15.Oct.2014 Is an OSU Diploma a Dunce Cap?

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I have written extensively about the college/education bubble. Tuition has risen more than quality of education (which if anything, has decreased), etc.

When a potential employer looks at your resume and sees Oregon State (or Oregon, Washington State, etc), is this nothing more than a quick selection tool? If so, not going to college might be better than subpar college.

a. No debt upon graduation

b. No negative stigma associated with a tier 3 college

c. Enter workforce earlier and gain real skills

d. Become a self-educated man and spend more time mastering subjects you plan to excel in (very important in a division of labor/specialist economy).

e. All the information is free online.

These are all nice benefits. The one benefit in going to college is that it’s replaced high school diploma as the benchmark. An employer would select you over a high school education. That’s about it. If employers would take the time to actually explore each applicant, it would greatly reduce that problem. So if you’re in a position to hire people, maybe you should do that.

And no I am not bitter and do not need a job, though I am always open to discussions. This is mostly due to anger over the high cost for a bad product. Which we find in healthcare, too. I also make this post because I do feel people associate an OSU diploma with dunces. It’s a quick selection tool. I know someone will bring up the engineering school being ranked. None of that really matters, though. All that matters is what people outside of the Corvallis area think of when they hear OSU, and it is rarely (never) positive/prestigious. At best reactions are neutral or lukewarm.

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  • osu2008 says:
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    The response I get from people from outside of Corvallis is that OSU is a hillbilly school, unless you’re in engineering or forestry. OSU doesn’t mean squat compared to other schools so I don’t gloat about it like some grads might because it’s a BFD to people outside of Corvallis or the Willamette Valley. Don’t get me wrong, I love OSU and always will, but it’s not like I went to Harvard or Oxford. When I was going to school the OSUAA, foundation, and administrative officials made it seem like getting a degree from OSU was like winning the lottery, but OSU is just another school in the real world. What makes you stand out from other applicants is sometimes who you know and what you can bring to the table. That’s where work experience, connections, and keeping up with what’s going on in your field comes into play.

    • Timber! says:
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      Who are the “people outside of Corvallis” you are talking about specifically? Employers? Bartenders?

      • osu2008 says:
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        People from other states. I think a bartender’s response anywhere would be “Cool! What’ll it be?”

        • Timber! says:
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          But are they people that have any business judging the value of an OSU education is my real question. Are they educators? Employers? College evaluators? Who are these people?

          • osu2008 says:
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            Some are people within HR or are hiring managers of companies that I’ve interviewed with that are from out of state. Others are people that are unfamiliar with OSU that aren’t qualified to evaluate a school and probably go with what they read from the Princeton Review and other rankings.

          • Jack says:
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            The Princeton Review gives us a favorable ranking compared to our peers. The other component would be job fair participation. Down here in Eugene, you see a dearth of employers coming in for these events for the students at Nikegon. They really are not that much in demand. The stigma is that they all have sociology degrees or will go on to be doctorate students in a real study and teach in academia.

            OSU job fairs are heavily populated with employers looking for applicable skills and like minds. I have heard from some employers that if Stanford geared their kids to applied skills like OSU does, then they wouldn’t shy away from them as the naive idealists they think SU grads are.

            I don’t really know where this post/idea comes from. OSU is well above the median in their peer group in terms of hiring and future success. Corvallis is a beacon for entrepreneurial thought and implementation. We have at times challenged Harvard as the leader in alums being CEOs. And some who didn’t remain small or wash out have become giants in their industry.

            So… what’s the point of this?

            If we’re talking about the value of education versus the investment we’ve all made over the years, then I (as an economist) have to say we’re getting what we’re paying for, just like we have always done in the past. If your rant is against the priority we put on education (and other properties of a healthy community like health, environmental conservatism and public service), then I guess you have to look at what we as a community spend on those and get in return. People who care about these matters pay money in order to influence these matters. If we want the public to take control of public domain, then we can’t just want that extra fifty bucks in our paycheck and tell the gubmint to leave us alone.

