Why ‘Free College’ Is a Terrible Idea

Why ‘Free College’ Is a Terrible Idea


Since he was a kid, Michael Gamez wanted to work on cars just like his dad and his grandfather. He fixed up and sold his first used car when he was fourteen. It felt really good to build something up and sell it for a profit. The fact that I was able to do something like that, which was kind of like, ok you know, I know what I’m doing, this is what I want to do. But Gamez’s teachers conditioned him to believe that he needed to go to college. They kind of just thought that my dream of being a mechanic was kind of like one of those childhood dreams, they kind of thought that a mechanic wasn’t a successful job, they thought it was kind of like a lower-class job. So he enrolled at UC Irvine with a plan to major in mechanical engineering. During his sophomore year Gamez dropped out because he realized he wasn’t on the path he wanted. So I talked to my counselors, talked to my directors, I even talked to the president of UC Irvine, I talked to every single person I could to simply want to stay at UC Irvine and do what I wanted to do. At the end of the day it was kind of like, you don’t belong here. Public colleges and Universities should be tuition free and debt free for all Americans. Make college universally available with free tuition and fees. Several Democratic presidential candidates have promised that if elected, they’ll make public college tuition free and wipe clear federal student loan debt, which in the U.S. tops of 1.5 trillion dollars. They say that making college universal will lead to higher productivity and more economic opportunity, for people like Michael Gamez. If you make College free, then there’s gonna be so many BA’s floating around that if you want to get a better job then you’re gonna need to go and get some supplemental degree. Bryan Caplan is an economist at George Mason University who’s skeptical that professors like him have much to offer most students. His book is called The Case Against Education. We’re spending too much time and money on education because most of what you learn in school you will never use after the final exam. We like to pretend otherwise but really if you just calmly compare what we’re studying to what we really do the connection is shockingly weak. Caplan says that most people attend college as a way to signal to prospective employers that they’re reasonably intelligent, conscientious, and conformist. The signaling story is mostly that our society says that you’re supposed to graduate, and if you’re supposed to graduate, then the failure to graduate signals nonconformity. So if you want people to treat you well, you better go and conform. If you remember what it’s like to be a student, you have to jump through an endless series of seemingly meaningless, arbitrary, unfair hoops. And people that are willing to just bite their tongues and suffer through it, are the ones who are also going to be good at doing that once they get a job. Caplan’s case rests partly on the so-called sheepskin effect. Named for the sheepskin upon which diplomas were once printed. Studies of college graduates earnings reveal that the salary increase for completing the final year of college, is on average more than double that of completing all three of the previous years, implying it’s the fortitude to obtain the degree, not the knowledge gained that explains the boost in compensation. The human capital view says that basically all of what’s going on in schools they are pouring useful skills into you they are preparing you for whatever job it is that you are going to get. What I’m saying is that the main payoff you’re getting from school is that you’re getting certified, you’re getting stamped, getting what you need to convince employers that you are a good bet. We are helping our individual participants build a very strong signal for themselves. As opposed to relying on you know, a third party large institution. Praxis combines a professional bootcamp with a paid apprenticeship. Cameron Sorsby is the CEO of Praxis, a professional training program trying to offer an alternative to four-year university. The way I would describe our curriculum development process now is everything is market driven. We’re constantly learning what hiring managers need to see in order to feel confident that they should hire any individual participant. They’re really good about shifting you from the mindset of you’re doing this for a grade, or you’re doing this to get approval. They put all of the weight on you. Like what is your definition of success. Leah Wilczewski enrolled in Praxis one year program focusing on communication, marketing and other jobs. It costs $12,000 but included a six-month paid apprenticeship worth $16,000 meaning she’ll finish the program $4,000 in the black. Wilczewski is working at Impossible Foods the Bay Area company that sells a meatless hamburger. I feel as if being in Praxis and being able to nail a job that typically requires four years of school if not more, and knowing that there’s a whole line of people who applied for the same job and being able to nail that at only twenty-one and without that business college degree, it’s like okay, with that knowledge, what else can I do? After Michael Gamez dropped out of UC Irvine, he enrolled in an auto mechanic trade school, while also working a job at Pep Boys. Then he applied for and received a $12,400 scholarship from Mike Rowe Works, which looks for two qualities from applicants who were looking to enter the skilled trades: the willingness to learn a useful skill, and the willingness to work your ass off. Combined we think that is something that ought to be affirmatively rewarded. From there, he entered a three-month training program with BMW and the day after finishing, began his job as a high level technician at BMW of Beverly Hills. I get excited to go to work because it’s something that I really like to do. So I feel like a lot of people, they get surprised when I tell them the amount of money that a mechanic or a technician can make at a dealership. They’re like really? You guys make that much money? I’m like, yeah. So I feel like there’s always this idea that if you don’t go to college, you don’t get a degree, you won’t make a lot of money. I think that’s wrong. It’s kind of where you put yourself. Even though it’s possible to acquire the necessary skills to make a good living without attending college, enrollment at four-year universities has stayed steady for the past ten years. Caplan remains skeptical that it will decline anytime soon. So I think things are gonna stay about the way they are. When you have that kind of free money coming from people that are not actually paying out of their own pockets that tends to freeze the world of in place. Maybe, maybe not, college has a place for, you know the average student going forward, but I think what’s most important is that people are just starting to question and starting to think more critically. What I’d like to see most is for young people to have more access to early professional opportunity because I think gaining that early experience is the best way to learn what you do and and do not want to pursue. As for with Wilczewski and Gamez, she has two more months left in her apprenticeship and hopes that Impossible Foods will keep her on in the sales department. And Gamez hopes that working for BMW is a first step toward eventually owning his own shop. One day you will see me in my own shop and they’re like oh yeah ha, whatever. And I’m like, no you really will. And the day that I invite you to my shop, then you’ll see.

