College Education, Irrelevant in the 21st Century?

Why should you not listen to your favorite social media guru when it comes to college education?

There are a lot of posts about skipping the college circulating in social media. I don’t see many counterarguments. In order to give a balanced view to the people who are about to make this decision, I wrote a post about why you should reconsider skipping the college.

My post about college education received some counterarguments on Medium. I can imagine that those counterarguments are shared by others as well. For that reason, I’m going to discuss those arguments in this post.

Some of the arguments against the college education have some merit to some extent, but they still don’t justify skipping the college 100%. I’ll discuss the arguments and counterarguments in this post and I hope that they help you in making your decision. If you have further arguments or counterarguments, please let me know in the comments and who knows maybe we will have a second follow-up.

No Advantage in the Job Market

One of the arguments against the college education is that the diploma of some majors don’t provide any advantage in the job market at all. As a result, the graduates of those majors end up having lost four years of their lives and student debts to pay.

I can’t disagree with the argument above. I wrote the initial post with computer science in mind. However, there are some majors that don’t provide any added value in the job market at all. So, before committing to a college degree, make sure that the major you are studying provides some added value in the job market.

Google is Your Best Friend Professor

Everything they teach you in the college can be found on Google.

Yes, everything that is taught in the college and more can be found on Google. The problem is most people use Google to find answers to practical problems. In our case, a programmer would only turn to Google when they come across a practical roadblock and search Google only for that practical roadblock.

In other words, we turn to Google to learn what we know that we don’t know. What I expect from a good academic education, from a good book, even from a good blog post, podcast, or YouTube video is to teach me what I don’t know that I don’t know.

I can’t Google what I don’t know I don’t know, because I’m not even aware of the existence of that knowledge in the first place. As a consequence, I don’t know which keywords to search for on Google.

College Courses Are Available Online

You don’t need to pay a college $60K a year and spend four years studying. College courses are available online.

College courses are available online, but I don’t see many dropouts dive into those courses and study them. People who want to skip the college usually have other motives than just college tuition. They think that all of that theory is a waste of time, it will be outdated soon anyway, and they are better off starting with hands-on experience right away.

In either case, let’s assume we have an ideal student who decides to study at home. They google the curricula and syllabi of the Ivy League colleges, come up with a self-study program, and study those courses by themselves.

It’s really rare that a college dropout would take the path of a proper self-study program, but for this example, let say they do. There are still disadvantages to such a path.

Lack of Assessment and Evaluation in Self-Study

Assessment and evaluation is an essential part of college education. You turn in your homework, term projects, and exam papers, and you see them shredded to pieces by the teaching staff. And that’s good for you. That feedback contributes to your education.

Then there is all kinds of interactions with the academic staff and your peers. That includes working in teams to implement term projects. That’s a great way to prepare for your career, where you have to work in teams most of the time.

You learn a lot as a result of interactions with your peers and professors. People learn from each other by discussing ideas. None of us is perfect and we all have our irrationalities.

By discussing our ideas, we open our ideas to criticism. In an academic environment, you can receive a lot of valuable feedback about your ideas. I know that this type of brainstorming is not popular with IT people, but it’s a great way to make progress fast.

People who skip the college lose the opportunity to discuss their ideas with their peers and professors. They lose the opportunity to be corrected if they misunderstood a subject. Unfortunately, that misunderstanding will stay with them until they bump into a real world problem, which will turn out to be costlier.

How Much Is Your Career Worth?

A lot of people complain about the high tuition fees. Who am I to object that? But think about it from another angle. How much is your career worth?

Let’s assume that an average computer programmer makes $80K USD a year and works for 40 years. That would make a whopping $3.2 million USD in their whole career. If we assume that a college degree would cost $60K a year and takes four years to complete, that would make $240K USD in total.

$240K USD and four years don’t seem to be a bad investment for a $3.2 million USD and 40 years career.

But Technology Changes Fast

The technology changes so fast, by the time you graduate, there’ll be new technologies used in the industry.

You don’t go to college to learn the latest technology. That would be a huge waste of time and money. You go to college to learn the fundamentals, the theoretical foundations that enable that technology.

In computer science, courses such as discrete mathematics, data structures, principles of programming languages, introduction to algorithms, operating systems, even networks, artificial intelligence, and neural networks are essential courses.

Some of the fundamentals won’t ever change and they will remain as the basis of upcoming technology, such as discrete mathematics, data structures, and complexity of algorithms. Some of these will slightly change over a long period of time, but still building on the existing foundations, such as the arrival of object oriented programming on top of procedural programming.


So far, the arguments I received in favor of skipping the college didn’t convince me when it comes to a field such as computer science that has decent employment prospects. In either case, I’m open for new counterarguments.