The Real Cost of Education

Costs are hard to estimate because negative externalities are poorly understood.

With student debt rising far above inflation1, top students will be forced to chose the highest paying job. The idea of a flood of our most talented graduates moving into roles where they take on very little responsibility, have little passion and can possibly be invisible in the sea of drones will be economically crippling for decades to come.

Small business won’t have a chance at top tier talent. Startups without massive funding won’t have a chance at top tier talent. Nonprofits won’t have a chance at top tier talent.

These are the organizations that allow young talent to really make an impact. Take on responsibilities that stretch their capabilities. A position where they can constantly learn a new skill and have their voice heard is a powerful thing early in a career. It may not be the most prestigious but definitely more fulfilling.

Being one of the 118,000 Microsoft employees2, you can nearly guarantee that you don’t matter to Microsoft. You are replaceable. Your great ideas are likely to go unheard. Layers of a bureaucratic structure will stifle progress. None of this is Microsoft’s fault. It’s purely a statistics game. Think of all your Facebook friends. I am positive that you don’t keep in touch with every single one of them. There isn’t enough time in the day to keep up with 400 different people’s complex lives. Microsoft has 295 times as many employees as the average person has Facebook friends3.

While the global economy has evolved over time, our education system has not kept pace. School administrators are forced to be politicians. Teachers aren’t given the tools or freedom to succeed. Student’s incentives are not aligned with the proper outcomes. Our education system is too entrenched in bureaucracy to be able to adapt to the global economy. We need to create another outlet for our young people to gain the quality education without growing burden of debt.

The biggest obstacle will be the perception of quality. People fear what they do not know. The formula of getting good grades, to go to college, get a degree and get a job is what we have become comfortable with despite the growing proof that this is not the guarantee it once was. As we develop more options for students to learn inside and outside of schools, we need to get over our fear of breaking away from the past so students can pick the path that works best for them as an individual and we can succeed on as a whole.

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