College is not for everyone

Here is an interesting excerpt from a news clip this morning:

“While the mercurial Millennials want to buy cars, research shows they can’t afford the cost of entry in the new vehicle market, nor are they able to take on the cost to insure, operate and maintain a vehicle at this point in their lives. The reasons are many: The generation is saddled with more than $1 trillion in aggregate student loan debt, they face a very tough job market and their net worth actually declined compared to previous generations.” -

The article focuses on car sales, but it poses an interesting dilemma.  It states that the Millennial generation is saddled with more than $1 trillion in student loan debt.  In addition, they face a tough job market.

I believe that we have been brainwashed to think that college is the only answer.  It is sold as being a mandatory requirement to get employment.  Even employers have bought into this contention requiring higher level degrees for positions which have no justification for them.  

Here’s an idea a friend and I came up with.  What if you gave a young entrepreneurial student $50,000 over the course of five years in small doses and based upon need/success, for them to try to get a business started instead?  The goal being to launch a sustainable business that would be their income generator going forward.  What do you think would happen?

1. They would probably fail at their first business.  They might fail at 2 or 3 of them, but all along they would be learning from the college of hard knocks.  They would be learning all the things that don’t work.  They would be learning how to develop a strong network of people, customers and mentors.  They would be learning how to sell, themselves, their product and their ideas.  They would be learning “how to learn” on demand and as needed.  They would have to work hard every day to succeed.  Aren’t these the real skills and values we are looking for?  Work hard, see something through, don’t be afraid of failure but learn from your experience, network, work well with others, know how to sell your ideas and products/services, and learning what you need at the time you need it to solve problems.  

2. Most likely, they would eventually find a niche which they could excel at and could become a sustainable business.  One which may even one day allow them to actually not work in the future.  One which may be systematized and could run without them.  One which becomes a true asset putting money in their pocket while they sleep. 

3. They would learn financial management, cash flow, profit and loss, possibly inventory management and leadership if they grew to have a team.  They may even learn what makes a salable business and how to sell it.  If their enterprise grew large enough, they may be able to sell it or keep it as an asset, and possibly start again and again.

Wouldn’t this be a better investment for some than a college education.  If they failed entirely, and never succeeded at starting a successful business, might they be better prepared to be an employee for someone else? Might they think like an owner.  They may be more likely to make decisions like a business owner would.  They would understand the value of customers.  Isn’t that what business owners want in their employees?  And they would have a breadth of experience and knowledge which would serve them well in their career.

Here at the Balanced Leadership Center we are developing a new “college” where the curriculum is around activity and results which are measurable and motivating based upon your skill and success.  Where the market decides your grade with their hard earned dollars.  Isn’t that what free enterprise is about?  Letting the public decided what succeeds and what fails, not some arbitrary test score based on memorization and regurgitation or government regulation.  We help you use your tuition to invest in a business and buy or befriend the best teachers, mentors and coaches to help you succeed.

I don’t know if there is anything like this out there now other than ours, but am curious.  What if we took all of the scholarships and grants and charitable donations and turned them into this system.  Wouldn’t we potentially be creating new benefactors for the future instead of just more employees?

This is not for everyone or every career.  There is still a place for college, and occupations which need that specific technical training and knowledge that can only be gleaned by our traditional education systems, however I think that it is not for everyone, nor should it be required.  I would like to see an alternative which creates true entrepreneurs who learn by failing and failing fast, where the market determines their grade and the learning is through activity, not memorization.

Marc Dion