By: Sabrina Bedford

“You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on an education you coulda got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library.”
– Good Will Hunting

Information is everywhere. As a result, the importance of formal education is significantly decreasing with the rise of the information age. A university degree is no longer as valuable as it once was. Yet, university enrollment is on the rise while the employment outlook remains grim.

I suggest that people take the money they’d spend on going to university and put it toward something they truly want to do. Start a business. Go travelling. Take some time to figure out what you really want to do before committing yourself to four years of tuition.

Consider the facts:

The information lectured in post-secondary institutions is available anywhere – even at your local public library. While this has always been the case, information is more readily available than ever before. The advent of the Internet has virtually eliminated the biggest barrier to education – cost.

Several colleges and universities are now offering free online courses to anyone in the world. Ivy-league universities, such as MIT and Harvard, offer structured and formal online courses on a variety of topics to anyone with the initiative and accountability to complete them.

These courses are organized by a company called Coursera. According to their website, Coursera is a “social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.” Their slogan includes the notion that quality education should be available to everyone, regardless of socio-economic background.

More educational institutions should be inspired by this approach.

What’s the point of spending $40,000 on information that is free, accessible, and doesn’t guarantee you a good job in the end? Now, more than ever, university graduates aren’t benefitting from their degrees in a direct or substantial way.

According to Service Canada, unemployment rates among youth aged 15-24 continue to be the highest of any age group. An undergraduate degree is the new high school diploma, essentially the new entry-level qualifier for low-paying, unspecialized jobs.

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, feels more people should opt out of college, focus on entrepreneurship and follow their passions. In an interview with Reason TV, he said when students accumulate debt, nobody benefits.

“The problem is that people end up amassing enormous amounts of debt in college or graduate school and this tremendously constrains their future options. They cannot choose things they really want to do, or things that will really transform society. Instead, they’re basically tied to this incredible mountain of debt.”

Through his Thiel Fellowship, he pays 24 recipients $100,000 each to not attend college and to develop business ideas instead.

Society obviously benefits from having educated citizens, but who’s to say that just because you have a university degree, you’re really that educated? Formally, you are, but what did you really learn that anybody else in the country couldn’t have learned on their own for free?

With free or paid education, the will to learn is the most important characteristic a person can possess. If you have the motivation to be successful, you can be successful, with or without a degree.

With all this being said, I know I can’t completely write off a university education. Everybody learns in different ways, and many people do benefit from this learning style and make valuable connections. It just shouldn’t be the first and only step that people consider.

It’s not the only ingredient for success.