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A Different Road To Work, Bypassing College Dreams (npr.org)
177 points by septerr on July 27, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 144 comments



HN has a subtle anti-college bias, so I want to put my point out there: my college experience was not defined by my classes or by my professors, but by the serendipitous connections that I made by being mixed in with a bunch of smart people who like to tinker. In addition, being a part of an institution makes it much easier to find out about and get access to lines of research and thinking I normally wouldn't have thought about. I entered as a kid who wanted to design chips, and I left an amateur computational linguistics researcher (emphasis on the amateur). This was something I 'fell into,' not something I sought out.

Also, if you discover something and want to find out more, emailing the person who worked on it is a great start. If this person happens to be part of your institution, you have a 'free pass' to just email them. Compare to if you were just someone off the street: you have to work harder to get a response. It's a little silly, but a very real effect -- once you're "in" people will be more open to you about their work.

This doesn't mean you can't do any of these things if you choose not to go to college, but if you're making that decision then you should know that the experience is more than just 'expensive and ineffective vocational training.'


Agreed. The anti-college bias here is astounding. College is an incredible time to learn everything.

What are you even interested in? I went to college thinking chemistry or chemical engineering. Found I just didn't like either and moved to computer science. At 18 it's hard to even have a clue.

It's hard to feel sorry for the kids coming out of school with loan debt and a sociology degree. That's a career, but you need to know your field is full of people and it's going to be tough to find a job. Kids today need to adjust their expectations.

But the article is rubbish. 4 year apprenticeship for an associates and your journeyman card? Fine, anyone can find a machinist school (won't cost $44k per year) and be a machinist but that doesn't make you a materials scientist who came up with the alloy. You aren't going to be doing that without college.


Can we have this self-discovery process without the giant 6-figure bill?

As someone who went to college myself, I agree that it was a tremendous time for personal growth - it was also expensive as all hell, and I'm lucky I chose a field where paying it off is a piece of cake.

In any case, I think there's a false dichotomy here: there's the apprenticeship/trades camp, and the pro-college camp, but really the truth lies somewhere in between. The economy is moving towards knowledge-based jobs, but for the most part people studying for these jobs have completely abdicated their responsibility to seek apprenticeship and mentorship (in the non-regulated sense of those words).

A programmer with a CS degree and no internships, no open source, no working under experienced talent, is (nearly) worthless. An English major aspiring to write for magazines who has never published anything nor worked with a professional editor is (probably even more) worthless.

The problem here is that so many in the pro-college crowd see a degree as an end-run around having to bust your balls and apprentice with skilled professionals when apprenticeships (or internships if you want to call them that), regardless of college/no-college, is absolutely necessary.


Is this a CS-specific mindset? Because in other engineering fields, the expectation is that students will gain a strong scientific/mathematical grounding at university, but specific vocational skills, like say how to use Boeing's wind-tunnel simulation software, will be taught on the job, in training programs for new hires.


I don't think software is really different - there are certain companies with unrealistic expectations that want fresh grads to know the obscure libraries and APIs they rely on, but that's relatively uncommon.

e.g., I got hired into Amazon out of school, and they use a crapload of proprietary software internally I had to learn in a hurry. Software supports this model of operation as much as traditional engineering.

I've also interned in traditional engineering before - and the differences really aren't significant. Both software and traditional engineering fields highly value internship experience both as an indicator of competency and as a recruitment tool. IMO software simply does this on a much larger scale - e.g. literally hiring thousands of interns across a single summer.


Six figures?

You know all those taxes you (or your parents) pay to the state you are living in? Some of those are going to subsidize in-state colleges. If you want to go to an expensive private school or out-of-state because they are top notch, you'd better be top notch as well.

Like I've said elsewhere, if you aren't willing to pay the cost, maybe that degree or school isn't worth it.


>> The economy is moving towards knowledge-based jobs.

>> A programmer with a CS degree and no internships, no open source, no working under experienced talent, is (nearly) worthless. An English major aspiring to write for magazines who has never published anything nor worked with a professional editor is (probably even more) worthless.

Seems you contradict yourself when you claim there is a move towards knowledge based jobs, yet in the very next sentence, advocate that knowledge without experience is "nearly/even more than" worthless.

So are you implying that a person with a CS degree who probably did tons of programming exercises and at least 1-3 projects (i.e. requiring design, doc., etc.), who was taught by these "under experienced" PhD's who have studied the subject, wrote about it, and have done projects for 10+ years of their life produce something that is "nearly" worthless?

Holy cow, either the students priorities were very screwed up or there goes logic and rationality out the door.


I just graduated from a private school with a CS degree. Went there on a full boat with only subsidized Stafford loans to cover the cost of my room.

I am now getting into foss since I failed to get in on any of my internships / summer of code last summer, since my piece of paper is effectively worthless. I do have project experience (a course scheduler in C# for .net, a tower defense game in swing, wizard design for a seismometer program the school contracts) but employers don't care about that, especially the projects the school contracted on that I can't show the source to.

So yeah, I've been job hunting for ~4 months (some nice folks on HN even gave me some phone interviews, but it never got past that) and the lack of job experience drives away a vast 99% of employers. I have a good gigabyte and around a million lines or more of assignment and project code I could throw at them, they are just not interested :P


I just finished a Master's in CS and am facing the same problem. Just suck it up (hate that expression) and play the recruiter/interview test games. Memorize the basics of all areas of CS (stuff that you would normally look up in 30 seconds) and practice a little whiteboard coding and you'll be fine :)


I wouldn't say that is anything wrong with your education. It probably has more to do with unemployment, the economy, and outdated/ineffective hiring system. And the fact that people on HN think a formal education is worthless, and damn does that non-logic show.

Hint, if you go on to get a Masters, you'd be able to get into a government research lab with minimal hassle.


You're splitting hairs on semantics - the notion of a "knowledge economy" as we've been referring to it for, oh, 3 decades now, does not exclude the value of experience.

Knowledge economy doesn't imply that experience or skill is unnecessary, it is simply a catch-all term that suggests that low-skill, menial labor jobs are disappearing (and they are). The level of training required for any in-demand job, whether it's an electrician or an astrophysicist, is much, much higher than it historically has been.

> "So are you implying that a person with a CS degree who probably did tons of programming exercises and at least 1-3 projects (i.e. requiring design, doc., etc.), who was taught by these "under experienced" PhD's who have studied the subject, wrote about it, and have done projects for 10+ years of their life produce something that is "nearly" worthless?"

I don't like to yell, but here it is plainly: YES.

The kind of things they make you work in school, even in advanced degrees, is nothing like what private industry needs. Shit, the software engineering program at my alma mater spends a shitload of time on UML, as opposed to practical architectural skills that are actually useful in the real world.

Your school projects do not in any meaningful way approximate a real software project in the real world. Your design docs are held to a completely different standard than real design docs, and the process by which they are synthesized, iterated upon, and approved is also either completely absent in academia or heavily bastardized.

Likewise, programming exercises you see your typical CS or engineering program are incredibly simplistic compared to what you would run into the real-world once you're hacking on production systems at-scale. This is why open source experience is valuable, but class projects are not.

A CS student, sans external experience, is like a Call of Duty player joining the Army. Heart might be in the right place, but by God they are a long way from ready.

[edit]

On-topic but aside: consistently the second worst programmers I've ever interviewed in my life are PhD candidates or holders. They are almost universally clueless, able to rattle off all kinds of incredibly complex knowledge, but are absolutely clueless about real-world engineering issues, and generally poor at implementation. Scalability and usability are theoretical constructs to the bulk of them.

They can talk a lot of shop about algorithms, but to get them to implement their own algorithms (and do it well) is nigh impossible. Code quality is on the whole probably worse than fresh undergrads.

Off-topic and aside: the worst demographic I've ever had the pleasure of regularly interviewing are current/former employees of outsourcing consultancies (Accenture, InfoSys, and the ilk). I'm unsure what percentage of their programmer population actually know how to code, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's < 25%. I've interviewed multiple such candidates who couldn't put together a loop in a language of their choosing.


Yeah, never heard anything about a "knowledge economy". Must be made up.

> I don't like to yell, but here it is plainly: YES.

Really? I must have went to the wrong college then or you're interviewing the wrong people. Yes, there is a reason UML is used. Its used because its a standard. Its used because its unambiguous if you know it. Its used to identify relationships, areas of repeated code, state of objects in your code, and it can easily be used to generate code, if it is learned and used properly. I have yet to see any software development book or methodology that doesn't use some form of UML knowledge. Unless you code with no design.

> Your school projects do not in any meaningful way approximate a real software project in the real world. Your design docs are held to a completely different standard than real design docs, and the process by which they are synthesized, iterated upon, and approved is also either completely absent in academia or heavily bastardized.

Likewise, programming exercises you see your typical CS or engineering program are incredibly simplistic compared to what you would run into the real-world once you're hacking on production systems at-scale. This is why open source experience is valuable, but class projects are not.

Here is what I've done as part of my CS degree: - Wrote linked lists, binary search trees, graphs, stacks/queues, and most of the well know sorting and searching algorithms used everyday by programmers FROM SCRATCH. - Wrote my own linux shell, complete with scripting interpretation, variable substitution, I/O redirection, and most of the features you find a normal bash shell. - Wrote several built-in linux commands and other commands (i.e. tail, ps, pstree, etc.) from scratch using only the linux kernel and system calls. - Designed a new calendar system for my university using the agile development methodology with all documentation produced (i.e. SRS, UML documents, requirements etc.) - Wrote a lexer and compiler, with a partner, for a made up language. - Experience implementing RDMS in mySQL and constructed tables and views for it. - Wrote a SMS text messaging system using uC/OS-II using a motorola HCS12 microcontroller complete with ring tone, memory management, clock, and serial communication. - Designed and implemented a solar charging station with COTS parts and arduinos to measure charge voltage and current (meter essentially) - Designed and implemented an RC tank, controlled via Wifi with a webcam and some small autonomous functionality - In the process of designing, implementing, and documenting a airborne particle counting network that uses rs-485 as a backbone and a control program written in C#

If this isn't enough experience, then I must be living in a fantasy land. By the way, I've done no open source, but many of these projects (ones with arduino and linux) could qualify.

