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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Is That University Degree Really Worth It?

Many people are beginning to question the value of a University Degree. No doubt that this is being driven by a combination of the difficulty most graduates are having in finding fulfilling work in their area of interest as well as the continuing rise in the cost of education. Many are graduating only to find at best they might be lucky to get is an unpaid internship in their field of endeavour or at worst the only jobs calling them back are gig economy jobs where their education is useless. With companies automating the hiring process with AI to sort through resumes the old saying of “it’s not what you know but who you know” has never been truer and no, we don’t mean a way to buy real instagram followers. You can understand people questioning if the years spent studying were just a waste.

Even enlightened firms, particularly in the technology field, are no longer interested in your four year computer science degree. They are more concerned if you can code in the language they are using and if you have previous experience doing the type of development they are doing. The traditional model of education involving years of formal study at a prestigious institution followed by a career is being replaced by a model were the education periods are shorter and more skill oriented and they repeat constantly throughout your career as you keep your skills up to date. Young people today are entering a world where they are expected to have four or five different careers over their lifetime so to attach so much importance to a University Degree at the beginning of their career makes very little sense especially if it means starting your working life with a huge pile of debt.

Many of the people that are held up as business heroes for young people to emulate are in fact entrepreneurs that either never attended university or quit before graduating when they realised they were just wasting time they could be spending on starting a business. Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs and many others all achieved phenomenal success without graduating from University. What they lacked in formal education they more than made up for in drive, creativity and passion that let them reach the pinnacle within their chosen field. These people all achieved in highly technological businesses that people often hold up as the most important fields to study in University. 

There are still careers where there is no way around getting a degree. Medicine, Law and some financial professions still demand formal degrees and will not allow you to practice no matter how skilled you are without it. But for the vast majority of young people is that degree really worth it? You might make the case that your years studying psychology at university makes you a slightly better salesperson who is better able to understand customers motivations but was it really worth the $100,000 in debt? Could you not have got the same psychological insights from a weekend sales seminar? It is clear to see why many young people are starting to question if getting a college degree is really the smart choice.

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