100 Comments on "Why ‘Free College’ Is a Terrible Idea"


  1. Companies should train their employees… Not make universities do the training. Honestly everyone attending university is ruining academia. I've learned as much or more since graduating with a good reading habit and self study in my free time.

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  2. Politicians pushing 'free college for all' not only ignore that not everyone is not a good fit for college, but they NEVER suggest how it will be paid for.

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  3. Counter argument: you are at college to receive an education, not just a particular skill. Reading, writing (!!!!), critical thinking, problem solving, and communication, are a few important things most college students learn how to do in general education courses.

    Being a well rounded, competent, intelligent person is just as important in the business world as learning a specific skillset, like finance or accounting

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  4. "Free" college is just a bailout for another failing industry. It would do nothing about universities overcharging for tuition, in fact it would get much worse and then we would all have to pay for it.

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  5. "We're spending too much time and money on education." Sounds like you're just spending the time and money the wrong way, which is a polite manner of saying you're a terrible teacher.

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  6. The only valuable part of a college education vs a youtube education is the piece of paper you get at the end of college that employers view as an official sign of the type of person you are and that you could at least learn something for long enough to take tests. I believe that most information should be freely available, and with the internet that is already a thing. In fact youtube itself already has enough college professor lectures to present all of the information you would get by going to the physical class anyway. What then needs to exist is just the administration of tests, grading, and the widespread recognition of this path's viability to generate the type of people that regular diploma's signal. All of which can be done online.
    Somebody please start this business and become a millionaire already.

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  7. As a former college employee, I can attest with certainty, that the markup on necessary textbooks and material is monopolistic and casts a dark shadow on how good Capitalism can be.

    In addition, college executives do not deserve half-million dollar salaries, and presidents multi-million dollar ones. If executive wages (whose positions are almost purely nepotistic anyhow), were cut by merely 5-15%, college tuition could drop to ideally manageable levels.

    The problem is that colleges are run like Gilded Age companies. We do not need some socialist revolution like Bernie Sanders would like you to think, their greed needs to be parried by anti-trust lawsuits, for the benefit of their customers, AKA the students. The beauty of trust-busting is to stop any oligarch or oligarchs from controlling an entire industry, whether that be oil, steel, transportation, technology, or in this case, college degrees.

