Bachelor degrees and risk factors

Once again mainstream media has launched an attack on the value of the university degree.  Asking how does it financially improve the lives of degree-holders.  Labelling it a “risky investment”.  And in my opinion, placing blame on universities.

But I think we need to look more behind that so-called risky investment.

At the “advisors”, also known as parents. Perhaps we need to pin the blame on them for forcing their children to get a university degree when they may just not be destined for university.   Or for not allowing their children to explore their opportunities, perhaps “fail” at their first choice.

But maybe we also need to look at the “financial institutions”, a.k.a. our public institutions.  Like our secondary school curriculum for not providing a breadth of education.  When I was in high school I had a hard time picking my six OAC credits because I hated science and that was largely what my school offered. (I’ve since realized that I don’t hate science, it’s quite fascinating.  A teacher who’s excited about science to teach the classes makes all the difference.)

But perhaps that graduate isn’t succeeding financially because our cirriculum has set them up so to “fail”.  To not respect deadlines.  Or understand consequences.  High school teachers in Ontario can set deadlines, but they are soft.  If a student misses a deadline, the teacher must still accept and grade the assignment.

Not a very valuable lesson to learn.  Especially if that student is thinking about a career in finance.  Imagine telling your client you forget to sell his/her stocks in gold on the day when gold is set to take the biggest tumble in recent history.

And let’s look at the “investor”, the student.  Perhaps they aren’t getting the high-paying job after graduation because they have no interest.  They go into the interview with a lack of enthusiasm.  Who wants to hire a drone?  (Well I know some places….but I digress…)

Or they haven’t opened up their minds to what they really want to study.   Or do in life.  They just did what everyone else was doing or as they were told and got a university degree.

As a society, maybe we need to review the “fine print”.  That universities aren’t about getting jobs, but rather places that will open our minds to new ideas.  It’s not just about attending course lectures but also guest lectures by fascinating thinkers.  That exciting opportunities await us like extracurricular activities, research opportunities and events.  And most importantly, hanging out in the student cafes and bars, getting involved in student life may just be the best part of university.

One of the best classes I took at university was the history of the Aztecs.  Does this directly relate to a career in public relations?  Not really.  But it does open your mind to new ideas that may fuel a thirst for more knowledge and provides content for some intellectual conversations.

In a way university is a lot like travelling.  Visiting a new country to learn about another culture. See the cool sites. Try new food.  Experience another way of life.  Learn a language. Understand the people. And come back with some stories to tell and photos to share.  Is that a “risky investment”?

And so it begs the question, if a university degree is a risky investment, what’s are the risk factors of an uneducated society?

To which I leave you with a thought from a senior university administrator, “If you think education’s expensive, try ignorance!”

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