          • Jack says:
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            The investment by the people in our state, by the way, extends to the value of that Nikegon diploma as well. It completely sucks that the most visible (due to public marketing) school in our state is probably the fifth or sixth best undergraduate degree that can be attained in the state. I know they complain so often about state funding while shirking their mission, which would garner more state funding. But compare us to the UC schools and the state of Washington in terms of priority. We suck as a people for making our HS grads into college grads. Hell, we suck in terms of making our HS grads contributing members of society.

            And then we want to blame the kids for our indiscretions.

            This argument applies to all. If you hire anyone, you expect them to be proficient in certain things. There is no Fortune 500 company without public education. There is no “you” being successful without public education.

            So much has been made of Obama as some kind of liberal or some such shit. The guy doesn’t qualify for being even Reagan-esque for being liberal. I’ve said it before. When he hired Larry Summers for his campaign in 2008, I knew right then I would never vote for the man. Elizabeth Warren as the head of a department she created (or at least envisioned and had the force of will to be made) was the only real liberal Obama has even considered for anything in his government. There is no liberal anymore. There is only right wing and more right wing. And there are only people screaming from either side. We who are truly liberal are silent not for lack of trying. We are just drowned out by the stupidity of money, greed, marketing and repetition.

          • Jack says:
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            We were once a nation. We weren’t the amalgam of stupid greedy nuts screaming for their share of a pie which only ever existed because the whole was once upon a time bigger than the sum.

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    I have no college degree and am still successful in life, BUT if I had it to do over again I would go to school in a heartbeat. The only drawback you mention is the cost Which basically means shop around and don’t be stupid about the name of the school you’re going to. Then again, depending on your desired career path it might be a worthwhile investment to go to a high priced school.
    As an employer I can say from my perspective that a degree from any college says positive things about the applicant. If you stuck it out for at least 4 years to get a degree you’re doing better than a lions share of people in the workforce. But then again I’m saying from the perspective of a guy who looks up to people with college degrees so take it for what it’s worth.
    I was discouraged by my Father from going to college because of the argument you make, that is maybe you’re better off entering the workforce early and acquiring real world employment skills and getting a jump on your peers. Well I can tell you that is exactly what I did and sure enough I leaped out in front of my friends for about 6-8 years, but every one of those friends is now making more money than myself. They have degrees from OSU, OIT in K-Falls, PSU, and Washington. Also, only one of them had their education paid for by their parents, the rest took on loans and worked their way through. They’re all also debt free now (we’re all about 43 years old).
    So yes, you need to be smart about paying for higher education. I would go to a community college to get one of those Oregon 2year transfer degrees then finish at whatever school was the most affordable in the field I was pursuing. If I didn’t know what field I wanted to pursue than just go for the cheapest deal. OSU, Oregon, PSU, OIT, Eastern Oregon are all good schools in my opinion. Willamette and Western Oregon seem horribly overpriced to me.

    • angry angry says:
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      The default stance has become “go to college”, where it should be more individual. You mentioned a bunch of friends who are doing better than you and you attribute that to them going to college. It could be that, but it could many other things like what field they studied, etc. I have a friend who went to college and he works in fast food (manager, but still he’s in fast food). In his case it was a complete waste since his major was an entirely different field. He got the job as a manager by working in those restaurants long enough. My lady went to school for art, yet she works in a technology/govt field now. I don’t think the degree helped her at all, except with that initial screening process of “is this person an idiot? I guess not since she went to college.”…which is a lame form of bias that shows how lazy and bad at their job recruiters can be.

      The other alternative, of course, is to use the European model of higher taxes/”free” college.

      Beyond all that and back to the point: even after four years and excellent grades in two tough fields, I still get a “meh” when I talk about my OSU degree.

      I don’t know if OSU has instilled a SAT requirement yet, but they should or at least make the non-requirement seem creative/progressive, which is actually is–SATs do not give an accurate picture of intelligence or aptitude. OSU should be more selective. Watering down education doesn’t do anyone any good in the long run. It’s raising the price while lowering the value of the degree. That is a bad investment by definition. The problem of job recruiters bypassing those who don’t hold degrees is more a bias and social problem that should be addressed on its own. i.e. We can argue it from the point that everyone should go to college or recruiters should not be biased. Why not try the latter since it doesn’t result in bad investment and gives individuals an opportunity to showcase all their abilities?

