We talked to the one of the most vocal college skeptics in a growing national debate about the value of a degree.
Penelope Trunk, author of Brazen Careerist and widely syndicatedguru, estimates that 85% of college students are wasting their time and money on getting a degree.
Please take this estimate with a grain of salt, as most experts will still tell most students to go to college. Trunk's reasoning is certainly provocative, however, and it may be coming into the mainstream as more students are finally deciding to pass on college.
Trunk says you should skip college unless you're really great at school or got accepted into a top ten school. Instead "you should just go to work."
In her recent article published on LinkedIn, Trunk advises young people to re-think college and focus on internships, saying that anyone can teach themselves the skills needed to be successful. She gives the example of an MIT program that gave iPads to illiterate kids in Ethiopia who then were able to teach themselves how to use it, program it and read it in English without a teacher or curriculum.
With college costing more than ever, getting a degree may actually limit your career choices.
“How do you make those loan payments? There are like five career paths for you if you take out a $100,000 loan,” Trunk says, while “if you don't take out any loans, then the whole world is opened to you.”
And then there's the question of time.
“We’re not debating if you should be taking out loans ... we know that’s a bad idea ... we’re asking, ‘Is it worth your time?’” Trunk says.
Trunk also says that college does not provide significant leadership or managerial skills development, arguing that people either have these skills or they don't.
“Every Fortune 500 company will give you a Myers-Briggs personality test now to see if you're capable of becoming a leader at their company” she says.
So what should young people be doing to launch their careers if they're not going to college? Trunk says they should be working in internships at an early age, because “the best path to a good job is a bunch of great internships,” and if you get a head start in high school, you can take advantage of living with your parents while working an unpaid internship. By the time you get to “college age,” you'll have the experience to work in an industry you want — and get paid for it, but “you can’t take this route if you have no work experience when you graduate college. It’s too late.”
So should 85% of students skip college, causing the high education system to plunge into bankruptcy?
Let's hope schools find a way to evolve so it doesn't come to that. If our education system doesn't evolve in a way that teaches more students how to think like innovators and disruptors, would-be college grads may be better off jumping into the global workforce right away.