Is College Worth it?

As hundreds of thousands of fresh faced high school grads launch their credit-card-driven assaults on Target & Walmart positions the nation over, are parents and students spending more time debating mini-fridges than the very education they’re aiming to get?

ABC’s 20/20 broaches the subject in the video above. I’m certain there are a number of college grads who feel as though, perhaps, they paid a bit too much for their educations. But hey – what are you going to do, right? “We had to go! It cost what it cost!”

I remember sitting on a porch one evening about ten years ago speaking with a friend’s beau who claimed that:

“College has absolutely no value whatsoever.For anyone. Seriously. No one should go.”

In only his early 20’s, this guy was knocking on the door of six figures, with only a high school diploma to speak of. Well, that and a truckload of charisma and confidence – but they don’t have pieces of paper for those sorts of things.

As I was presently enrolled in school, I rebuked his claim as a bridge too far. Certainly there had to be some redeeming value I was getting for my hard earned money!? I’d read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and was now well versed in the ancient Japanese practice of “foot binding” but did that make me any more employable? Better yet, would it help me break through the phalanx that is a modern day HR department to even get myself in front of someone for an interview? When everyone has a degree, does anyone have a degree?

I guess the pertinent question here is “what makes people successful?” Is a college education, where students learn to work hard, study, prepare for large projects, etc… the best indicator of future success? Or, as the guy in the video asserts, would those top high school students have been successful no matter? Isn’t it their innate drive, passion, and personality that serve as the better markers for a stellar career?

I never did get my 4 year degree. I was putting myself through school full time and wound up finding out that I was really good at property management and sales. It also helped that I was making double what I would have, had I finished with a journalism degree (my chosen course of study) and all without taking out a ton of additional loans. Not that I could have found a job at the time anyway (broadband internet wasn’t exactly the best thing to happen to newspapers) but I digress…

Something doesn't add up...

I’m in the wrong business! Clearly opening a college is where it’s at!

Undoubtedly, a college education is valuable. How much so remains the real question and one that only parents and students can answer for themselves. Live it up at an out of state school? On campus or off? Attend a local college or take mostly internet courses? What you choose to spend is entirely up to you. Just make sure you’re honest about what it’s worth to you and what you think it’s worth to the market place.

If you did graduate and are now enjoying the process that is paying off student loans, let me know your thoughts! Worth it overall? Would you do it over, and if so, would you change anything?

RoommateFit, LLC offers “eharmony for roommates?” Hipsters & Cowboys cheer?

This guy is doing it!

Justin Mares is attempting to sell his RoommateFit Software to College Campuses for their Housing Operations

eHarmony for College Dorms?

Justin Mares today announced his new roommate matching software “RoommateFit” which he’s pitching to college campuses to aid in their dorm room assignments. The University of Pittsburgh Business student’s system will ask 42 questions, covering 6 distinct traits, in order to better match like-minded students with one another.

I recall talking with a co-worker in 2001 while working at a large, all-inclusive, student community here in Gainesville who realized the need for exactly such software. “So wait, you mean there’s no such thing as 3rd party roommate matching software out there for college communities?”, he asked me incredulously. “Not really” I said, “most people make their own proprietary system but the whole thing takes a back seat to other business aspects of the operation.” He resolved right then and there to make the first, one-size-fits-all roommate matching software for college campuses and stand-alone communities.

It’s been a decade and I haven’t heard tell of him, or his software, yet.

And that’s probably because it’s not as easy a thing to do as one may initially think. What really matters when matching roommates? It’s not like they’re dating… they just need to do a bit better than not kill each other. So, preferred bedtimes are the big deal? Drinking? Hobbies? Majors? Affiliations like Sororities or clubs? Music choices? How’s the hipster vegan from NYC going to get along with the Agriculture major from Texas who believes Bacon isn’t just a food group but a full-blown religion?

So much more common than you think

Passive-agressive Post-it notes are a staple in student apartments - like Ramen noodles and mini-fridges.

How do you correctly weight the answers to these questions and which factors hide the buried fault lines of potential friendship or ever-lasting war? That’s the problem most campuses and Property Management groups have when it comes to finding “Martin” his new “Lewis.”

If you’re a new college student and are getting an assigned roommate I have a sobering truth for you: That ‘random roommate’ is way more RANDOM than you may actually think.

Many times, and due to the actual calamity of placing/assigning units and coordinating dates/furniture/vendors, etc… roommate matching can, and is often, done based entirely on gender alone: “I got a single guy here for a 4/4, you have a space open with three other guys?” says the Leasing Manager to the Property Manager – “Yeah, done and done. Placed in 1010B, next?”More on this exact process later…

This is where Mares’ software really becomes appealing; if you can sort people to be placed together based on similar interests, reduce immediate roommate conflicts, and speed up the process so the office staff is free to focus on preparing your unit correctly for move-in, everyone wins.

The big question remaining to be seen is this: Will Mares’ system create better matches than random assignment? Significantly better as to justify the cost of his annual service? And how do you even measure such a thing? What’s a successful placement? Is this system better than letting students find their own roommates on Facebook?

Those questions are why most groups don’t see money in attempting to ensure roommates hit it off… “random” or limited review of roommate preferences has worked thus far, therefore, why spend the money?

USF Allows Transgender Student Housing. Will Apartments Follow?

University of South Florida in Tampa announced last week that (for purposes of dorm placement – roommate matching) they’d allow transgender students to indicate themselves as such – as opposed to having to select between male/female while they may be transitioning from one to the other.

Regardless of you how you may personally feel about the issue, this is yet one more example of how much things have changed since these students’ parents were in college – and not for the worse either. Prosperity and technology provide us with options, and that’s nowhere more apparent in college than in the myriad of living arrangements available to all students.

While USF leads a relatively small contingency of schools in the move to optional co-ed and transgender dorms, most student apartment communities in Florida don’t get involved in such sensitive issues as sexual preference or sexual identity. Some don’t even allow co-ed living unless all roommates agree to it and sign their leases at the same time. Further, some communities (like Gainesville, FL) have even passed local ordinances to add protections from discrimination such as sexual preference and sexual identity in areas of employment and housing.This means a student community that allows an applicant to self-describe as to either of those categories opens the door for a potential suit in the event the student ever feels discriminated against. All that equals is risk and if you can count on anything it’s business avoiding unnecessary risk.

Unlike on-campus living, parents do have more control in an off-campus apartment situation simply for the fact that they have to typically provide a “guarantor form” before their child can be approved for a lease. Withholding this document (like the car keys in high school) allows mom & dad to wield the power many parents feel should rightfully be theirs – final say whenever money is being spent. However, once the form is signed the lease IS in the student’s name and mom & dad fall into the role of silent partners on the deal. More on these forms later…

No doubt that USF’s inventory of 5500 dorm rooms leads as much to their present decision as a desire to be a progressive leader among Florida Colleges. While most student housing communities max out at around 1000 beds, you can bet that most will avoid the sexual identity issue until it is past “mainstream” due to fears of Fair Housing issues and simply not wanting another complication in their already byzantine roommate matching processes.

What are your thoughts? Should students be permitted to check a box if they didn’t want to live with a self-described “transgender” student? Do you think they should be informed ahead of time if randomly placed with one? Should College dorms and/or Student apartment communities be involved in any housing placements other than same-sex, with exception to siblings?

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