Monday, August 23, 2010


Just thought I'd share that I pitched a slightly modified version of my blog post titled "But what would you do?" to Life Learning Magazine and they accepted! It will appear in the Nov/Dec issue right along with the 'real' writers. :-D

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A while back I wrote a post about college. I was interested in college at that time for reasons explained in that post and I also wanted to illustrate that it is possible to go on to college after unschooling. However I did not address a fundamental tenant of unschooling philosophy- not everyone needs to go to college.

I can hear the gasps and see the heads shaking now. There is a prevalent myth in our culture that college is necessary for success and happiness and that without a college education your children will end up 'flipping burgers' for the rest of their lives. As tuition costs continue to rise faster than the rate of inflation many universities are banking on you believing that myth; but what are the facts?

The cost of a degree varies significantly depending on the school chosen. Earning a degree at state school costs about $30k on average and averages about $100k at a private school. The amount of time spent earning a degree also varies by school and course of study but on average it takes about 55 months.

That's a lot of time an money, so what's the payoff? Well, lets look at some statistics on earning potential:

Level of education/ Median salary
Advanced degree/ $69,056
Bachelor’s degree/ $53,300
Some college/associates’s degree/ $37,752
High school diploma, no college/ $32,552
Less than high school diploma/ $23,608

At first glance it seems pretty obvious that earning a degree is worth the time and money invested. However statistics can only show us part of the story. I have a bachelors degree and after ten years in education my salary was hovering near the top of the median for those with only a high school diploma. My husband on the other hand, who has no post-secondary training, has always earned more than me. Obviously, the field one chooses can play just as significant a role in salary as level of education. So, when analyzing this data keep in mind that these are MEDIAN salaries- so half the people in these categories are earning more and half are earning less.

In the recent economy it also seems wise to consider how level of education affects job stability.

Level of education/ Unemployment rate
Bachelor’s degree or higher/ 5.0%
Some college/associate’s degree/ 8.0%
High school diploma, no college/ 10.5%
Less than high school diploma/ 15.6%

Again, compelling statistics that show job security increases with level of education. Higher salaries and lower unemployment rates- college should be a no brainer, right?

Not so fast! After looking over these facts it becomes quite clear that while a degree offers statistical advantages for a higher earning potential and job security it is neither a guarantee or a prerequisite for either. Furthermore this data can only measure tangibles such as level of education and income. Intangibles such as drive, passion and job satisfaction are ignored. The statistics also can not take into consideration that while most people finish college for the same reasons (in pursuit of a specific job, income level or status) the reasons NOT to go to or finish college are vast. When it is an educated and well thought out decision it doesn't have to be a hindrance at all.

You may be wondering at this point, what are some educated, well thought out reasons not to go to college? A few instantly spring to mind though I'm sure there are many, many more:
-a passion or drive to pursue a career that isn't offered as a major course of study
-a learning style that isn't conducive to a college setting
-a unique opportunity to learn a trade in a non-traditional setting

What does this mean for unschoolers?

It will mean various things for various unschoolers. For us it simply means that there are many paths to success; including but not limited to college. When the kids are older and ready to start making decisions about their career paths we will guide them in the process of asking some important questions:

1- How do you want to earn a living?
2- What type of schooling and/or training will be necessary to make that happen?

Sometimes it will become clear that college is necessary and if that is the career path chosen then it is the responsibility of unschooling parents to assist and facilitate their child/ren in making that goal attainable. Other times it will become clear that an apprenticeship or entry level position with a company is a more realistic path for the goals chosen. Still other times practice and small scale freelance work might be the first practical step on the path to success (such as with a writer, photographer or musician). The important thing is to approach the process with an open mind and be ready to continue challenging the status quo. As an unschooler you probably already have lots of practice at this. ;-)

Source for statistical data can be found here.