Is a Traditional 4-year Degree a Terrible Investment?

Go Lean Commentary

This respected resource, Howard Tullman[a], asserts that 4-year Liberal Arts college degrees are bad investments for students. (Play VIDEO here).

VIDEO – Why a Traditional 4-Year Degree is a Terrible Investment | Inc. Magazine –

Published on Jun 6, 2014 – Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, explains exactly how over valued, and ripe for disruption, traditional higher education has become.

The book Go Lean…Caribbean stakes the claim even deeper, that traditional college education abroad have been an even more disastrous policy for the Caribbean in whole, and each specific country in particular.

This assertion requires a differentiation of the macro, versus the micro.

From a strictly micro perspective, college education is great for the individual; research by Economists have established the dogma that each additional year of schooling increase an individual’s earnings by about 10%. (Go Lean quotes these economic studies at Page 270). This should be viewed as a very impressive rate of return on an education investment (ROI). But from the macro perspective, (for the community), the ROI is different for the Caribbean; its not a gain, but rather a loss due to the incontrovertible brain drain.

Previous blog-commentaries on this same subject matter have quoted the Jamaican proverb of “fattening frogs for snake” – (see This is because more and more of the Caribbean college educated citizens abandon their tropical homes for foreign shores in the US, Canada and Europe. What’s worst, they take their Caribbean-funded education and skill-sets with them – sometimes taking any hope for collectability for student loans as well, thereby imperiling future generation of scholars from the benefits of a college education.

This broken system has many challenges and must be addressed.

Change has now come. The driver of this change is technology and globalization. Under the tenants of globalization, the Caribbean labor pool is a commodity; their talents are subject to the economic realities of supply-and-demand. So if there is greater reward for these Caribbean citizens to “take their talents to South Beach … or South Toronto, or South London”, it is hard to argue a contrarian stance. The Go Lean book posits therefore that the governmental administrations of the region should invest in higher education options with as much technological advances (e-Learning) as possible, for its citizens. The bottom-line motive should be the Greater Good.

The Go Lean roadmap provides turn-by-turn directions on how to reform the Caribbean tertiary education systems, economy, governance and Caribbean society as a whole. This roadmap asserts that the Caribbean is in crisis, and that this “crisis would be a terrible thing to waste”. As a planning tool, the roadmap commences with a Declaration of Interdependence, pronouncing the approach of regional integration (Page 12 & 14) as a viable solution to elevate the region’s educational opportunities.

xix. Whereas our legacy in recent times is one of societal abandonment, it is imperative that incentives and encouragement be put in place to first dissuade the human flight, and then entice and welcome the return of our Diaspora back to our shores

xxi. Whereas the preparation of our labor force can foster opportunities and dictate economic progress for current and future generations, the Federation must ensure that educational and job training opportunities are fully optimized for all residents of all member-states, with no partiality towards any gender or ethnic group. The Federation must recognize and facilitate excellence in many different fields of endeavor, including sciences, languages, arts, music and sports. This responsibility should be executed without incurring the risks of further human flight, as has been the past history.

xxvii. Whereas the region has endured a spectator status during the Industrial Revolution, we cannot stand on the sidelines of this new economy, the Information Revolution. Rather, the Federation must embrace all the tenets of Internet Communications Technology (ICT) to serve as an equalizing element in competition with the rest of the world. The Federation must bridge the digital divide and promote the community ethos that research/development is valuable and must be promoted and incentivized for adoption.

This book Go Lean… Caribbean, serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU). This represents change for the region. The CU/Go Lean roadmap has 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines.

The Go Lean book posits that education is a vital consideration for Caribbean economic empowerment, but there have been a lot of flawed decision-making in the past, both individually and community-wise. The vision of the CU is a confederation of the 30 member-states of the Caribbean to do the heavy-lifting of championing better educational policies. The book details those policies; and other ethos to adopt, plus the executions of the following strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to impact the tertiary education in the region:

Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – People Respond to Incentives Page 21
Community Ethos – Job Multiplier Page 22
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Return on Investments (ROI) Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Foster Genius Page 27
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Education Department Page 85
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Labor Department Page 89
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Education Page 159
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Governance Page 169
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Libraries Page 187
Appendix – Education and Economic Growth Page 258
Appendix – Measuring Education Page 266

Now is the time for all of the Caribbean, the people and governing institutions, to lean-in for the changes described in the book Go Lean … Caribbean. We welcome the efforts of entrepreneur Howard Tullman, and his desire to empower other entrepreneurs. This is due to another fact certified by Economists, that the majority of new jobs come from small-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). So when there is the need for specific job training or business development skills, prudence dictates some facilitation for these skills. Education reform for the Caribbean should therefore be in vogue. This need for reform synchronizes with the CU/Go Lean effort.

The Go Lean roadmap is a complete solution for Caribbean elevation, thus helping the region to be a better place to live, work, learn and play.


Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

a.   Appendix – Howard A. Tullman:

Howard A. TullmanAn American serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, educator, writer, lecturer, and art collector. He currently serves as Chairman of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy and of HYDR>BOX, LLC., CEO of 1871[e] (Chicago’s entrepreneurial hub for digital startups), and the Managing Partner of Chicago High Tech Investment Partners, LLC.

Entrepreneurial career
Tullman’s entrepreneurial career spans four decades and a broad swath of industries. As of May 2011, Tullman has started 12 companies, including Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, CCC Information Services,, the Rolling Stone Network, Imagination Pilots, Experiencia, and others.[b] Tullman has also been tapped for senior executive positions at established companies such as Kendall College, where his expertise in turn-arounds saved the school from going into bankruptcy in 2003.[b]

Disruptive Innovation in education
Throughout his career in higher education, Tullman has been a proponent of revolutionizing the industry through disruptive innovation which is Clayton M. Christensen’s term to describe new, rapidly-iterated innovations that start from the bottom of traditional industries by providing small-scale and relatively inexpensive solutions (which quickly expand and improve) and which disrupt those existing marketplaces by displacing earlier, out-of-date programs with less expensive, faster and more effective solutions typically based on emerging new technologies.

As an early adopter of this philosophy, Tullman was among the first to bring disruptive innovation to for-profit education as evidenced in his work at Kendall College, Experiencia, and Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy.[c] In each of these education ventures, Tullman sought to create educational environments that fed creativity while providing skill sets for future successful employment in the new digital world:

At Kendall College, Tullman transformed a 75 year old failing college into a new entity and moved the campus from its home in Evanston to Chicago in a brand-new, purpose-built facility in order to put students closer to the real-world opportunities available in their fields (especially culinary and hospitality) and to provide them with the newest tools, technologies and equipment available.

At Experiencia (the parent of ExchangeCity and Earth Works), Tullman developed hands-on, learning experiences for children that reinforced the lessons learned in the classroom in a simulated city environment. Innovative partnerships with dozens of major businesses provided resources and access for the students to experience the real world of work.

At Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, Tullman and his partners designed and developed a hands-on, team-based, cross-disciplinary, fast-track approach to digital media arts training, allowing students to learn digital technologies faster and more economically than at traditional four-year competitors.

Tullman is also an outspoken opponent of tenure in education and the turf wars and lack of interdepartmental collaboration among faculty.[d]

Tullman’s innovations in education have been consistent with the high-end vocational education visions shared by Sir Ken Robinson, David Brooks, and Thomas Friedman, but have the additional benefit of being actually implemented and in use today.

b.   Black, Johnathan (May 2011). “Howard Tullman’s Flashpoint Academy: A Digital-Arts Alternative to the Four-Year College Degree”. Chicago Magazine. Retrieved November 27, 2012
c.    Meyer, Ann (January 14, 2008). “Howard Tullman provides business lesson in running for-profit schools”. Chicago Tribune
d.   Tullman, Howard. “Why the Chicago Teachers’ Strike Will Help Education Entrepreneurs”. Inc. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
e.    1871 = Year of the Great Chicago Fire


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