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There's a more trivial alternative to "equally credible alternatives to university" - just ban education based discrimination. Same way US so nicely enforces regarding race or martial status. Make it illegal to ask.

Simple change with 100% guaranteed positive outcome.




Whether I agree or not with this (mostly, I don't), it fails my test of "being something a startup can do".

Whereas a startup that had a really good solution for inculcating the kinds of skills and values white-collar employers are looking for could outcompete universities instead of legislating them out of the picture.

When people discuss the value signaling provided by elite universities, their first example is usually "the diligence and hard work it takes to get into the university". That strikes me as the kind of value you can find ways to signal just effectively without asking for $150k.


> When people discuss the value signaling provided by elite universities, their first example is usually "the diligence and hard work it takes to get into the university"...

Graduation rates at universities for the elite are nearly 100%. Getting into the club is the only hard part and everyone involved knows that.

Empirically, what's required to get into the club is being wealthy enough to afford the private schooling, tutoring, and extra circular activities necessary to help your child game the admissions process.

As long as people value these prestigious brands, the elite will continue to buy them for their children. It's got nothing to do with education itself, which could be obtained any number of ways already.


I agree, and because that's a rather obvious market inefficiency, I see it as an opportunity for a startup to make money while improving the world.


YC may be closest to being this startup.

If their process was an "Empirical, blinded, skills-assessment", and they funded anyone who met their predefined requirements, we'd have a real alternative to class-based universities. At least for anyone willing to create their own business.

YC is already more fair (less gameable) than the elite universities, but it's still far from being fair enough or big enough to really change things.


If getting into an elite university is the signal. Why not apply to elite universities (or the best that the student can get into) and then shrug admissions when accepted?

The student can then turn around to some great companies and say "I got into X university, but am thinking of waiting a semester and want to learn a bit about your business. Would you be open to some sort of internship?"

I don't know if that is the correct solution though. Much of what I learned came from being at school, but not necessarily the classroom. I learned a ton about alcohol and drugs and sex and other things that simply being in an environment with so many of my peers produced. Additionally, I'm a designer. If I weren't an editor for the school paper, I'd never have picked up a copy of creative suite and probably would be working a miserable corporate job somewhere otherwise.


It'd be easier than you think. Much like IQ testing, requiring a college education is already illegal under "disparate impact" arguments (unless it's a bona-fide occupational requirement - eg, an electrical engineering degree for an EE position). The difference is that employers expect to be sued if they give job applicants an IQ test, but they don't expect to be sued if they want a competitive alma mater.

The way to fix this is to sue lots of employers for requiring or discriminating based on college education. Or at least win a few high-profile cases.


> Much like IQ testing, requiring a college education is already illegal under "disparate impact" arguments

This is the first I'm hearing that IQ testing is illegal as a basis for employment. AFAIK the military and many police forces employ IQ/aptitude tests as part of their hiring process.


Agreed.

Though sometimes we're trying to tech-fix things which are broken on a whole different level. Education is effectively free today. You pay to get the certificate. I think that's a broken system.


I agree that it's a broken system. But when systems are broken because of egregious market inefficiencies, as in the case for "pay $150k for a certificate from a university" case, I think you have an opportunity to make a large amount of money while improving the world. Things that can make large amounts of money can be funded by the markets, rather than requiring legislative fixes.

(I am not opposed to legislative fixes! I'm a statist liberal Democrat. I'm confining my response to the terms 'sama set out.)


I disagree. While college is becoming less of an important step for many careers, education, especially post-graduate, is vital for many others. For example, if I were a large tech company hiring physicists for R&D, I really don't think it's unfair to expect some sort of post-grad education, nor do I think these instances really contribute to any sort of problem right now.


What's important is that the skillset exists, not that a university has been given a considerable sum of money to provide certification that it exists. University was not the normal way to establish credibility until very recently. University is too expensive to sustain in its current form -- the whole thing has to be reworked to be affordable.

So don't ask yourself "What degree does this guy have?", but "How much physics research has this guy done? Can I see his body of work? Is it high-quality stuff?" The latter is performed anytime a competent person performs a hire anyway. It's fine to skip/ignore the education when someone can demonstrate competence. The problem really comes in "soft" degrees like business, marketing, communications, etc., where it's not really possible for a body of work to be presented as evidence that the individual knows what he/she is doing.


