Will a Harvard Degree Boost You to the Top?

[tweetmeme]Well, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg went to Harvard and look where they are now —   founders of Microsoft and Facebook.  But wait a minute.  Didn’t they drop out before graduation?

Both were computer nerds but for sure Harvard didn’t teach Zuckerberg how to build a Facebook community of 500 million people across the globe.  Harvard is a fine university and many of their graduates have gone on to unbridled success in business, the government and the arts.

Community Colleges Beckon

But Harvard and other Ivy’s aren’t the answer for everybody.  What our educational system needs now are different tracks for different folks.  Only one-third of high school graduates attend college and, of those, half drop out before finishing.   So where is the next generation going to acquire the skills to succeed in an increasing technological society?

The answer for many is community colleges. The enrollment of these unsung institutions is 8 million and growing.  They are so important to the future of our country that the administration held a White House Summit on Community Colleges in early October.  A paper they issued touted these advantages of two-year institutions:

  • Affordable tuition
  • Open admission policies
  • Flexible course schedules
  • Convenient locations

Most important, in my view, community colleges are retraining older students to build new skills for an increasingly technological society. It’s exciting that these colleges are working with businesses, labor and government to create tailored programs in nursing, health information technology, advanced manufacturing, and green jobs.

Industry-Community College Partnerships

Many CEOs and other high-achievers attended a community college. One is William Green, who is chairman and CEO of Accenture, the world’s largest management consulting firm with approximately 150,000 employees in 49 countries.

Mr. Green, the son of a plumber, started his academic career at Dean College, a two-year school in St. Franklin, Mass. Now he and his company are giving back.  In 2007, Accenture launched the annual Accenture Junior and Community College Scholarship for students transitioning from junior and community colleges to four-year institutions to continue their education.

10,000 Small Businesses

In an initiative called “10,000 Small Businesses,” the Goldman Sachs Foundation is unlocking the growth and job-creation potential of 10,000 small businesses across the United States through greater access to education, mentors and financial capital.

In a pilot program at LaGuardia Community College in New York, supported by the Foundation, local business owners can learn new skills.  Rosalie Safier, whose family owns National Van Equipment, received counseling and learned the art of negotiation, mastered Microsoft Excel, and developed a business plan for growth.

Skills for America’s Future

At the White House Conference, the administration launched a “Skills for America’s Future” as an industry-led initiative to dramatically improve work force training partnerships with community colleges,  The Gap said it would expand community college partnerships in seven metro areas, including in-store job shadowing, interview and leadership training, and scholarships. Other participating employers are Accenture, McDonald’s, United Technologies and Pacific Gas and Electric.

Collaborating with community colleges is good corporate PR.  But more importantly, these companies are ensuring that they will have the trained employees that are essential for their future growth.

About the Author:  Jeannette Paladino is a seasoned communications pro helping companies to engage their customers on social media, and to leverage their employees as brand ambassadors for their products and services.  Visit her at Write Speak Sell.  This post was written for the Blogging for Education Contest.

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  1. Yes, Jeannette, I heartily agree. A level of professionalism is good in all industries and vocations. Here in Australia we have TAFE colleges, which prepare those students who prefer an alternative to universities. We are never going to stop needing tekkies, hairdressers, refrigeration mechanics, plumbers, boilermakers or librarians.

  2. I totally agree with this post! I attended a community college in my area.

    I have noticed, though, that attending a community college is looked down upon. When people heard that I, valedictorian of my high school class, opted to go to our local community college, people wrinkled their noses in disgust. Why is it that people feel a community college doesn’t offer what a person needs to succeed?

    I personally feel like a success, and I don’t think a degree should have anything to do with it.

    I’m not sure how community colleges can compete with universities. Like you noted, half of the kids that go to college drop out. That means that they make it out with nothing. If they went to a two-year school, perhaps they would be more likely to graduate. Then if they wanted to continue schooling, they could.

    • Terez — Wonderful comment. People shouldn’t look down on community colleges — they are providing a great service. Congratulations on being Valedictorian of your class. I am sure there were very good reasons why you chose to attend a community college. A number of years ago the overall winner of the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search was offered a scholarship to Harvard and other Ivy’s and he chose to attend City College of NY – a public school. Some people were shocked but he wanted to stay near his family and he had already developed a relationship with the school through a research project. I’m sure he’s done just fine.

  3. Thanks, Jeannette. That is an interesting story. It just goes to show us just because don’t take the preferred method of schooling, it does not mean they will not be successful.

  4. It is always best to further one’s education and community college is a great choice for many people. The bottom line is, how does one apply what one learns. Practical application is where the rubber hits the road and it requires hard work.

    On an aside, I think all high schools should offer VoTech programs. Here in Adams County, PA there is no separate vo-tech school for high school students. I hear students can pay out of their own pockets for online vo-tech “training” in their high school. This is unacceptable and an issue which should be addressed before the community college issue.

  5. I have been on many interview committees to choose key individuals in our organization. Although we have educational requirements we have never hired someone because of a school they attended. I think there may be some professions that a degree from Harvard may open more doors initially.

  6. Hello Jeannette,

    You have a fruitful post here. In my opinion, all of us got potentials from the day we were born so being in community college or being in Harvard does not assure anything (success/failure). We all have choices and it’s already up to us whether we use our potential or limit ourselves to achieve success.

    • Jessica — thanks for visiting. I agree that we are what we make of ourselves. Half the CEOs of the Fortune 500 attended public universities and that didn’t stop them.