Freshman announces he’s dropping out of Kansas State and sets off debate on general education

Here’s an interesting story that’s going viral, and if you are not among the college crowd, you probably won’t hear about it. Via Inside Higher Education

Billy Willson finished his first (and his last) semester at Kansas State University this week — and in so doing has set off a debate there and beyond on the value of college and of general education in particular.

In a Facebook post, he announced that he was dropping out, despite having earned a 4.0 grade point average. He said that he would start his own business and learn more from that experience than anything he could hope to achieve at Kansas State or any college. He ran a photo of himself giving the finger to Kansas State, although he’s since said he really wants to be doing that to all of higher education.

Many Inside Higher Ed readers will likely find his comments insulting and ill informed, and some faculty members and students at K-State have pointed out that he wrote some things that are factually questionable. But Willson is attracting many fans online as his Facebook post has gone viral — and trashing course requirements and general education seems to be a big part of Willson’s appeal.

“YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED,” Willson wrote on Facebook. (The wording, grammar and capitalization quoted here and later in this story are verbatim from Willson’s and others’ social media posts.) “You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will see it some day. Heck you may have already seen it if you’ve been through college. You are being put thousands into debt to learn things you will never even use. Wasting 4 years of your life to be stuck at a paycheck that grows slower than the rate of inflation. Paying $200 for a $6 textbook. Being taught by teacher’s who have never done what they’re teaching. Average income has increased 5x over the last 40 years while cost of college has increased 18x. You’re spending thousands of dollars to learn information you won’t ever even use just to get a piece of paper.”

He added: “Colleges are REQUIRING people to spend money taking gen. ed. courses to learn about the quadratic formula (and other shit they will never use) when they could be giving classes on MARRIAGE and HOW TO DO YOUR TAXES.”

Willson had been studying architectural engineering — and now is pursuing the path of starting his own business. His first venture is selling T-shirts that express his views about college (an image of someone giving the finger on top of the word “college”).

On social media, Willson’s campaign is attracting support (much of it containing repeated expletives). Partial comments on Twitter include “I have never related to someone more” and “I have two degrees and only use knowledge from two classes I’ve taken. That’s 6 credits out of 120.”

But the debate has gone beyond those posting inflammatory statements to social media.

Jason Kidd, a senior at K-State, wrote a column for The Collegian, the student newspaper, in which he questioned the value of general education.

“As a journalist, I understand completely the purpose of a well-rounded education and see the importance of having an understanding in several fields,” he wrote. “However, many gen ed classes are overpriced jokes that do little to teach students anything they will remember after finals week.”

Read more.