You may be close to graduating, or perhaps it is your kids this time wrapping up high school. It is easy to get all caught up in the excitement of going to school for another four years, complete with fraternities and sororities and the college football team. And then you think about the cost, and get shocked by the sticker price.
When I went to Cal Berkeley, you could do it for a little over $2,000 a year, not counting living expenses. Now for public universities, it is easily $20,000 or more. For some prestigious, ivy league universities, you are looking at shelling out $50,000 to $70,000 per year. This can easily add up to a quarter a million dollars. In many parts of the country, you could easily buy a house for that!
Your dream of a college education with a fancy degree, a professional profile and an upscale, high-paying job fades away at the crack of dawn.
Today, it is a truism for college freshmen to be told that the expensive $100 hardbound textbooks they are buying, and the dream social media spot for which they yearn, will be completely obsolete and out of date by the time they are seniors looking to graduate.
We are now in a global economy with intense competition. The labor market is constantly changing. First it was finance, then physicians, then MBA’s, then engineers and now data scientists. The hot and trendy positions have a way of being bumped into second place by newer technologies.
Today, we are witnessing the introduction of Artificial Intelligence, 3D Printing, Robots and Drones. What can you learn that a machine can’t pick up faster, easier and cheaper? Is the singularity, where computers are smarter than us, all that far away?
Much of what it takes to get ahead today is intangible, like the courage of risk-taking, coupled with social and emotional intelligence. Certainly, you must be able to read and write coherent paragraphs, but the ability to optimize the digital media is far more important.
We now live in an information age. The industrial economy that inspired classrooms in every neighborhood upon the return of vets from World War II is long gone. They were designed for a no-nonsense 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM regimen to prepare you to work on an assembly line. You could get by with a high school diploma and return to your two-car garage in the suburbs.
The new Fortune 1000 companies, such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, Adobe and Facebook, were started by people who broke all the rules, geeks who preferred the keyboard to the lecture hall. They left school early to pursue a vision. Bill Gates, one of the richest men alive, never returned to Harvard to finish up his four-year degree.
Fortunately, we are now looking at a proliferation of options for learning on the go for a fraction of the cost of a traditional university. The liberal arts curriculum has been replicated on DVD for years with Great Courses, and then moved online. Today, you can take your pick of their video offerings of award-winning professors for just $20 per month.
This has been amplified by Coursera and Udemy, that offer contemporary technical and humanistic classes, including demand areas like Machine Learning, as well as Vipassana Meditation. Apple offers iTunes U, with both audio and video courses.
You can now go to YouTube and capture a broad series of timely lectures on contemporary topics, such as climate change and the terrorism of ISIS. They are just 20 minutes in length. You can add participation in various Meetups for little or no cost in the most exotic subjects imaginable, such as Tantra and Kashmir Shaivism.
It has long been claimed that you can earn an extra million dollars with a degree from a prestigious school. Careful examination of these claims reveals that this perceived discrepancy is closer to $500,000.
It was thought that you could become brainy with your higher education. Your future employer would automatically assume you were smart because you graduated from a major college. This has been compromised. Professors in even the best schools are under pressure from student evaluations, which can negatively impact their career promotions. Giving out straight A’s indiscriminately is no longer all that unusual.
More to the point, high school grads that start an Internet business often end up learning far more, and much faster. It is not trivial to start your own business. You must learn about finance, accounting, marketing and sales. You must produce a product or service and deal with quality control. This is something for which academic high-flyers are shielded from… until it is too late!
The new normal for millennials is to stay at home with mom and dad throughout their 20’s. This practice flies in the face of the earlier American dream of the “nuclear family” followed by the “empty nest.” A family of four with the kids going off to school while the bereft parents wonder what they are going to do all by themselves.
What used to take four years can now easily take a decade. Kids can’t keep up both the tuition and living expenses. They thus go in and out of the classroom. It is increasingly realized that newly released high school students are not mature enough to take full advantage of college. Those who have been around the block, who have lived a little, can make better use of the wonderful opportunity the academic world presents.
It is noteworthy that many great universities, such as Cal Berkeley, Stanford University and MIT, now offer free online classes in their Continuing Education divisions. If you don’t need certification or academic credit, you need not pay a dime. This means you can become academically proficient with professors doing cutting-edge research while living in places like Kenya. Just think of President Barack Obama!
Despite all of this, if you happen to be an outstanding athlete with scholarships from top schools being thrown at you, by all means take the bait. Likewise, if you are a brilliant nerd who eats problem sets and thought experiments for breakfast, loving technical manuals and textbooks alike.
You may be a genuine intellectual (like me), something of an amateur philosopher who loves history, the humanities and foreign languages. You are comfortable in a classroom eight-hours-a-day, and who would consider the title Professor a great honor… by all means, go for it!
In truth, you will find at least a dozen different kinds of intelligence, not just verbal, abstract reasoning and numerical. People are increasingly looking at emotional, social and even spiritual intelligence. The world is being torn apart by people who can’t get along with each other. We need cultural translators, leaders who can help one group of people empathize with a radically different group on the other side of the Planet.
Vishen Lakhiani, founder of MindValley, had an irregular career as a software programmer who had no idea what he really wanted to do until he stumbled upon a course in active meditation, which changed everything for him. Vishen got three raises in a couple of months, found himself in a leadership position and launched his own business.
Today, MindValley is introducing a whole new concept of university.
Why study for just four years? Learning is now for a lifetime. Why study with only people just your own age? You can now study with people of every age. Why limit your activities to the United States? You can get away for a month out of a year and live like a king in an exotic locale, such as Barcelona, Spain, or Tallinn, Estonia.
Why not go for a month every year to a different country courtesy of Airbnb and Uber? You can then immerse yourself in a distinctive culture, surrounded by bright, energetic people and transformative instructors, thought leaders, such as John Grey, Neale Donald Walsh and Lisa Nichols. They will teach you practical, life-changing skills. You can form fast friendships with some of your classmates. Best of all, you will learn how to change the world, organizing for maximum impact to tackle the tough challenges of malnutrition and climate change.
Don’t you owe it to yourself to at least check out the alternatives?