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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora