How do we feel about government student loan foregiveness?

President Biden this week announced some college loan forgiveness for certain individuals holding federal student loans. There are a bunch of details, but I’m not going to get into those here. You can read about them on a thousand different sites in detail. I want to talk about whether forgiving student loans is something we agree with or don’t agree with.

There seem to be two camps. On one side, most holding current student loan debt, but not all, think this is a great thing. Those who have this burden now have less and can move on with their careers and build their lives with a little less burden.

On the other side, you have folks who went to college, incurred debt, went to work, and paid that debt off. The government didn’t help them, but that was what they signed up for, and they made it work. They might have had this debt decades ago when attending college was much less expensive, or maybe they went got only a few years ago but worked like crazy to ensure they paid it off.

The fact is, student loan debt for all those who have it can be crushing. The reason most people decide to take on that burden is that they believe getting that college education will lead them down a path to a better life. The ROI on a university education is still pretty good in the U.S.

I’m in both camps.

I went to university and had parents who couldn’t help me. I left with student loan debt, and my wife and I worked very hard to pay off that debt. We laugh about how we would come home to our first apartment and go sit in the bedroom because we had no furniture but a bed. We couldn’t afford furniture because my monthly loan payment took up our extra money.

Yeah, yeah, and I forgot to tell you I walked uphill, both ways, to work…cry me a river, right?

When I started in HR, we never spoke about the burden of student debt for those we hired. It wasn’t as big a portion of the monthly expenses of new grads, so while they had the debt, they could still handle it. Now, it’s a major topic of conversation when HR talks about talent attraction and retention. It’s a major topic of conversation when we talk about benefits and incentives. The amount of student debt has become outrageous.

This question of forgiving student debt is very difficult.

There’s a piece of this that is about individual accountability. I took as few loans as I could while I was in college because I knew I had to pay them back. I worked multiple jobs all year while going to school. I chose a school that was inexpensive because I knew I had to pay for it. I didn’t go on Spring Breaks. I had a beater of a car. I bartered meals for services I could do. I was accountable for the debt I took on.

As a person who hires people now, I frequently will ask new college grads how they paid for their education. What part did you pay for through work? What part did you have to borrow? What part did your family cover? What about scholarships? The effort you put into paying for your burden speaks a lot about how you will be as an employee. I’m not saying that if you are fortunate to have parents who were able to help you pay for school, you can’t be great. You can. I rarely meet someone who worked their way through school on their own and doesn’t have a great work ethic.

What does this have to do with student loan forgiveness?

There’s no difference in having someone pay your debt if it’s not you paying for your debt. It’s not teaching you to value the commitment you made. You committed to a loan that had to be paid back. Mom paid it off. Your company paid it off. The government paid it off. You got from under your debt through no work of your own. You will be more likely, moving forward, to take on debt believing somehow, in the future, someone else will bail you out.

The problem with the thinking above is it’s still really f*cking hard to start life out in a hole, and too many people in our society are starting out in a hole. Some were hard-working enough to make it out of one hole and get into college, only to find themselves in the next hole. And often, that hole is just too deep to escape from.

I believe every single kid in our country who puts in the work in school should have access to a great college education, and that education should not bankrupt their future. At the same time, I’m not sure just giving them a get-out-of-college debt Monopoly card is the answer. Our country has a crisis when it comes to federal, state, and local government hiring. What if students could do some kind of government job corps that gave them a fair salary and experience, and for that, each year, they had a portion of their student debt forgiven? Or come up with some other sort of plan that taught with any debt you purposely decide to take on, there is accountability to pay it back.

These are your tax dollars.

Let’s face it our government is historically bad at spending our tax dollars. If you were to go out and ask the US population, do you want your “personal” tax dollars spent on paying off someone else’s student loan, you would be lucky to get a 50/50 split. Going to college and incurring college debt is still a privilege in our world.

What about paying off the car loan a single mom has that she had to take on so she could go to work to pay her rent and put food on the table for her kid? Should we pay that off as well? It’s a slippery slope when we start paying off individual obligations people make. Great, you want to be an Artic Beetle History major, and now you can’t find a job. That’s okay. Let us pay off that awful decision you made with my hard-earned tax dollars.

The real solution isn’t paying off student debt. It’s a political stunt!

The real solution is taxing colleges and universities that have become empire builders under their tax-exempt status. We, the U.S. population, allow higher ed to continue to build world-class structures and increase prices to the point that is ridiculous. Dorm rooms have become five-star hotels, okay, 3-star, but definitely Courtyard by Marriott level accommodations! My dorm room was more akin to a prison cell.

Why has this happened?

Universities are in the business of keeping kids in college as long as possible. The longer you stay, the more tuition and fees they will get. No longer can a normal kid make it out in four years. God forbid you to change majors and move schools. You will definitely be on the five to six-year plan. Higher education in the U.S. has become the biggest racket outside of health insurance in the entire country!

The crazy part about this is it seems like no one in politics is talking about this fact. We care that it costs too much, but we never do anything to make higher ed run like a real business.

Student loan forgiveness isn’t about helping students. It’s about votes. If we really wanted to help students, the government would go after our “non-profit” colleges and universities and create a system where all students could go and afford a proper education for a respectable cost. Like Taylor Swift wrote, paying $10K in student loan forgiveness is like putting a bandaid on a bullet hole. We aren’t solving the problem, and we are partially addressing a symptom and then acting like we cured cancer. In the long run, my fear is this behavior just will make the problem worse.

The 1 Thing You Have to Do to Fall In Love With Your Job!

Do you know what it felt like the last time you fell in love?

I mean, real love?

The kind of love where you talk 42 times per day, in between text and Facebook messages, and feel physical pain from being apart? Ok, maybe for some, it’s been a while, and you didn’t have the texts or Facebook!  But, you remember those times when you really didn’t think about anything else or even imagine not seeing the other person the next day, hell, the next hour. Falling “in” love is one of the best parts of love; it doesn’t last that long, and you never get it back.

I hear people all the time say, “I love my job,” and I never used to pay much attention; in fact, I’ve said it myself.  The reality is that I don’t love my job. I mean, I like it a whole lot, but I love my wife, I love my kids, and I love Diet Mt. Dew at 7 am on a Monday morning. The important things in life!  But my job?  I’m not sure about that one.  As an HR Pro, I’m supposed to work to get my employees to “love” their jobs.  Love.

Want to know the difference between like and love? The next time your significant other tells you, “I love you!” just say in return, “Yeah, I like you as well!” Then get ready for an argument!

Let me go all Dr. Phil on you for a second. Do you know why most relationships fail? No, it’s not cheating. No, it’s not the drugs and/or alcohol. No, it’s not money. No, it’s not that he stops caring. No, it’s not your parents. Ok, stop it. I’ll just tell you!

Relationships fail because expectations aren’t met.  It seems logical knowing what we know about how people fall in love and lose their minds.  Once that calms down, the real work begins.  So, if you expect love to be the love of the first 4-6 months of a relationship, you’re going to be disappointed a whole bunch over and over.

Jobs aren’t much different.

You get a new job, and it’s usually really good!  People listen to your opinion. You seem smarter. Hell, you seem better looking (primarily because people are sick of looking at their older co-workers). Everything seems better in a new job.  Then you have your one-year anniversary, and you come to find out you’re just like the other idiots you’re working with.

This is when falling in love with your job really begins. When you know about all the stuff, the company hid in the closet. The past employees they think are better and smarter than you, the good old days when they made more money, etc.  Now is when you have to put some work into making it work.

I see people all the time moving around to different employers and never seeming to be satisfied.  They’re searching. Not for a better job or a better company. They’re searching for that feeling that will last.  But it never will, not without them working for it.

The best love has to be worked for. Passion is easy and fleeting. Love is hard to sustain and has to be worked on, but it can last forever.

Don’t Offer Yourself Up to the Burden.

I was on TikTok the other night. TikTok for me has become my mindless tv. You know when you’ve had your normal busy day and you just want mindless interaction before you go to bed. The TikTok algorithm is amazing. I get all my golf vids, funny vids, political vids, puppy vids, and out of nowhere last night the algo snuck in Conor Crippen.

I was now all in down the Conor Crippen rabbit hole. I don’t even know why the algo surfaced this up, but damn it, I love it! it’s an inspiring story and I’m laying there watching Conor videos and I’m laughing and crying and smiling and if anyone saw me they would have thought I was probably having a breakdown of some sort!

Here’s Conor’s story:

On Conor’s site, he has this saying and it won’t get out of my brain: “Don’t offer yourself up to the burden.” He goes on:

“Every day, no matter what you are going through, you have a choice. You can either give in to the burden you’re facing or refuse to let it define you.”

I needed to hear that. Almost everyone I know needs to hear that.

Conor’s story is inspiring not just because of this perseverance and strength, but also because of his mother’s perseverance and strength! His aunt wrote their story in the book titled, “Just Give Me the Road” based on a quote his mother said just hours after his accident. It’s an amazing story.

Make sure you follow Conor on TikTok:

https://www.tiktok.com/@crippenconor/video/7081670691757575466?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc&web_id=7094594753518913067
@crippenconor on the TikToks

You can also hire Conor to come to speak at your event! I hope that I get to meet Conor at an event I’m speaking at in the near future!

Also, shoutout to TIkTok for taking my mindless activity time and helping me find such an amazing person!

Sackett Tips: Advice for Grads and Dropouts!

Every year around this time the content machine delivers an endless amount of “Graduation” advice to new grads. “As you leave the manicured lawns of your youth…” I’ve actually done the “wear sunscreen” posts myself from year to year. They are easy to write because it allows the writer to just wax poetically about all the mistakes we’ve made ourselves, which in turn becomes the advice for you to do or not do (thanks, Yoda!).

I realized just yesterday the problem with the grad advice columns is we’ve completely forgotten about dropouts! In today’s world, with declining higher ed enrollments (college starts are down 5 quarters in a row) it’s even more important that we talk to the dropouts as well. Of course, we see many more dropouts when unemployment is very low as it is now. With a ton of jobs open, young people can make really great money without going to college, so it’s a natural phenomenon.

The Sackett Tips for Grads and Dropouts

  • Work for the biggest brand possible right out of the gate. You most likely won’t have a great experience, but it will help your career out way more in the long run. We are all enamored with the person who worked for Amazon and Apple over JBE Automation in central Iowa. Like somehow that Apple job where you got to focus on a sliver of a project is way more valuable than actually owning an entire project. But that’s life. Go work for a giant brand.
  • Calculate the value of leaving a job and people you really like. You will hear estimates from “experts” telling you not to change jobs unless you get a 10-20% increase. And that is really a lot of money. But, what if the new job sucks and the new people suck. Is that $5,000-10,000 worth it? Each of us has to make that call. What I find is most people will tell you it’s not worth it. 
  • Maintain relationships with peers and co-workers from other jobs you left and with those who left your company. That network will pay you back in the future like nothing else you have.
  • Say, “Yes” to jobs no one else wants. Those are the jobs that get noticed by executives. We all know the stuff no one else wants to do, so when someone steps forward and “takes one for the team” you stand out above the rest. 
  • Protect your time, but have a reason. Executives totally understand the person who says, “I can’t this weekend, I’m coaching my little girl’s soccer team and I have to be there for her” vs. someone who just says “No”. 
  • Every executive is looking for people who treat the organization and the brand like their own. I get it, they make a crap ton more than you, but they always didn’t make more. At some point, they made peanuts as well but treated the company like it was their own. Protected assets, spent budget wisely, etc. 
  • Diversity isn’t about color, gender, etc. But it also is about all that. You want to hire great people who fit your culture and who are also from diverse backgrounds. Most organizations fuck this up by just hiring color or gender and forgetting about the fit. It’s not one or the other, it’s both. 
  • Don’t wait for an employer to develop you. Find ways to develop yourself. Build a business case as to why your employer should pay for you to take a class that costs money. 
  • Make yourself as pretty as possible. Every single study you can find will show that the more attractive you are the more money you make, the more likely you are to get promoted, work for a great company, etc. Turns out, everyone loves pretty people. You, like me, might not have been blessed with “pretty” DNA, but we can all make ourselves the best version of ourselves! Don’t believe people that tell you looks don’t matter. They matter greatly, they’ve just given up.
  • Put on your own oxygen mask first. I run into so many kind souls who are trying to protect and help co-workers, peers, etc., but not helping themselves. Take care of yourself, so you can properly help others.

