There seems to be a two-prong set of problems associated with achieving the financial value of the college education. One problem is, of course, the cost associated with the education. Many of my previous posts have addressed the cost and associated debt-financing issue so we will let that pass in this post. The second issue may in fact be a supply issue. As the number of undergraduate degrees increase, this supply may be depressing price (the value). It is quite possible that even though average starting salaries have increased, they are possibly lower than would be the case if policy makers had subsidized a lesser number of students in the form of student loans.
Running counter to the argument for less graduates are the intangible and tangible benefits to society for having an educated work force. The critical thinking, problem solving, and proficient communicators produced in college help their organizations perform efficiently and effectively. These same capabilities are essential to informed democracy. The benefits are documents by others and in previous posts.
What if an additional system existed that developed the critical thinking, problem solving, and communication capabilities without relying on the collegiate experience? Even more intriguing, what if such a system was less expensive and maybe even allowed the student to starting earning while learning? It should not sound too farfetched. The idea I am going to suggest existed back around the same time as the development of what became today’s modern liberal arts education. It is the Artisan system.
The artisan system progressed and with the guilds developed a system of Master Artisans that guided and educated the apprentices. They were educated not just in skill but in creativity and artistry. The Master achieved high recognition in society, as did the apprentice artisans. They shift to mass production and less interest in skill decreased this system. However, with the resurgence in customization and appreciation for skilled work, it is possible that a return to a modernized system of artisan education will supplement and add to the collegiate experience. Next week’s post will expand on this subject.