Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Agree to dis-degree ...

Here's the question of the day.

What's the relative value of a college degree?

Are all degrees equal? Does just having slogged through four-plus years of General Studies *somewhere* have equivalent value to having a degree in Worked-My-Ass-Off-ology at a so-called prestigious institution?

Can you successfully complete a college degree and still have very little substance to offer?

Mathematically, my Mount Holyoke degree is worth about $125k -- and that's not taking interest on student loans into account. Philosophically, my Mount Holyoke education is invaluable -- priceless, as it were. 

But in terms of either social cache or personal merit or she-makes-good-dinner-conversation-ability, what's a bachelor's degree worth?

Twice as much as an associate's?
Two-thirds as much as a Master's?

The mind boggles. 


cmk said...

This is an interesting question, but I think (and clearly I'm biased) that our degrees from MHC are worth more than those from StateU, in general, non-monetary terms. It's not about the impact they make on the average joe, but in the networking possibilities when it comes time to find a job. People who graduate from a women's college, whether ours or another, are more likely to hire us. Perhaps it's the same with StateU, but I get the feeling not. In addition, whether it's fair or not, people do put more worth on our degrees from a famous institution. In general. Though I do have a colleague who thinks that there's going to be an eventual backlash against the Ivys for the reason that they reject far more applicants than they accept, that when people who went to StateU instead get into positions where they can hire, they will be more likely to see the Yalie in the pile and say "screw you" to them because Yale rejected them all those years ago.

On the other hand, I think one can totally get a bachelor's and be the most boring person on earth and vice versa, be a totally interesting person with no degree whatsoever.

Erin said...

Personally, I don't think it's where the degree is from (although, I do recognize that favoritism exists) or even how a person uses it.

I think that college is invaluable as an experience as a whole. It shapes young adults into the people they will become, creates lifelong learners (wasn't "we learn not for school, but for life" the quote on the MHC bookstore bag?), and it allows for common experiences to be shared. Most people who went to college can share blowing off class to enjoy the first warm spring afternoon (or enjoying it after class is over for the more responsible ones). The important factor though is the community that is shared. The college experience allows to experience life with others -- the roommates you stay up with all night talking about TV shows, the freaking out over the first huge phone bill that you have to pay, makign the world's greatest CD of misheard lyrics songs, and the "oh shit! you mean I'm actually able to make my own decisions?" Whithout those experiences, I would not be the person I am today. And I find that those experiences connect me with others who had similar experiences at their own universites/colleges.

It's not to say that people cannot be successful and wonderful and amazing people without a college degree, because those people are out there changign our world too, but I think that the college experience is extremely important and valuable. I do not believe that I'm any better than a non-college grad, I just have different experiences that aren't always relatable. And that can sometimes make things challenging.

But really in the end, kho, it's up to you and your heart.