I think the parent is saying that if someone can demonstrate they can handle a physicist position for R&D, does education even matter? It would really depend on the criteria used to determine the ability to perform at the job. If the criteria is good enough I see no reason why someone without a PhD could take the job.


Can you devise a filter that's as rigorous as all the tests and projects that a student would have successfully completed over the X years it took to earn the degree?

Seeing the degree is a shortcut to verifying that the basic level of knowledge in the applicant's major has been satisfied. The testing necessary to verify that independently (and redundantly - one for each company being applied to) seems prohibitive.


For physics? Probably not. But physics grads don't make up a particularly big part of the economy; it's actually not an especially great degree to get if your primary concern is a STEM-y career.

For HR directors, purchasing managers, corporate controllers, practice managers, financial advisors, and jobs like that? Yes, I think you can devise filters for anything colleges filter for that would be both more effective and far cheaper than college.


> Can you devise a filter that's as rigorous as all the tests and projects that a student would have successfully completed over the X years it took to earn the degree?

Eventually I don't see why not but I don't think it's an easy thing to do nor do I know how to do it for a physics R&D type of position. Obviously education isn't the only criteria people use today anyway (I can't tell you how many CS grads I've interviewed who really struggled or flat out didn't know a lot about CS).

It's an age-old problem: how do tell if someone can do what you need them to do without wasting your time and money? As the skill and knowledge requirements go up this becomes harder and harder to do, with or without the degree shortcut.


For our profession? Yes. For example your github repos, SO profile, the app you've built or your projecteuler stats may prove better filters.

But I don't need to - smarter people already did the work for me. This approach is already practiced (mini scale I believe) in our industry.


Physics is a field that is almost entirely taught within the traditional college system and probably would get less of a benefit than other fields. The problem is the college system is so expensive that those who COULD become physicists aren't because of economic reasons, and those who want to more than anything are being saddled with debt and a lot more burden which probably doesn't help them advance the field.


just ban education based discrimination

I am not sure I understand this. If you are going to a doctor, you would want to make sure she is qualified, isn't it? And the only way (currently at least) to make sure is that degree that proves she knows what she is doing. Of course this doesn't apply to all professions.


I think that's true to some degree but most types of doctors still require going through an internship (sometimes), rigorous and lengthy residency program and passing their specialty boards.

It's true if someone can do those 3 things without going to medical school they may be missing a great deal of knowledge passed from medical school that maybe they were not explicitly tested on or experienced in the field. I'm not sure what to do about that. If you could find a solution for that then banning from asking or considering education could actually work, I think...but that's a hard problem to solve.


Guess what the person who graduated last in medical school gets called? Doctor.


There is still a path to become a practicing lawyer without going to law school. You need to pass a test and become certified, but going to school is only necessary for the pedigree. Arguably the simplest solution is to remove undergrad degree requirements from med / law school.

In terms of education there are two options. Ban mentioning degrees only credentials, or ban mentioning school names which deflates the ivy name recognition. In both cases schools would need to focus on education not name recognition.


Interesting, one of the top tier schools in my area has a little trick: they give you a ring. The idea being you wear the ring to interviews, so that they know you're from the school. Of course, if they looked at your application form they would know your school, but for other areas where they cannot ask for your school this gets around that. I personally find that very elitest but people will go to lengths to make their reputation known (they ban wearing school uniforms, but rings are exempt for example_


In reality, there's no good path to a career in the law that doesn't go through a small subset of the big law schools, because there's a huge glut of lawyers. A starting point for looking into this is the Google search "third tier toilet".

The thing that unlocks legal professions from the grip of $200k law schools is going to be something that reimagines the role of a lawyer, creating a new kind of legal professional that makes radically less money than a BigLaw lawyer.


Qualifying tests and apprenticeships can make that work for almost all cases. Some of that is already in place for professions that need practical experience.


Great example. To be a doctor you need to pass the medical board exams.


> 100% guaranteed positive outcome

I really, really, really doubt that.


Let's also ban previous-employer based discrimination. ;)


And skill-based discrimination.


Interview based discrimination is really where it is at. Also, since it is almost impossible to remove indicators of protected statuses such as gender or race, it will help ensure no such discrimination occurs. Best we couple it with a ban on performance based discrimination once hired.


Wow, this is such a simple, practical, and subversive idea that my mind has been too boxed up for coming up with that. Whether I agree with this genius, devious and trivial idea... not sure yet.


Make it illegal to ask what level of education you have received or just where you went to school?


No one really cares where you went to school anyway unless it's literally a top three school for your field.




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