> They can talk a lot of shop about algorithms, but to get them to implement their own algorithms (and do it well) is nigh impossible. Code quality is on the whole probably worse than fresh undergrads.

Go figure, they know a lot about algorithms that the programmers probably just use API calls to do. Also, implementing complex algorithms in an interview isn't exactly easy or time conducive.

All I know is, I've seen some crap code from programmers (with no CS degrees) that were commercially certified in the language they were running in. I mean I'm talking extreme no-no's (i.e. magic numbers, lack of enum use, lack of comments, no early exiting loops, god objects etc.) stuff that I actually got marked down for in my college assignments.


> "Here is what I've done as part of my CS degree: - Wrote linked lists, binary search trees, graphs, stacks/queues, and most of the well know sorting and searching algorithms used everyday by programmers FROM SCRATCH"

None of which you will ever be called upon to do during your career. You are paid to judiciously use all of the above, not regurgitate the standard implementation. Which is not to say that your efforts are entirely wasted - there is value in deep understanding of the fundamentals, but it is an insufficient parameter for employment.

> "Wrote several built-in linux commands and other commands (i.e. tail, ps, pstree, etc.) from scratch using only the linux kernel and system calls."

See above. Rewriting shell commands is really, really, really far from, say, engineering a highly scalable e-commerce platform that can take literally millions of hits per minute.

The problems we work on in private industry is way harder, way bigger, and way more involved than reimplementing select, discrete pieces of Linux. We also do it in teams, so your lone gunman bit won't exactly work out.

This is the problem we run into when interviewing hardcore academics - so many John Wayne-types who have never worked at production-scale, who have never experienced the full breadth of building a product (as opposed to simply write working code), who trivialize the endeavor, and then find themselves overwhelmed. Computer science is only a tiny sliver of what a software engineer has to do in his day to day.

> "If this isn't enough experience, then I must be living in a fantasy land."

Welp, sorry to burst your bubble. It's insufficient. You could've spent all of that time interning for software companies and your odds will be much, much better. To be fair though, there are a lot of your peers who don't even have said projects under their belts, so you're far from scraping the bottom of your peers.

Experience, experience, experience, this is mantra we need to repeat at every new CS student. Code is only a tiny part of your day in the private sector, your mastery of the full scope of being a software engineer is far more important.

> "but many of these projects (ones with arduino and linux) could qualify."

Unless these projects were shipped to users (whether it's the public or a client), and unless these were done as part of a team, they really won't. The benefit of open source experience is less about the open source part, and more about having been exposed to how a real, product-shipping team operates.

Lone-wolf open source projects are, of course, of some value, since it serves as a reasonable work sample, but it does not eliminate the need for team software experience, which is the real benefit of joining an active open source project.

> "Go figure, they know a lot about algorithms that the programmers probably just use API calls to do."

They know a lot about the algorithms, but they have no fucking clue when it comes to implementing and applying this in a real-world context. And sadly, shipping product is what makes money, knowledge of algorithms is not an end, it is a means.

> " I mean I'm talking extreme no-no's (i.e. magic numbers, lack of enum use, lack of comments, no early exiting loops, god objects etc.) stuff that I actually got marked down for in my college assignments."

Here's the trick: these are minor problems in the grand scheme of things. Which is to say, you can fix a programmer that has bad style, but you cannot fix one that just doesn't know WTF is up. I will hire an excellent engineer with mediocre code style over a mediocre engineer with excellent style. One helps ship a product, the other will write perfect code that has trouble proving relevant IRL.


I laughed when you only pointed out two of the things I listed in what I accomplished for my CS degree and went on to say it was "insufficient" because we don't have budget and time schedules like companies do in order to actually do production scale work. Not only that, the point of doing those things isn't to ship it to the masses, its to create something useful and to sharpen your skills. Case in point, your professor and sometimes the university are your customers. They evaluate your work, give you suggestions, and help you identify things you did wrong or could do better on.

I also laughed at the assumptions you made about me somehow being a lone ranger and not doing group work... I guess I should ask if you've even went to or been in a college.

You seem to have incredibly high and almost unmeetable standards that would actually require a college grad. Yet, you seem so adamant that a degree isn't necessary which is illogical since you usually pick up software engineering experience, group work, and a solid understanding from graduates. Not only that, its a pretty good guarantee they will do well if the have decent grades. If you're telling me you are willing to pick programmers up off the street expecting them to know software engineering concepts like scalability, modeling, and being on a development schedule. Programmers who've got a couple of projects under their belt that probably involved no human contact and probably aren't even that good due to lack of formal training. And you are willing to train them to be up to par, then you must be living in a fantasy world or we have completely different concepts of what programmer and computer scientist/engineer are.

One last thing. If you think god objects, no early exiting of loops, and lack of enum use are "style" problems, then I can see why you are hiring the wrong people.


> "its to create something useful and to sharpen your skills."

And there's nothing wrong with that - what I am saying is that if your goal is gainful employment in the software sector, that is insufficient. Creating useful one-offs is a long, long way from consistently shipping - which is experience you can only get, as a student, via internships, active open source, or hell, entrepreneurship.

You are not going to get that no matter how many class assignments or projects you work on.

> "because we don't have budget and time schedules like companies do in order to actually do production scale work"

And therein lies the rub. Software-for-fun, without constraints, is really, really cool, and completely unlike software in the private sector. They are completely different beasts, and your everyday life as a software engineer is only fractionally writing code.

Think about it this way: you're an incredible sprinter, but you're looking to join a triathlon. No matter how good you get at sprinting, it is insufficient for success in the overall scheme of things. This is the line that separates a very good, but very green programmer from a guru-level senior.

> "I guess I should ask if you've even went to or been in a college."

Yes. And let me tell you, those 4-man projects they have you working on are nothing like working in a software shop. Hell, it's not even very much like working in a 4-man startup, where the bulk of your day becomes architectural, business, and product-focused.

I'll be impressed the day they can craft a CS curriculum that even remotely approximates the actual dynamics of professional software work.

> "You seem to have incredibly high and almost unmeetable standards that would actually require a college grad."

Note that I didn't say that you absolutely won't get a job without prior professional experience. You may, but your road is going to be unnecessarily difficult. For every one of "you" (i.e., someone with a great deal of self-hacking, and presumably did well in school, but lacks real professional experience) there are tens of thousands who went the other route. I've been through the fresh-grad hiring cycle several times now, and companies will go into bidding wars with each other for the graduates with prior internship experience.

Everyone else is just picking at the scraps - not particularly slim scraps mind you, but you are not treated like an A-player. This may be an unfair judgment, but such is the state of the industry. Hiring is an incredibly difficult task, and most means of judging skill are incredibly noise-heavy. An internship guarantees a company a known quantity for very little risk, and they will favor them heavily above all others.

> "Yet, you seem so adamant that a degree isn't necessary which is illogical since you usually pick up software engineering experience, group work, and a solid understanding from graduates."

Thankfully software engineering is not yet a regulated profession. You can ship product and code without going to school for it - and many people do. I've hired one or two, and worked with many more - they are pragmatic programmers who are well-rounded. They will be rough around the edges on the CS side, but that's something you can fix with experience and training.

A CS degree has a relatively low correlation with being a capable programmer. A lot lower than one would expect anyhow, especially since the vast majority of code being written in this industry do not delve into CS fundamentals very often.

> "If you're telling me you are willing to pick programmers up off the street expecting them to know software engineering concepts like scalability, modeling, and being on a development schedule."

Lots of people graduate from college (or don't go at all) knowing this. That's why we pay them the big bucks - this is the demographic that's being courted by all sides by multiple companies throwing $150K+ numbers into the air. Yes, for a fresh undergrad.

You know how, as a programmer, you leave school knowing this?

You ship product. You ship it a lot, either on your own, or you do it as part of internships with other companies, or you join active open source projects with strong leadership. You do not learn this from hacking on class projects or assignments.

> "Programmers who've got a couple of projects under their belt that probably involved no human contact and probably aren't even that good due to lack of formal training."

Formal training is the most overrated part of software engineering, really. Software is absolutely a trade, and is realistically not unlike plumbing or carpentry. Lots of hustle along with experience are much more valuable than academic knowledge. And who do you think has a more realistic experience with human contact in software: the guy who's shipped product as part of a team, or the guy who got assigned to a group assignment and hacked it out in a week?

> "And you are willing to train them to be up to par"

Oh yeah, we are. Because they are way further along than a green CS grad with no experience. They have experience shipping code, which is the hardest thing to learn, and encompasses a huge number of skills. The whole "not having super amazing CS knowledge" part is fixable, particularly if you have strong mentorship and guidance. Fixing a pure-academic is really hard, though it can also be done.

> "If you think god objects, no early exiting of loops, and lack of enum use are "style" problems, then I can see why you are hiring the wrong people"

And what percentage of CS graduates do you think will commit all of the above sins? Having a CS degree in no way promises that they won't make stupid, shitty decisions like that. Like I keep telling you: having a CS degree doesn't have as strong of a correlation with "being a competent programmer" than you imagine. I have seen all of the above and worse from CS grads. So why would I value "having a CS degree" over anything else? Why wouldn't I value real world experience that actually trains shitty habits like this out of people?


> Creating useful one-offs is a long, long way from consistently shipping.

Yes it is. There is a lot of software, consistently shipped, that is shit. And if you honestly think creating one off items is useless, please go down to your local universities research department and tell me why one off items like robots, exoskeletons, autonomous quad copters, that came straight out of the university from the work of students means nothing.

>Software-for-fun, without constraints, is really, really cool, and completely unlike software in the private sector.

Yeah, as if students have all the time in the world to produce software without anything like a budget, or schedule, or progress meetings. Yup, we all take one class a term. That's why it takes us 4-5 years to graduate.

> This is the line that separates a very good, but very green programmer from a guru-level senior.

So, you want senior level, but you're willing to start from scratch by pulling people who have no degrees. How can you have any guarantee of a formal knowledge base? Why the hell would you want to waste time fixing things like style and teaching people software engineering (which isn't only about shipping product that you are so gun-ho about)? You do know software engineering is in most computer science curriculum.

> They will be rough around the edges on the CS side, but that's something you can fix with experience and training.

Something you wouldn't have to do if you pulled college students, like me for example.

> You ship product. You ship it a lot, either on your own, or you do it as part of internships with other companies, or you join active open source projects with strong leadership. You do not learn this from hacking on class projects or assignments.

I fail to see how that makes getting a CS degree worthless. It says that either a lot of junk is put out, or you are in the parcel business. Shipping code is something for product managers and sales people if you're working for a company. The Internet if you aren't. If you think that's what separates the men from the boys, see points 1-3. I wonder why I don't see a lot of books on shipping code when I go on Amazon or to the local book store... I wonder why... I guess we can all just forget about good software if "shipping code" is the grand answer...

Yeah, I've done an internship with a company and guess what? There are people without CS degrees that are commercially certified in the languages they develop in and suck. The code they ship is buggy with hardly any input validation and doesn't work according to customer requirements. There are people that don't even know OOP concepts, or even basic design patterns. They don't produce any UML diagrams because they use their own ass backwards design notation and they don't have a consistent development methodology.

> Lots of hustle along with experience are much more valuable than academic knowledge.

Except with my academic knowledge I don't need to be hustled or have basic, remedial things fixed. I can also identify problems with existing systems and solve them competently. I don't need to be "taught" basic practices. I may need to be refreshed from time to time, but I know "what" I need refreshing on and "why".

> And what percentage of CS graduates do you think will commit all of the above sins?

A low percentage. I've committed some, but my professor caught them and I fixed them. I don't have to be told those habits are bad by my boss. I don't need to be told how to do things efficiently. But hey, if you want to spend time fixing problems that programmers are clueless on, go ahead. So I ask the same question, how many programmers do you think can identify such problems and fix them themselves?

> Why wouldn't I value real world experience that actually trains shitty habits like this out of people?

Because I don't need real world experience to train those shitty habits out of me.


You can easily go to college without a 6-figure bill. I finished two master's degrees and paid very little. All one has to do is leave their ego at the door and not go to the best school they can get into for their credentials. I scored high on the SAT and instead of going IVY-league I went to a lesser school for free. I scored high on the GMAT. Instead of going to HBS I went to a lesser school and finished a masters in CS and an MBA for a fraction of the price.


The problem is that young people make stupid mistakes. While you selected a career which will be fruitful and possibly pay off your loan debt, a load of young people make career decisions based on flowery statements like "change the world" or "make a difference" and end up being baristas in Starbucks. There is a certain value inherent in expanding your intellect by going through college, I am not so sure it is worth doing that at the cost of crippling financial debt if you are not absolutely sure where you are going with it. So maybe the solution is to spend a few years mucking out at different things figuring out what you like before blowing through a ton of cash going to college.


Agreed. The anti-college bias here is astounding. College is an incredible time to learn everything.

I think the problems are several-fold:

1. College works for many people but not all. In addition, there's an American cultural meme that claims college is the absolute and only key/way to success, which isn't or shouldn't be true. I think you're experiencing the backlash, and you're part of the backlash to the backlash (the forelash, perhaps?).

2. The price of college is eroding the lifetime earnings gains for graduates in many fields.

3. Many people don't realize how universities work, which I've written about here: http://jseliger.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/why-how-universitie... and elsewhere.

4. Academics face perverse incentives that demand they produce research, even of dubious or low quality, rather than teach. Consequently, the academic experience many people have in college, especially big public schools, is at hit and miss, with a strong emphasis on miss. For highly self-motivated people, this might not be as big an issue.


i think the anti-college attitude comes from the cost of college being far more of a burden than what you can make from the degree. I was a self taught developer who learned a lot from reading stuff on the internet and lots of books, before going to college and getting that expensive piece of paper. In which most of the teachers that taught me were actually behind on the technology, which can cause quite a bit of conflict when you know that the class is being taught incorrectly.


I don't think you need to be anti-college to be able to criticize the cost explosion of college. I agree, the most valuable part of college are the ones outside the class room (the only reason why i am still in college), but ask yourself this:

Would you still go if it costs 1000 for your family?

Would you still go if it costs 100000 for your family?

Would you still go if it costs 10000000 for your family?

Different people have different abilities to pay for college, so its really not that unreasonable to look for and discuss alternatives with the rising cost of college 4x over inflation.

The same way you experience in anti-college bias, I sense a feeling of entitlement from pro-college: It's like you have to go to college to be worth anything, and if you dont go, you are less of a well-rounded, worthy human being.

Unfortunately, higher education in the US becomes more and more a matter of money and not ability.


I agree, but that's mostly a recent phenomenon due to cuts in funding for state schools. Private schools have long been expensive (though not as expensive as today), but public schools used to be an affordable option if you wanted an education without the price-tag. However, their tuition has been going up roughly in accordance with state funding cuts. In the University of California system, for example, state funding in 1990 equalled $16,500 per student, inflation-adjusted; today it equals $8,500 per student. So, despite the fact that the system has been getting more efficient (about 25% lower spending-per-student in 2012 than 1990, inflation-adjusted), tuition is nonetheless much higher than it used to be. It seems mostly like the generation that got cheap college education has decided that they're not interested in funding the same for the next generation.

So my solution would be to reduce tuition at state universities back to its 1980s-era levels, and return to funding public universities primarily from public funds, so anyone can attend regardless of their family's financial background.


> I sense a feeling of entitlement from pro-college: It's like you have to go to college to be worth anything, and if you dont go, you are less of a well-rounded, worthy human being.

I try to work against that, and perhaps I come up short. What could you recommend?


Having thoughtful, and considerate responses like these definitely helps.

In my view there are two arguments within this discussion: Does college provide useful skills for later and is college worth these skills? I think sometimes both camps tends to talk parallel to each other. Yes there are a lot of anti-college people who believe college doesnt even provide anything useful, but I think its safe to say that thats not true.

That being said, concentrating on the cost-aspect is I think a lot more crucial and fruitful. And thats where my feeling of entitlement from the pro-college side comes in. We don't need your explanations of how college is an awesome place. It just makes people who can't afford college very angry, since the college degree is already so immensely dogmatized as a requirement for 'good' jobs.

It's a bit like saying having an iPhone is really cool, beneficial and everything. However, if there is a huge price gap to other phones, I don't it would be unreasonable to recommend cheaper, maybe less capable phones or ask for cheaper phones.

The problem with college in the US really is that it is used as a credential and almost absolute requirement for upward social mobility.


> It just makes people who can't afford college very angry, since the college degree is already so immensely dogmatized as a requirement for 'good' jobs.

I see. I was directing my comments more at the 'Thiel Fellowship' mindset, people who are in the position to attend college but are encouraged to drop out to pursue some shitty social startup instead.

As for the point you're making, one thing I think is really cool is the proliferation of paid and free online courses -- I'm taking some online music courses right now and was surprised at how effective they can be. Of course, that requires computer access, which itself is a socioeconomic divider, but hopefully over time that will be overcome as well.


> some shitty social startup instead.

Relevant: http://www.quora.com/Peter-Thiel/What-were-the-results-of-th... More seem to be in the solar energy space than the social space, I remind myself frequently that quite a lot of startups don't rely on a software product. Of course, without judging worth to humanity, there's a direct opportunity cost to consider. Spend 4 years at a school with a big chunk of your time spent directly on school (depends on school and degree), add on any student loans, vs. spending 4 years making a business or four in whatever has the highest payoff expected value, optional VC/grant funding. (Is that still social apps? Enterprise software continues to be a mainstay if your eyes are open...) Once you have years of job experience (and especially business-building experience), having a degree matters even less than a priori except at BigCos (unless you get acquired by one), and if you actually went with a startup path you probably don't want to work at BigCo anyway.

> requires computer access, which itself is a socioeconomic divider

The limiting factors here, even amongst the poorest of the poor (at least in the US), is almost always time* and desire* * , not computer access or the dollar-cost of it.

* Who can learn while working 16-hour days? As Remy de Gourmont put it, "Very simple ideas lie within the reach only of complex minds. Thinking is hard work. One can't bear burdens and ideas at the same time."

* * If you work 8 or less hours and sleep 8 or less hours, why spend your remaining 8 or more hours bettering yourself and learning when you can just play games, browse tumblr/stumble upon/facebook/reddit/hacker news for all that time? Also who wants to learn that icky math stuff?


> Unfortunately, higher education in the US becomes more and more a matter of money and not ability.

I think this isn't a higher education issue, its an issue with careers in general. Most companies go by a resume, an interview, and a few basic tests. The interviews usually last an hour to two hours long and they mostly want to hear about your knowledge of the company, what you can offer, and standard fluff crap.

Problem is: 1) Resume can be filled with lies and is usually a one page ad that doesn't show off any type of value. It also shows no demonstration of ability. 2) Interview can be useless and also promote dishonesty. It, again, also shows no demonstration of ability. 3) Basic tests are usually too easy (fizz-buzz anyone?) or non-existent and, for the third time, don't demonstrate ability.

What do all these have in common? If only you had to take an actual test or show off your skill in some way with a small project or demonstrate your creations?

Oh yeah, evidence shmevidence...


Im anti-college, I believe that engineers and computer scientists should go to college, but programmers shouldn't. The majority of programmers aren't computer scientists.

I am anti-college for two reasons:

1-I didn't have the outside-the-class experience you did. In fact I think this is a situation where the top students naturally congregate together, in college and then on HN, and don't really have an understanding of what the non-top students go through. Most of them aren't making connections with other tinkerers.

2-I got a EE degree, but in my late 20's I become a professional programmer. I was instantly better than almost every other CS major I was working with. The majority of programming is closer to craftmanship than to Engineering. I don't think the knowledge learned in a CS degree is applicable, or even useful in day to day programming. The bits that are, can be learned.

(by the way, if your counter-argument is 'well I did VERY_HARD_THING_X within my companies app, and I would never have learned how to do this without my CS degree', I would say you may be a computer scientist, but also the vast majority of programmers arent doing this.)

The fact is, you go to college to earn a degree that says 'you are properly trained in this field to get a job'. Any profession that can be learned outside of an expensive college environment, should be.

Any argument that involves 'well you also get these nice benefits on the side' is irrelevant. If you are a smart go-getter, you would have met those tinkerers no matter what path you took. You would have done the same as an 18 year old apprentice programmer at Google.


>> I don't think the knowledge learned in a CS degree is applicable, or even useful in day to day programming. The bits that are, can be learned.

Does this mean that there will be more code I have to fix as a result of my CS degree? I've still got people at my job that write loops with no early exit when they are searching. I learned that as a freshman. They write code that iterates through the entirety of arrays, constantly, which is a complete waste most of the time.

Hell, I've got people that justify writing memory intensive code due to the computers abundant memory because they don't even realize that program space is limited by the kernel. I can thank my OS class for that.

The point is, do you want to waste time looking up basic stuff on Google all your life, or do you want to get hands on, spend time studying things from a reliable source, and not have to look up things online and write crappy code just to get by?


Your argument is absurd because you are making a lot of incorrect assumptions.

I don't spend all my time looking up stuff on google, I've learned the examples you've given and I don't write crappy code.

In my experience, I write better code than most CS majors I've worked with. It may be that in very few and far between instances, a CS major will have some knowledge that would have helped me, but it is definitely not a daily, weekly or even monthly occurrence.


How is my argument absurd? I fail to see how writing code with early exits and having a basic understanding of process memory space, which I've demonstrated on the basis of things people, that don't have CS degrees, have said and done at my work absurd?

What I don't get is why so many people stereotype college as useless because they think you're in a lecture hall scribbling down whatever the professor says and that's it. How such a notion came to be and how people seem to forget exercises, labs, and class projects is very much beyond me.


It depends on what kind of job you want, I suppose. If you want to work on the more esoteric aspects of technology (OS or Database development) then your CS degree will be more relevant than if you want to make end-user-facing applications. Application development in the industry is far more about the product than it is about the technology.

As far as your experience with your less educated coworkers, if you look around you will find bad programmers of all backgrounds. You will find great programmers of all backgrounds. It's a fair question to ask if college is worth the incredible cost.


Considering the fact that if you apply for scholarships, get good grades is high school and good ACT/SAT scores, and you can get funding from the government, college can be relatively inexpensive. I went to a private school with comparable tuition to MIT and I walked out with only around 50k in debt. If I went to a public university, it would have been much less. So, I have about as much debt as this company took to train a bunch of high schoolers.

Although I agree that college costs are high, they aren't insurmountable if you apply for scholarships, government funding (FASA), and you do well in school or sports.


I don't get the feeling that the bias is particularly subtle. I wouldn't trade my time at Chicago for all the vocational training in the world; but, different strokes &c.


The pro collage stance is something like:

Spending 4 years at ~19-22 living on your own without a job near a lot of other intelligent 19-22 year olds is a lot of fun. The skills gained are minimal, but the credentials are worth something so why not?

But, that's no reason to actually higher someone because they have a collage degree ed:In the computer field. So, yea I am glad I went to collage, but I don't care about degrees when looking for people and I feel little need to subsidize other people going to collage.


The skills gained are minimal

Depends what you do. One of my CS professors worked at JPL on some pretty significant projects. I doubt I would've ever had access to him and his knowledge anywhere else.

If you want to make Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, sure you probably don't really need a CS degree. If you want to write high-end AI or an operating system you probably aren't going to learn that without some very smart people helping you out.


No, the pro-college stance is, you get skills and experience from being in a heterogenous environment that you just can't get through on-the-job training. There is certainly a selection bias that can devolve into sheerest credentialism, but people display that selection bias all the time; a go-getter who left school to found a company will sometimes display the same blinkered, aggressively close-minded approach that someone who got a PhD from Stanford can.


" skills gained are minimal " - Citation Needed. People keep saying that, but you would not want a self taught engineer.


> Citation Needed. People keep saying that, but you would not want a self taught engineer.

I'm a self taught Engineer. I had no problem getting a job; my professional educational experience has not been an issue so far. I've taken over projects from CS graduates that break just about every solid design principle I've learned (when its actually capable of running, that is).

CS degrees are certainly useful, but in my experience they do not make a good engineer on their own. A self-motivated learner will always outpace one without such qualities, regardless of credentials.


>I'm a self taught Engineer.

I think he meant an Engineer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineer

The kind that build things that aren't made of computer code.


Programmers calling themselves engineers reminds me of chiropractors who insist on having people address them as "Doctor".


That is to say, the kind that build bridges or airplanes or automobiles or dams.


I've taken projects from self taught people that just don't understand basic state machine theory. NFA-DFA equivalence? Thompson's Construction? Powerset construction? Probabilistic automatons and more exotic stuff like Petri-nets.

See we can all give anecdotal examples?

Besides I was talking about engineering, not programming which often more far more formal in industry then programming is.


This is part of the reason I'm so opposed to being called an "engineer". I'm not. I write software. Because I file my own taxes, I'm now an accountant? Ridiculous.


There is a difference between writing software and engineering software. There really isn't anything wrong with being called a software engineer because it follows basic engineering skills rather well.


And I knew (self-taught) more about compiler theory than my college lecturers.

Self-taught implies a lot of motivation. What people learn depends on where the motivation was directed. And on the other hand, I'd be willing to bet a majority of people going through college treat things like compiler theory and more advanced discrete mathematics as ordeals to be endured, rather than tools to be used in the rest of their career.


I have a degree in nuclear engineering.

Good luck teaching yourself that.


It's ipso facto false. The argument as I see it arises in how much weight skills that are exclusive to or overwhelming present in a college education should be granted vis a vis skills that can be gained through on-the-job training. That's a perfectly reasonable point of disagreeance.


Compare the productivity of a recent graduate with someone with someone without a degree but with 4 years of job experience and experience is a clear win. Now, in the long term they tend to balance out, but that's hardly a 'win' for the collage degree.

PS: Granted, not a scientific study but my sample size is over 30 and the difference is fairly dramatic.


And then move person with 4 years of work experience slightly out their comfort zone. Say working on designing locks, to working on designing engines.

The mechanical engineer would have a better time. It's one of the reasons vocational/on-the-job educated people end up with lower wages; generally educated people can go where the money is.


People with good contacts, are good at networking, good at marketing, and interested in money go where the money is. A history of creating business value, and a bunch of people who know about it, are a lot better than a general education.

This is slightly complicated by the fact that people going to well-known colleges get a head start on the network. A decent education on its own has more dubious value. Most companies want experience. I know that when I evaluate someone, relevant experience is way more important than if or where they went to college.


That's the point. Relevant experience. Jobs are very specialised. If you have one mechanical engineering job, you might not have much knowledge to transfer to another type of mechanical job.

That's what a general education in the subject is for.


So experience > college degree in the short term and experience = college in the long term?

Thats not a win at all, its a loss.


The loss is that people equate people with a college education with no experience. Which is totally false.

Experience relies heavily on ones own bias judgement. It can also lead to doing things without understanding them (i.e. writing shit code that works vs. writing good and efficient code) and can lead to nasty habits. Experience is also a slow teacher.

College is advantageous is that you are taught why things are by an experienced individual. You are able to gain a fundamental knowledge base and terminology that can be applied rather than wasting time being taught on-the-job. Plus you are taught things that won't and can't work in your field and why. All a person with experience can tell you is that they won't work and give some superficial reason why. Thus, the experienced person opens a book and has to acquire fundamental knowledge that they could have learn in uni.


One experience in my life was good enough to massively value the time at college. This involved the ability to sit in any class that I enjoyed.

I sat in on ASL classes, sat in on a DSP course (because I needed it for a personal project and didn't have $250 whatever for the book) and the instructors were pretty cool with an unregd student sitting in.

Nothing after college has even come close to that experience (one where you will always find some guy/girl who breathes the stuff you need to know and is more than happy to share it).

The internet is coming close to that but there is something amazing about being around humans and learning from them that electrons/photons through wires/fiber can't capture.


I consider myself pro-college, but I do feel you are wasting your time if your only concern is about post-graduation employment opportunities. For that, your time would be much better spend focusing on employment.