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  8. English major here.

    The university system was created to teach literacy, history, and theology. It was a way to further your own understanding by being surrounded by scholars who understood. They were places of study and research. "Academic."

    The idea that this evolved into a way of getting a job is interesting. Personally, I think colleges should stick to the academics and arts, then maybe have sister colleges that teach STEM fields. Academia is a noble pursuit, but it should not carry the expectation of a job.

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  9. If you want to be a car mechanic, and don't plan on going into car design at VW, Ford, Tesla or Toyota, then plainly you don't need BA. Just the trade school should suffice. And yes, you can get work in a nice service car shop. And have a place of your own eventually. This is not what Universities are for.

    Anyway – the thing about free education is about removing barriers. Not necessarily Universities, but any/all education. Not "forcing" people either into Universities or trade schools. But not stopping them just because they cannot afford them. It will not fix everything, but for society at large, maybe it is worth it.

    The problem is not free/paid/overpaid but quality education for those that will benefit from it.

    Side notes:
    Let's not forget that not all Universities are same. Why they make a difference? Example: a properly educated coder is worlds ahead of only self-taught, quite efficient, but limited coder. There is more to coding than just knowing languages (even many).

    Meanwhile this vid looks a bit like a shill for Praxis. I don't argue they are not worth anything, but this is still more like an ad.

    And about working your ass off – that's conformity to the greed driven business model.
    If you think I support slacking etc., you miss the point.

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  10. just look at how well public schools are doing thanks to making them fully government funded…colleges are already nothing but indoctrination centers and now we're asking the government, who already can't afford the ridiculous things we pay for, to also pay for EVERYONE'S college? #givemeabreak

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  11. Free post secondary is a good idea, but not on-demand (i.e. compete for limited spaces) and strictly limiting the number of free "grievance studies" spaces. And of course free trades traing too.

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  12. The Libertarian Party is at it again. Bitching about free college when two UConn students have been arrested in the grossest violation of the 1st Amendment I've ever seen in my life. Tell me, 'Libertarians'; why don't you all care more about stopping tax increases than our vanishing 1st and 2nd Amendment rights? I'm starting to think its because you guys don't really care about human rights and personal liberty. All you really care about is the rights of corporations.

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  13. Your first job will be “good” but how much upward mobility do you have compared to someone in the same industry who has a masters degree?

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  14. I ❤ the college experience of learning new things and meeting awesome people. BTW the mechanic who got a scholarship got a free education. Time will tell how good a business man he is sans a business degree. Most businesses fail for lack of knowledge of managing ur resources. I thank God everyday for every degree I earned not for the sheepskin but the skills I acquired which is basically what education is all about.🎈

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  15. And the mechanic makes a lot more money than the teachers who told him to go to Uni like they did. I should know; I'm a teacher.

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  16. While I definitely agree we shouldn’t have “free” college, I think this video is 10 years behind. I think people are a lot more accepting of trade schools and apprenticeships.

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  17. So the argument isn't anything to do with college being free, it's that college itself isn't for everyone. I think even most liberals would agree with that.

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  18. I hardly ever use anything I learned in college, and I didn't even attend any classes ending in the word studies.

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  19. University has become or is becoming just 4 more years of grade school and we all know how well K-12 has prepared us for a world outside of our folk's house. "Free college" is just encouraging that and going to make it worse.

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  20. This video just shows me that the US education system is the problem not the idea of it being free.
    In Australia it's basically free (we pay it off with our personal taxes when we get a job) and a university degree is specifically about getting ready for the job and continously training for the future.

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  21. Trade schools have come back into a positive light, and I know many high schools in my area that have a connection with one. There are plenty of students that will graduate HS with a certification in a certain field and can easily out earn many recent college graduates. This video doesn't track past Praxis students compared to a college graduate with the same training which leaves many unanswered questions. I also believe college is a good tool to explore different academic/career interests and if done well only adds more value to the degree.