      • osu2008 says:
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        OSU doesn’t have a SAT requirement. They recommend a minimum 3.0 GPA and 1000 SAT or 23 ACT, the latter of which I took.

      • Bill says:
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        I don’t think OSU can make it the SAT a requirement. They are a state school and the mission is to educate the citizens of the state. It’s a difficult balance in keeping with the mission of the school and yet be perceived as a prestigious school. Private schools have no such requirement and can make very strict enrollment standards.

        The states are failing the schools by not funding them enough. That’s why tuition is going up every year. But to fund the schools, citizens must fund the schools via taxes and that can’t be accomplished very easily. The other way to fund the school is via donations,

        Or everyone could go the Will Hunting route and pick up a janitors job at a university. Get paid and get a college education.

        • angry angry says:
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          Oregon has an SAT requirement, though. As does Arizona State and others. It seems random and optional. I don’t like that argument that the mission of the school is to educate citizens of the State. Where did you get that? I’ve never seen that mantra written anywhere but on this blog by Jack. If you look at early colleges, they were places citizens attended to discuss and then solve problems.

          This site gives a good history of colleges: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/03/05/is-college-for-everyone-an-introduction-and-timeline-of-college-in-america/

          Regarding the rising cost, how/why do you conclude tuition is rising because States aren’t funding them enough? OSU receives a 500mil endowment each year. Then State funds. Then tuition. Seems enough to fund a college. Also seems like more than coincidence that tuition took off once federal loans became easy to get and schools wised up to the fact govt would increase loan amounts if they raised tuition. Not to confuse correlation with causation but that definitely looks suspicious. In the 1970s before all the education intervention, college costs a few k per year and could be paid with a summer job. Increase demand (via loans) and you increase price.

          • Bill says:
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            Here is the info I am referencing.

            http://oregonstate.edu/leadership/provost/2012-13/annual-report

          • Bill says:
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            Another article talking about the overall trend in increasing tuition for college,

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/28/the-tuition-is-too-damn-high-part-iii-the-three-reasons-tuition-is-rising/

          • Jack says:
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            The mission for Oregon’s public schools (and most other public university systems) is to educate their own. They give incentives in terms of funding for that mission. When a school shirks that mission for the higher revenues from out-of-state attendees, their funding is cut by that amount. That is their choice.

            One school near me still likes to complain that their funding is poor despite them not following their mission. They’re not wrong IMO. But they are completely, wholly and completely (and fully) wrong in terms of comparisons to the other schools within the same system.

            The priority placed on the system is just not high according to what the people of this state have stated. That was the message of the anti-Measure 5 and anti-Measure 47 folks. They were completely correct. What they and nobody else foretold was the extreme inflation in real estate that followed those laws.

      • VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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        Field choice certainly plays a factor, but my point is that those who have college degrees have many more choices of career paths. Look at almost any study on the matter and you’ll see that college educated people are generally happier, live longer, and earn more than scrubs like me.

    • carltogr carltogr says:
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      I think either paths are viable, as long as you know how to handle your money and be smart with your money — I learned that from watching and learning while being at college (both parents are in-debt and barely getting by on SS, although I help them from time to time — neither are college educated). I can attest to the being in-debt and loans….I graduated with 40K in loans back in 2001 and thought I would never get them paid off. I am now loans paid off this year, cars paid off, and working on paying off house. It took holding off on raising kids — I’m 36 and wife and I will have first kid in March….it does take sacrifice to “get ahead”…..depends on what your goals in life are, etc….My sister is 100K in debt and graduated from the Art Institute down town Portland….talk about not getting any bang for your buck…she is making 45K a year.

  • Issaquahbeav says:
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    I think having an OSU engineering degree is meaningful. I got a Liberal Arts degree from OSU and have been in Banking for almost 20 years now. My advice to young people (18-25) is to make yourself a valued employee by trying to be the “go-to” guy. I currently manage 6 analysts and I’ve done my fair share of hiring. Just position yourself as someone who is capable and willing to accept responsibility. It’s amazing how many people out there that don’t care. College generally shows a higher level of dedication to work and life. Conversely, however, many Ivy Leaguers out there don’t always have the best work ethic so it’s hard to paint with a broad brush.

