The Economist magazine has a very interesting article on another side of the surge of young women going on missions. It turns out that as more young women go on missions, fewer are going to college, and the Economist says some people in Utah are concerned about this trend:
KAITLYN BOURNE, a 21-year-old student from Salt Lake City, Utah, recently returned from 18 months as a Mormon missionary in Atlanta, Georgia. Before going on her mission, she was studying a pre-medicine undergraduate degree at the University of Utah with a full scholarship. But when the Mormon church lowered the age at which young women can go on missions from 21 to 19 at the end of 2012, the idea of going consumed her. “It was a huge commitment, a really hard decision,” she says. “But after months of prayer and thinking about it, I realised I had to do it.”
Ms Bourne’s decision was hard—she had to give up her scholarship. Since returning, she has made plans to go back to university, but instead of resuming her pre-medicine course, she plans to study music at the Hawaii branch of Brigham Young, a Mormon university. Such decisions concern many Utahns. In seeking to expand spiritual opportunities for women, they fear that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may be inadvertently reducing academic ones.
I think this article in the Economist, while thought-provoking, has a fatal flaw: it ignores the biggest crisis in higher education right now, which is that going to a four-year university for a BA degree is increasingly worthless.
Let me make this abundantly clear: I support people doing whatever they want with their lives. So, if you (meaning you the potentially offended reader) want to go to school for four years to study art history or gender studies, then I say bully to you. Go for it. I would only ask that you extend the same courtesy to the woman who decides NOT to go to school and instead decides to go on a mission. Priorities can change after spending 18 months serving the Lord. Is it possible that somebody can decide not to go to school and can actually be making a *better* decision for themselves?
The educational world is changing. Significantly. It simply is not the case that going to a four-year school to get a BA is usually a good financial, spiritual or moral decision. (I think most people would have agreed it was a good decision until about a decade ago).
It is also true, as much as it hurts many people to admit, that going to a university does not mean you are necessarily “educated.” So if your goal is education, then, for many people, another route may be more appropriate.
The first point is that the on-line educational world is exploding. My daughter has worked at Starbucks for three months, and they are offering her a *free on-line degree to ASU* if she continues to work at Starbucks. Sounds like a great deal to me. But overall, on-line education seems to be an increasingly useful route for many people. What this means is that you can study for a year, go on a mission, and then easily come back to studying without losing a beat.
The second point is the growth of a usefulness of a trade school education. This article points out that you can go to trade school and get guaranteed earnings that often beat getting a BA while avoiding student loan debt. A young woman in my ward in Colorado graduated from high school and went to a trade school to learn how to be a welder. She is practically guaranteed a job after graduating making $40/hour (there is a huge demand for welders in Colorado right now, even with the downturn in the oil business).
The third point is that many of today’s universities are simply not, in many cases, the type of environment that is spiritually or morally uplifting. Universities have, in many cases, become politically correct hotbeds for the latest theories that are often directly at odds with the teachings of modern-day prophets. As a parent, I would never choose to give money to many of these universities. I know that many of my friends agree with me. As this trend continues, children are going to find it increasingly difficult to convince their parents or grandparents to help pay for college. As CS Lewis said: “Eduation without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”
If you still are not convinced that getting a four-year degree can often be counter-productive, I would urge you to read this essay in a liberal magazine that says going to an elite university turns people into “zombies.”
Many young men and women must ask themselves: is it worth going into five or six-figure debt to get a BA degree in a subject that is not marketable?
“Getting an education” does not mean going to a four-year university to study often-useless information. Some of the smartest people I know are self-taught. There is no reason to believe that a man or woman who goes on a mission cannot come back and become educated *without getting a four-year degree of some sort.* The goal in life should not be credentials. The goal in life should be to progress in things that are important from an eternal perspective, and one of these things is being educated. But note the words “being educated,” not “going to college.” They are two different things.
Let me reiterate something here: if you really want to go to college and get a BA, then I say go for it, especially if you have found a way to pay for it. Many people will be happy taking such a route. Going on a mission is not for everybody. And I would also like to point out that if you are interested in the sciences and engineering, then getting a four-year degree and then an advanced degree is a very smart choice. All of my college friends who studied the sciences at Stanford are doing quite well, thank you.
But I still say that the educational world has changed. Many people, including young women, can go on missions and still be quite well educated. Even if they don’t continue going to college.