Posted by: chrisdavis | November 6, 2014

College: Part 2

College is no longer the “given” it once was.

I graduated from high school at age 16. No one in my family doubted the next step for me was college. The family culture required it. It did not even matter which college I attended. Pick one and go. I was neither emotionally nor practically ready for college. I was 16, going on 12, as the next 4 years confirmed.

Today I am encouraged by the growing number of homeschool parents who are not afraid to ask “Why?” about nearly everything:

“Why am I making my son learn to read at age 5?”

“Why are we doing Algebra right now, anyway?”

“Why do we keep using this curriculum when nobody likes it?”

And, “Why are we assuming college is the most appropriate next step for my child?”

There are many alternatives to college and I will speak of them in future blogs. Right now I want to ask some questions related to college:

“What is the value of a college diploma?” “Does a college diploma mean the student has received a college education?”

For decades, statistics have shown that a college diploma raises a person’s lifetime employment earnings over that of a high school diploma. Today’s youth are encouraged to look at the future’s best employment opportunities and strive to enter those disciplines.

Educators are using the acronym STEM to direct students toward the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math since these are the four fields that promise the highest degree of future earnings potential.

According to U.S. News & World Report, here are the most valuable college degrees in terms of future earnings against the cost of obtaining that degree:

1. Engineering (especially Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Computer Engineering and Materials Sciences)
2. Physics
3. Economics
4. Statistics (more valuable than a degree in business)
5. Applied Mathematics
6. General Mathematics
7. Nursing (strong demand with questionable earnings growth potential)
8. Education (in demand with little earnings growth potential)

And, here are the Forbes’ top 10 U.S. colleges ranked by the financial value of their diplomas as against the cost of attending that college:

1. Harvey Mudd College (California)
2. California Institute of Technology (CalTech)
3. Polytechnic Institute of New York (NYU-Poly)
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
5. SUNY – Maritime College
6. Colorado School of Mines
7. Stevens Institute of Technology
8. Stanford University
9. Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)
10. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT)

Just reading the names of these colleges gives you the idea that STEM really is a valuable direction for your student to take.*

By contrast, Forbes rates the following college majors in terms of their poor future earnings potential:

1. Anthropology and Archaeology
2. Film, Video, & Photographic Arts
3. Fine Arts
4. Philosophy & Religious Studies
5. Liberal Arts
6. Music
7. Physical Fitness and Parks & Recreation
8. Commercial Art & Graphic Design
9. History
10. English & Literature

Should we all now conclude that our homeschooled students be directed into a future in STEM? Or, is there something more important than simply looking at an individual’s future earning potential?

I will begin addressing these questions in my next blog.

*[For anyone interested, the following website ranks over 1,000 colleges by the value of their degrees (cost of their degrees against the potential future earnings their degrees deliver):].

Hitting them where it hurts:

I was about to send this post when, just now, I received a blog from the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Here is the gist of what he said:

Too many people are graduating from college with lots of debt which they cannot pay off because their education does not translate into employment. 90% of the income realized by for-profit colleges comes from Federal loans and grants. These for-profit colleges should be able to demonstrate that what they teach their students is valued in the marketplace, or the Government should stop providing funds to students attending those colleges. (Presumably, the college would then go bankrupt—my comment).

The Secretary went on to say that, from now on, all for-profit colleges must track their students’ post-graduation employment to determine if those graduates actually received an education that made them employable. Finally, he said that the Government will begin to create a list (I believe, similar to the one I have listed, above) which will let students know which colleges offer courses that have practical meaning for a student’s future.

At first, I was cynical about what I read (but, then, I am cynical about nearly everything the Federal Government imposes on its citizenry these days). However, after reading it again, I wondered if the Secretary was actually on to something…

I would like to hear what you think, not just about what Duncan said, but about college in general. Post your thoughts, below.

Order a copy of my book, Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally in either paperback or e-reader.


Check out my recommendations for homeschooling materials.

Seth reading on pony fixed resized



  1. Timely to read after this morning’s FB rant. 😉 Hey, I graduated hs at 16 too. I distinguished my college career by dropping out of 4 different school before I finally finished a diploma in nursing – from the 5th school.
    I know. Another reason to regard me with awe. lol

    • I definitely regard you with awe…ahhh

  2. My son, after years of refusing to entertain the possibility of college, decided his senior year that maybe he ought to consider it (since he had done the math and decided that his chosen career probably wouldn’t pay much). He decided to get an Associates degree, picked a major that he thought he had some aptitude for, and went to our local community college. I don’t really know what the long-term value will be, but it is very, very inexpensive. He basically decided to play it safe and get a degree for the least amount of time and money, which we supported (and are paying for).
    I guess my personal feelings about college are that overall it costs way more these days than it is worth, but it can still be the right decision, depending on the circumstances. I definitely think the student should not just automatically go to college as the “default.”
    By the way, since going to college was entirely my son’s decision, he has been working very hard and doing well. I suspect that things would be different if we had pushed him to go.
    As to the value of his degree, I will have to get back to you on that in about six months.

    • Dear “Just…” I appreciate your story as it sound somewhat familiar. And, I look forward to what happens with your son. My eldest turned down a scholarship as he reasoned that 4 years down the road he would have 4 years of income and could teach himself what the college would. He became a free-lance programmer and, many years down the road, is doing very well. My 2nd son ended a career as a cruise ship performer and, at age 31, entered college on a full scholarship. At the same time, he started an online business that turned out to be his true passion and, although an honor’s student, college has taken a back seat. He has decided to drop college and CLEP classes until he graduates. My youngest son is a free-lance videographer who is too busy for college. It all works out when we release our children to their Father who “directs their paths” (Prov. 16:9)

      • Hi, Chris. I love hearing how well your sons are doing. And my story should sound familiar. 😉
        – Cheryl G

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