business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

There was a new survey out this week from the Pew Research Center that offers some insights into how Americans view the value of a college education. The results are instructive - not just for prospective college students and their parents, but also for employers who will have to deal with changing attitudes toward education.

The study says that 57 percent of Americans “say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend. An even larger majority - 75% - says college is too expensive for most Americans to afford. At the same time, however, an overwhelming majority of college graduates - 86% - say that college has been a good investment for them personally.”

In addition, almost half of those polled said they could not afford to go to college.

Another interesting finding:

“While Americans value college, they value character even more. Asked what it takes for a young person to succeed in the world, 61% say a good work ethic is extremely important and 57% say the same about knowing how to get along with people. Just 42% say the same about a college education.”

This all strikes me as an extraordinary cultural shift - and not a good one. Not for businesses that need educated people that they can develop into leaders, and not for a society that requires educated people to grow and thrive. And especially at a time when much of the rest of the world is putting a premium on higher education.

Clearly money is an issue here; college is expensive, no doubt about it. I’d be the last one to argue with that - we just finished putting our second kid through college, and we’ll have one more going in September 2012.

It may be that businesses will need to find ways to help young people get an education, with the understanding that these same young people will then put that education to use in the service of the company for some period of time.

But I find the notion that so many people are even questioning the value of a college education to be disturbing. Sure, college is supposed to be a place where you gain knowledge and skills that you will be able to put to use in whatever your choice of career happens to be. But it also is supposed to be a place where science majors can learn about Hemingway and Fitzgerald, where literature majors can gain insight into the sciences, and where business majors will learn not just about marketing, but also about ethics and philosophy.

In other words, it is a place where we are supposed to become educated human beings with a greater understanding of context and perspective. It makes us better people, and people better able to contribute to society and make a difference. It helps us look beyond the short term, and see the bigger picture.

And somehow, the whole concept of learning has become devalued. Or simply too valuable - or expensive - for many people.

This won’t be good for business. This won’t be good for society. At a time of great cultural tumult, it strikes me as critical that all of us find ways to address these attitudes, and help find solutions that will serve the greater good.

If we don’t, it won’t be good for any of us, for any of our business or cultural institutions.

That’s what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I’d like to hear what is on your mind.
KC's View: