News

Dropouts 'UnCollege' Path to Success

State university graduates in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Aug. 6 2011 (file photo).
State university graduates in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Aug. 6 2011 (file photo).
Deborah Block

For many people, attending college is part of the American dream, a gateway to success and a good job. But, as many recent college graduates are learning the hard way, dreams don't always become reality.

It didn't take a diploma for twenty-year-old Dale Stephens to figure that out. Disillusioned with college because he felt he was not getting the skills he wanted, he dropped out and started "UnCollege," a social movement that challenges the notion that college is the best path to success.

Home-schooled for much of his youth, Stephens knows what it’s like to learn outside the classroom. His movement isn't opposed to higher education, he says, but focused on alternatives for those who feel pressured to enroll.

"I’m suggesting that everyone take a good, hard look at their education, figure out why they are there and what they’re doing with it, so that people can decide whether or not it makes sense to stay in college or leave school," he says.

He also points out that many college graduates have student loans that take years to repay. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates that outstanding student loans skyrocketed to more than $800 billion last year, $1 billion more than all U.S. credit card debt combined.

Stephens urges people to consider using money they would have spent for college on other learning experiences.

"What if you took that money and instead invested in a year of traveling. What if you invested in a start-up or started a non-profit and were able to gain some of those same learning experiences in ways that you would never be able to inside the classroom."

A tangible skill set
"I left school because there wasn’t a program for what I wanted to do right now," says Ben Goering, who dropped out of college two years ago and now works for a social-media website in San Francisco.

"Ultimately, I'd been following the industry and been a computer nerd and been on the web for my entire life," he says. "The initial catalyst was definitely, I think, having a very tangible skill set to leave college with and then quickly get hired with."

Stories like Goering's concern Dan Hurley of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, who calls the UnCollege movement "misleading and dangerous."

"Post-secondary credentials are at their highest demand that they have even been," he says. "If today’s youth has any hope of achieving an American middle-class lifestyle, the odds are very high that they’re going to have to have some type of post-secondary credential, likely a two-year degree, if not a four-year degree or higher."

No guarantees
But Stephens says a college degree is no longer a guarantee of a higher income.

“For the recent class of graduates there’s a pretty harsh reality. Twenty-two-and-a-half percent of those under 25 with college degrees are unemployed," he says. "Another 22 percent of those with degrees are working jobs that don’t require their degree.”

Despite the dismal job market, Marc Kramer has no regrets and says he values his college experience.

"College is one of the best things that has ever happened to me," says Kramer. "I don’t think any topic, in particular, is pointless, because every topic you take helps you expand your knowledge through a different way of thinking that you normally wouldn’t have."

Michael Brunwesser, who plans to graduate from college soon, admits that he has thought about leaving.

"There are so many books and so much information on the Internet specifically targeted at skills or subjects that I would like to learn, so the UnCollege movement isn’t some far-fetched idea of a kid who just wants to be a bum on his parents’ couch," he says. "It’s a valuable philosophy."

To further promote that philosophy, Stephens received a $100,000, two-year grant from the Thiel Foundation, which encourages lifelong learning, and a book he's writing about UnCollege is expected to be published next year.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Benjamin Goering
March 29, 2012 6:41 PM
Great article! Thrilled to be quoted. Dropping out is a big decision with huge implications. You have to grow up really fast and learn to be responsible in a way that is impossible to be ready for. Often times postsecondary students can coast along in this ambiguous phase between childhood and adulthood, where no one is really giving you direction, and yet there's no risk of going homeless if you slack off or let someone down. Leaving school forces you to learn even faster.

by: Leanne Hoagland-Smith
March 16, 2012 3:41 AM
This posting reveals five essential and very critical issues:

#1 - The lack of any predetermined plan
#2 - The lack of self leadership skills
#3 - A poor business model by many of the US colleges and universities.
#4 - The lack of the critical thinking, teamwork, proactive communication, high work ethics skills
#5 - Impact of negative conditioning

Leanne Hoagland-Smith

by: Nancy
March 15, 2012 4:42 PM
Good,good,verygood

by: R
March 15, 2012 6:02 AM
As a non-traditional senior at a private, liberal arts college, I can honestly say many of my classmates, despite being juniors and seniors, lack basic skills. College has become a business and as a result graduate anyone that can afford to pay tuition. Hence, the 48% of graduates that are unemployed or underemployed deserve to be so because they have nothing to contribute to society.

by: Yasin
March 15, 2012 4:26 AM
that's a crazy sound. I have just heard if we are learning from elementary until collage, we have to hire if we want to take a school. it's very unfortunately, I am lucky to learn in Indonesia. though here we must pay early but we don't have debt in future.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs