Home Online Education Access and Affordability Should Skills Training Replace Higher Education? Yes, the “Expensive Wandering” Part
Should Skills Training Replace Higher Education? Yes, the “Expensive Wandering” Part

Should Skills Training Replace Higher Education? Yes, the “Expensive Wandering” Part

skills training

Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart and former executive director for education of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recently wrote about changing criteria in considering college education versus other pathways pursued by high school students and their parents.

Vander Ark cites Dr. George Kuh’s October 2019 piece in the Harvard Business Review in which Kuh defends the long-term benefits of a liberal arts degree. Vander Ark shares my view in stating that price hikes in higher education have made the risk of debt without a degree the new worst-case scenario for Generation Z students. He cites Ryan Craig’s book, A New U, noting that the new rule for young people is to attend a good selective school for free if possible and so motivated. If not, look to stay debt-free and sprint to your first job.

In addition to sharing Craig’s recommendation, Vander Ark provides a few more rules for students: first, build your resume while in high school; second, secure college credits before graduating; third, don’t take on debt without a clear sense of purpose; and, lastly, aim for sustainable, lifelong learning. His idea of securing college credits before graduating is excellent. He notes there are more than 400 early college high schools in the U.S., with 199 of them in Texas. Based on feedback from my two daughters attending universities there, the state’s high schools send many of their graduates to Texas schools with nearly a year’s credit, saving both students and the state time and money.

In concluding, Vander Ark responds to Dr. Kuh’s question, “Should skills training replace higher education?” with a qualified “Yes.” “Yes, free and debt-free skills training should replace expensive wandering while developing maturity and a sense of purpose and racking up debt.” I agree with most of his recommended options. However, I have not seen debt-free skills training offered by any colleges or training companies. The best place for receiving those is likely in apprenticeship offerings. Short of that, I’d find a job with a college tuition benefit or attend a low-cost institution taking courses that will transfer later. As to the latter, I can refer you to the Georgetown University research study in which APUS landed at #93 in ROI – in the top 2% nationally — due to our low tuition cost.



Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus.


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