  • osu2008 says:
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    Jason,

    I agree with you on the community college route as I started out there out of high school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do like a lot of 18 year olds. I went to LBCC and took a lot of introductory business classes from some great instructors who were passionate about teaching and they inspired me to continue my education, which I did at nearby OSU because most of my classes transferred over there. I’m not ashamed of going to a community college as I probably wouldn’t have a degree today if it weren’t for those instructors. Even 2-year technical programs such as welding provide great jobs that can pay $50+ an hour.

    After I graduated from OSU and went to work for awhile in sales, I decided to go back to school to earn an accounting certificate so I could sit for the CPA exam. I chose to do an increasingly popular method of higher education: the online degree. I went through Linfield as they have an excellent accounting program and was able to finish in one academic year while working a full-time job. I feel this is another great option as it ended up being cheaper than actually going to class, plus I could continue to work and earn money to pay for school. Online programs are great for these very reasons and allow many people the chance to earn a degree if they want without paying a lot of the fees that on-campus students have to pay, plus some of my coursework consisted on discussing current issues in accounting on discussion boards that helped me understand the concepts better, as I had classmates that were already in the field that could use their work experience to help others understand.

    My experience with some interviewers is mixed because I feel they don’t take enough time to get to know me as a person. They ask me about my GPA and my time at OSU and what classes I took, and the skills I have, but not what it took to get there. Some do ask if I took a correspondence program as my resume shows that I worked during the time I went to school. When I explain how I earned my certificate, they either tell me they have had issues with online program participants or they really admire me for the effort it took to earn that diploma. I’ve had only one interviewer put me down because I went to Linfield, but I didn’t give a shit because I was proud of how I earned that certificate, not where it came from.

    Getting back to what you and Angry have said, a four-year degree is more like a definition of dedication, desire, and effort to me, but so are 2-year degrees. My advice to anyone reading this is that if you want something bad enough, go out and get it and don’t let others get in your way, no matter what age you are. There are so many ways to get that education and a lot of careers do require schooling but it’s not limited to just the old brick-and-mortar 4-year schools that drain your bank accounts. Also, students need to go where they feel they will be most successful and choose a method that will help them reach their goal. I do apologize for making this long and don’t want to sound like I’m gloating, as I hope to inspire with my story.

  • osu2008 says:
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    Not to mention that those jobs you just listed can’t be outsourced!

  • angry angry says:
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    I can understand why people home school their kids. There are so many important skills not being taught. Some things I have taught myself in the past year:

    How to tie various useful knots
    How to make handmade soap
    How to make homemade shampoo
    How to make homemade butter
    How to solder
    How to record/engineer digital music correctly in a DAW
    How to properly handle and shoot a firearm and shotgun
    How to build a guitar from scratch
    How the U.S. financial system works
    How to fish/hunt
    How to distill water using various methods.

    Just to name a few. Most of them excellent skills not taught in school. It’s been the most informative year of my life, and I have used the internet/books or self-teaching via trial and error for all of it. Some of the skills I can use to become self-employed. For example, I could record music at this point if I wanted to pursue that. My soaps sell. Etc. Luckily I am gifted with computers and complex systems (biology, etc), so I can choose from several things. But the point is anyone can teach themselves any skill they want. The internet is an enormous, free library. I’m convinced nobody needs college except to impress a recruiter, so it’s a recruiter problem. A campaign to eliminate that bias/ignorance and give people without formal education a chance would easily eliminate that.

  • MonkeyLuven MonkeyLuven says:
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    MOOC’s are what the future holds. Check out this video:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/03/stanford-edx_n_3006484.html

    And here’s a site to get started:
    https://www.edx.org/course-list/allschools/allsubjects/allcourses

    • angry angry says:
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      Yep, I have used many of those courses. The problem is you don’t get to interact with the professors or other students (who many times challenge you to think differently or explain something in a way you’d never see). That is the only downside. I wound up writing some professors and getting into email conversations/debates with them. I love the model. Kahn Academy is great, too.