Oh, and wear sunscreen.

So, what’s the difference in advice between the grads and dropouts? None. Turns out, once you start working no one gives a shit whether you have a degree or not, now you have to actually perform.

It’s a great time to be a hard-working, attractive, smart person in our society. Take advantage.

The Baby Bonus Program You Never Knew You Needed!

In HR and Talent Acquisition, we tend to be in crisis mode constantly. We are some of the best firefighters are organization has! Our functions tend, by their very nature, to be short-termed focused. This month, this quarter, this year. Rarely are we able to think and plan further than twelve months ahead.

The problem is, currently and in the future, we (the U.S. and pretty much every industrialized country on the planet) are not making enough humans! In the U.S., we are early Japan. This means our birth rate has dipped below the replacement rate. Japan has been facing this crisis for decades; we are just starting down this path.

Why does this matter?

  1. If we can’t replace our humans, we have a shrinking workforce, and it’s very hard to grow.
  2. If we aren’t going to grow enough humans, we have to find another path to get more humans, and that’s immigration, and in the U.S., we have been awful at immigration.
  3. If we can’t get real humans, we have to build robots. The problem is, why robots will come faster than humans, it still takes time, and robots can’t effectively replace humans in most roles.

What is the solution?

This might sound a bit controversial, it’s definitely out of the norm, but HR needs to build a policy that encourages our employees to have babies!!

“Wait, what?! You want us to encourage our employees to have s…”

Okay, hear me out! Japan knew it had an issue decades ago and did nothing to address it, believing nature would take its course. But it didn’t! We have the opportunity to reward and compensate our employees for growing our next employees!

In the U.S., historically, we’ve also sucked at parental leave policies, and we’ve held parenthood against workers for promotion. Having kids, for the most part, has been a negative to your career. We need to change that! We need to make it a reward and benefit to your career. Like, imagine if Mark and Mary had seven kids! They both should be promoted immediately to Vice Presidents or Chief Growing Officers or something!

I’m only saying that half-joking! We are in a crisis and to get out of a crisis takes bold moves.

The hard part of encouraging our employees to procreate is that HR has spent its entire existence trying to stop our employees from doing this very thing! Now I’m asking you to become the Chief Baby Officer.

Um, are there other solutions?

Yes, but America tends to hate both of these options, traditionally.

The first option is to completely revamp our immigration policy and allow in millions of immigrants in both skilled/educated backgrounds and non-skilled/labor backgrounds. Traditionally, both political parties are against this because of the belief immigrants take jobs away from current citizens. Labor Unions hate this. Conservatives hate this. It’s usually a political non-starter.

The UK recently made a major change to their immigration policy because, like the U.S., they are facing a similar human challenge, and we should all take note because it’s an amazing policy. Basically, it allows professionals to come in with a Visa before getting a job, as long as they can prove they can pay their own way. This works because one of the biggest hurdles in U.S. immigration policy is we force an immigrant to have a job before they can enter, and for most U.S. employers, that just doesn’t work from a timing perspective.

The second option is more automation and robots. This is another one that labor unions tend to fight because it takes jobs away from humans. Unfortunately, this one is moving forward because we just don’t have enough workers, and even unions can’t produce more unions. More and more, we’ll see automation take the place of traditional roles we are used to seeing humans in. Cashiers, order takers, warehouse workers, truck drivers, etc. This is scary for many but a necessity for employers looking to run their day-to-day operations.

You might think that encouraging your employees to have babies is a very out-of-the-box idea, but in HR, we need to start thinking more long-term about how we’ll manage our workforce. If you believe your company will be around twenty years from now, a part of our job, strategically, should be thinking about this workforce concept.

Why is Walmart Struggling to Find $200K/Year Store Managers?

6.68% of Americans make $200,000 a year or more. Of course, that almost 7% is definitely centered around certain areas. States like California, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, etc., have a much larger percentage than the average. States like Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, most of the Midwest, etc., are under the average.

The Wall Street Journal had an article this week about how Walmart is struggling to fill their store manager jobs. Specifically, their General Manager job, the number one job in a Walmart store, which pays around $200,000 per year.

