The cost of college tuition has risen faster than nearly any other good or service in America for more than three decades. A bachelor’s degree at New York University, the most expensive university in the country, will now set you back $244,000.
The average student loan borrower pays much less but still walks away almost $27,000 in debt for an undergraduate degree. Student loan debt has outpaced credit card debt in this country, and the percentage of people who default on their loans after just three years just rose to 13%.
Mid-level skilled clerical and managerial jobs, the kind that our industrial-era education system was optimized to prepare workers for, have disappeared overseas or are increasingly handled by software. You need a specialized set of higher-order thinking skills, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, creativity, design thinking, a sense of humor, and a killer social-media profile to compete in the job market today. The problem is, you can’t rely on developing most, or even many, of these qualities from a traditional college syllabus.
Kio Stark, who has a background in interactive advertising and also teaches at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, published an ebook last year titled Don’t Go Back to School. She interviewed more than a hundred successful independent learners who had either dropped out of college or had skipped grad school to instead do what they loved to do—whether it was computer programming, writing, business, acting, fine art, journalism, or even philosophy. “A lot of the people I spoke to felt that they had no autonomy over what they were learning in college. They were taking tests rather than getting to do more independent thinking,” she says.