Skipping college is probably now the smart choice
The value proposition of undergraduate education continues to decline. One of the main reasons in the past to go to college was to get a credential that certified knowledge. But if you can get the job without the credential, why waste years and hundreds of thousands of dollars?
NYT profiles Enstitute, which recruits high school graduates to take longer-term internships while living in a dorm-like environment. You get a chance to learn skills in the classroom, put them into practice in the real world, and meet the entrepreneurs who come to talk about their experiences.
“I didn’t want to come out of college with $200,000 in debt and have to spend 10 years paying it off,” she said. A year later, Ms. Gao holds the title of data strategist at Bitly, the URL-shortening service based in New York.
She became an apprentice to Hilary Mason, chief data scientist at Bitly, through a new two-year program called Enstitute. It teaches skills in fields like information technology, computer programming and app building via on-the-job experience. Enstitute seeks to challenge the conventional wisdom that top professional jobs always require a bachelor’s degree.
Enstitute does offer a semiformal curriculum, requiring eight hours a week on topics like finance, branding, computer programming and graphic design, as well as English, sociology, and history, the content of which comes largely from online courses. The fellows also receive writing assignments every six weeks; outside academics and experts edit and review the work for writing style and grammar. Many fellows choose a less technical track for their course work and study subjects like Japanese culture or the poetry of Keats.
This sounds like the perfect education for someone who thinks they might want to be an entrepreneur. Get a real job on your resume where results matter more than politics (it’s a startup!), get paid to learn real skills instead of spending $200k, be years ahead of your peers who went to college, and meet people with your interests.
The wage gap between college graduates and those with just a high school degree is vast: in 2010, median earnings for those with a bachelor’s degree were more than 50 percent higher than for those with only a high school diploma, according to the Department of Education.
This is not an argument for going to college. It is just a classic way to lie with statistics by using the “post hoc ergo propter hoc” logic fallacy. This is an apples to oranges comparison.
First, this measures what happened in the past when college was incredibly cheaper AND when a college degree was less ubiquitous. Furthermore, I am pretty sure that a greater percentage of college degrees in the past were engineering degrees which are a higher return and less risky investment than social science/liberal arts.
That doesn’t even include the fact that in the past smarter, harder-working, upper-class people were more likely to get a college degree.
Algorithms to identify talent
I hadn’t heard of Silicon Valley startup Gild, which attempts to write an algorithm to use “Big Data” to identify who will be a good employee. It is a pretty interesting problem to try to solve, given the low correlations between good employee and prestigious undergraduate school/GPA/resume/interviewing ability. And clearly it is an important one to solve: getting people into the right jobs for them will make us richer through economic growth and much happier.
Dr. Ming’s answer to what she calls “so much wasted talent” is to build machines that try to eliminate human bias. It’s not that traditional pedigrees should be ignored, just balanced with what she considers more sophisticated measures. In all, Gild’s algorithm crunches thousands of bits of information in calculating around 300 larger variables about an individual: the sites where a person hangs out; the types of language, positive or negative, that he or she uses to describe technology of various kinds; self-reported skills on LinkedIn; the projects a person has worked on, and for how long; and, yes, where he or she went to school, in what major, and how that school was ranked that year by U.S. News & World Report.
Garbage in, garbage out. That is the first rule of building a model or writing an algorithm. Using US News rankings is a source of error. With one minute of thinking, they could have found a better proxy for university prestige.
I love the idea though. No doubt that most big corporations have serious institutional constraints in hiring, largely in principal-agent problems.
The NYT’s Matt Richtel tries to tell the story by focusing on one of Gild’s own algorithm-discovered hires:
Jade Dominguez, 26, was living off credit card debt in a rental in South Pasadena, Calif., while he taught himself programming. He had been an average student in high school and hadn’t bothered with college, but someone, somewhere out there in the cloud,
Halfway through high school, Mr. Dominguez, previously a straight-A student, began wondering whether going to school was more about satisfying requirements than real learning. “The value proposition is to go to school to get a good job,” he told me. “Philosophically, shouldn’t you go to school to learn?” His grades fell sharply, and he said he graduated from Alhambra High School in 2004 with less than a 3.0 grade-point average.
Not only did he reject college, he also wanted to prove that he could succeed wildly without it. He devoured books on entrepreneurship. He started a company that printed custom T-shirts, first from his house, then from a 1,000-square-foot warehouse space he rented. He decided that he needed a Web site, so he taught himself programming. (He built a solid reputation for himself on GitHub, a site where programmers share code)
MR. DOMINGUEZ has worked at Gild for eight months and has proved himself a talented programmer, Mr. Desai said. But he also said that Mr. Dominguez “sometimes struggles to work in a structured environment.” His co-workers try not to bug him when he’s sitting at his computer, locked into that work zone.
In meetings, Mr. Dominguez speaks his mind. He’s happier, he said, “as long as I can have a say in how the system is built,” or it’s just another system he would have to conform to. He bristles slightly at the growth of the company, which has expanded to 40 people from 10 in the last six months, adding layers of management and bureaucracy.
This is just a management issue. He clearly can code. Dominguez is pretty clearly motivated to go out and do something entrepreneurial. So help him do that and work on skills he needs for that. Fit his current coding — and occasionally having to buy-in on decisions he disagrees with — into that vision and he will be into it.
Honesty + kindness > honesty
La coronacion holandesa
Holanda ya tiene la Reina Maxima y yo tengo la maxima reina.
(Te amo, Ceci!)
Great explanation from Sam Kelly. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner talks about taking on the barra bravas, but always turns the other way since they are her allies.
I did try to sit with the Boca Juniors barra brava one time. That was an interesting experience.