October 12, 2020

College Degrees vs Training Programs: Millennials Weigh In

How important is going to college in 2020? Well, with two thirds of all new jobs requiring medium or high-level digital skills, a higher education certainly continues to prove more important. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean obtaining a college degree.

There’s a lot of buzz circulating right now around education when it comes to college degrees. Students experiencing a mostly remote education experience due to the current pandemic demand partial tuition refunds while tech companies like Google are accepting completion of their own training programs in place of 4-year degrees on job applications. With the tensions high between students and universities during this time, these certificate training programs look all the more alluring. They’re cheaper, quicker to receive, and can hold the weight of a Bachelor’s degree. That all sounds great, but are they really better than college degrees?

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Millennials make up over one third of the workforce and will continue to grow a dominance in the coming years, so we naturally wanted to hear their opinion. In one of our recent Tribe TV episodes, we sat down with two anonymous millennial engineers at top tech companies for their opinions on this situation with higher learning. We briefly covered three out of five questions asked in this episode and will expound upon those three and cover the remaining two in this blog.

1. Do you think Google’s Career Certificate program (and others that may follow) will disrupt the college system? Why or why not?

Mechanical Engineer, age 22
“I don't think so... there are a lot of merits to certificate programs but they are generally for a specific application. Certificates are a great way to learn specialized information without having to pay large school fees but may not always include the fundamentals and focus on theory that a degree can provide.”

Software Engineer, age 25
“I think it has potential to! Much like trade schools exist, some people would rather specialize in certain skills that make them employable rather than spend four years and lots of money on a traditional degree.”

2. Should colleges be required to give a partial refund to students since so much is now online?

Mechanical Engineer, age 22
“I think that partial refunds should be given as students are missing out on a lot of resources and experiences that can only happen in person (especially labs, tutoring, etc).”

Software Engineer, age 25
“I don't think a private college can be required to do this. It would be the right thing to do for colleges to calculate how much money is being saved hosting all programs online and share these savings with the students, especially considering how much of their experience is being lost.”

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3. Should higher learning be free and subsidized by corporations who would likely hire the graduates?

Mechanical Engineer, age 22
“I personally believe that we should do our best to reform and reshape our education system to make higher education affordable and available to all (ideally it would be free).”

Software Engineer, age 25
“This would be very difficult in theory to create a standard here. Programmers can come from a variety of backgrounds: Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics/Chemistry, Electrical/Computer Engineering, and more traditional liberal arts degrees as well (Linguistics, Cognitive Brain Science). 

Not only this, but these programmers could come from traditional degrees, coding bootcamps, or other certificate programs (which would be cheaper to fund). How would companies choose which programs/colleges/degrees to fund? Would they fund entire departments or target certain students (which could introduce more biases as well).

I think companies already offer opportunities or scholarships or donate money to schools or sponsor school programs (such as career fairs or hackathons). They can continue to choose what works for them rather than turn it into an expectation.”

4. Considering the levels of student loan debt, is college overrated?

Mechanical Engineer, age 22
“In light of the levels of student loan debt I think that college seems overrated. However, college degrees are unfortunately seen as a vital aspect in creating a career, especially in tech.”

Software Engineer, age 25
“It really depends on the person and situation. I personally grew a lot and got a ton from my college experience, but I was incredibly fortunate to have a large scholarship and a sense of what I wanted to do. I've seen people go to college because they think it's the logical next step but have no idea of what they want to do and end up lost, depressed, or drop out without picking up anything but debt.

It's a complex decision that each person should decide for themselves.”

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5. Who would you likely hire and why? Someone who took a 1-year certified course program in (fill in the blank) or a candidate that earned a 4-year degree in (fill in the blank)?

Mechanical Engineer, age 22
“At this moment in time I think that I would hire someone with a four year degree because I would be more confident that they can understand the theory behind what we are working on. However, depending on what field the certificate holder is in I think they would still be a viable candidate if they are well versed in whatever they are being hired for.”

Software Engineer, age 25
“In all honesty, the program a person attended matters less than everything else on their resume when it comes to programming. What languages do they know? What projects have they built that I can find on their portfolio? Do they have previous work experience?

Work experience and projects usually tell more than the piece of paper.”

From this discussion we can gather that college remains a worthwhile experience but may not be best suited for every individual. The training programs tech companies now offer may be more suitable for those who can’t attend college, but the question remains if it really holds as much merit as a 4-year degree.

Now that you’ve heard what millennials had to say, what do you think? Should these training programs hold the same weight as 4-year degrees, and do they hold the potential to disrupt the college system? Which would you prefer to seek out? Let us know in the comments, and remember to watch the connected Tribe TV episode, “Is Going to College Worth It in 2020?”:



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