I find it disturbing how many have to resort to showing a correlation between income and education just to sell the institution. It seems like the value in education should be enough to make it worthwhile, even if you end up being a barista when it is all said and done.

I feel the subtle anti-college bias you speak to is just that. It is not the college itself that is the problem, just the attitude that you have to go to college to get a high paying job, which is demonstrated over and over again to not be true.


> the serendipitous connections that I made by being mixed in with a bunch of smart people who like to tinker.

You're lucky - some colleges have that atmosphere, and many do not. At 18 I certainly wasn't capable of picking that sort of environment on purpose, and no one around me knew how to advise me. So I tried a few different colleges, and didn't find anything that I cared about, and just started working instead.

Fortunately there are other places to meet those communities of people. Sometimes you'll go to an event and half of them went to college together - at MIT or Reed or Grinnell or Bard or UC Berkeley or Mudd or some other random place (most of which I had never heard of when I was looking at colleges). But the other half are just random people like me, who jumped into this culture at age 23 or 30 or whatever. And the handfull of years that they knew each-other way back when matter less and less over time.


Jamie Zawinski (jwz), one of my heroes, is a well accomplished software engineer/hacker, as we would all agree. One fact is that he didn't go to college.

I am in my final year of college myself, and I believe there's no one right way of succeeding in your career.

EDIT: some re-wording


> Also, if you discover something and want to find out more, emailing the person who worked on it is a great start.

+1 to this. I've emailed people from other institutions for the source code behind their research and gotten it. Never hurts to ask.


Yes, I agree, college is where I learned the most and at the highest pace, but not in classrooms or from professors. Mostly from classmates and other students, juniors and seniors. There is no place like college.


From the "stunningly obvious" department...

Seriously, college is practically useless for what people are using it for today (vocational training.) It was not intended to serve that purpose.

The reason that everyone started going to college was that lazy companies used BA degrees as entrance exams because being able to go to college used to be a proxy for 'good breeding'. Therefore, having a college degree was a sure ticket to get a(n office) job. Therefore, everyone started going to college. Therefore, a college degree became a checkbox requirement for a job, not anything that actually helps you get one.


I think companies started asking for BA degrees precisely because college education is readily available and almost everyone they are interested in has a degree.

Yes, college is over-hyped, yes we're in tuition bubble not unlike the housing bubble from not-so-distant past but if most of the crop has college education and you're interested in hiring the cream of the crop, requiring a college degree is given.


if most of the crop has college education and you're interested in hiring the cream of the crop, requiring a college degree is given

I will agree with you that this is how many hiring managers think. I happen to know counterexamples (people who declined to finish college degree programs even though they were admitted to college on financial terms affordable with their family resources) who have nonetheless obtained paying work based on college-graduate-level skills they developed despite lack of a degree. But you correctly state the general state of mind of hiring managers.

That said, the general state of mind of hiring managers is wrong. Preferring people with degrees to people who lack degrees is less supported by research than quite a few other hiring criteria. I last posted my FAQ for Hacker News on company hiring procedures

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4270768

seven days ago, so rather than repeat all those keystrokes here, allow me to say that hiring managers have more reliable criteria to look at for hiring job applicants than college degrees or any other kind of biographical data about the applicants. Check the FAQ

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4270768

for more details.


Where I work we wouldn't fail to at least interview someone without a 4yr college degree with some form (formal or otherwise) of related experience.

However, college degrees do have some advantages:

From the POV of hiree: we recruit on college campuses because that's the only place you find any significant population of qualified people who don't already have full-time jobs.

From the POV of hirer: GMA tests aren't allowed, but when hiring programmers, a CS general knowledge test is, and when comparing dozens of people who all went through exactly the same CS program, it's a pretty darn good proxy for a GMA test.


CS general knowledge tests of people going through the same program are not at all a good proxy for a GMA test - there is a lot of variance in how people actually go through the same program, even with the same grades. You can't abstract that down to a test and assume the difference is the result in a difference in intelligence.


The difference with the housing bubble is you can't walk away from your college debt by just filing bankruptcy.


This doesn't really make sense. People who are different from the usual person have unusual backgrounds. This often includes highly-skilled "best of breed" individuals. You don't get somewhere unusual by doing all the usual things. It does not make any sense to either ostracize or acclaim candidates just by virtue of their having a degree; there are many dumb people with a degree and many smart people without (and vice-versa).

A degree really does not tell you anything useful. Unless a candidate has advanced degrees, I almost never mention education in interviews because I really don't care about it. It is not a reliable metric of anything, really.


While I agree that college is a poor substitute for vocational training or an apprenticeship, I think it can provide a great benefit. For most, college is a stepping stone to being an adult. You are now making more decisions for yourself, meeting many new people, hopefully living with your peers instead of your parents. At the same time, college provides a fairly structured environment, go to class, study, take tests, have summer break, and do it again. This is similar to high school, but you have a lot more control. The college will help when you want it, but unless high school, they are more willing to not give a damn when you don't give a damn. With all this, there are all the generals that everyone hates. These are phenomenal. I wish I spent more time learning about history, languages, psychology, communication, and art (well I got that education by marrying an artist).

Learning to program and the basics of math (I am calling anything less than abstract algebra basic math) and the basics of computer science theory (automota, grammars, etc) was worthwhile, but I have met enough self taught programmers that I don't think college is that special in this regards. Other industries might be different, especially more formal engineering ones like EE, but I could be wrong. No, all the other bits that rounded me out helped me the most to be who I am. I am not just a programmer and college helped that.


One problem with apprenticeships in the US is that they aren't really tied in with larger employment landscape. In Germany apprenticeships are an integral part of a highly regulated system of guilds. You can't really run a business as a painter or plumber unless you've gone through an apprenticeship and then followed that up with a "Meister". At that point you can be licensed to have apprentices of your own.

Here in the US everything is more freeform and unregulated so apprenticeships are mostly an informal way of companies and employees to augment the existing labor market.

The other aspect that usually goes unmentioned is that there's a glass ceiling for workers without a university degree, both in Germany and the US. The pay might be more equal in more regulated countries but the status of a university degree is much higher.

What's also interesting is that the relative cost of a university degree is much lower in Germany yet apprenticeships remain popular.


The US needs to start pushing vocational schools as much as college. People need an alternative. If college is not for some people, they have a viable alternative.

The German system is something that would work in the US. Unlike the Finnish system, it does have a lot of variation and would have a better chance of working in a larger country.

Also, some for-profit colleges are a scam. It is really hard to tell which are good. They also over promise (employment, etc) results.


At least in my area, vocational training is absolutely being pushed. The problem I see is there aren't enough state-funded schools providing inexpensive training for things liks Medical Assisting. There are lots of $20k private programs, but the earnings from the job can't (rationally) justify that.


In the UK a lot of vocational providers are for-profit(Especially apprenticeships). I would of expected more vocational programs, would increase for-profit schools.

The most dominant vocational qualifications Btecs, HND's etc are all from pearson education...


Slightly offbeat question about this article: does it seem strange that the featured apprentice, good at maths, was planning to go to university to study International Relations?

Of course, she's just one person so it could be pure chance, but lots of Americans seem to study (or major in) communications, business, subjects that seem to lurk around the social sciences. I mean, if this apprentice is good at maths and doing well working for Siemens, why wasn't she guided towards a course in mechanical or electrical engineering?


You're kidding, right? You haven't read any of the many posts on HN about women in CS or engineering?


With the way high school is graded, "straight As" in math means "did the homework" more than "was good at math". So she probably didn't particularly like or excel at math but just put some work into it.


Speaking as an 18 year old almost done with my first Summer internship, I could not agree more. I went into college with a pretty solid grasp on Java (competed on the national level) and didn't learn a thing my first year. However, as soon as I stepped into my internship, I was learning from day one. You just can't learn the same lessons in school as you can from writing code that silently deletes database records when they should be getting updated...

Yeah. Internships are important. :)


I completely agree. There are obviously degrees which teach useful skills, but the majority of people studying humanities at a large university shouldn't be there. They're learning very little which is applicable to their life, and they're not bright enough to continue in that area of academia. The actual useful skills that you learn doing an english degree could probably be covered in a single semester.


What is a useful skill? How do you decide if it is useful? Why can't those people spend the time learning what they want to learn? Why does everything have be applicable to life in the way you imply?

Do you know what someone learns from an English degree? How is all that different from a single semester of an English class?


Australia--particularly Western Australia and Queensland--is currently undergoing the largest resources boom in history thanks to China's insatiable appetite for petroleum and iron.

Because of this there are two industries that are big winners: construction and the direct resources sector. EVeryone else--including software--are losers. So you might earn A$100-150K (base) as a senior (5-10+ years professional experience) software engineer in a capital city but you will have an extraordinarily high cost of living.

To put this in comparison, my nephew at 17, was a deckhand on a tugboat in a mining port making $120K+. Now that he has a license to captain a vessel up to 25 metres I believe he's rapidly approaching if not exceeding $200K.

Now this isn't without expenses either. A crappy home in a mining town can probably put you back $1000/week or more in rent (20 years ago they couldn't give these houses away at $50,000).

He's not a special example either. Those who did apprenticeships (eg electricians, plumbers, fitters and turners) are particularly well-off. Australia is highly regulated when it comes to these jobs. If you say you're a licensed electrician and you're not you can go to jail. The only way to get licensed is to do a 4 year apprenticeship.

The plus side of this is that the standard for Australian tradesmen, at least in my experience, is exceptionally high. The UK is essentially unregulated here (by comparison) and if you're in the UK, hiring a licensed Australian tradesman is really your best bet if you want quality work.

Now, software engineers are on the high end of the salary scale for those who must (or generally do) go to university. You could easily end up in other disciplines only making $50,000 a year. Trust me when I tell you that in Australia this is a pretty low standard of living now unless you were lucky enough to have bought a house 10+ years ago.

So what you're seeing in this post is nothing new to Australia and it's even more pronounced in Australia.

I actually think this is an economically structural problem. Building a new house now (both my brothers-in-law are in construction) costs about $1500-2000 per square meter (for single storey, add 50% for two-storey). New apartments in West Perth now sell for up to $10,000+ per square meter. This is insanely high and well beyond local living standards (for all but a few).

Anyway, picking up one of these trades in Australia at least instead of going to university has been lucrative for many years and shows no signs of abating.


"Anyway, picking up one of these trades in Australia at least instead of going to university has been lucrative for many years and shows no signs of abating."

But it will abate of course, 'rushes' always do. The successful people get in, double or triple their working capital and then step away. A lot of people will keep trying to cash in way past the stage that its possible and lose everything.

I was reading an article in Smithsonian magazine about the Australian mining rush. You realize this is what will happen in Afghanistan right? They have a crap ton of iron and they share a land border with China. I am sure that somewhere someone is putting in motion the plans to get a rail line built to the border such that ore can be removed rapidly from the country. If the Afghanis are smart they will figure out how to get the smelting industries built in country so that they capture both the resource benefit and the steel making capacity they need to kick up to the next level. Unscrupulous folks will try to prevent that, so much easier to steal from someone when it looks like you're just carrying away rocks.


>Afghanistan right? They have a crap ton of iron and they share a land border with China.

I am going to guess that (because of the mountains in Eastern Afghanistan and Western China) the cheapest way to get iron ore or oil from Afghanistan to China (particularly since most of the demand is in the coastal parts of China) is to haul it to Karachi and put it on ships.

There's also of course a very large political risk for any investment in Afghanistan, and mining there would require major foreign investment.

(I do not disagree with your overall point that the other parts of the world will ramp up mining, but Afghanistan is probably not going to be the next Australia.)

ADDED. Google Maps does not show any roads that cross the border from Aghanistan to China although there is a road that crosses from Pakistan to China.


I think we're in agreement, Afghanistan is a looooong way from being another Australia. My observation was that the Chinese rail system extends out to Kashgar [1] in the far western provinces. And the Chinese have proven themselves adept at creating new rail at a pretty impressive rate. Further, there are decent Fe1/Fe2 ore reserves in the mountain range that connects with China [2]. The long finger of mountains that connect China with Afghanistan would need a rail line (probably along the valleys rather than along the top (the peaks reach as high as 18,000'!) Or an easier route which would be through Tajikistan(sp?)

Anyway, China is already in there trying to negotiate mineral leases and they have the money to invest. And they have the People's Army to insure against political instability :-)

[1] http://www.johomaps.com/as/china/chinarail.html

[2] http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3152/B/ - advise not to open in Acrobat on low memory machines :-)


I think at the moment China considers those mountain borders to be a feature.


The devastating effect a natural resources boom can have on an economy are known as:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_disease


With some notable mitigations, particularly in the case of Norway, as noted in the Wikipedia article.


Almost identical to the financialization that's been going on with Wall Street.


Usually termed "rent-seeking". I'll have to think a bit on whether / how this is related to Dutch disease.

Off the top of my head, though, DD is exploiting a resource to create, but concentrate, wealth. RS is exploiting a market anomaly or manipulation to create a self-directed wealth stream, though often or usually decreasing overall societal wealth in the process.

DD is economically beneficial activity with an inequitable distribution of gains.

RS is economically harmful activity with an inequitable distribution of gains.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent_seeking


The uk is not unregulated for trades, far from it, all significant trades are regulated (see corgi, Niceic and part p for example). It is illegal to do even the simplest electrical work without qualifications or inspection. I'm not sure why you feel australian tradesmen have a monopoly on quality work, but there are plenty of qualified and competent tradesmen from other countries working in the uk as well.


$1000 per WEEK!? for a "crappy" house? That's insane!


>> To put this in comparison, my nephew at 17, was a deckhand on a tugboat in a mining port making $120K+. Now that he has a license to captain a vessel up to 25 metres I believe he's rapidly approaching if not exceeding $200K.

I think the major problem is salary. Who the hell pays a captain $200K a year? Managers at high end companies don't even make that much, especially mine. Its not just that, celebrities, sports coaches, and the entertainment industry in general are over paid. Its only a lucrative business because most people don't care about being smart or learning things, they care about their next fix of football or basketball or any other stupid game or TV show that does absolutely nothing for society.

The pay structure isn't aligned with education and experience and that's what promotes high standards of living and a lot of the problems with jobs. People that aren't well educated and have limited experience (like in a trade), probably don't spend their money wisely. Not only that, the cost of training for a tradesmen vs. a college grad is next to nothing because a college grad, like a computer science grad, doesn't need to be taught how to program, design, or use software development tools because there is already a general foundation of understanding. As a tradesmen, there is hardly any foundation. For example, this girl has be taught how to read blueprints and run machines on the job where I don't have to be taught any of that (outside of internal company knowledge) because of my engineering education.


> Its not just that, celebrities, sports coaches, and the entertainment industry in general are over paid.

These people deliver value to someone.

I'm not a fan of sports, but I trust a few million people who enjoy watching sports as to what the proper allocation of that money is than I trust you.

> The pay structure isn't aligned with education and experience

Who cares?

The pay structure is aligned with value delivered and the rarity of the skills in question.

Your opinion that education is what should get compensated is deeply uninteresting.

> People that aren't well educated and have limited experience (like in a trade), probably don't spend their money wisely.

Baseless assertion.

A plumber making $90k/yr may not have the exact same IQ you have, but he's likely smart enough to buy a house, save for retirement, etc...and a lot less likely to gamble his entire future on one "hot" startup.

I've known a lot more tradesmen with second and third houses (for the rental income) than I've know engineers.

> As a tradesmen, there is hardly any foundation.

Have you met many tradesmen?

Any?


>I trust a few million people who enjoy watching sports as to what the proper allocation of that money is than I trust you.

What value do they deliver that requires them to add several more zeros to their income? Do you really trust people that waste their time paying hand over fist, listening to the next person sing when there are real problems in the world worth solving?

Actors aren't rare. Singers aren't rare. I can do tradesmen work with less training that's needed to start someone from square one like this article suggests. If companies are in real need of tradesmen, why not just convert engineers over?

> The pay structure is aligned with value delivered and the rarity of the skills in question. Your opinion that education is what should get compensated is deeply uninteresting.

I never said people should be compensated based solely on education. Nice strawman. But the fact that you find the value of education "deeply uninteresting" just tells me that you're lazy and really shouldn't even be making claims about tradesmen who require at least some form of education. Its just there education is extremely compartmentalized. Their job isn't meant for design, innovation, and flexibility.

> Baseless assertion.

A plumber making $90k/yr may not have the exact same IQ you have, but he's likely smart enough to buy a house, save for retirement, etc...and a lot less likely to gamble his entire future on one "hot" startup.

I've known a lot more tradesmen with second and third houses (for the rental income) than I've know engineers.

Notice I said probably, as in I'm not really sure, but since you trust a few million people that spend tons of money on sports than myself, it makes your position debatable. So it leads to the question, does a plumber need to make $90k/yr to buy a house, save for retirement, etc? And by the way, just because you know more tradesmen with retirement homes than engineers, doesn't make it true unless you perform a study with appropriate sample size and statistical rigor to suggest a correlation. Something usually done by college grads.

> Have you met many tradesmen? Any?

Yes I have. In fact I came from Flint, MI. You know that city that use to have a bunch of trades and union workers making cars? You know that city is pretty much dead and infested with crime. You know why? Because such workers walked out of high school, demanded high wages for menial work, and coupled with GM's miss management, caused the plants there to be wiped off the map. And, unfortunately, because the people who worked at those plants decided to forgo the "deeply uninteresting" education and just walk into the plant to get a job, they've screwed themselves.


1) Are you from Australia?

I'm not, so those numbers looked high to me, until I remembered that Aussie dollars are worth about half of American dollars.

2) People, in general, don't spend their money wisely.

3) Unlike a college grad, tradesmen work during their training, so they are productive for the company from day one. It is a win-win situation that should be a model for jobs everywhere, not just technician jobs.


The AUD is worth more than the USD: http://www.google.com/finance?q=CURRENCY%3AAUD


Since when did people going to college not "work"? Have you even been to college?


My point is that apprentice technicians and tradesmen offset the cost of their training by working for the company that trains them. Maybe not entirely, but if not, they make it up by being more productive after training than someone who was trained elsewhere. Ultimately, these companies wouldn't invest in training if there wasn't a return on that investment.


> Ultimately, these companies wouldn't invest in training if there wasn't a return on that investment.

Possibly, but its hard to see a ROI in this situation considering they are paying for training and giving the kids a full-time job, possibly with benefits. That's a couple thousand a person in training + 44,000 salary + a couple thousand in benefits and possibly a union membership. I don't see how there is cost offset over converting engineers who have a base knowledge. Not only that, where are they going to go if they lose their job?

We're also talking about high school students here. They've had stuff taken care of for them all their life (baring extenuating circumstances). Not exactly the most responsible bunch I would guess.


Dude, they aren't "giving" away jobs. This isn't a charity. You don't hire people unless you need them to make money, and then you do whatever it takes to help them make you money. If it wasn't in the best financial interests of the employer, they wouldn't do it.

Why would you prefer engineers take a pay cut to do technician work rather than the engineering they are trained for and experienced in? If an engineer can do it, I bet it would be even easier to transfer VPs and executives to these lucrative technician jobs, right?


Because, if you look at it from a business standpoint, why would you hire more employers if you have employers that can convert. Unlike some people, I don't need $90k to make a living. But then again, when has ethics ever been a problem right? Its all about wanting more and more. Not to mention, some engineers are really crappy and since getting a new job isn't particularly easy, especially with a family, pay cuts are an option.

I've seen a lot of things done at the company I work for that wasn't exactly in the companies "financial interest". Its amazing how much money is used for things that aren't needed because a manager felt they couldn't wait an extra month, or something wasn't "moving" fast enough, or other poor excuses that justify spending 50k on a system of which they probably don't even use the majority of the features.


Depends where you go to school. At many private schools, parents simply pay all the kids' living expenses. Sure, some people work, but I would say more than half simply have money deposited in their checking account by family. I know many people from my years at college who had never worked a job until their first job after graduation.


That isn't the work I'm talking about. I'm talking about assignments and exercises. The things you're suppose to be doing in college.


I should mention that I looked it up, and Australian dollars are almost 1:1 with US dollars. So, yeah, those numbers are high. Good for your nephew.


The stupidity hurts.


I know of plenty of Software Engineers in New Zealand making the equivalent of the US minimum wage.


While I definitely don't undermine college degrees, it only gives you a foundation to get out there in the real world. As far as corporate or job related skills are concerned, you pick most of them up on the job. That is why I personally think that the usual 4 year structure needs a serious overhaul.


The headline is a bit of an attention grab, the article doesn't really get into any negatives about college, but I think this concept is spot on and why many 20 and 30 somethings find themselves unemployed or underpaid these days. You can gain a lot from college if you use it correctly, but it's become the thing you "have to do" when you finish high school. The problem is, many high school grads don't know what they want, or how to make college work for them, and so they end up floundering between majors and eventually graduating with some general degree. This of course means they are facing 2 huge challenges for finding a job upon graduation: 1) they likely have no real employable skills 2) they likely have nothing to differentiate them from the thousands of other candidates who also graduated in a similar position.

High school students: if you don't know what you want to get out of college, don't go. Or put it off for a few years. Apprenticeship, entry-level work (where you learn a skill or trade, not flipping burgers), travel: these things will help you figure out a goal for your life. The adults around you telling you that college is the only way to get a job are out of touch with the realities of your position as a young, inexperienced adult entering the workforce.


How are people who might struggle to afford to go to college supposed to afford to just "travel" as you put it?


I'm not sure how you read that as I was suggesting just travel. Travel was suggested as one alternative, but so was working entry level or finding an apprenticeship, the implication there being you'll learn a skill and get paid.

I do think everyone should find time to travel at some point in their life, and it's usually easier when you're young. You'd be surprised how cheaply you can travel if you're willing to live on a budget. But if you just have no money, by all means work. And save.

But what I'm tired of seeing is the legions of teenagers who end up $50k+ in debt with a meaningless degree in communications or something, who then complain they can't get a job. They ended up in that place because they went to college because they were "supposed to", but had no idea how to make it useful for themselves. Doing other things for a few years will help you gain perspective into how you might use college for yourself, or realize that you don't need it.


A minor point:

"And so one of my goals ultimately in this company is to become an engineer, and possibly, you know, travel around the world, go to other Siemens factories, and maybe, you know, work with other engineers from other countries."

It sounds like she has the degree-bearing, recognized-by-law engineer in mind.


Apprenticeships used to be the way that people became masters at anything. Master craftsmen, master artisans, master chefs, and master sushi makers (http://www.magpictures.com/jirodreamsofsushi/). It wasn't until reading this story that I truly thought about the relationship between apprenticeships and the batches of graduates from "accelerator" programs.

Today, accelerator programs are largely exclusive. In fact, their popularity has risen in part to their exclusivity and privilege. The exclusivity stems from the fact that after the period of "acceleration" is over, the ability to raise capital is much higher. After the apprenticeship, the apprentice just has a "job", most likely for the master.

Accelerators have done a great job exploiting their "artificial scarcity" to a great extent, making them highly desirable. The "masters" or "mentors" in the accelerator model differ from apprenticeships in that they are multifaceted and have a variety of different backgrounds. In an apprenticeship, usually the masters are focused uniquely on one trade.

According to the article, "apprenticeships are still fighting an image battle. Only 0.3 percent of the American workforce are apprentices, according to a report from American University economist Robert Lerman."

This sounds like the job of a great design and marketing team. A project I worked on as a student in Design School called the New Options Initiative (http://www.newoptionsproject.org/home) sponsored by the WK Kellogg foundation sought to create new alternatives for people who dropped out of school. The project recognizes that school isn't for everyone, and we need alternative career/job paths for people that are similar to the apprenticeship model.

It'd be interesting to see what happened if we just changed the words apprenticeship to accelerator, and provided more means for self-employment and entrepreneurship to the participants. I'm willing to bet that more people would consider it a viable alternative.


I've been a jack of trades in the web dev/IT space for an embarrassingly long time (considering how little money I make). Two years ago I decided to go back to school to finish college (I'm 45), this time w/ the aim of pursuing a degree in computer science. So far so good: I'm less mystified/intimidated by math than I was and the intellectual stimulation of the academy is a refreshing change from corporate software engineering shops where innovative, forward-looking ways of doing things is not necessarily embraced as a virtue. Anyway, nothing ventured, nothing gained I say.


That's what we Swiss knew for a long, long time already ...


It depends on the profession. In some professions, college is useful, in others, not so much.

What colleges should NOT be used for is a proxy to measure the intelligence or diligence of people (unless you're in one of those very few jobs where a college environment mimics your work environment).

It is dreadfully inefficient, significantly inaccurate, and in net, almost certainly reducing overall economic output.


don't (at least some people) do both any more? does industrial sponsorship still exist for university students?

i got sponsorship from british aerospace. they paid part of my fees and in return i worked for them for a year before university (in the apprentice program) and over the summers.

i'd recommend that approach for anyone - even if (like me) you go on to an academic career (i continued for a phd). and i should admit that although i was on the apprentice scheme, as a future university student i wasn't held to the same standards as the people who would be working in the workshops (for example they had to get closer tolerances when machining things).

BUT the college courses we took as part of the apprenticeship (at the local polytechnic) were pretty bad. i don't know how anyone would have learnt much there. so it's not all perfect. it seems like the ideal world would have both university-quality courses and practical experience (and don't vocational university programs include industrial experience anyway - at least for engineers?)


When my dad had a apprenticeship, there were two types, technical, and craft. Craft apprenticeships were machinists, and they had no chance of ever going to university. They often stayed on the shop floor for the rest of their lives.

Technical apprenticeships(Often requiring o-levels and such, and came from grammar/technical schools), never touched the shop floor and many went on to university. Example Apprentices - Draughtsman and such.

Obviously different companies operated differently, if you was operating as a machinist... on the university track...

The image of CNC machine operator going on to engineering at an elite college may be nice, but often it's just PR to get people to apply for the jobs and a fairly exceptional career path. Most don't.


i don't completely follow your argument, so forgive me if this is irrelevant, but i wasn't saying that cnc operators should go to elite universities. my points were, i guess, that: (1) even if you're going to university it's a pleasure to get workshop experience and (2) the taught part of the apprenticeship (at the poly) was very poor quality.

i don't mean by (2) that it would stop a cnc operator from going to an elite university. what i mean is that i am sure future cnc operators hated it just as much as we (future grads) did, because it was very difficult to understand or learn anything.


I wasn't saying anything really other than the fact it's often used as PR. I was just saying the if you was on the technical track, at my dads old company you would not be training to be a machinist at all.

I also agree we need make sure that education is top quality as well. We should not let them down with bad quality education. They should have high quality education that can lead onto serious study if that's what they want to do.


Like someone else already said, you get a generalized education with colleges, unless you know what you want to do for the rest of your life at 17. The other flip side to apprenticeships, particularly in the US, a year into it company management could decide to shut down this cost center and then what?


An apprenticeship isn't a generalized education like going to college is. Even though I majored in computer science, I still took physics, chemistry, english, psychology, and more classes.

If I did an apprenticeship, I feel like my career choices would be limited to that one field that I worked on.


...and if you were a fresh college grad you'd be bemoaning all the entry level jobs requiring five years of experience. I really wish that was a joke.


I'm a fairly recent college grad (about 3 years ago) and I know what you mean. I constantly was bringing up the fact that their job posting said it required 5 years experience, when it didn't. I kept pointing out "I don't even have these qualifications and I already work here"

My next job I got hired into a position (although not entry level) that asked for at least 5 years of experience.

Lots of those jobs that "require" experience don't, or you can fudge it by talking about experience you had in college or something. I have no idea why HR departments do that.


Generally, (based on conversations about this with HR people) the point is to filter out applicants who don't have any experience at all.

They expect people with experience sufficient for the entry-level nature of the position to contact them or include in their cover letter a statement which points out that they lack the arbitrary 5 years but otherwise have X, Y, and Z sufficient to do the job.

For example: most federal agencies required 5 years of experience for legal positions for entry-level legal positions, but frequently hired graduating law students for these same positions (at least until the hiring freezes in 2009 and 2010). To put this in perspective: 5 years is usually the standard experience required for a lawyer to seek certification for a speciality in an area of law...


You can learn computer science, programming, physics, chemistry, english, psychology and more...in your own home. You don't need a B.A. or a B.S. for that.

You cannot learn the skills companies like Siemens are offering like that, definitely not in a way that would get you a job.

