As the cost of a formal college degree continues to rise, more people are questioning the need for a degree in today’s society than ever before. Gone are the days of a multi-decade career where you worked for just one company and received a gold watch and pension at the end of your service for that company. The world of work has become very fragmented, and it is no longer a foregone conclusion that a degree will get you the job you want.
Education is a huge benefit to human capital, but when do the costs outweigh the benefits?
Attendance costs have tripled in less than 20 years. Most of the students today struggle with housing and food insecurity. For some, the problem is dire: 1 in 6 students have become homeless in the past year, while 1 in 5 have had to lose weight because they couldn’t buy enough food. Today’s students give up essentials to afford their education, and when they graduate, 73% end up in jobs unrelated to their degree. So what’s the matter? Is it really worth such a sacrifice? How to ask lakhs of students to give so much in return for so little?
It is no surprise that people want alternatives to the current system. More than half of America’s younger generation believe that a degree is not necessary for success. People of all ages feel that education is moving in an autodidactic direction. autodidacts They are people who are partially or wholly self-educated, and they occupy important positions in world history.
American abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass was denied formal education as a child because of his slavery status. German scientist Melanie Klein founded the psychology of children in spite of economic circumstances depriving them of the ability to attend university. Mexican painter Frida Kahlo left her physician training behind after being injured in a bus accident, paving the way for the art to become famous.
Previously, self-educated people were scarce because access to educational resources was limited. Now thanks to the Internet, self-education is at our collective fingertips. Finding the online equivalent of a college level education is easier than you think.
Ironically, the best places for free education are college websites.
The colleges that charge the most for their formal degrees (Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley) also offer a generous selection of free courses to all who wish to enroll. Composite sites like edX and College Cliffs aggregate the best courses for their users, so you don’t have to switch between institutions.
If you want to skip formal universities altogether, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) offer free online courses for anyone to enroll.
The most popular MOOC is probably LinkedIn Learning, which allows its users to post their success stories to their LinkedIn accounts for future employers to view. Other expert-made courses can be found at Khan Academy, Udemy, and Teddy. For those who do not do well in a traditional classroom setting, Codecademy and Skillshare teach through interactions.
It’s not difficult to find resources for self-taught education – ie: once you know where to look. Finishing your self-taught education in a way that allows you to demonstrate your accomplishment to your peers and employers is the hard part. Degrees remain a gateway for many for so long as they serve as a certificate of attainment. Self-taught education requires a lot of discipline to finish well, but with the proper training, you can make it happen.
Struggling to add self-directed learning to an already demanding life? Here are some tips to help you keep your course.
1. Minimize distractions by working in a quiet place.
If that means physically going to a different place (such as a public library), do so.
2. Follow the complete study program with the goals set for you.
Get an accountability buddy if it takes your feet to hold you on fire.
3. Most importantly, always remind yourself why you want to learn what you want to do? Why are you studying the discipline you are studying?
Motivation is a key component to perfection.
It may seem that young adults will be most interested in self-education, but the truth is that it appeals to people of all ages. Even adults who have been in the labor force for decades want to continue their education, and online free education is far more accessible to them than a formal return to college.
In fact, 42% of Americans use free online resources to retrain for work. Keeping your job in the modern world often means learning never stops. For better job seekers, free online upskilling is far more affordable than the alternative. 31% of US employees use online tools to enhance skills, especially in high-demand areas such as coding development and data analysis.
As they say, knowledge is power. Give yourself permission not only to be curious and to learn to learn, but to prepare yourself for the job that you have to achieve in life. Also, keep in mind that just because the free version of university may be a mainstay in some education online, it doesn’t mean that all areas of knowledge and information now come from brick-and-mortar institutions.
Enrich yourself with an online college-level degree by knowing how to achieve this level of knowledge – see more ins and outs in the visual deep dive below:
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Author: Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace is the founder and president of Nowsourcing, an industry-leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH, that works with companies ranging from startups to the Fortune 500. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, and hosts the Next Action podcast. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016–present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019.