I remember reading an article very early on in my career (late 1980’s or 1990) that argued that tuition increases couldn’t continue at the rate they were going.

If these increases kept going at this rate, we’d be paying $20,000 or $30,000 a year for tuition. And then (gasp) $40,000 or $50,000.  How ridiculous!  Of course, this could never happen.  Who could afford such rates?  Colleges would fold; access to college would only be available to the wealthy.

And yet, here we are in 2011, with the $50,000 barrier falling like an Educational Berlin Wall.

And there are more students in American Colleges than at any point in our nation’s history.  It’s not a perfect system, and costs are certainly too high, and I would argue the same point – this can’t continue.  Nobody’s going to pay $60,000 or $70,000 a year for tuition.  (Feel free to quote me/mock me when they do).  However…

Families have adjusted.

They’ve borrowed. And they’ve borrowed some more.  They’ve chosen public colleges over private institutions in ever-increasing numbers.  Students have gone to 5 and 6 year plans and dropped to part-time study so that they could earn sufficient money to pay tuition.  Or they’ve returned to school at 25 or 35 or 45 or 55.

Colleges have adjusted, as well.

They’ve offered financial aid in ever-increasing numbers to make the “actual” price a little more palatable than the sticker price.  They’ve offered greater technology, varied modes of delivery and greatly advanced student services programming.

I applaud those who look for ways to end the tuition madness.  However, I think this is all – the tuition increases and the reactions to them – a reality that is going to be with us for the foreseeable future.

Uh, so, Mike, why the hell are you writing this article?

Because one adjustment has been made by both colleges and students that I think is short-sighted, ill-advised and insufficiently commented upon.  Not to mention, it’s easily fixed.

At some point, the conventional wisdom became that – to make this investment worthwhile – it was necessary to major in a pre-professional program.  You need to learn a skill, a trade, a way to make a living.  Why else would someone invest $150,000 or so in a college education?

Colleges responded in two ways – to a) softly tout the intellectual benefits of the humanities and the liberal arts and b) put a hell of a lot of emphasis and marketing dollars in pre-professional programs.

In related news, we now have half the Humanities majors in 2011 that we had in the mid 1970’s.

In a market where careers change every few years, new industries are created with ever-increasing rapidity and business communication becomes ever more nuanced and varied, we decided that it would be a good idea to all study the same freaking major and narrow our knowledge base, not broaden it.

Make sense to you?

Let me throw this slogan out there –

Want to succeed in a job, impress your boss, get promotions and raises?  Major in the Humanities!

Employers want employees who can read, write, discuss, articulate.  They want staff who understand past events and context and know how to implement that information into successful strategy for the present and future.

Want to succeed in a job, impress your boss, get promotions and raises?  Major in the Humanities!

They can train you in their processes.  But they don’t have the time, energy or desire to teach you how to think, speak, write, influence, plan and implement.  They want to assume that you bring those traits to the table.  And a degree in the Humanities (or, dare I go crazy here, the Liberal Arts!) gives you plenty of experience working with those tools in the tool belt.

Some of the best Doctors in the U.S. majored in English and some great Businessmen majored in Sociology.

Colleges have become apologetic in their promotion of the Humanities and it needs to stop before there’s nothing left to apologize for.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.

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