EdSurge Higher Ed (No. 192 | November 22 2019) posed this question: Are colleges overpromising?
Here’s more context and my response (a version of which was published in No. 193 | November 29 2019):
“If our career aspirations surpass the available opportunities, and our self-perceived talents exceed our actual talents, we are surely destined to be miserable at work, and perhaps this explains the prevalence of low employee engagement ratings despite more and more money being devoted to giving employees a consumer-like experience. The equivalent in the world of love would be if everyone aspired to date movie stars like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie: the result would be an epidemic of single people.”
—Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Becky Frankiewicz, both executives at ManpowerGroup, in an op-ed that argues colleges overpromise and set up unrealistic expectations for students
We’re curious what people think of this argument. Are colleges overpromising? Shouldn’t students aim high?
With the caveat that my experience attending college is now decades in the rear view mirror, and that my visibility into my sons’ much more recent experiences was limited, the short answer to the “Colleges over-promising?” question is no. At least, I don’t see colleges making the explicit, tactical pitch to the effect of “Come to Wonderful U, launch a wonderful career.”
More broadly, though, I think there *IS* a general “in the ether” perception that college is the golden ticket. And historically, that’s been true, at least from a lifetime earnings perspective.
In an era with much less granularity of information, the college degree was for employers the best signal going. It just wasn’t necessarily a very good signal. With at least the potential for much higher resolution around competencies that job candidates offer and that job functions require, we can do better at making an effective match. And that “better” may result in a college degree meaning less than it did in the past.
The new mantra must be “always learning.” It’s not so important where this learning comes from as it is that this learning is integrated with, valued by, and at least partly paid for by work. That no longer needs to mean beginning at age 22 with a degree (and a big stack of debt) in hand. Why not start at age 20? Or 18? And with the mindset that it will come in smaller chunks, just-in-time, and lifelong.