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  22. Education is a lot like healthcare in that the industry prolongs unnecessary things in order to up the cost even more.

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  23. LOL BMW. They definitely need mechanics, as its a very high tech expensive auto to maintain and there are not many mechanics who can properly work on them especially outside of a dealership.
    Trade schools are the way to go for many.

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  24. I was going to a college for auto tech. But I back out at the last minute. Because tomorrow car are more confusing than 50 year ago.

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  25. Free College —> Even less diversity of ideas (in the humanities) than we have now (which isn't much).

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  26. Free College —> Even more of the nation's wealth spent on over-priced products. Rule #1 of economics = sellers set their prices largely (but not exclusively) based on what they think the buyer can pay. Individuals & families have shallow pockets. Businesses have deep pockets. And the federal government has the deepest pockets of all. In fact, the federal government is often perceived as a Money Tree. If the federal government is the buyer of post-secondary education, prices will rise astronomically . . . . . because they can (when the deepest pockets of all are paying the bills).

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  27. I feel like Australia has a fairly balanced system. University is free while you're at uni, you pay the debt back when you begin to pass a certain income threshold. The money comes directly out of your pay check and you barely notice it. It means others don't have to pay for people switching from course to course without any consideration for their direction of cost of attending uni

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  28. I was going to blast this video, because student debt is a real issue, and Bachelor's degrees are worth about $1.3m more in lifetime earnings, but then you said the magic words: that we're "stamped" and "certified," instead of actually gaining knowledge to work at higher-skilled jobs. This much I have to agree with.

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  29. I have tried to figure out for some time if some of the things that are said on this channel are malicious or meerly ignorant. maybe your point is that college is not safe bet for good job afterwards or that the focus of colleges nowadays is too wide and lacks real life application, And you would be right. Just do everyone a favor and don't cherry pick examples and try to make it seem as if any and every school dropout will end up working for BMW or some revolutionary company like Impossible foods. for once not everything is about jobs knowledge is power on its own.

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  30. Sadly the Bachelor's degree has become the new high school diploma. The other reason that 'free college' or any 'free stuff' from the government is a bad idea as people don't appreciate what they haven't earned.

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  31. Those general education requirements that universities force students to take should be sent down to high schools…

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  32. To increase the educated is to put pressure on those who cannot pay, its to put you into debt, through your early adulthood so you don't have kids, stay in a poorly payed job, no where to move and no hiecharcy so you cannot go up. Sounds like feudalism to me, no neoliberialism?
    If Dr Goodenough didn't get a way into uni, despite his parents, his dyslexia, the phone battery or the phone I'm texting this on could or may not have happened. That's how society should work. Opportunities to succeed gives everyone a chance to succeed.
    Not your a pesants stay a pesant, if your from a rich family you stay rich. The smart people are niether, pesant nor rich but rich and poor.

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  33. its also to "prove" you can see things all the way through to the end. But finishing an end table or dining room table can showcase the same thing, and takes a fraction of the time.

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  34. “Free Education“ works in every other major Country. Like Germany where i come from..when your Students dont learn stuff they need in their future Jobs. Its just another system that needs to change.
    Not a reason not to give those who are crushed under debt and really need this education.

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  35. It depends on what you're going to college for. I'm studying neuroscience right now in hopes of becoming a neuroscientist one day, i've changed degrees 3 times and took a gap year before deciding that this is what I wanted to do. For me it's not about conformity at all, for me college is the only place where I can meet other like-minded individuals with a passion for neuroscience, that are willing to teach me the methods of science and help me understand concepts in this field. So quit with the "college is bad" agenda. It all depends on your reason for going.

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  36. I probably already know this answer, BUT just to be sure

    Are Libertarians against All Public Schooling – even Elementary school?

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  37. I don't doubt that some mechanics make good money. I chose to go to college because I wanted to work while sitting, in a climate-controlled environment, moving only my fingers, and to not need a shower when I get home. Different strokes

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  38. Here's a question I have.
    Exactly how many job positions in a society require a degree, what's the percentage?
    If you have a Workforce of say a hundred million people covering every aspect from Janitorial the nuclear physicist and in this massive expanse a various types of employment how many actually require a degree. 25%, 50%, 75% because we know it can't be 100% because it doesn't take 4 years of education to know how to empty waste basket or keep a bathroom clean. Let's take the lowest end of the scale, the 25% of job positions requiring a degree. If 100% of the people get degrees and only 25% of those people are actually needed in a society, it appears to me there's a tremendous amount of wasted money and effort in higher education with the end result leading in a tremendous amount of people with their dream destroyed. No matter what the percentage there will always be a need for a higher percentage of people in trade skills and this is somehow suppressed buy those promising free college to all. The potential ramifications of this is a higher percentage of people falling into hopelessness and despair because for four years they were told they would be something more in society with that degree and they realize they have been misled. This is why the Socialist construct of free college is dangerous to the mental health of a society

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  39. The entire society rationalizes predatory behavior because it benefits them. Beware, kids. Everyone is out to get you. They really are. They are lying, and they want your money, and they don't care how they get it or whether or not it ruins your lives. I think CRISPR people need to learn how to eliminate psychopathy from the gene pool.

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  40. The state government I used to contract with the DOT requires a degree to reach any upper echelon ranks. It doesn’t have to be a bachelor’s in engineering, management, etc. One of their wigs has a degree in Art history… that’s all

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  41. Why is everyone ignoring one crucial element, everything the government funds or subsidizes decreases in quality and increases in price. It's a measurable fact.

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  42. I stand by free college tuition. Those that need a higher education but are restricted due to their lack of access to funding, should not be punished because of it, however. I disagree wholeheartedly with public schools forcing students to consider college as the only viable option for them. I'm a certified teacher myself and have ALWAYS disagreed with the strategy.

    State-run education forces students to think as employees rather than employers.

    Free college is not a bad idea. It's simply one solution to host of issues.

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  43. If it's free college for all, then will the price of college suddenly go up? I can't image Warren/Bernie forcing the tax payers to keep funding no matter the cost.

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  44. I loved college because there weren’t discipline problems. I Guarantee it becomes a continuation of high school where no one can be thrown out.

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  45. Free college is a terrible idea, this isn't going to increase productivity, this will only lead to billions of wasted money and inefficient use of resources. The demand for garbage pickers will remain even if everyone has a free college degree. Just bad economics.

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  46. Progressives like to say that European countries have free college. What they don't tell you is that you have to score very well on their secondary exit tests, and you only get to choose a few majors based on your scores. 'C' students don't get to go to college to study Waterbong Theory for 5yrs for free. The equivalent in the US is a straight 'A' student gets a scholarship to a state college and he/she can choose between between mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, or chemical engineering.

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  47. Get an AA in Business or IT at your local community college, get good at MS Excel, and you will have more job prospects and make more money than anyone with a 4 yr liberal arts degree. Ask me how I know.

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  48. I'm from Switzerland and we have pretty cheap collages. First I wanted to disagree with your statement. But after watching your video I remembered, that your school system is garbage. Them being free doesn't really make anything better, that is true.

    Here in Switzerland about 70% of all students attend an apprenticeship instead of the high school. This gives you work experience and prepares you for university, if you care to do that. Our flexibility in changing jobs and education is also very high. If the school system is good, having a cheap education only serves equality. That way poor people can also attend the best schools, if they are smart enough.

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  49. Liberals want all young people to be sent to the indoctrination centers and have the taxpayers pay for it.

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  50. Job placement for people who go to trade schools: Nearly 100%.

    Job placement for people who go to 4yr college: roughly 50%.

    College graduates earn an avg starting salary of $27,000 since 2009, versus $42,000 for trade school graduates.

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  51. "Now im gonna explain to you my really poor buddy why you shouldn´t be able to go to collegue , because its not the best for you man , can you imagine going there and then being able to get a formal and high salary job. Terrible idea right?"

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  52. Look into Venezuelas timeline after socializing medicine and school. The country lasted about a decade after that. Fact of the matter is those two programs expenses would end the US.

