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Have We Reached the Beginning of the End for College Degrees?

Derek Magill, Voice & Exit Sprout Speaker

The era of college as the dominant path to personal, intellectual and professional success is over.

Amid rising levels of college debt, unemployment, and unhappiness among graduates, the powerful propaganda that young people have been pummeled with for decades that college is the “ideal” is packing a weaker punch.

More and more young people are beginning to see college as a 4-6 year postponement from the real world that costs far more than it’s worth.

Rather than asking themselves “how can I make the most of the existing system?” a small but growing community of young people are asking “how can I exit that system entirely and build an alternative education on my own?”

They’re starting businesses, curating the best educational resources from all around the world, launching personal projects, writing books, and developing themselves in novel ways at a much faster pace than a traditional university course allows.

They aren’t shackled to one university, one group of professors, one community, and one syllabus. They have the whole world from which to choose.

Not only are they getting a world class education at a fraction of the cost, but they’re accomplishing it at a much earlier age than we’re typically taught is possible.

A few people on the fringe are starting to ask:

What if these young people are right? What if the solution to the challenges of the current model rests not in reform but in wholesale rejection?

As a college dropout who works with college age young people from all over the world, I believe the answer lies in exit.

The opportunity to build a creative self education for yourself has never been better. I’ve lived it and have helped others from the United State to Ecuador and India do the same.

Here four reasons to think that we have indeed reached the beginning of the end for college degrees (in many fields) and that the future will belong to people who pursue a different path:

  1. In 2015, the average debt for a college graduate was over $35,000. This number is going up and shows no signs of slowing.
  2. Today’s graduates are finishing college with few skills, experiences, habits, and mindsets that prepare them for the real world. Employers are increasingly ignoring degrees as hiring criteria as it becomes commodified. Even stodgy corporations like Ernst and Young are removing degree requirements for certain positions.
  3. Alternative education options like apprenticeships, coding bootcamps, MOOCs, and course platforms have exploded in recent years. Almost everything that can be learned in college can be learned at a much faster, much cheaper pace outside of college.
  4. One-size-fits-all education — in a world that demands customization — feels stale and outdated. Success is increasingly depending less on your ability to conform and follow rules and more on your talent for seeing value in places where others do not.

It’s no longer a matter of “if” degrees will become a thing of the past. It’s a question of “when.” I believe it’s already happening.

During my Sprout Session at Voice & Exit 2016, my colleague T.K. Coleman and I will explore some of the new systems that will arise to take the place of the college degree as it becomes increasingly obsolete. 

We’ll also cover practical steps and strategies that can be taken by young people, employers, parents, educators, and reformers in their lives and how they can participate in these new systems. 

Some of it might be hard to stomach, and I’ll preface in advance that we’ll only be touching the surface of the new world to come. There’s so much more.

But if you’re up for the challenge of envisioning and creating the future of education, I invite you to join us on November 11th-13th for the Voice & Exit conference.

Voice & Exit 2016 is coming soon! Tickets are limited and will sell out soon. Reserve yours today.