      • Jack says:
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        You can email anyone. If you have a valid thought you think is worth a conversation, just email the person you think is the best in the subject you’re thinking. I’ve talked to many people over the years about very deep subjects just because I was drunk one night and sent an email to Harry Edwards (and here I am disparaging sociology). That brought on a thoughtful conversation about college athletics and amateurism. I’ve since sent emails to many others who you (and I previously) would think were untouchables. Some responded. Some did not. I take it as a sign that those who do respond are truly interested… or that my query was not worthy of anyone’s time… which is sometimes true.

        But I finally figured out that trying is better than not trying.

  • mckalk says:
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    I actually went to community college on scholarship and worked at night to pay for my 2 plus years at a four year school. I think I graduated with 2k in debt.

  • Mb says:
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    The amount of auxiliary services has exploded in recent years on American campuses. the amount of managemers is very high compared to private sector. The joke about government cutting funding is a red herring. Spending on education has a cancer like growth with very little control.

  • scotty says:
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    I know it’s cliche, but much of what you get out of college is what you put into it.

    OSU is a great opportunity to get your degree (the new high school diploma) while networking and getting hooked up to internship programs. I did undergrad and grad (engineering) at OSU along with their internship program and everything turned out awesome. Of course, I also made sure to study hard and all that.

    If all someone’s planning to do is coast through just to get a piece of paper, though, it may not be worth it.

    • whiskey soaked napkins whiskey soaked napkins says:
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      send this response to Kyle Peko. I highly doubt it will do any good but your post is the god honest truth

  • thatguy says:
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    Ehhhhhh as a student I’m a little biased to say that it is worth something, seeing as that most people aren’t leaving the state anyway and it’s thought of as pretty good. The prestige is going up from what I’ve seen…at least for engineering. Also for forestry, EXSS, and to a lesser degree business. But everyone knows it’s rather average around. Students know they didn’t have a tough time getting in, but there’s a bevy of resources available and you can really get something going at OSU.

    If people had their minds right, it would be agreed upon that the degree is worth more and holds more intrinsic and extrinsic value than at U of O because of research funding (nearly top notch), degree rigor, facilities (all those new buildings? beautiful), more applicable majors, and campus layout. Just my $0.02

  • Timber2002 says:
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    I own an engineering business and the only schools I really want to see on a resume are OSU or UW, just about everybody who comes from those schools knows what they are doing. The U of Portland engineers are generally pretty sharp. Engineers who attended WSU, PSU or Oregon Tech aren’t as highly thought of in my opinion.

    • Jack says:
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      That’s interesting about OTI. I’ve heard good things about their alums. But I also think they are compared to Stanford grads in that they are idealists and need that beaten out of them before they get down to doing business right.

  • benbeaver benbeaver says:
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    I haven’t seen where people knock an OSU degree. I’d say people view degrees from the public colleges in Oregon on about the same level. An employer will view a college grad as more capable than a person without a degree as more capable because in general, they are. While they may not have a specific skill that someone learned in trade school, they will more likely have a greater ability to look at things analytically, solve problems more effectively, see patterns, and make connections that the non-college grad can’t. A grad is also more likely to show better communication skills. People go to college by default because it pays off, even with the high costs. College gives a foundation for thinking that you don’t see very often with those who didn’t go to college.

    Angry, it makes sense that you posted this. You probably are a more linear, pragmatic thinker. You like a finished product as part of your work with clear results. Probably more tactile, less theoretical.

  • ean says:
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    I think it is just your perception Angry since you are in the hard sciences and the hard sciences don’t pay well (unless you are inventing or discovering stuff) and require more advanced degrees.

    • GOBeavers GOBeavers says:
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      Yep, the whole emphasis on “STEM” is kind of fallacious. Science undergraduate degrees make far less than engineering or computer related fields.

  • tim318 says:
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    One drawback with OSU is the push to grow enrollment means that the requirements for admission have been relaxed (if they weren’t lax already). Cap enrollment, raise standards for starters. If students need an inexpensive proving ground during undergrad years, there are options in smaller state school and community colleges.

  • Ackrite says:
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    I have to agree with angry on this one. I’ve been fairly successful since graduating OSU in 08 but I don’t believe it has been my degree has been the key to my success. After my freshman I went on a LDS mission (que the multiply wife cracks) Forget the regilious aspect of a mission, taking 2 year to mature and delvop life skills has separated me more from my peers than my OSU degree.

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