Try This Option
This morning, I turned on my favorite news channel and became livid. It wasn’t the usual anxiety-inducing conversations of late. It was worse to me because it was an attack on the one thing that is guaranteed to aggrandize communities of color, communities in poverty, and communities encountering violence: college.
I became angry because there are a few misconceptions about college and hiring that are exacerbated in this piece:
Marc Benioff laughs and says that the only reason he went to college was because his parents made him. All respect to Mr. Benioff, but how many people can be CEO of a multi-billion dollar company without a degree, especially if they come from backgrounds that don’t immediately grant them access to networks, pedigree, and funding?
I have a personal pet peeve when people who have gone to college tell other people not to and this panel was filled with these types of folks. And we’re talking about fancy schools: Lehigh where Ms Ruhle studied abroad in Guatemala, Italy, and Kenya; USC where Mr Benioff earned a degree in business; Northeastern where Dr Gallagher earned his doctorate and has been published by Harvard Education Press; and Ms Gevelber who earned a BA with Honors from the University of Michigan. But that’s not allowed by anyone else?
The jobs they are discussing are entry-level, low skilled jobs at tech companies. These are not VP, tech managers, or even junior developer positions. And we know that while these jobs may not require a degree to enter, they certainly will require one to be promoted.
We also are not talking about the vast number of jobs in this country, outside of tech. Try being a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or any long-term career without a Bachelor’s degree, at minimum.
The two examples that we are given is a female employee and a recent immigrant from Colombia. Worse, at one point, Stephanie Ruhle says, “Listen, if you have a kid going to an Ivy League school, they aren’t turning down Harvard for this.” This really got my blood boiling because it assumes that the people going to Harvard and the Ivy League are doing so because they deserve it somehow, and the female students, first generation students, and students of color, should find another path by virtue of a system excluding them.
The other misconception there is that college tends to be super cheap, if not free, for the students above. If they are going to colleges that are the right fit, it is affordable. And there are hundreds of four-year colleges that are affordable, and not intentionally putting students into debt.
We should not reward predatory colleges and highly selective ones by continuing to promote the myth that students who can afford a degree should pursue another option.
When I was in high school, I worked at Burger King. When I gave them notice because I was headed to NYU, they told me not to go. They said I would be promoted to manager and could earn a great salary, all without earning a college degree. Not to pass judgement on folks for whom this is the only viable option, but this wouldn’t have worked for me. Looking back on that now, that would mean I would never have attended NYU on scholarship, graduate school at UCLA, Berkeley, and soon, the University of Chicago. I would never have been in the Peace Corps, taught in underserved communities, or founded two companies that work for underserved communities.
I would still be slanging burgers.