Really Good Reasons to Skip College: Q&A with Blake Boles

"If you're undecided, if you just want to go for the social experience, if you just want to move away from home, if you want to generally explore the liberal arts, I think that all those things can be done much more cheaply, effectively, and, again, building more of an entrepreneurial spirit by taking a path that is not traditional college."

Reason TV sat down with Blake Boles to discuss his controversial book, Better Than College, which makes the case for education through entrepreneurship.

Outside of the hard sciences, a degree may or may not guarantee success and may hinder innovation in some cases. Rather than endure the financial stress of five figure student debt, Boles suggests employing creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit to create something of value for the world.

Duration 5:03

Produced by Zach Weissmueller.

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  • JeremyR||

    The trouble is, like all the talk at the Republican convention about small business, most people are not entrepreneurs. It requires a lot of self-motivation, salesmanship, and ability. Most people simply aren't capable of it.

    On the flip side, not having a degree means a lot of companies won't even talk to you.

    The other thing about degrees in hard science, the big danger there is actually being able to finish it. In my own case, I went for a space science and physics degree and by my Senior year, the math was simply too much for me. But until you are exposed to that sort of math, you can't really know if you are good at it or not.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I simply want all theater majors to pass Harvard's Honors Abstract Algebra and Honors Real and Complex Analysis (Math 55) with at least a B before graduating.

  • Randian||

    Harvard gives out grades now?

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Don't know. Didn't go.

    I'm just talking about passing some sort of rigorous, possibly value-increasing course work with a bare minimum of aptitude.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    See how many companies are excited to hire a french studies major to a sales position.

  • Lord Humungus||

    I'm an EE refugee - math overload did me in too - eventually dropped that and did a hurried computer science degree.

    Funny thing - I can build electronic gear from scratch (and still do), but don't necessarily understand (or want to) the deeper intricacies.

    "An electron comes in from infinity and strikes a plate..."

  • Caleb Turberville||

    "An electron comes in from infinity and strikes a plate..."

    What is that, the photoelectric effect? I only took two semesters of general (non-calculus) physics, but I don't remember simple quantum mechanics being that much of a mathematical riddle.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    ...Of course, I say that, but I seemed to keep messing up on simple mechanics questions on exams. So, I'm not one to talk.

  • Zeb||

    If I recall correctly, the electron form infinity thing is used in classical electrodynamics. Voltage is an integral from here to infinity.

    Also, spherical turkeys.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Oh, well. Sounds exciting to read about in a popular science book, but I agree, I wouldn't want to major in it.

  • Matt_S||

    To each his own. I couldn't imagine majoring in anything else.

  • robc||

    spherical turkeys.

    Or spherical horses. It doesnt matter.

    Its still the best punch line to a lame joke. So much so that no one ever tells anything but the punch line.

    And I smile every time.

  • H. Reardon||

    Also, spherical turkeys.
    I thought this was a twist on 'fried chicken' and lol'd.

  • ||

    I'm a EE who can barely build a wheatstone bridge from scratch. I actually preferred the theoretical stuff and would've gotten a physics degree if I'd I could get a job with it. Turns out there were no EE jobs when I graduated ('92) so I ended doing goddamned computers, anyway.

  • playa manhattan||

    I did real and complex analysis in summer school at UCLA for exactly that reason. It was $800 for the 4 units of credit, and if I didn't make it, it was no big deal...

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Reason #1: Are you getting a liberal arts degree? Then no, you don't need college. Go to a library.

  • Zeb||

    Not everyone is that self motivated. The problem isn't liberal arts degrees. It is that too many people pursue them for stupid reasons.

  • The Hammer||

    Yeah. My twin brother has actually done very well with his degree in Advertising. But he knew what he wanted to do going in, and he knew why, and he knew that it was a fairly specialized degree that a lot of people tending bars on 6th Street had. But of course hard work and native intelligence make a big difference in outcomes, too.

  • Wrightko||

    UT Austin reference there?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    On the flip side, not having a degree means a lot of companies won't even talk to you.

    Bullshit credentialism and blame-shifting masquerading as selectivity.

    I am a firm believer in apprenticeships, and not necessarily the highly formalized German system the sort of people who looooooooove teh unions are so enamored of.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    My daughter couldn't hack college so she took an entry level inside sales position. Ten years later she's the #1 sales person there. If you are good, entry level positions are the place to prove your abilities. No, without a degree you won't be hired as a manager or supervisor but you can work your way up from almost any clerical or drugery position. I know at least one multiple MCDonalds franchise owner who started flipping burgers and stayed with the chain.

  • Briggie||

    "I am a firm believer in apprenticeships, and not necessarily the highly formalized German system the sort of people who looooooooove teh unions are so enamored of."

    I am as well, but many companies seem to not want to train their employees much less have apprenticeships. I don't think a job interview is a good way of getting to know or understand a future employee.

    Doesn't really help that in many interviews I have been in often have irrelevant/bad questions. Ones like "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" Where I either have to lie or give them a scripted answer. At that point they would be better off picking names out of a hat.

  • T o n y||

    Apart from a bachelor's degree being necessary for much of today's job market, the real value of a college education is learning adult critical thinking (something that a lot of people who graduate with degrees in engineering, business, or computer science somehow are still deficient in). I understand that libertarians would be perfectly happy with people being only exposed to the extent of the history of thought they discovered in high school, but you can't really "know what you don't know" without some guidance. This is anecdotal of course, but I've met more liberal arts graduates than engineers who are conversant in the cutting edge of physics. You learn the history of thought (otherwise known as philosophy) and take some logic courses, and you can be equipped for anything, because you have learned how to think--and that is the most important value of a college education, and yes it is too expensive in this country.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Couldn't critical thinking be part of the general high school curriculum, or better yet, taught at home? Becoming a critical thinker doesn't justify the extraordinary costs of "higher education.

  • T o n y||

    No, even with year-round full-time instruction high school can barely fit in the basics. And critical thinking taught at home? Thanks for the laugh. I'm sure that's high on the list of priorities for evangelical parents. I suppose freedom means being enslaved to the whims and priorities of one's parents?

    But as I said, the cost is too high, yes, and something will have to be done about that. But if you ask me, four years of college is necessary for an extension of "the basics" in today's world. A high school diploma alone will not typically deliver a critical thinking skill set that matches the needs of the modern economy.

    And does it make sense for libertarians to argue that businesses are making irrational decisions in preferring college credentials for hires?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    That is a lot of question begging in that comment.

    Tony w/spaces, not only are you a weak-sense critical thinker (assuming that you are capable of thought that hasn't been drummed into your head by someone else), but you are a WEAKSAUCE thinker as well. And a sockpuppet. Dare I say, the worst sockpuppet in the history of the performing arts.

  • Rick Santorum||

    "a critical thinking skill set that matches the needs of the modern economy"

    Haha, oh, my God, this is what liberals actually believe. What the modern economy needs is hard-working people in manufacturing jobs, not a bunch of stuck-up libarts students who spend their days reading DailyKOS.

  • The Craig||

    Let me guess, Tony was a liberal arts major.

  • Zeb||

    Liberal arts is not just Queer Studies and Underwater Basket Weaving. And it is not a major.

  • The Craig||

    I received my accounting degree from a liberal arts college, so I do know this. At the end of four years though, I had a job while all the straight liberal arts majors were whining they couldn't find anything.

  • R C Dean||

    real value of a college education is learning adult critical thinking

    That's what it says in the sales brochure.

    The question is, are colleges delivering on this front. Some may be, some probably aren't.

  • Randian||

    I concur with Tony to a very limited extent. I don't think that college is the end-all be-all the way the public school bureaucrats do, but it is a good thing to at least have a couple of years.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Perhaps there was a time when even critical thinking and all of the other "well-rounding" effects of the college curriculum benefitted the average person to enroll. But aren't we fastly approaching an information-rich society in which a person with even the smallest bit of motivation can learn about and gain these critical faculties with a home computer?

  • T o n y||

    Or they'll ghettoize themselves into information bubbles, never having had the guidance necessary to figure out when one is on the wrong track intellectually or discover subjects and modes of thinking they'd never think to pursue. That guidance may some day be in the form of a computer program rather than a teacher, but even motivated people left on their own I don't think can manage a well-rounded education. And that's not even talking about people who aren't motivated (unless subject to the strictures of formalized education).

  • The Hammer||

    You mean like the people who read HuffPo and Kos and disregard anything from any other source?

  • ant1sthenes||

    I thought that was the point of college.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    I'm non-degreed and I work across the table from (mostly American) degreed people all the time. I have found virtually no evidence of critical thinking.

    My communication skills (briefing, meeting-wise and written) are all about an order of magnitude better than theirs as well (despite many of them being 'more experienced' than I am).

    Then again, I work for a British company, and not in America. I seriously doubt I'd have the position, responsibility or pay that I have now with a US company or in the US without the sacred degree.

    NB - I am not much of a 'self-starter', but I do pounce when presented with opportunities, and I am willing to travel and re-locate which is why I got hired.

    NB2 - I know this is anecdotal, but it's a pretty damn significant number of anecdotes.

  • robc||

    are colleges delivering on this front

    Engineering schools are. Same for science/math type majors. Not sure about anyone else.

  • ||

    I knew an Oxford educated English major who was a journalist and I have to admit, as an engineering major who reads a lot, the guy had a genuinely amazing liberal arts education. He could talk about the themes of a book and not in some Dada bullshit PoMo manner.

    But that's pretty much the only liberal arts major that ever impressed me with their schoolin'.

  • Randian||

    I understand that libertarians would be perfectly happy with people being only exposed to the extent of the history of thought they discovered in high school

    Actually, the only individuals I meet with a high school understanding of history are people of your sociopolitical ilk.

    Here are the things I learned in high school:
    - Communism has never really been tried
    - The United States' participating in WWII single-handedly won that war and ended the Great Depression.
    - Hoover was a plutocrat who killed those ladies in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and was only stopped by the noble FDR (PBUH)
    - Lincoln was dedicated mostly to freeing the slaves
    - America was a sexist, racist nation before the hippies

    And hey, guess what, that all turned out to be bullshit, and yet here you are, saying those very things every day.

  • T o n y||

    America wasn't sexist and racist pre-1960s?

  • Zeb||

    No, just lots of its citizens and government officials.

  • Zeb||

    This is true to some extent. I think I got a lot in terms of critical thinking ability and writing ability from my liberal arts college degree. But an awful lot of students don't get that, either because they don't care, or because college is turning into an extra 4 years of highschool.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Apart from a bachelor's degree being necessary for much of today's job market,

    Why?

    the real value of a college education is learning adult critical thinking,

    So critical thinking skills cannot be learned anywhere else but college? And why do you hate the chilluns and call them stupid?

    something that a lot of people who graduate with degrees in engineering, business, or computer science somehow are still deficient in

    Aaaaand Tony w/spaces contradicts himself in the same thought.

    I understand that libertarians would be perfectly happy with people being only exposed to the extent of the history of thought they discovered in high school, but you can't really "know what you don't know" without some guidance.

    More question-begging. Yay.

    This is anecdotal of course, but I've met more liberal arts graduates than engineers who are conversant in the cutting edge of physics.

    Uh-huh.

    You learn the history of thought (otherwise known as philosophy) and take some logic courses, and you can be equipped for anything, because you have learned how to think--and that is the most important value of a college education, and yes it is too expensive in this country.

    So the point of that...screed was to pimp the philosophy degree? Brevity Tony w/spaces, more brevity.

    You are the worst sockpuppet ever.

  • CE||

    Huh? Liberal arts majors learn how to think, but engineers don't? I went to a prestigious university, and it was just the opposite -- liberal arts majors learned to memorize stuff, and the engineers learned how to figure things out.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    ya. Tony is full of shit. As usual.

  • Rick Santorum||

    When Tony says "critical thinking," what he means is "drinking the liberal Kool-Aid." Because if he were to think critically, he would realize that he's full of shit.

    Tell me about my white male privilege, please.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    the real value of a college education is learning adult critical thinking

    Of the sort displayed by MSNBCs crack troupe of Obama-fluffers, I suppose.

  • T o n y||

    Of the sort that makes one able to tell the difference between Rachel Maddow's form of reasoning from Rush Limbaugh's. They both have a political point-of-view, yes. Rachel Maddow delivers a logically connected chain of evidence to make a point, Rush Limbaugh channels blind lizard-brain rage into microphone spittle.

    Maybe learning critical thinking means you tend to think Obama's a vast improvement on his predecessor. I'm not sure where self-satisfied fallacious equivalences comes from.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Rachel Maddow delivers a logically connected chain of evidence to lies, omits and obfuscates to make a point,

    Fixed that for you.

  • CE||

    Or, if you majored in math or science or engineering, you'd realize that both Limbaugh and Maddow reach flawed conclusions, because they start with flawed premises.

    If you take a distorted worldview as a founding axiom, everything that follows is suspect.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    she took an entry level inside sales position. Ten years later she's the #1 sales person there.

    Excellent; good for your daughter.

    Lots of people like to bitch about Walmart, but I have known several people who started out at entry level positions who, after demonstrating actual willingness to work and learn, werre promoted rapidly and paid well. This has apparently changed somewhat, due to the idiot (Lee Scott?) who took over as CEO when Sam Walton stepped down.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Couldn't critical thinking be part of the general high school curriculum

    That's funny.

    High school is designed to beat any independence of thought right out of the students.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    even with year-round full-time instruction high school can barely fit in the basics.

    NEEDZ MOAR MANSPLAININ

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Maybe learning critical thinking means you tend to think Obama's a vast improvement on his predecessor.

    Maybe.

    Maybe NOT.

    *DISCLAIMER: They both SUCK

  • Raistlin Majere||

    I began college much later than I was supposed to (at 31-years-old) and have to say, the BA degree is one of the most over-rated things in existance. I went simply because a degree was the one thing my resume was missing. Most emplyers just want you to have a degree and don't care at all what it's in. Go to any job fair and this fact will be on full display to anyone who doubts that. After completion, I never saw this magic moment that made me a better man or any more capable that I was before. Sure I learned about some things I didn't know before, but to say what I learned was worth 4 years and $45,000 would be laughable. I got a good job after graduating which my degree was entirely irrelevant to doing and I was totaly capable of doing before college. Simply put, it was a long and expencive formallity not near worth the worship we give it today.

  • CE||

    A college degree gives would-be employers confidence that:

    1. you finish what you start

    2. you owe someone a lot of money, so you won't bolt your job when they mistreat you

    and

    3. they won't be fired for hiring someone without the right credential

  • Raistlin Majere||

    1. There are pleanty of other ways to determine this.

    2. Why are employers so eager to mistreat you? The best way to get you to not bolt your job is to... not mistreat you.

    3.What credential? That's most of my point; a degree is often not a credential. It is a formality.

  • Mr. Soul||

    Credentials are for the mediocre. If being perceived as mediocre is an improvement for you, you should credential up.

  • jorgeborges||

    Nick, could you go ahead and only film me to about 3/4 of the way up my head so that it's not so obvious I'm bald? Thanks.

  • NL_||

    It's not that college teaches you so much. But it's used as signaling and credentialing to find employment. Yeah, it's imperfect signaling but go ahead and be the jerk who's unemployed just to make a point.

    I'm thirty. My friends who delayed school didn't travel or do startups. They partied and worked retail or food service. Maybe college is overcharging but employers use it to filter applicants. Most people aren't the type of selfstarters who would be better off working.

    I'll grant that college is overpriced and overrated. But it's ubiquitous enough that the lack of a degree can disqualify you and still leave an employer with a huge pool of applicants.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Colleges shouldn't be allowed to give degrees, frankly. The guys that provide the education and the guys that evaluate worthiness for credentials should be kept separate.

  • hotsy totsy||

    THIS is actually a great idea!

  • abcd1234||

    We have to face some facts here:

    -Can the high school curriculum be restructured to provide instruction in more relevant skill sets? Absolutely (for those who think there is "no time," I took at least 2 useless electives, e.g. acting, and still had at least one study hall every quarter. And I was an AP/college credit class student). But until the day we reform high school education, college has to fill that role.

    -Do employers filter applicants by whether or not they have a college degree? Yes. So not getting a degree puts you at a competitive disadvantage.

    -The author of the book has a college degree. That blows a huge hole in his credibility.

    -There are many degrees that are extremely useful. To decry college as completely useless because SOME people choose to study SOME majors that don't adequately prepare you for a fulfilling career is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    The takeaway from this ought to be that college is expensive, so one should maximize his use of it when he attends. That requires researching the job market, trends, and being mentored by someone to keep him on track. When I attended college, my advisor told me to just study what I liked. That is the worst advice you could possibly give to a 17-18 year old who doesn't understand any of the above (but he thinks he does).

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