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Education - What do Undergraduates really Gain?

It’s scary to think that a person’s career earnings may be capped before they turn 18. 

In the current system, undergraduate professors evaluate their students based on how they performed in accordance with their standardized grade scale. Unfortunately, if students deviate from the path designed by their undergraduate professors, they lower their chances at future employment through that school’s connections into the corporate world.

It’s also prevalent for big service firm human resources to not accept candidates for higher paying entry levels jobs if they did not graduate from a certain tier school with a GPA hurdle being met.  

But, hey, that’s where entrepreneurship can change things - the undergraduate education ecosystem just needs to get with it and realize the trouble it is currently propagating.

While I was in college (2004-2008), my professors were complaining that undergraduates were a burden.  They whined that they needed more time to produce research on over studied topics, so that other professors would cite them. 

For example, my senior thesis proposal was shot down by a professor more interested in his own pursuits than on supporting an innovative idea suggested by another of his “undergraduate burdens”.  Shortly after being rejected, I posted the concept on the most popular digital media venture capital blog at the time:

joeter, back in NY

For my economics senior seminar I wanted to build a model on this. I was trying to figure out more about the attention economy. I felt labor economics was the best place to start and used the basic labor-leisure trade off. 

The Labor Leisure Trade Off

I made the assumption that users were a cost of input just like factory workers since in web 2.0 sites the users add a large portion of the value (or at least keep the site functional). 

Y-axis: value of service (insert your marketing effort here) 

X-axis: trade off between ‘rent on privacy’ and ‘$ cost of service’ (i used a percent scale since I didn’t fully figure out a way to have them expressed in the same unit)

The constraint I called the convenience rate, which then allowed for different indifference curves to be drawn tangent to it depending on user preferences. The multiple business models on the web would fit in between the x-axis scale. 

The model is basic and there’s a lot more I can flesh out, but that’s because it’s still in infancy; for a poor reason. Unfortunately, my proposal was turned down. My professor told me to try another topic he knew more about – like sports betting.

Conclusions to be drawn:

It’s apparent that there’s a giant structural problem with the current system. Students aren’t encouraged to take risks in college to explore unique ideas, since they do not want to jeopardize meeting the criteria of their “professor to HR connection”.

Moreover, the cost for college education has been continuously rising (along with student debt), while the number of high paying jobs for young people in the USA appears to be falling.

To fix this problem, we need to increase the number of college graduates that go and create their own businesses to spur future employment.  However, the change needs to be effectuated by more than just colleges. 

Mentors need to be able to recognize those students who have the potential to be great entrepreneurs and these mentors must be properly incentivized to work with this talent.  Experienced mentors from any industry could guide entrepreneurs, and thereby accelerate the proliferation of innovative businesses which are needed to sustain our economy.

Finally, this mentor model could also work for professionals looking to transition from a large company career path into the world of entrepreneurship. 

Entry by: Joe Williams

Filed under economics college entrepreneurship

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