You would think with so few people making $200,000 a year, Walmart would have smart, ambitious folks knocking down their doors for a chance to make $200,000 per year!

But they don’t. Why?

First, most organizations tend to promote from within. Walmart is similar to this, but reality eventually hits the ceiling. An average Walmart store probably does a revenue of $50-100 million per year. The net income of those locations probably runs around $3-5M per year. There are roughly 350 employees in a Walmart store. Running a single Walmart store is like running a mid-sized enterprise business! Most SMBs in the country have a revenue well under $1M.

This means that Walmart can most likely train an hourly store employee to become a department manager, but to become a General Manager, they are looking for some formal business education. You have to run a giant P&L. You have major risk factors. You need real leadership skills. In many towns, “the Walmart” is probably the biggest business in town!

College kids, on average, don’t want to leave State U for a $65,000 a year job as a Manager in Training at Walmart. It’s not something you go back to the homecoming football game and brag about. Your friends took that $50k per year job with the tech firm in town as an entry-level, you make more, but they look down on you.

I know some folks are reading this and thinking, “So! You make more! You will continue to make more! You run are in line to run a giant business! You f’ing cares what others think!” Young adults do. Young adults care what other people think. If I’m frank, and I usually am, we all care what others think!

What would I do if I was at Walmart?

I love this game. It was the basis of my entire book! What would Timmy do if he ran your shop!

#1 – Stop trying to hire or require any form of formal education. Yes, you need smart folks, so give cognitive assessments. Find smart people who can learn quickly, who also have some “hustle” and “grind” to them. You probably have a ton of folks already working for you that you won’t consider. You also have to look at talent pools we tend to discount, most notably, in this case, 50 years and older, retired military commanders, etc. Walmart wants to solve this by talking new college grads into these jobs, I’d be talking failed executives into these jobs! Big salary. Big team. Big job. College grads don’t want that, your Dad does, and a retired military leader who is used to leading hundreds of soldiers does. Also, your Dad will work 60 hours a week and think it’s normal. A new grad will work a solid 40 and think it’s North Korea.

#2 – Build the Manager School. If a great GM in a Walmart environment makes them $3-5M a year, there are margin dollars to build more great GMs! Part in-person instruction. Part on the job training. Part virtual instruction. All the way in on fully engaging non-stop. Send them to manager boot camp. Make it exclusive. Bring in big-time celebrity speakers around leadership and performance. Do graduation with a gold watch.

#3 – Make it so lucrative they won’t want to leave. $200K is really nice, but you need some other stuff. You need to make folks say, “F! You!” To their friends that don’t think Walmart is cool enough. What is that? I don’t stock options. Partner programs on profit sharing. Company SUV.

Here’s what I know. The profit difference between Walmart’s worse GM store and their best GM store is so big it would make you blush. It’s millions of dollars. So, making sure you hire, train, develop, and take care of the great ones is priority number one. Building the talent pipeline to successful GMs would be the job of a team of people that included great recruiting leaders, brand and marketing leaders, and technology and data leaders.

I’m not saying this is an easy job. It’s enormously difficult and complicated. But, it’s doable. The problem is, that every organization thinks the solution to their problem is new college grads. They can help, but it’s only one sliver of the full pie that is needed.

Things That Should Require You To Take An IQ Test!

I was sitting in an airport last week just doing some people-watching. Airports are a good place to do this. I was watching a mom drag her kid down the hall on one of those kid leashes. Now, the kid was being an idiot and not wanting to walk, but the parent was the bigger idiot just dragging them across a gross airport hallway!

You hear this all the time, “People should have to take an IQ test before having kids”. But of course, this would make too much sense for society!

It got me thinking about when we should give someone an IQ test and when we shouldn’t. I came up with some ideas:

Things that should require you to take an IQ test:

  1. Having children
  2. Having the ability to post on a social media platform
  3. Operating any type of vehicle that goes over 12 miles per hour
  4. Being allowed to “reply all” to a work email
  5. Ordering at Starbucks
  6. Investing in Crypto, stocks, real estate, basically any investment you can’t tell me specifically how it works
  7. Getting through TSA and loading onto a plane
  8. Joining an organized religion
  9. Running for political office
  10. Buying a gun

Things you shouldn’t need an IQ test for:

  1. Most jobs
  2. Filling out taxes in America. We know how much you owe, but we’re going to force you to tell us how much you owe!
  3. Attending college
  4. Being nice to others
  5. Demonstrating civility in normal societal interactions
  6. Setting up email on your new smartphone
  7. Streaming TV shows and movies
  8. Logging onto WIFI
  9. Understanding extended warranties
  10. Understanding how a vaccine works

Turns out, you can’t fix stupid.

