man” (4). Instead, she claims, the issue is “how to choose among the many courses of action proposed to us” (Bird 4). While her first statement is true, especially now when the internet contains all data that one may need, the second sentence does not support it. It is not as difficult for students to choose courses from the available list as to find all necessary knowledge for a subject. Colleges are superior in providing education because they have curriculums – information that is selected, structured, and explained in order to improve the outcomes of learning (Oliver and Hyun 2). These programs are formatted to suit the future careers and students’ possible goals, and they rely on evidence. Therefore, the argument that the availability of information makes education outside of college easier cannot be supported. In contrast, by selecting the best sources and offering different courses, colleges can prepare skilled professionals.
Overall, the essay by Bird adds to the discussion about college benefits as it shows a different view of education and opens up a debate about which aspects of learning are the most important. Nevertheless, the arguments are not fully supported by recent evidence, as college degrees remain linked to better pay and career opportunities. Moreover, as the industries evolve, so do college degrees and people’s opportunities in finding jobs. Finally, the abundance of available information raises, not diminishes, the value of education. Curriculums pick out the essential parts and sources for a person not to get lost in the unending streams of data. To conclude, a college education may not be the perfect solution to all problems in the job market, and it does not always grant a chance at finding a specific job. However, it enhances one’s chances at securing a better future and allows one to concentrate on what is important in the learning path.
Abel, Jaison R., and Richard Deitz. “Do the benefits of college still outweigh the costs?” Current Issues in Economics and Finance, vol. 20, no. 3, 2014, pp. 1-11.
Bird, Caroline. “Where College Fails Us.” Signature, vol. 43, 1975, pp. 1-5.
Conrad, Clifton, and Laura Dunek. Cultivating Inquiry-Driven Learners: A College Education for the Twenty-First Century. JHU Press, 2012.
Fischer, Claude S. “Of Modernity and Public Sociology: Reflections on a Career So Far.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 46, 2020, pp. 19-35.
Hout, Michael. “Social and Economic Returns to College Education in the United States.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 38, 2012, pp. 379-400.
Oliver, Shawn L., and Eunsook Hyun. “Comprehensive Curriculum Reform in Higher Education: Collaborative Engagement of Faculty and Administrators.” Journal of Case Studies in Education, vol. 2, 2011, pp. 1-20.
Tamborini, Christopher R., et al. “Education and Lifetime Earnings in the United States.” Demography, vol. 52, no. 4, 2015, pp. 1383-1407.