Arnst quotes a Chronicle of Higher Education article by Marty Nemko. He starts with this story:
Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: "I wasn't a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I'd be the first one in my family to do it. But it's been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go."
Colleges are businesses, and like most businesses, they have done a great job of "selling" their product. Americans believe that a college degree is required for success as much as they believe the sun will rise tomorrow. Even parents who make six figures a year without a college degree insist that their children go to college. Nemko goes on to say:
Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later.
These students sit in my classes every semester, and I try to tell some of them that they should not be there. They don't want to be there, and I try to let them know that it's okay to leave. They didn't enjoy high school, and they couldn't wait to graduate, and now they find themselves stuck in a world that they have never liked.
As a homeschooler, most parents hear the question, "But how will your child be able to go to college without a high school diploma?" Although many, many homeschooled kids do get accepted at top universities across the country, it's a shame that so many people measure success by whether or not a person can be accepted into a college. And if you read farther into the Nemko article, you'll see that it really is not that difficult to get accepted into a college somewhere. Nemko said that only 23% of the students who took the ACT in 2007 were ready for college-level work -- yet colleges accept them.
For almost two decades I've been saying, "Homeschooled kids have no problem getting accepted by colleges," but I should have been saying, "College is not synonymous with success." Bill Gates (Microsoft) is a college drop-out, as well as Michael Dell (Dell) and Steve Jobs (Apple). When I was a reporter in Kane County, IL, I interviewed the Man of the Year about ten years ago, and he had been kicked out of high school about 20 years earlier. He went on to start working in construction and to start his own construction company, and before he was 40, he was successful both financially and socially. He was a well-respected member of the community because he was a fair and honest business owner, and he had completed many construction projects in the county that were well done and less expensive than his competitors. Such stories are not all that unusual.
If people sat down and started making a list of people they know with college degrees and those without, they'd see that the college degree does not equate success. I used to know a mortgage lender who complained to me one day that she couldn't get a loan approved for a physician because he handled his money so badly -- $350,000 a year. But most people don't think. They just follow the script: go to school, get good grades, go to college, become a success. There just isn't a recipe for success that is so simple.
Since my children are all in college now, I probably won't be hearing the "what about college" question very often, but if I do, I think I'll be less defensive about their ability to get into college and simply tell them that my goal in homeschooling my children was not necessarily to get them into college. My goal was for them to find a passion for learning and to follow their passion, regardless of whether that led them to a college or a cosmetology school or a job in retail.