‘Higher’ Education…What a racket!


I didn’t go to college until I was in my 30’s.;  It was a trip to Africa that changed my life. I stared out as a do-gooder who wanted to  help the Africans. As i got my education, I  was embarrassed at my American arrogance and changed my mindset, but my goal was still to give back.  My counterparts in peace Corps  often discussed with me the   merits of a particular action regarding lad=nd use planning.  Of course, they asked my opinion. they felt I had more experience and access to more information,  I often told them it was a judgement call.  It was their country, and they had to decide.

So, I was a mature adult when I decided to follow through on college. Thankfully, the College Level Examination Program saved me a lot of time and money. I got 2 years of college credit for free, and didn’t have to pay for a bunch of prerequisites.  I knew I wanted to major in anthropology, and I had dual minors:  environmental studies and international studies.  My instructors were very good, for the most part.  I  did learn a lot.  However, by 1989, a bachelor’s degree meant nothing, and I knew I’d need an advanced degree to have any sort of impact.  Long story short, a friend who was a professor at the University of Illinois at
Chicago, got me an interview at the UIC Center for Urban Economic Development, and I got an assistantship which paid for my master’s degree…which was virtually useless.

While I was  in the program, I sort of realized this degree was a way to weed out people less committed to planning, but  my  schooling—even statistics—was no more rigorous than an associate degree.  I was not studying anything really technical (I graduated a year before software allowed  land use planning on a computer): most of my studies were  a history of planning, or  entry-level management courses.  I also took a concentration in educational policy planning.  Keep in mind—I paid for nothing and got a small ($500 a month) stipend.

The reason(s) the degree was really worthless  were several: 1.  I  had an undergraduate degree in anthropology—not in finance, accounting,  geography, political science, or law.  Unless I knew someone, there were hundreds with  backgrounds just like mine; 2. I was not bilingual Spanish; 3.  I had never taught in an elementary school classroom, so without a Ph.D, it—my graduate education— was just an exercise in self-indulgence.

I had a roommate who had  an undergraduate degree in English Literature. she got interested in Urban Planning, and  could type 60 wpm.; she got a job right away as an administrative assistant at a land use planning firm. she was totally disorganized, and a ditz, but she could type and was really charming.  I got interviewed for several jobs where I was told—at the interview—the  organization was looking for a visible minority (that means person of color).  so Peace Corps was the right decision at the time.

While I was in high school, I  took savings and decided to go to dog grooming school. It was the New York School of Dog Grooming in Chicago, and it was run by Don Doessel for Mario and Margaret Migliorini.  These  people were pioneers in the teaching of grooming  for those of us who wanted to work with dogs and whose parents  probably did not show dogs.  Don sold Louis & Seme Auslander their  foundation  bitch, Dansel Dutch Treat.  Don was a fantastic teacher, I don’t think I ever saw him actually groom a dog, but he could teach, and he was patient.  The advantage of the school at the time was that every dog was a Poodle. And, as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his essay, 10,000 hours, we learned to  do Poodles by grooming so many Poodles.

Those days are gone. In 12 weeks of grooming school (which I believe I paid under $5000 for), I got enough of a foundation in grooming, and how to manage my time, that I was able to apprentice to  some very good groomers and home my craft.  I got  proficient, and I was able to work part time as a groomer and pay cash for those  3 years of  college that were my undergraduate degree.  The industry has changed. More and p more people who have never groomed nor trained a dog are opening dog daycare businesses or kennels, and hiring groomers, and they seem to believe the groomers either out of grooming school or trained by a ‘big box’ pet store can actually groom, They can’t groom. they can shave dogs, but they don’t know anything about dog physiology, dog psychology, or  the artistry of grooming. Now, owners of purebred dogs  go back to the breeders for grooming, because the pet groomers groom so poorly.

This is all relevant because with some capital, and a lawyer, you can open a dog grooming school and be licensed in the State if Illinois to teach grooming.  Some students pay for their own education, but many get financial aid from the state—our tax dollars, and  even after  6 months, most can’t groom.  There’s a  combination of reasons they can’t groom:  poorly trained teachers, not enough  dogs with coat they can practice on, not having any talent to begin with…but no matter.

We are learning more and more of other schools just like the  dog grooming schools:  private, for-profit, training  paralegals, CNAs (nurses assistants) massage therapists…the list of things they teach goes on and on, and these  graduates of these schools can’t find jobs.

So, you see, from my experience in getting my master’s degree, actually choosing a bona fide  program is the luck of the draw.

Now, certainly, if you graduate from an Ivy League School in philosophy or English Lit, you will get a job based on the connections you made.  Also, chances ate, with any B.A. degree from any college, you can  get a management job in  a retail store, or sell insurance (you will have to study for licenses), but face it: a liberal arts degree is now a ticket to nowhere.

Unfortunately,  so many people take out loans to  go into these  programs, to they can get a job to pay back their loans, and it’s all based on  1 big lie.  The lending institutions get you into debt, you can’t get a job, and  by the time you see what’s happened, you’ve wasted anywhere from a year to 5, and you’ve  got a mess.  But it’s legal.  You’d think some sort of school counselor would say to these people: “don’t  get student loans to pay for an undergrad degree in
English Lit, Liberal Arts,  Music History, History, etc, etc.  If you are not majoring in STEM—science, technology,engineering, math….you are digging yourself into a financial hole.”  but nobody does.

My niece did it right.  When she graduated high school she went to a community college and got an associate degree in accounting. she also worked at a bank, and learned the mortgage brokerage business from a customer of the bank.  she went on to get her B.A, in political science, and went immediately to law school, where she concentrated  in real estate law. She does house closings, and she and her husband fix up homes, and either rent them out or sell them.  Yes, she had student debt, but she had a way to pay it off.

I would advise anyone to talk to at least a dozen people  who work in the profession you are  thinking of training for. Ask how they think prospects are.  Ask where they thnk the berst training program is.  The one thing you shouldn’t do is borrow money.

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