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In my mind, there is an advantage to further education for anyone.  The
question is whether or not that extra education aligns with the
student's abilities, goals, and desires.

If I take myself as an example, I will likely never complete a doctorate
degree.  This is not because I do not desire additional education but
because the degree is only 10-20% likely to help me should I choose to
find a job superior to the (very nice) one I have now.  Frankly, I think
it unwise to devote so much of my family's resources to what would
likely amount to personal improvement alone.  Such resources are better
put towards my family and my children's future college costs.

I agree that it is not necessary to obtain a degree in order to
"succeed" in life.  Although people benefit from the formal series of
courses known as college to some extent, each person needs to
individually decide whether the time and money required are worth the
additional assistance that experience will provide.  Some will guess
wrong.  My brother, for instance, is the only employee at his company
who possesses a BA degree (which is in a different field).  His job
requires none of his gained knowledge, and he feels his four years at
college were largely a waste of time.  To him, his college experience
was not worth four years of time and $20,000 of debt.  Clearly, he
believes he would have been better off if he had not attended college.

I disagree, however, with the notion that the educational community can
accurately tell in advance who will benefit from college.  I routinely
deal with people who are well motivated to learn and I strongly believe
that the educational system should not impede this desire.  Not everyone
can attend the research universities due simply to the great costs
involved (the University of California system, for instance, requires
over $10,000 of state assistance per student in addition to nearly as
much from the student in the way of fees in order to maintain its
laboratories and research staff) and consequently they will always be
forced to be "selective".  However, providing the opportunity for higher
learning to some degree is arguably an important role of a democracy,
particularly one which wishes to encourage the under-represented.

Since most high school students have at least some indecision regarding
their future, I suspect that career counseling could be improved at the
high school and early college levels.  I often wish that someone had
given me hard figures in high school instead of just "pep-talks".  If I
had known that a particular job had a particular starting salary and my
chances to get one were X% if I didn't get a degree and Y% if I did get
the degree I would have been better able to decide what course to set.
As it was, a good-sized portion of my success building my career was
simply luck.

Prof. Eric Kaljumagi
LAC/Math
Mt. San Antonio College