Closest to it is how my dad got started, by tinkering with motorcycles in his youth and eventually getting a start in manufacturing, but it was a really really long time before he got a decent job.


You can learn computer science, programming, physics, chemistry, english, psychology and more...in your own home. You don't need a B.A. or a B.S. for that.

I'll disagree when it comes to chemistry and physics. If you are going to be doing either of these in anything above the 200-level classes you are going to need resources you can only get in two places - universities and private/gov't institutions.

Besides that, there is a wealth of knowledge at universities that you can't get from a lot of books. And what if you don't comprehend something? You're paying someone to help you understand.


You don't know what you don't know. You may think you know computer science, but you could be missing critical parts. That's what formal courses are for.


I thought that was what books and bibliographies were for.


Try asking a book a question. Even so, text books cost a butt load. Might as well be a part of a college when you can ask profs even after walking out the door.


You need to know what books to read.


I can't help but be reminded of PG's essay, "Why Nerds are Unpopular," where he talks about teenage apprentices in the Renaissance. Also, his point about specialization seems appropriate here.

http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html


We need more of this. We need post-secondary education that focuses on giving people real-world, practical skills. There's only so much room in our economy for psychologists and communications majors.


You know, psychologists get an awful amount of bashing places. Speaking as a psychologist (almost PhD qualified) working in web analytics, it really isn't deserved.

A good psychology program will give you:

Good communication skills and some insight into how organisations work. Relatively OK statistics skills (no statistician, but at least knowing about the problem with multiple comparisons)

Excellent experimental design and analysis skills. Good human interaction HCI skills (sometimes).

These are extremely useful skills for web analysts and market researchers. And while market research is not expanding that much, web analytics is. I could easily have done the job I'm doing now with just my undergrad (though they might not have hired me), the major problem was that I didn't even know what web analytics was when I finished my degree.

That being said, i spent 9 months unemployed a few years after finishing my degree and during my doctorate I focused on giving myself statistics and programming skills so that I would never be unemployed again, so maybe I'm not typical of psychology students.


More like college is overrated and apprenticeship non-existent. You need to both be connected and wealthy to get an unpaid internship, where you will get experience in data entry and coffee-making. Any actual apprenticeship program has people breaking their necks to get in.

$25-$30K a year to learn a trade? I could find you 10,000 candidates within the hour, even if it was located in BFE, Montana.


I went to a big party college, and I cold called small businesses until I got my first paid internship. That turned in to a full time offer which turned in to business school (massive student debt, worth every penny), which turned in to multiple offers from excellent finance companies.

I am neither wealthy or connected (orignally). Now I'm on my way to being both.

People want to do the easy stuff, the hard stuff is putting yourself out there and picking up a phone. You can always find 10,000 people that want an easy to get opportunity.


>People want to do the easy stuff, the hard stuff is putting yourself out there and picking up a phone.

"Most people don't get those experiences because they never ask." - Steve Jobs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkTf0LmDqKI


You did what you had to do, and any success you have is hard earned. It is also not scalable and an enormous waste of productivity.


Not scalable? That's what most people are doing for salaried jobs. There is a tiny sliver of people that found their jobs on Monster.com, there is also a tiny sliver of people with 'connections' (they're not the 1% for nothing). Everyone else muddled through job fairs, online listings, and cold calls to get their jobs.

My work history and how I got the job, pumping gas (family), McDonalds (cold called), ski shop (cold called), engineering internship (cold called), startup internship (cold called), fortune 500 company (college job fair), startup (cold called).

Cold called = email, showing up in person, or picking up the phone. But it means 'the job was never listed anywhere'.

My girlfriend has had many more positions, but the main ones were temp (temp agency), 1st internship (cold called), better internship (bosses at both internships were married, when husband at first internship could no longer pay her, the wife hired her elsewhere), temp job (temp agency), crappy job (listed online), awesome startup job (cold called).


The Australian dollar is currently at parity with the US dollar, so it is as high as you think.


The average tuition cost is approximately $16,000 per year. Plus assume another $10,000 in living costs, books, etc. $26,000 in total for a complete cost of $104,000 in a 4 year period. Some people choose to go more expensive by going to a private college and some people choose to go a little cheaper by going public but this is an average. Also, a huge assumption is that its just for a 4 year period. According to the Department of Education, only 54% of undergraduates graduate within 6 years. So for the 46% that don’t graduate, or take 10 years to graduate, this is a horrible investment. But lets assume your children are in the brilliant first half who finish within six years (and hopefully within four). Is it worth it? First, let’s look at it completely from a monetary perspective. Over the course of a lifetime, according to CollegeBoard, a college graduate can be expected to earn $800,000 more than his counterpart that didn’t go to college. $800,000 is a big spread and it could potentially separate the haves from the have-nots. But who has and who doesn’t?

If I took that $104,000 and I chose to invest it in a savings account that had interest income of 5% per year I’d end up with an extra $1.4 million dollars over a 50 year period. A full $600,000 more. That $600,000 is a lot of extra money an 18 year old could look forward to in her retirement. I also think the $800,000 quoted above is too high. Right now most motivated kids who have the interest and resources to go to college think it’s the only way to go if they want a good job. If those same kids decided to not go to college my guess is they would quickly close the gap on that $800,000 spread.

There are other factors as well. I won’t be spending $104,000 per child when my children, ages 10 and 7, decide to go to college. College costs have historically gone up much faster than inflation. Since 1978, cost of living has gone up three-fold. Medical costs, much to the horror of everyone in Congress, has gone up six-fold. And college education has gone up a whopping tenfold. This is beyond the housing bubble, the stock market bubble, any bubble you can think of.

So how can people afford college? Well, how has the US consumer afforded anything? They borrow it, of course. The average student now graduates with a $23,000 debt burden. Up from $13,000 12 years ago. Last year, student borrowings totaled $75 billion, up 25% from the year before. If students go on to graduate degrees such as law degrees they can see their debt burden soar to $200,000 or more. And the easy borrowing convinces colleges that they can raise prices even more.

http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2010/02/dont-send-your-kids-to-....

http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/01/10-more-reasons-why-par....

http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/01/8-alternatives-to-colle....


only 54% of undergraduates graduate within 6 year

I'm guessing the people who don't graduate within 6 years are not paying fulltime tuition, and have an outside job to pay for their degree. So your point is way over-exaggerated.


Replacing unions, one apprenticeship at a time!


The truth of the matter here is that the girl in the article settled for something other than what she originally wanted to be. Sure, she may have acquired some job security at a fairly young age. But she'll always be a machinist, not an engineer with a focus on international studies, a machinist. I think these apprenticeship opportunities are fantastic for those who absolutely cannot afford college, or those that would only end up earning a useless degree. But if you can afford college, even with loans, it is an experience that you cannot replicate if you do it right.

Here on HN and in the tech/startup community, there has been a ton of college-bashing recently. While I agree that the cost of a college education in America these days is ridiculously high, I still see it as a worthy investment in most situations (I'm glad I was fortunate enough to make that investment). It's an environment where knowledge flows openly and the mistakes of learning are less costly. It's a time where young adults learn about themselves and their place in the world. It's an invaluable source of connections and relationships. In the end, that kind of experience can enable people to become exactly who/what they want to be. That has always been the inherent goal of higher education, but we seem to have gotten lost along the way.

Now in this thread and all over the internet, I've heard story after story of people who went to college and claimed no benefit from it. Many of them state that they never learned anything useful at all. I feel that often this problem is more the fault of the individual than the university system. If a person can claim they went through college without learning, then I must conclude that they didn't try hard enough. Learning is not a passive activity. It requires dialogue, critical thinking, rehearsal, connection-making, and questioning. Learning is something you choose to do.

Now, that is not to say that our colleges and universities are without flaws. Far from it. Current education techniques have become antiquated in face of new technology and a better understanding of how knowledge is acquired. The "sage on the stage" style of lecture is no longer an effective means of enriching young minds. Meanwhile, large universities operate more like corporations than institutes of education. They build huge recreational centers and football stadiums to attract students, while the educational facilities stagnate. High ranking officials take pay raises, while our teachers and professors are paid scraps compared to how important their jobs are. Admission decisions are affected by who you know and how much tuition you can be milked for. Research universities continue to hire brilliant minds from all different fields of research, but whom lack the ability/concern for actually teaching. Furthermore, education in technical fields completely ignores "soft skills" that make for truly great engineers/scientists/mathematicians. Meanwhile, tuition rates continue to rise.

I have seen all of the above, firsthand. Education has hardly changed since the Cold War, and it's time for a revolution. Abandoning the higher education system is not an option if we wish to continue developing ourselves and to grow as a species. This community here is full of some of the most intelligent and creative individuals that I have ever interacted with. Surely, we can fix this.

TL;DR The girl in this article gave up on her dream. If utilized to its full potential, a college education is a very beneficial experience, for those that can afford it, and should not be passed up. Our education system has A LOT of flaws, but abandoning it is not the answer. We need to fix the system to ensure a brighter future.


We could go on days and days about this matter (and maybe we should).

But we live in the times where nobody knows what will be going on in 30 years time†, so I believe this quote is spot on: "Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything one learned in school."-AE

† to all who don't agree with this statement - we can't report weather for 5 days in advance, let alone know the economy and everything else in 30 years


Software Engineering should the same really. Apprenticeship.


They exist in the UK. They essentially amount to working towards java certs (http://education.oracle.com/pls/web_prod-plq-dad/db_pages.ge...) or .net certs.

Not exactly a well rounded education in cs...

I would hate to miss the cool stuff in cs, and just become specialised in corporate software...




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