Monday, February 9, 2015

Value of Your Degree

This is a version of a lecture that I usually end up giving to the dead-eyed college students viewing math courses as nothing more than an obstacle to their eventual college degree-enabled successful life.

Education really isn't supposed to be about making more money, but no one cares about that. It is a fact that many people, possibly a majority, view a college degree as the barrier to entrance of their idea of a successful life.

To these people, the material they are asked to learn in college is nothing more than a series of hurdles that they need to bypass any which way they can. This is true for electives (where they usually at least have a choice between several classes), classes required by their major, and classes designed for their major.

But that's ignoring the entire purpose of a college degree. I'd argue that even more so than a high school diploma, a college degree is a school's promise to your future employer that you learned *all* of the material in *all* of your classes required for your degree. This is why employers don't ask to see your degree, they ask to see your transcripts.

Your transcripts are a record of every single class you took in college, and it is assumed at the college level that if you passed those classes, that means you learned the material in them.

And what separates the "prestigious" schools from the more run-of-the-mill schools is exactly the veracity of that statement.

Since the assumption is that college graduates have learned the material, when a college graduate enters a profession and they are ignorant of facts they should know or even incompetent, it lowers the value of every degree from the degree-awarding institution; its effect is largest on similar degrees, but is felt throughout the institution. I remember hearing professors question recommending students for particular graduate schools because if they recommend a student that isn't going to make it, then that graduate school won't accept any more of their students for 5-10 years.

This is why "easy" professors are not doing you any favors unless they are a very small minority of the professors at the college. Easy professors mean that students don't need to learn the material as well as they would otherwise, they enter the workforce and give a bad name to anyone else coming from their college. 

And this bad name applies to everyone from that college past, present, and future.

So what are your thoughts on the value of your degree? Note that I'm not talking about the value of your education here. Even at "bad" schools you can get a good education if you put in the work and effort yourself.

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