With the extremely high cost of higher education and the financial uncertainty of the modern job market, it seems only fair to me that college classes should be rated for their content in relation to how well the class was taught and how effectively students are able to put their acquired knowledge to use. As a consumer, I would personally like to get a refund on several college classes for which I paid dearly. I returned to school in 2005 to learn to be a technical writer. I did not finish my degree plan (I have 6 classes left to complete to earn my degree) because I started getting hired for technical writing jobs before I finished my degree.
It was a difficult decision to forgo degree completion for the sake of gaining job experience, but I felt it was necessary. While working on my degree, I was watching my fellow students graduate and unsuccessfully pursue careers in their chosen field. They were dismayed to discover that potential employers expected them to have job experience in addition to a sheepskin. In the case of one of my fellow students who shared my major of technical communication, she had put herself through school by working as a maid at a local hotel. The fact that she spent four years in that hotel maid position actually hurt her chances of obtaining a job as a technical writer. Now, six years later, she has never held a job as a technical writer. She is an administrative assistant at a photography studio. Nor has she attained the salary she hoped to earn. Her situation is not unique. After watching this happen to several of my fellow students, I decided to post my resume on the internet in hopes of getting my feet wet in the technical writing field. It backfired, pleasantly so. With the exception of a brief stint as an administrative assistant for a doctor, I have been working steadily in the technical writing field since 2008. I have delayed finishing my degree due to the demands of my technical writing career, family, and financial commitments.
I am now having serious doubts about returning to finish my degree at all. I am still paying down my student loans and am loathe to incur more university tuition debt. I am also loathe to pay to further a degree plan that didn’t prepare me for the current overly competitive job market. The technical and professional writing courses that I took in college did NOT in any way prepare me to do my present job. I have learned the skills necessary to succeed in my field by good old fashioned OJT, professional networking, and self-study. Another reason I may not finish my degree is that I am at this time learning to be a software developer, and I am not paying one thin dime for my training.
There’s a dirty little secret that the higher education establishment does not want the average student consumer to know. Knowledge is now free. With the exception of certain careers such as medicine, law, etc., all a student needs to learn the skills necessary to succeed in a chosen field is a reliable internet connection. Some very reputable universities now offer entire semesters worth of video classes at no cost. All the self-motivated student needs is self-discipline, the ability to network in their chosen field, time to dedicate to self-study, and GANAS.
What changed my mind? It was a lot of things which I will enumerate in this post. I’ll start with Eddie, a software developer who earns a six figure salary. We went through our company’s week-long employee orientation together. He shared with me that he had been incurring tremendous debt for education and living expenses when he was a student at the University of California at San Francisco. He chose to put what he learned in his beginning computer science and programming classe to use when he got tired of working as a waiter. He didn’t have any practical experience in writing code, but he was quickly developing a passion for it. More and more, he was putting in all-nighters to practice his code writing skills. Eddie had the chutzpah to get on the internet and find entry-level programming contract positions. It didn’t take long for him to gain the experience he needed to command an ever increasingly competitive salary. It also didn’t take long for him to decide that the traditional education he was pursuing was no longer necessary, nor was it a cost efficient way to spend his time. He was more successful at self-study and networking. I asked him if he planned to return to finish his degree. He answered a flat and emphatic NO. To quote Eddie, “What for? I’m earning a great living doing what I love, and I’m actually more fulfilled knowing that I taught myself. Granted, UCSF provided me with a start, but it wasn’t a free start. It was an expensive start, so no, I will not finish my degree.” Way to go Eddie.
TO BE CONTINUED….