Is it time for a national college strike?

Pick the college that leaves you debt free and preps you for a job: Name it DFU Debt Free University

I’m referring to current and prospective students going on strike, not the employees of the colleges. Before going on strike, it’s essential that you have a Plan-B in place.

Here is my proposed Plan-B:

Build upon the existing system of open-source data (i.e., You Tube, MOOGS, massive online free data sources, podcasts, Khan Academy, GCF LearnFree.org, tutorials, etc.). The internet can provide the fundamental body of knowledge that’s required for mastery of subjects/topics that prep students to enter the workforce. The phrase “fake it till you make it” comes to mind.

Isn’t this what the whole liberal arts “college thing” is all about? Offering a broad based, well rounded, fundamental understanding of “the world” to prep for that “first job”.

Free (or low cost), self-teaching, self-directed, life-long learning is already underway. Visit any public library and you will observe those “bookworms” who spend their day browsing, researching and soaking up subjects of interest to them or preparing for whatever test may be on their personal horizons.

I propose formalizing this self-learning, self-actualizing process within the following superstructure:

Match those who know with those who want to know.

I envision the concept of “speed dating” where the student gets an introduction to the instructor/mentor but if the chemisty is not good, they are not “stuck” with the instructor/mentor for the rest of the semester. I envision the uber driver format of matching instructional services with marketplace comptetition including a ranking and rating of performance evaluations. Build upon the current format for matching students with tutors. I envision an instructional version of Angie’s List.

The above description may seen crass, shallow, and unprofessional to those wedded to the traditional educational format, However, it has been my experience based upon years of schooling (bachelors and masters degree) and over 40 years of work experience in a variety of careers, that one-on-one, practical problem solving interactions have been the most cost-effective and rewarding break throughs to mastering a subject and solving a problem. Botton line, we can achieve the same goal but at much less expense with campuses without walls and much lower overhead expenses. The phrase “only pay for what you need” used in an insurance compay commercial is an impetus for my proposal of this format.

If employers conduct entry level assessments as part of their hiring process and the applicant demonstrates a grasp of the philosophical and practical underpinnings of the job and the company culture/mission, this might give that employer sufficient confidence to proceed with hiring even if the applicant does not have the “sheep skin” diploma. What’s the origin of that archaic phrase anyway? What I’m proposing is to reverse the current order. Now testing is done in school when there is no particular job on the horizon. Why not have the testing (the “prove it” phase to be more accurate) conducted at the point of entry to the workplace. I’m willing to place a bet that the many of the students churned out of most of America’s colleges will not score well on these “job enrty tests”. The years of taking courses that have nothing to do with the job, the years of parties/beer bashes and sporting events will be of no assistance to them when they are knocking on the employers door.

Match those who have a passion for a subject with those who have a thirst for that subject. Theoretically, this is what colleges were designed to do with brilliant and enthusiastic professors imparting their knowledge and enthusiasm to eager young minds. In reality, all too often the teaching is farmed out to Assistant Professors and Teaching Assistants and Graduate Students (most of whom are underpaid). There are spectacular teachers in all of the aforementioned categories (from professors on down the teaching food chain). However, for the student, it’s more often a crap shoot comparable to buying a lottery ticket hoping that you have the good fortune of being matched with a quality instructor. Under my proposed format, the seeker of knowledge could shop around observing various “experts” in their field of interest and sign up with those that they feel would be most beneficial.

Match those who have ‘real world” experience with those who are considering breaking into the field. Example: Veteran cops mentoring to wanna-be cops. Some criminal justice theory and overview is ok (for this example) but tie it with practical, street level reality. Same logic and format could be applied to whatever field of interest the student might have.

Instead of having a nation of over-priced colleges churning out student’s with amorphous degrees, why not establish a nation-wide network of teacher/mentors who impart expertise to students and offer mentorship and career counselling long after the “college days”. Very few college alumni keep in touch with their professors. I’d venture to guss that a few years after graduation, they can’t recall the course they took or the names of the professor. They probably will vividly recall the names of college boyfriends and girlfriends but let’s make that the topic of an entirely different blog!

If the above described structure is implemented, I envision bumper stickers and cars rear windows sporting the following:

“Proud graduate of DFU “Debt Free University”

“Proud debt free parent of graduate of DFU…Debt Free University”

Transitioning to this debt-free, self acutalizing model of higher education with an emphasis on mentoring baked into educating, I propose that this scenario will address the systemic problem of college cost escalation. In light of the temporary (probably pandemic related pause on interest costs of student debt) forgivness of student loans, it’s important to address the longer term systemic problem. Unless this gets fixed, every future generation of students will be saddled with debt. Colleges in their current format have an insatiable appetite (fueled by government cutbacks and forgivness policies) to keep increasing college costs.

Of course, there will always be the traditional bumper stickers proudly announcing traditional colleges. It’s human nature to seek prestige, distinction and a sense of specialness. But I ask, “At what cost?” and “With what result?” “What is the Return On Investment?”. Maybe, just maybe, a national student strike will get colleges to consider making college more affordable since it’s a basic law of economics that as demand decreases, prices will decline. Let’s hear it for “good old American capitalism”.

One last point….

Every college has a masot. Some more fearsome than others. As an NYU graduate, we had “The Violet”, since our school color is violet. Not exactly intimidating in the world of contact sports! Nevertheless, I remain proud of my NYU roots. By the way, I only went to NYU many years ago because of a full scholarship. For this I am extreemly appreciative and it gets back to the importance of debt-free education if there is to be career/life success.

One last question I leave with readers as a homework assignement (since after all this is about education). What would be the MASCOT for my system of Debt Free Universities?

Looking forward to your ideas and feedback. For additional blogs with outside-the-box ideas check out http://www.dunnwriteswell.com

Published by dunnwriteswell

Boomer who is late bloomer to writing. Healthy addictions include Book TV and exercise. Track all things historic, political, cultural, economic and social. Mixture of tough-love. Minimalist who is fiscally conservative and socially progressive. Realist not afraid to see the glass as half empty. However, still willing to consider outside-the-box, long term solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Old enough to appreciate the greater arc of history while remaining young at heart

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