Is a College Degree a Commodity?

If this was a yes or no question, the answer would be no. The problem is that it’s not that simple.

Let me preface by saying that there are far smarter people than me studying the field of education and what I am about to say is a combination of personal opinion and facts put gathered from other sources. But it should tell you something about the times we live in.

In the past, a college degree set you apart from the crowd. When only a small percentage of American workers held a degree, it was a slingshot to the top of the workforce. Higher pay, more opportunities.

Today, a college degree is held by an increasing percentage of the workforce. And as more and more people opt for graduate school and even higher degrees, a bachelor’s or associate’s degree is often not good enough.

And even though study after study shows that people with a college degree out-earn those without one, the cost of a traditional four-year college or university continues to rise faster than average incomes. So will this always be the case?

And finally, with the increasing popularity of online schools and for-profit universities, a college degree is within reach for a greater percentage of the population. But many would argue that the cost of increased access to a college education is a drop in quality and/or academic standards.

So what is a college degree really worth?

In my opinion, the value of college degrees varies very little from school to school, with the exception of a few highly-reputable schools at the top. Unless you have a graduate degree, or a 4-year degree from a top school, where you go to school matters very little (discounting the people and the experience).

For the most part, a degree is a degree is a degree. I know most people would argue that, but I think a growing number of people would support it. And if that trend continues, the only reasonable prediction to make is that those granting degrees will either have to differentiate in some major way, or compete on price. And that may finally lead to the bursting of the tuition bubble we’re in right now.

And personally, I hope that bubble bursts.

How to Use Education as Part of your Marketing Plan

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You may not think about education when you’re putting together a marketing strategy, but there are ways you can use the principles of education to help you sell to your target market. Here are a few:

  1. Webinars – companies use webinars less like sales presentations and more like online learning centers. Hosting a webinar on a topic that your target market is interested in is a great way to draw them in and expose them to your brand. You can teach them something useful, and at the same time show them how your company might fill their needs in a related area.

  2. White Papers – white papers are a form of content marketing that many in the B2B field are using. Writing a white paper that answers a common question related to your industry is a great way to attract attention and showcase your brand’s expertise. People wanting to read your whitepaper should be added to your potential customer list and followed up.

  3. Surveys – when most people think of surveys, they don’t think of marketing. But a well executed survey as a part of a direct marketing piece can be very effective. Through the wording of your questions, you can lead potential customers down a path that exposes them to a need that they didn’t know they had. And guess who will be there to fill that need…it’s YOU!

So much of a good marketing plan is educating your potential customers. An educated customer should be your best customer, because they know what they need and how you can serve them in a way no other company can.

Sponsor a Classroom:

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My friends at have a great program set up if you’re interested in donating money directly to teachers and students who don’t have the funding for special projects.

The easy to navigate website features projects posted by teachers. The projects are easily sortable by location, project type, subject, age group, and a number of other convenient factors. The project description includes a goal funding amount, similar to a Kickstarter. And donors can contribute directly to any project, funding all or part of the goal amount.

Here’s the best part, you can send a message directly to the students and classrooms that will benefit. You can let them know why you chose to donate to their project and wish them luck. And after they complete the project, you’ll get handwritten thank you notes from the students. It’s a great way to improve the lives of these students directly.

I am both a donor and volunteer for And if you’re looking for a non-profit in the education space to support, I highly recommend checking them out!


Get WiSE About Personal Finance


Today I wanted to put the spotlight on a local organization that is working to push the issue of personal finance education in our schools, an issue I care strongly about. The organization is Working in Support of Education (WiSE).

WiSE has two arms. One is a national financial literacy program that trains and provides support for teachers across the country who teach personal finance in the classroom. The second works to push policy changes in an effort to spread financial literacy through schools and other vehicles.

WiSE is the New York affiliate of Jumpstart, a national coalition of organizations dedicated to improving the financial literacy of pre-kindergarten through college-age youth by providing advocacy, research, standards and educational resources.

As a part of their financial literacy certification program, they have a blog meant for teachers who are members of the program. The blog, at, offers teachers a collection of topics and trends in the personal finance space that they can use to teach kids in their classes. And as of this month, I will be writing for them.

Check out WiSE, read the blog, and donate today!

Learn to Think for Yourself

As much as I might boast on this blog that I know what works and what doesn’t in the marketing world, I’m sometimes (maybe more) wrong. As much as any self-proclaimed expert spurts ideas and opinions as facts, you have to take all of it with a grain of salt.

Republicans are SURE Obama won’t be reelected.

Investors were SURE Facebook was a good bet.

Social media marketers were SURE email was dead.

When you’re sure about something, you don’t leave yourself any room to question it. You ignore 50% of the equation. And it’s when you ignore 50% of the equation that you end up regretting your “expert” advice.

Don’t buy the hype. Learn to listen to different points of view. Learn to research and form your own opinions. In marketing, and in life.