It’s easier to teach an old dog new tricks than it is to change old mindsets. Like the one that insists that all the years up to 18 are preparation for college. After that a bachelor’s degree or higher must be obtained because college is THE ONLY route to success.
This dusty way of thinking relies on old figures showing that college leads to high-earning careers. That’s true for people who become doctors, engineers, and lawyers. Oh wait, that’s not so true for lawyers now either. New law school grads can’t find jobs and their average student debt hovers close to $100, 000.
Equating college with success doesn’t take today’s realities into account. In thirty years the consumer price index has increased two-and-a-half times while the overall price to attend college has risen sixfold. Today’s students can’t simply work their way through college. This was possible back in 1970. A student could easily work 14 hours a week at a minimum wage job to pay for an education at a public institution. Today a student would have to work full time at minimum wage, leaving very little time to fit in those classes.
So students go into debt. The average graduate gets a diploma along with more than$25,000 in debt. Payments are expected to begin right after graduation or the student will begin accumulating additional interest as well as penalties and damaged credit. The pressure is on to find a job.
In the real world, grades and tests actually don’t correlate with adult accomplishments. We know there are fresher, more interesting ways to learn. Our experiences teach us to pursue success on our own terms. That has to do with crafting a life based on our passions, our integrity, and the unique vision each of us brings to the world. That’s true whether we’re lifting a hoe or a conductor’s baton.
The college highway is actually one of many roads to the future. People everywhere are finding ingenious and collaborative ways to flourish, with or without a degree. Here are some of those ways…
4. UnCollege is packed with information and advice, like “How To Learn Anything” (complete with downloadable sheets to write your own personal learning plan). UnCollege was started by Dale J. Stephens, whose book Hacking Your Education will be published next year.
5. Intern Match helps you locate paid and unpaid internships in your area of interest.
6. BackDoorJobs connects you with short-term job adventures around the world.
8. Idealistlists all sorts of internships, volunteer opportunities, and jobs.
9. Trade School is a barter-based learning space, meaning you don’t have to pay to learn.
10. Citizen Circles are small groups of people who meet to learn together, with an emphasis on collective learning and action. No fee.
11. (un)classes are casual ways to meet and learn from people in your area.
12. Skillshareis like the eBay of local education. You can learn what you want from someone in your community as well as teach others what you know. Fee.
13. P2PU is a grassroots global community working together to learn by completing tasks and providing feedback. Free.
14. School of Everything, based in theUK, connects those who want to learn with those who can share what they know. Some instructors charge for classes, others do not.
15. FreeSkoolis what participants create. Some are informal gatherings to share knowledge, others are networks brimming with activity happening in parks, living rooms, and community centers. All are devoted to learning freely.
19. Coursera pairs with top universities to offer full courses to a global network of students.
20. Khan Academy has a free and ever growing library of 3,200 videos in the sciences to humanities, along with exercises to help learners practice what they are seeing.
21. University of the People is oriented toward awarding degrees to students all over the world, using online courses and charging only an admission fee. It has accepted 1,500 students from 130 countries
22. Academic Earth offers free online classes using video lectures from leading university professors. It’s possible to sign up to earn an online degree, fee unknown.