Don't Go to College


Stop what you are doing. It is time for an honest assessment.


College costs and debt forgiveness are in the news. The dust up over the legality and fairness of the new political policy of college debt forgiveness mask the deeper issues involved.


It is a basic principle of medicine that in treating an illness health care providers should do no harm. The same principle applies to politicians. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case. This policy makes things worse: educationally, morally, and politically. In medicine, when a doctor makes things worse, it's called malpractice.


There is a serious problem with rising higher education costs, which have risen on average 6.5% per year. There is a problem that the value of a college degree is now in question. There is a problem that college graduate outcomes, when measured, are very poor in terms of a trained mind, a mature life, and a marketable skill. These problems are real, systemic, and made worse by this policy.


A student does not learn unless they want to learn. Proximity to learning is not learning—a lesson King Charlemagne learned when he put a book under this pillow to learn to read. Educator William Armstrong notes “Do you want an education enough that you would work and pay for it yourself? If you cannot find within your heart and soul the desire to learn, then you need not expect help from without. The teacher is the guidepost for the journey, but the journey is yours.” To the degree that a student does not have personal skin in the game, an overwhelming desire to learn, there will be no learning. This is the fatal flaw in "free" and "mandated" education. Proximity to education can be bought. An educated mind cannot.


Moreover, this debt forgiveness will not solve the problem of expanding tuition cost, only serve to further their expansion. Within five years it is projected that colleges will raise their tuition by the amount covered by the debt reduction. In fact, it almost guarantees this outcome as it incentivizes colleges in this financial direction. It undermines the desire to learn while making the cost of learning worse. This is educational malpractice.


It is one thing to encourage reducing the cost of higher education, and quite another to teach a generation of young people that they do not have to be true to the commitments they have already made. This is a policy that plays into the hands of expressive individualism, which minimizes a person's commitment to the other, much less the common good. It makes the individual feel like they are the emboldened center of the universe—the only one who matters. It also plays into an attitude of aggrievement and resentment, where one plays the victim of a system that is rigged against them. While there is justification for feeling aggrieved by a system that encourages debt, delayed consequences, and failed to deliver on a viable marketable skill, this aggrievement is to be weighed against the moral corruption of defaulting on one's obligations.


If you steal a diamond ring assuming that the ring is covered by insurance so that "no one is hurt," the abstraction of the insurance company masks the moral corruption of conscience. This is the same moral choice being offered to young people today. Just to be clear, there is no plan to eliminate student debt. There is a plan to transfer that debt to those that don't own it. This is public policy designed to weaken our moral obligations to the other. This is more than unfair; it is a conscious corruption of conscience. This is moral malpractice.


And politically it is an expansion of fiat executive power, normalized during the pandemic, that will not pass Constitutional review. It will heighten inflation and foster political cynicism. Both are detrimental to the body politic. This is political malpractice.


Don't go to college unless...

1. You have some skin in the game.

2. You can avoid college debt.

3. You get a genuine education in the process.

4. You are formed morally by the experience.

5. All of reality is examined including the invisible real.

6. You graduate with an immediate marketable skill.

7. You are formed into being a mature emotionally healthy responsible adult.


I spent a lot of time in school—31.5 years to be exact (secondary 12 years; college 4.5 years with three majors – history, business, and philosophy; seminary 4 years; and doctorate 11 years). I have taught at the high school, college, and seminary level. I gave fifteen years to educational administration including being the headmaster at two college preparatory schools. I currently serve as a college counselor at a prep school, and I work with several micro-colleges. I know this world. But like many young people today, I too have become skeptical of the assumption that college is the right choice for every high school graduate. Don't go to college unless you really need to and can do so in a manner that is truly beneficial to you as you launch your life and career.


There are exciting alternative micro-colleges options available today that are worth considering. Consider Saint Andrew's College (www.standrewsalmanor.org/college), which champions a classical Anglican education framed by the Book of Common Prayer. This is a college developed consciously in the English ethos of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. There are now thirteen of these micr0-colleges offering a single classical liberal arts degree coupled usually with an entrepreneurial or work/study application.


Consider Excel College (www.theexcelcollege.com). Here you can get a college degree in 2.5 years without debt, in a beautiful location, with work experience tailored to your interests and calling, within a formative spiritual community animated by the desire and practice of serving your neighbors. It does not get much better than this.


There is a good reason why students are now clamoring for admission to these alternative micro-colleges. They are cheaper, offer a debt-free alternative, provide a rigorous traditional education, with an emphasis on personal and career formation. For they address the real problems of education without educational, moral, and political malpractice. Don't go to college unless it's to a place like Excel or Saint Andrew's.