How important is a university education to being successful as a freelance writer?


A new report from Standard & Poor’s sends a clear message: Demand for American university education has fallen sharply in the coming academic year. Here are the overall statistics:

What is happening?

Rising costs

Well, first of all, there is the increasing cost of university education. According to the college board, university costs have increased to a alarming rate. The College Board’s “College Price Trends 2017” report examines the evolution of tuition rates over time. The report found that for the most competitive private colleges and universities like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and MIT, members of the 2024 class will pay more than double the tuition and expenses expected of students there is less. two decades. Among public universities, the cost has often tripled.

Loss of international students

A second factor is the loss of international students, the result of political concerns, restrictions on immigration for students, and concerns of those students wanting to continue living and working in the United States after graduation. their diploma. A recent NPR article thus highlights the significant drop in the number of international undergraduate and graduate students:

“The United States has always been a destination of choice for international students. At last count, there were over a million. They are attracted by high-tech facilities and research opportunities; the easy and non-hierarchical interaction between professors and students; and the open social environment on campuses.

“But this year, in a survey of more than 700 colleges and universities, The Institute of International Education found that the total number of international enrollments fell 16% between fall 2019 and fall 2020. The statistics for new international students were even bleak – a drop of 43%. Tens of thousands of people have deferred registration.

Why? The closure of the Covid-19 borders has certainly had an impact. Politics too, the fear that the United States will become more and more inward-centered and nativist. Cost was also a factor; international students tend to pay higher tuition fees.

There are also more notable impacts of the decline in the number of international students. Two in particular are mentioned in the NPR report:

“A study from Duke University found that domestic students who engaged with international students improved their self-confidence, leadership and quantitative skills. American undergraduates were also more likely to “appreciate art. [and] literature ”,“ placing current problems in a historical perspective ”and“ reading or speaking a foreign language ”.

“About half of international students come to the United States to study in STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A 2017 analysis found that foreign nationals, for example, make up 81% of full-time graduate students in electrical engineering, 79% in computer science, and 59% in civil engineering.

Less relevant education

But the real question is whether a college education and a degree continue to be critical to the success of freelancers. At least one expert thinks that may not necessarily be the case, or at least less important than it was. In an article for CNBC, Stéphane Kasriel, then CEO of Upwork, argues that the future of work will not be about college degrees, but job skills.

Kasriel cites the 2018 Freelancing in America survey, only 79% of freelancers with a four-year college degree say their college education was useful for the job they do now, while 93% noted their skills technical and professional were essential to their success.

Kasriel also points out that all too often university curricula are not up to date to meet the education and skill requirements that individuals will need to be successful for the foreseeable future. No one can know the future, but areas of technological innovation certainly indicate foreseeable needs for education and skills. Nonetheless, we know from the work of Cognizant and others that universities are not preparing students for most of the new skills and roles that will be required.

A report from the World Economic Forum recently weighed in, noting that “in many industries and countries, the most demanded professions or specialties did not exist ten or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to increase. accelerate”.

And Upwork’s data confirms this acceleration. Its latest quarterly Upwork Skills Index, released in July, found that “70% of the fastest growing skills are new to the index.”

Kasriel’s point: “Rapid technological changes, combined with rising costs of education, have made our traditional higher education system increasingly anachronistic and risky. The cost of college education is so high now that we have reached a tipping point where the debt incurred is often not matched by the potential for future income. Yet all too often, degrees are still seen as a mark of lifelong professional competence. They tend to create a false sense of security, perpetuating the illusion that work – and the knowledge it requires – is static. It’s not.”

The future of work will not be a question of degrees, but rather of skills. And no school, be it Harvard, General Assembly, or Udacity, can completely protect us from the unpredictability of technological advancement and disruption.

Freelancers understand that education doesn’t work and can not Stop. Particularly in rapidly changing technological fields – AI, robotics, machine learning – the half-life of innovation is breathtakingly short. Freelancers recognize that they need to be up to date and that it is a lifelong process. They are almost twice as likely to retrain.

As a result, non-traditional education options are multiplying. Jolt, a co-learning startup offers a NAMBA, “not your average MBA”. Online apps like Coursera, General Assembly, Udacity, Degreed, and Udemy provide access to both academic programs and unique educational events on demand.

The university is not going to go away. But many colleges and universities likely will. Here in the United States, there are 5,300 universities and colleges according to recent statistics. Michael Horn, in a Forbes article, predicts that many will close in the next decade. He writes:

“Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen is constantly turning heads in higher education by predicting that 50% of colleges and universities will close or go bankrupt within the next decade. Christensen and I made a more measured prediction with more nuance in the New York Times in 2013: “a host of struggling colleges and universities – the bottom 25% of each level, we predict – will either disappear or merge over the next 10 to 15 years. “

One thing is for sure: successful freelancers have a forward thinking mindset. So whether or not they’ve been to college, freelancers know they need to keep learning and improving to get that next project.

Long live the revolution!


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