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  53. I agree. College is not for everyone. Also, there are a lot of classes that you don't learn much. I highly suggest taking classes using edX, Coursera, Udemy and just YouTube. It is cheaper and you learn a lot. Also, every student should be educated on the power of debt and their potential earning power. Lot of majors do not pay off…Every college student should do a cost/benefit analysis. Finally, I do disagree that everything worthless in college. I have learned so much from speaker series and just watching professors debate each other. I have also benefitted from good mentoring from great professors. In addition, I have also benefitted from good peers as well. So college is not worthless but everyone needs to be aware of the costs and benefits. Again, college is not for everyone and some people can use it for greater opportunities and for some it may not be as useful- God bless America-

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  54. College education is one of the biggest scams in the modern times. Most things taught are ever applied in real life. Honestly the only jobs that should require a degree are STEM jobs. Everything else shouldn't require a degree only experience.

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  55. After 4 year college then license.. multiple licenses and then approvals and certifications.. multiple levels of certifications then renewal of all those things. I work as a mechanic in aviation. We are more concerned with compliance than the actual job. I worked in different countries except US (for now) and I see the same story. Young people in aviation today fresh from college, complete with "engineer" title, licenses etc but no confidence and skills to do basic task in an aircraft. Now we have to teach them and most of them are not even ready nor interested.

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  56. > encourage women to get into business and education
    > education becomes nothing but a shit test

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  57. Many colleges today are offering courses and degrees that are basically worthless in the real world. Taking courses on philosophy, or socialogy and English might sound impressive but how many employers are looking for people with those degrees? In Indiana trade and technical skilled people are in high demand and can get a huge salary for the lower cost of trade or vocational college. I love archaeology but that field pays the lowest salary for the degree and making the taxpayers pay my tab is a little bit much.

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  58. It's actually worse than this in terms of hiring. Or it can be in my experience, which I doubt is uncommon. Beyond the fact college degrees also suffer form inflation, companies know what kinds of education kids are getting. As a middle-manager sometimes party to hiring, I already know we overlook a lot of graduates for jobs they are overqualified for because they are lawsuit bombs. We see this same thing with female and minority hires all the time. They aren't entirely wrong in their perception that something is standing in their way, they just think its us when its really themselves, which is what makes the obstacle so hard for them to see.

    Companies HATE lawsuits to begin with. Even when we win them, we lose. We get bad PR and our lawyers are very expensive. If we settle or lose, we invite more lawsuits along that avenue, which usually entails very expensive and ridiculous changes that have nothing to do with our business. The smartest thing we can do is avoid the problem altogether, which doesn't mean hiring brainwashed leftists who get offended at everything. It means getting creative with excuses and overly signalling our commitment to "social justice." As if we fucking care.

    We don't have the freedom to care. As evidenced by a plethora of leftist companies, leftist business models just get your ass handed to you unless you're really good at lobbying. The company I work for is, better than most Americans know, and even then this shit is not worth our time or money. We meet the quotas, pay lip service, and then "promote" whomever it is to positions where they will leave on their own or just be out of the way. Small businesses can't afford that, which serves our purposes, but doesn't make it right.

    So far, our most brilliant success is the entire "Human Resources" department, as it seems to be in many companies. They're not actually in charge of anything but paperwork compliance and serving as a canary for employees who will be trouble. Bu they get to think they're in charge of very important things like diversity programs and the like which our good employees flatly ignore.

    If you want a better job than that, or any at all, quit lowering the fucking bar on education and qualification. We don't, and we can't because there are countries not listening to any stupid socialist bullshit that we still have to compete with. They're not going to stop so the US can put a band-aid on bruised egos.

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  59. Free school will dilute the already bad college education even more than it is now. Education is important, this isn't the answer.

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  60. A hugely misleading title of this video. Should be "Why Apprentice Schools Might Be Better for You than a College". This video is populistic.

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  61. Well he went to UC Irvine, the same education as a CSU campus, but 4x the cost… Definitely could have gone to a cheaper and better university.

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