What did I miss? Add your comment below with the thing you believe needs an IQ test attached!

Could You Buy Yourself Out of a Metric You Rely On?

Here’s the thing, any metric you can buy your way out of probably isn’t a great metric to measure you or your team against.

Why?

First, if money is going to help you get better at something and you have the money, then by all means make yourself better.

But the most helpful metrics are the ones where money has little impact on the ultimate success.

Example:

If you can’t get enough candidates in the top of your funnel you can always spend more money to solve that issue. It’s a simple advertising spend issue. You can buy yourself into great top-of-funnel results.

What you can’t buy is the number of screened candidates you send on to your hiring managers. That’s an effort metric. You have to do that work. The metric is achieved will always lead to more results and more success.

Your LinkedIn Newsletter Sucks, and Other Truths No One Is Telling You!

Before I get into this rant, let me give a shoutout to Hung Lee. Hung runs the Recruiting Brainfood newsletter out of the UK and it is seriously the best recruiting newsletter on the planet. Also, Hung believes everyone should start a LinkedIn Newsletter, which leads me to believe that maybe he caught the Covid or something and his brain is slipping!

First off, is there a glitch in the Matrix or something? Since the beginning of the year, I’ve seriously received over 50 LinkedIn Newsletter invitations. Somedays I’m getting over 5 per day! What the heck is going on?

Second off, no one needs all these dumb newsletters!

Have you seen some of these!? Most are bad life coaching newsletters or professionals who are working at home and just flat bored with nothing else to do. I have yet to receive one that looked half-interesting. Here’s a sample of the newsletter titles:

  • Leadership and You
  • The Cup’s Half Full Newsletter
  • Leadership Insights
  • The Thoughtful Leader
  • The Top Talent Newsletter

Reading these again just made me fall asleep, where was I again?

Why Shouldn’t You Start A LinkedIn Newsletter?

You shouldn’t primarily because you won’t sustain it and ultimately it makes you look like you’ve got a follow-through problem professionally!

Look, here’s the deal. Most people suck at writing. Some are good, but will just run out of things to say in around ninety days. Either way, all of these newsletters will just sit there with old content. Then one day, someone will find it and their first thought won’t be, “OMG! This newsletter is amazing and changed my life!” It will be, “this is odd, this person hasn’t written in 18 months, I wonder if the Covid got them!?”

To Hung’s belief, yes, everyone has a voice. But this is where Hung I part ways. He believes because you have a voice you should use it. I believe most voices suck! If yours sucks, don’t use it, use something else you’re good at! What the last twelve years of writing have shown me is most people’s writing voice isn’t very good, and no one wants to read it. But you’re bored and you think what the heck, someone might turn their life around by me sharing my “Thoughtful Leadership” thoughts, but they won’t, in fact, you might actually be the catalyst that finally pushes them over the edge! Let that sink in, you LinkedIn Newsletter Murderer!

By the way, this is not an indictment on LinkedIn! That would be like me blaming Taco Bell for fat people. No, Taco Bell is awesome, I love it. My low willpower is to blame, not Taco Bell. I don’t blame LinkedIn for stupid people. LinkedIn just provided a great tool for stupid people to spread their stupid. How did LinkedIn know stupid people wanted to share their stupid?

Another reason you shouldn’t start a LinkedIn Newsletter is that you actually don’t have an opinion. “Racism is bad!” Groundbreaking, thanks. Any other hot takes, Sparky? You actually have to have an opinion. Have a legitimate take on something. Stating the obvious, while probably be cathartic at some level for you, isn’t readable!

This isn’t to say that LinkedIn Newsletters can’t be ultra-popular. One of the Top 5 LI Newsletters is a dude who gives career advice. He has over 750K followers. I’m sure it’s great stuff, like, don’t stink and don’t throw up during an interview. All the ‘real’ stuff job seekers need to know. I haven’t read his newsletter but I’m guessing he had a 13-minute career as a recruiter which makes him highly qualified to now give out this life-changing advice.

