The issue of college education—is it still relevant? is it worth the financial investment? what are the alternatives?—has cropped up on on my radar several times of late.
Last Tuesday the Brookings Institution issued the report Should Everyone Go to College? (Spoiler alert: The answer to the report title’s question is no.)
Last Wednesday Diane Rehm devoted an hour to “Who Benefits From College And Why.”
And last Thursday The Daily Show‘s Aasif Mandvi ran a Scared Straight-inspired session with students on the verge of ruining their lives. By going to college. (The five-minute segment is embedded below—if you need a laugh, take the time to watch it.)
The debate covered by these shows and and this report seems particularly important to those in the business of professional development and lifelong learning, like associations.
The Implications for Associations
I see both threats and opportunities for associations.
The main threat is carrying on as you have on the past. Assuming what’s worked for your education business will continue to work seems a dangerous position in today’s world where we both have unemployed college graduates and a dearth of qualified candidates in some fields.
The opportunities have to do with what associations might do to help fill the gap that’s being created as the value of college education erodes. (And looking at opportunities here dovetails nicely with Jeff’s series of posts on Blue Ocean Strategy.)
Associations already have a great opportunity to play a formative role in the “other 50 years.”
Think what else associations might do if that 50 years begins to stretch back and start earlier, as higher ed becomes less de rigueur and more dispensable.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Is your association prepared to attract future employees in the new college-degree-optional world that seems to be emerging? Should a college degree be listed as a requirement for a new hire, or are there other ways to assess candidates’ readiness?
- If you offer a certification, does it make sense to have a college degree as a prerequisite? Could something else, like prior work experience, substitute?
- How can your association contribute to the quality and viability of your field in a world where college degrees are of questionable value? How can you help ensure those working in the field are well equipped to do their job? Can you offer apprenticeships that become an alternative to, or supplement for, college?
What other implications do you see? What other questions does your organization need to consider?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
P.S. Here’s “Stay Out of School,” Aasif Mandvi’s Daily Show segment I mentioned above—enjoy.
See also: Could associations replace college?