Types of Learning

June 20, 2006

Higher education persists as one of the largest sources of dispute in my mind. There are several methods of attaining such an education, but following any one will likely lead to alienation and regret. Let's consider the options and discuss the pros and cons of each. Keep in mind, many attributes overlap between the different forms of higher education; I'll try to just mention each once.

Joining the Workforce – During our rather long high school career, we are bombarded with messages warning of the dangers of dropping out or not attending college. We were told we would not make good money and would therefore forever be less happy, living in the lower bracket of society. Okay, at least that's what they said to me…

Pros – More Money in the short-term (sometimes reaching more than $120k saved in loans), Faster Training (most jobs require specific abilities that must be learned on-location), Head-start to "Life" and "Career"

Cons – Less Money in the long-term (despite the bias mentioned above, you are statistically more likely to make more money), Wider Career Options (though this is greatly depending on the type of work you want), Networking Possibilities (these can be exceedingly helpful but may not be worth it if you don't use them)

Community College – For many, community college serves as a sort of midway between high school and the real world. Attending community college may also serve as a stepping stone for further education, such as transferring to a university.

Pros – Easy classes (you'd be surprised how few closed-book tests appear in the working world), Less money than a traditional college with more acclamations than the first option, Part-time options (allowing for a job or industry experience)

Cons – Not as prestigious as the university or other forms of college (the importance of which depends on the type of job you wish to enter), Larger class sizes/ more TAs (this may or may not affect you; I certainly hate it), Less Class Breadth (though, if you just want a degree, this wouldn't be a problem)

Institutes of Art, Technology, or Business – Usually these schools offer both assosciate's degrees and bachelor's and widely range in fame. For example, the Illinois Institute of Technology is a very well recognized college, while ITT Tech doesn't usually turn many heads.

Pros – State of the art (much of academia is a year or two behind the common techniques used in the "real world"), Specific Education (often in areas unattainable to other forms of education), Co-op or similar programs (the equivalent of on-the-job training)

Cons – Breadth of courses (generally no or few history, philosophy, etc), Pigeon-holing (when those hiring you believe you can only perform one task well), Out-dating (if you only learn the latest technology, but very little theory, when the industry changes, you will quickly be left behind)

Liberal Arts College – I currently attend Grinnell College, one of the most liberal arts-y colleges in the world. At these schools, students learn a very broad spectrum of education that is usually considered "well rounded."

Pros – Variety (taking classes in Jewish religion, neuroscience, and the cold war on one campus), lower class restrictions (less credits required to major promote more class testing), expert writing (essential skill in most industries)

Cons – Little specification (jack of all trades, but master of none), Expense (often the most expensive of the options listed), Outdated (most classes focus on theory, which may not be helpful if you aren't familiar with the latest technologies)

Religious Institutions – I won't discuss much about these schools as they tend to fall under all the other categories. These universities tend to have class requirements dealing with religion but may be less costly or feel more safe. They range from small liberal arts schools to huge universities that teach everything from microbiology to theatre.

Public Institutions – Public colleges and universities usually offer a wide variety of classes to a large number of people. This is possible because they are largely funded by the state (or nation or province). Usually, there are heavy fines levied on out-of-state students.

Pros – Cost (though this has been mentioned before, it is really important here), Quality education (to many, there is no real difference between the amount of education received at a private institution and a public institution), Graduate studies (almost all public institutions have a graduate study option, while most private schools do not)

Cons – Class size (tremendous, especially in introductory classes), Lack of Dedication (not to step on toes, but with so many people, it is very easy for both teachers and students to stop caring and for no one to notice), Bureaucracy (unlike a smaller institution, it is very difficult to make special circumstances or accommodations)

Self-Learning – Largely a complement of other forms of education, to teach one's self consists of reading, listening to audio tapes, or watching videos in the hope of learning useful skills.

Pros – Self-paced (including amount of depth), Individualized content (learn only what you want)

Cons – Little or no assistance (no mentor), Little recognition (there are few ways to prove your knowledge)


Hopefully, I'll be attending Grinnell then SFU, which would be a combination of the Liberal Arts school, the Tech school, the public institution, and, by working with CC&C and keeping up to date, self-learning. However, as this post is already quite large, I'll leave more information on that later.


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