Writer Naya Kamenetz, author of “Generation Debt” (Riverhead Hardcover, 2006)
seriously challenges the notion that the time and money put into earning four-year college
degrees are worth it. Since the book was published, the outcry over student debt has
only grown, to where tuition debt obligations for college graduates is now greater than
consumer credit card debt in the U.S.
And yet, no one is saying it’s worthless to pursue education. Despite the jobs crisis – in
the U.S. and most of the world – there are jobs that go unfilled because the right talent is
not available. Those who have no education beyond high school are the most likely to be
This argument might take a different cast in the realm of the creative arts. There are
actors who have four-year degrees. Prime examples are Jodie Foster went to Yale,
Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton and Meryl Streep, who is an alumnae of both
Vassar College and the Yale School of Drama.
But Ben Affleck dropped out of both the University of Vermont and Occidental College.
Woody Allen flunked out of New York University and never finished up at City College
of New York (CCNY). Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket) did so
poorly in high school he didn’t even apply to college. He took a few photography classes
at CCNY – and went on to produce work worthy of 13 Oscar nominations.
The point is that there are few clear courses to fame and fortune in any profession, but
skills and talents can be developed in different ways and on different paths. A leg up
might begin with a certificate or an Associates (two-year) degree. A Bachelors degree or
even a Masters in fine arts (MFA) degree can never hurt – but the real factors of time and
money will always play a role. As the above examples illustrate, not being able to attend
a four-year university is hardly a barrier to a career in film, theater or other performing or
Fortunately, many arts schools provide a choice, beginning with certificate or
conservatory program. If the student chooses to pursue a degree program, credits from
the “get your feet wet” certificate studies often apply to earning a higher degree. An
example is the New York Film Academy (NYFA), a school that emphasizes hands-on
learning for all students. The film school carries a strong tradition of theoretical study
Moscow, Mumbai, New Delhi, Paris, Queensland (Australia) Seoul and Shanghai.
Is a certificate or degree in the visual or performing arts still a poor path to employment?
By the numbers, few of us will ever achieve the accomplishments of Meryl Streep or
Stanley Kubrick. But as demand for visual presentation and entertainment increase due
to digital technologies, there are many more jobs that require production, acting and
animation skills than ever before.