A BA That’s Definitely Not Worth It

Sleepiness is a common side effect of career indecision.

Alternative titles for this post: Why I’ll Probably Never be Rich; How Unemployment Became Profitable.

Sometimes I stumble across something that simply hits a nerve. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, my usually calm, big-picture perspective becomes uncharacteristically erratic and obsessive, at least until I’ve sorted out why it is that I got so irked in the first place.

So what is it that’s gotten under my skin? This. It’s called the Bold Academy. From the website:

The Bold Academy is 4-week experience designed to help college students and recent grads find clarity, build confidence, and unlock their full potential. If you want to do big things to “change the world” but aren’t sure how to get started, we’re creating this for you.

Too many college students are carrying diplomas that speak nothing to their true potential. These same high-potential young adults struggle with societal expectations surrounding what their career should look like. In many cases, they haven’t been given the chance to explore what work would really be meaningful to them, nor the specific skills required to make new ideas happen or to gain momentum toward ambitious goals.

Wow, sounds great so far! Actually, I really agree with everything that’s being said here. Finding clarity, building confidence, unlocking potential – these are all really great things that I believe every career can benefit from, especially for those who are experiencing dramatic indecision during a formative period like university. Societal expectations do play a large role in students’ career paths – they create myths, they make people feel foolish for not having their lives planned out, they give us metaphors that make us out to be products to be sold as opposed to valuable human beings, they encourage people to study things they have no real interest in. Additionally, it’s true that students don’t often get the chance, or at least they aren’t encouraged to take the chance, to explore what work would be meaningful to them. They do want to do something meaningful, they just don’t know what meaningful, well… means.

Additionally, the Bold Academy isn’t just about sitting in a classroom listening to someone spout information for a month. It actually sounds like fun and bills itself as a sort of wilderness adventure, like something you might see on reality TV.  So, as I was reading about the Bold Academy, I was understandably getting pretty excited about the fact that it existed, and that someone – finally – someone was at least trying to do something constructive to address these issues. That someone is Amber Rae, a sort of self-made motivational expert who’s done some pretty impressive things. From reading her website, it’s clear that she really believes in what she’s doing, and she’s certainly not going to make any apologies for being herself. It’s refreshing to see that kind of genuineness, and it’s likely a big reason why she seems to be as successful as she is.

It’s not Amber that I have a problem with (she sounds wonderful), and it’s not even the nature of the Bold Academy that I have a problem with (it sounds like a great learning experience and a lot of fun). What I have a problem with is the program’s $7500 price tag.

The Bold Academy is marketed at college students and recent grads. What’s more, the strategic use of the letters BA suggest that the program is primarily directed at arts students, conveniently playing off the stereotype of the aimless arts student who doesn’t know what they want to do once they finish their degree.

So, we have something that’s mostly targeted towards helping a group that’s very likely to be (A) knee-deep or on their way to knee-deep in student loan debt; (B) unemployed or under-employed; and (C) feeling very insecure about their future careers.

And they’re going to shell out $7500? I don’t think I’ve met a single student in my work as a career advisor who could afford to pay $7500 for something like that. At least, not the ones who really need the help. I’ve talked to students who have no idea what they want to do. I’ve talked to students who want to learn more about themselves and what they find meaningful, and sincerely want to take action to do so. I’ve also talked to students who’ve had to take jobs significantly beneath their level of qualifications just to pay rent and buy groceries – I can’t even imagine referring them to the Bold Academy, because they’d most likely laugh in my face. $7500, after all, does buy a lot of groceries.

I know it probably takes a lot of money to plan and execute a project the size and scope of the Bold Academy. But make no mistake – this wouldn’t be happening if somebody wasn’t making money on it. It might not even be that much money, but this wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t profitable. And that means that, in a way, the insecurity and self-doubt of unemployed/underemployed youth has become profitable.

The thing is, the Bold Academy isn’t going to have any problems getting their 24 participants (that’s $180,000 by the way). The reason they’re not going to have any problems getting their 24 participants is because people are generally insecure right now – especially populations like recent college graduates who don’t know what to do with their lives. People are hearing about how bad the job market is, they’re hearing about the fact that there’s going to be a labour market crisis, they’re hearing about how they need to have everything figured out and that they have to get a good job, and they’re throwing money around in order to do something about it. It’s the same reason that people (and/or their parents, I should point out) pay the exorbitant amount they do for post-secondary education.

$7500 is not pocket change. $7500 is more than a full summer’s earnings for a lot of students. It’s a nice thought that those people who really needed the kind of thing that the Bold Academy offers could be able to actually afford it, but that’s probably just not true – the price tag alienates those who need the help the most. In reality, the Bold Academy’s participants will be the kids from wealthy families, who are already going to the expensive schools, and don’t necessarily have to worry about things like a roof over their head or food on their plates.

So, ultimately, I’m afraid to say that this is one BA that’s just not worth it.

*Cross-posted in Dave’s Diary at the Career Services Informer.