I know. I know. You’re going to make so many new sales and clients with your newsletter, plus your Aunt Jenny who’s a retired accountant told you how great she thinks it is. No, you won’t and No, it’s not. Stop it. Stop sending me your damn invites. I hate your Newsletters! They’re awful! Someone needs to tell you the truth!

Okay, I have to go start my Linkedin Newsletter before I miss out on this gravy train!

In 2050, all education will be online. If so, how will we create adults?

I read an article the other day where a guy (a futurist, if you will) decided to give his best explanation of what the world would like in 2050 based on technological, environmental, societal, financial, etc. advances or regressions.

I’ve talked about this before, but being asked about the future is a fun thought experiment because you can be wildly wrong and no one really cares. It’s all a guess. I get asked all the time to talk about the future of TA and HR Technology. I love it! I can say anything I want you can’t tell me I’m wrong. Well, you could, but by the time one of us is right, it’s in the future and we don’t care.

So, this dude, Erik Hoel, says that in 2050 all higher education will be done solely online. No big campuses with gothic buildings and manicured lawns. No student unions and big libraries. No dorms and cafeteria food. No fraternities or sororities. Just you and a laptop sitting in your parent’s spaceship doing Econ 101.

Sounds dreadfully awful!

I don’t have a problem with education being online. In fact, it could be the most equitable thing the future will bring us. Everyone could now have the best professors from all over the world! Harvard could have 1 million graduates a year, instead of a few thousand of the most privileged students on the planet. We could bring world-class education to everyone.

But, only one type of education…

Part of the college experience is the socialization, both good and bad, of becoming an adult in sort of a lab-like environment. You get to go out and experiment in a community of mostly like-minded folks, of similar ages and test your ideas, your looks, see what you like and what others like about you. You get to begin to build a network of friends and peers that you can carry into your professional world.

University just doesn’t give you book smarts, it helps prepare you to deal with real-world stuff, but not all at once. You get to live on your own away from your parents, but someone is still making your food and paying the heating bill. It’s a period, for those who get a chance to experience it, to gradually move into the world of adulthood.

I get it, going from high school to the military, or working on a factory floor is also another type of becoming an adult, and in a much quicker way! We all have our paths, I’m not judging any of those as being more or less valuable. All I’m saying is full online college for everyone, if the future brings us this, I think is a mistake.

How did college make me an adult?

I can look back at my undergrad college experience at the University of Wyoming and think most of what I learned had very little to do with the classes I took. It might have helped if I showed up to most of my classes, but that’s another story.

After I blew through all of my college savings in my first semester, I quickly had to learn how to survive, to pay bills, to use the system to help me, to ask for help, to help others, to build a network of support, and sometimes to just call home and cry and tell my parent’s life sucks being an adult!

Gawd, how stupid was I to think my “little” problems as a college student were adult problems! What most of us wouldn’t give to go back to those problems.

College taught me how to barter. I really only had one skill, I mean besides my charm and dashing looks, I could work hard, or at the very least I was reliable to show up and work as hard as I could. My hard work got me many meals, many free drinks, tickets to entertainment to take my eventual wife. College towns are mostly run by college kids. To barter was life! I will do this for you and you will do this for me, no money has to change hands! I worked many bar shifts for free, for food and drinks. I traded out many movies passes at the theater I worked for dinner.

College taught me that people will take you in when you have no place to go and treat you like family. Every holiday when going home was too far and too expensive I always had multiple offers to stay and feast. When I had my own kids, they knew our house is always open to anyone who needs a place to stay and feel like they are home.

College taught me that you can live on almost next to nothing and still be completely happy and thriving. Great friends, conversations, challenging things to learn. No one really cares what you are wearing, or what car you drive or don’t drive because you don’t even have a car. They only care that you add to that conversation in a positive way and accept others may think differently, but that’s the fun of learning and interacting.

I’m not sure what 2050 will bring. I’m sure it will be different. I hope we can find ways to give more people the gift of a higher education, but also the gift of slowly learning how to become adults before they really have to be adults.