This is a little preparation for a discussion later this morning with Stephen Hurley on voicEd Radio. We start the show live at 8:45 here.
I remember being in Grade 13 and having the opportunity to visit a number of universities in prepare for selecting what we were going to do the next year. You’ll notice that I specifically used the word “university” in that sentence. I was in the now defunct 5 year program and it was expected that we would go on to university. At the age of 18, I was to make a decision about a life’s direction. For me, it was easy. I wanted to be a computer programmer and that meant only one university and one program.
Little did I know at that time that I would drop that dream and become a teacher. It happened in my third year and I spent the summer in summer school to pick up some courses that I would need as entrance requirements.
Back to the university tour. I still remember a dean or professor or someone in a tie make the statement “If all you want from university is a job, you’re not doing it right”. That kind of blew me out of the water because I sure as heck was there to get a degree and a job.
What started this train of thought with Stephen was him jumping on me for sharing this article found during my morning reads yesterday.
That rang in my mind, having helped put three kids through university and college and none of them are employed in their area of study. There is also the other concept of “value” and that is the price of attending a university. A 2020-2021 summary of Canadian university costs can be found here.
I couldn’t find a definitive summary for colleges. There is a completely separate tier of fees for international students.
Of course, I was originally disappointed that the kids went off in different directions but I also understand the frustration that would come from a lifetime in a career that you didn’t have a passion or desire for. If you take a stroll through that chart, we’re not talking chump change here. Plus, if you have to move away to attend, the costs just continue to rise.
An idea of those costs can be found here. It’s a few years old now so you’ll be paying more.
There is an argument that university is all about life experiences and there’s probably a modicum of logic to that. But, it’s a pretty expensive attempt at a life experience.
Still, there are some professions that require successful attendance at a university as a bar to entry. I’m thinking of both my wife’s direction and mine – registered nurse and teacher. You need that certification just to get your application accepted.
We both realize that that certification didn’t get us to the top floor. In both of our jobs, there was a requirement for continual learning. In education, if you want to teach something or something else, you need to have additional qualifications courses. (more money) If you’re in the medical profession, there are always new techniques that need to be learned.
From an education perspective, we all know that there are also the after school workshops or summer courses that we all took or lead to keep the learning fresh. You know; the things they didn’t teach us in Teachers’ College!
I also have to give a huge shoutout to the progressive alternatives. I’m a big fan of the short-to-the-point notion of online working groups or the MOOC. I can’t speak for them all but I don’t have to sign up for three or four years to get the benefit; I can find a topic or area of specific interest and just get to it. Just try to do that against the big university and college institutions that have degree or diploma requirements.
Recently, the local college – St. Clair College has been bombarding the local media with a new initiative that they’re calling micro-credentialling.
The auto industry is huge around here (although not as big as it once was) and a new product year means a change to things that workers thought that they knew from the previous year’s models. Guess what – more learning.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t regret for a minute going to university. I learned so many things about programming and mathematics that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I made new friends just by working in groups in class or recharging between classes in the lounge. There was a connection to other Ontario people and the opportunity to meet and work with foreign students in an academic setting. Without university, I wouldn’t have had that opportunity.
And yet, somehow when I reflect back, there is very little that I’ve actually retained and put into use in my daily live today. I can’t recall the last time I programmed something in the Fortran or COBOL language but I do know that the problem solving techniques did morph into something so useful.
Undoubtedly, the university model will be with us for the long run. Is the value, which has gone through the roof since I was there, worth the same in 2021? There will continue to be a barrier to entry to some professions like nursing and teaching but is there a better way? Will traditional institutions be prepared to change to embrace them?
It’s got to be the sort of things that keep Deans and Presidents up at night, trying to find new ways of providing value to a society that has other options.