It’s become trendy in the tech industry to encourage young entrepreneurs to drop out of college and spend their energy cranking up startups instead.
They argument is they will avoid going into major life-long debt getting a college degree of dubious return-on-investment.
But the world’s most successful college drop out, Bill Gates, just wrote a moving essay saying that dropping out of college has become a dangerous epidemic, and isn’t a great idea for most people. He writes:
This spring more than 2 million students across the US are doing something I’ve never done. They’re graduating from college.
That’s an achievement we should all celebrate. Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success.
… As the class of 2015 prepares to join the workforce, what many people may not realise is that America is facing a shortage of college graduates.
Gates says that college dropouts could get stuck in an economically difficult whirlpool.
By 2025, two thirds of all jobs in the US will require education beyond high school, he says, including jobs that require 2-year degrees and certificates or trade-school training.
And at current graduation rates, the US is expected to have a shortfall of 11 million college grads to fill those jobs, he says citing research from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
Too often in higher education, we’ve been training people toward a degree instead of a career.
Because many college drop outs are from low-income backgrounds, Gates’ concern is that they will get trapped in poverty, the lack of skills will drive up wages for those that do have degrees, and the nation as a whole will experience even more income disparity.
Gates, who will always be geek at heart, thinks technology offers solutions. The Gates Foundation is working on education tech that does everything like personalise college planning so students don’t waste money on unnecessary courses to online classes that are less expensive and offer flexible scheduling.
But he also had a discussion with Cheryl Hyman, the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago who suggested another fix: Colleges need to start measuring themselves not just by enrollment numbers, but by how many of their grads actually land jobs upon graduation.
“Too often in higher education, we’ve been training people toward a degree instead of a career,”she told Gates “We’ve taken our eye off the goal. I think we’ve been divorced from the real world for far too long.”
Here’s the interview with Hyman that Gates posted on his blog.