Valuing College In 3 Cs

 A successful frum businessman remarked that using a spreadsheet, one accountant now does the work of twenty in the 1980s. Due to the internet, the one accountant can now also be located India, working for $10 an hour or less. Technology has dramatically increased the complexity and competitiveness of the workplace, along with requirements for better-educated workers. Well beyond the traditional professions, many jobs include a college degree as a minimum requirement. But these same technologies are changing the field of education dramatically as well.  It is easy today to get a high-quality education from the comfort of one’s home, removing the need to sit in a classroom in questionable company.  On the other hand, so much knowledge is now available freely online, in some cases eliminating the necessity of any formal certification at all!  

So how does one evaluate the benefits of a formal education? 

Need the Framed Certificate?       

The value of a formal education should be judged based on the 3 Cs: Certification, Content, and Connections it offers. In fields like medicine, law, and accounting, there is no alternative but to attain the required education and certifications, but entrepreneurs and salespersons may find formal education to be a waste of time and money. In other fields, such as technology, marketing, and management, a certificate or degree may provide an edge in a job search, but over time a successful portfolio of accomplishments will become the bigger element in proving your value to potential employers and clients. 

Certification is also not a simple yes-no proposition but should be thoughtfully matched with career planning.  A 25-year-old aspiring lawyer may find it worth his while to attend a brand name program. Certifications can also be earned piecemeal, over time.  A seminary graduate entering the accounting field may initially get an inexpensive QuickBooks certification. If she enjoys the sector, she can decide to upgrade her education to a certificate of accounting in her 20s and perhaps a CPA certification in her 30s.  Training and knowledge should be viewed as a valuable asset: something to be researched and managed intelligently over time. 

Good Content is King 

While it is vital to amass the skills and knowledge relevant to your field, education may take many forms. Paying lots of money to sit in a classroom is not necessarily the best way to study. In many subjects, hands on learning is much more valuable, and you may get a better education interning at a low salary over paying to study esoteric theory. Also, as mentioned so much knowledge is freely available today. Many top universities offer complete course syllabi and videos online for free, and in some fields, it is possible to patch together a world class education at no cost. Although interactions with professors and peers are not included, many won’t miss it too much. 

Another point about educational content is the wide variety of quality. Especially in lower tier programs, one may find that the professors have less knowledge about the subject matter than the student himself has! Before spending large sums in the interest of learning, it is important to review the reputation of the institution, course materials, and the resumes of the professors and program directors. Best is speaking to actual graduates and hearing if, with hindsight, they would do it again. If your primary goal is not learning new things but merely getting a degree, it may be worth finding the program which will provide the certification needed at the lowest cost in both money and effort.  

Missing Contacts? 

Finally, formal study in a group setting offers an opportunity for building a network of peers and mentors. Depending on the industry and extent of one’s existing contact list, this may be important. In the heimishe fields of accounting, nursing homes, and real estate, it is relatively easy to network, while in the science and technology domains it can be much harder. If gaining contacts is important to you, then the quality of the class and teachers becomes more critical, and the affordability and convenience of an online certification probably should be foregone.

Bottom Line

Focusing on the relative Certification, Content and Contacts benefits of the various educational options can help evaluate the program to choose. The expected advantages, however, must be balanced out by the costs required to earn it.


Want to dig deeper?

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Student Loans: Great or Terrible Idea?

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