July 11, 2013, 6:00 am

Is College Worth it?

by: MD    Category: Career
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[Quick note from Martin: I have just launched a brand new course on dominating life after college, for those of you that are feeling lost. Check it ou!]

So, is college worth it?

Last week I shared my biggest issues with the college system.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” — Aristotle

With all of those issues, there’s no denying the many benefits of attending college. You can’t make a blanket statement about college and say that it’s not right for everyone. Despite the many issues, there will always be tons of positives.

Let’s look at the research on top of my thoughts. Then you guys can jump in with your opinion on this whole debate.

I found this study at CNN Money recently. I wanted to highlight a few key points.

Is a college degree the best investment?

According to the aforementioned article:

“A bachelor’s degree promises higher returns than stocks, bonds, housing and gold. At 22, the average college grad earns about 70% more than the average person with only a high school diploma.”

Okay, that’s pretty impressive. In your early-2os you’re guaranteed to make more money than most of your friends. You don’t have to stress about paying the bills or finding work. IT also beats doing nothing in your 20s.

Then I found another article where 86% of graduates considered college a good investment (Time magazine).

So far, it looks like college is a pretty decent investment to make.

What about the cost of college?

The CNN article goes on to mention:

“During the past eight years alone, tuition and fees have increased 34% at four-year public institutions and 18% at four-year private colleges.”

USA Today mentioned the following scary stat:

“About $110 billion in federal student loans were distributed in 2011.”

According to Yahoo News:

“The average amount of college loan debt from the class of 2013 was $35,200.”

While the whole idea of college is solid. Is the money spent on it worth it? Should you allocate thousands of dollars towards this expense? Does it make sense?

My theory on the cost of college is simple.

It all comes down to the following question:

What will you get out of the degree/experience? Is that cost worth it to you?

There are many case studies out there. There are folks who study a program of their choice, excel at school, find a great job, make lots of money, and live happily ever after.

Then there are those that drop out of college and start a billion dollar company.

The third group is where most of us fit.

The third group — You either didn’t attend college or went just because it felt right. You can’t find your dream job and you owe money for student loans.

If you’re in the first group, college is the best investment. You dedicated four years and X amount of dollars to earn a job that would pay you well for life. You don’t have to worry about job security. It might take you some time to pay off the loans, but at least you have the income to justify it

If you’re in the middle group, you’re happy that you saved money by dropping out because you started your own business.

In the third group, you’re likely jaded and frustrated with the system. You can’t get ahead and you can’t find a job you’re happy with. You hate your work. You hate the fact that you have to pay off your student loans with a job that frustrates you to no end.

My final answer on college is…

College is a great investment and a great idea under two strict scenarios:

  1. You know what you want to do.
  2. You’re not sure what you want to do, but you’re not going to go into huge debt in the process. You want to learn and are willing to work or have the funding to cover your education.

I don’t believe in bashing specific degrees because we all have our own unique interests. I also don’t want to say that law school is worth it if you end up with huge debt and hate your job.

School is a great idea if you know what you want to do and can guarantee work. It also makes sense when you won’t get into huge debt.

  • Getting into debt for a degree that won’t land you a job? Sorry, not worth it.
  • Huge debt for a job that won’t justify the loans? Not worth it.
  • Working your butt off to pay off your degree while in school? Worth it.
  • Going into minor debt for a job that will pay you well for a long time? Worth it.
  • Staying in school because you love to learn and the school funds you? Good idea.

Those are my thoughts on the investment that is college. Please jump in with yours.

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” — B.B. King

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Comments

I fall in the first category. My education has paid off. But I didn’t get any student loans. I had merit scholarships that paid for most of my school. I think this makes a huge difference.

I think college is a good investment for many people if they do research before choosing a school and are willing to work.

They should be serious about their education. Here’s why: The US average graduation rate for students who earn a bachelor’s degree in 5 years is 51.9 percent, according to <a href="http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/12retain_trends.pdf&quot;

I completed a degree at a private school with less than 15K debt and had no idea how to the answer the question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

Would I have done it differently? Possibly. If my debt would have doubled back then, I would not have considered a liberal arts degree. But that’s just me.

For me, college is really worth it. It does not matter if you need to take on debt, just think it’s a good debt because you’ll be improving yourself and giving yourself a chance to get more opportunities when you graduate. It’s all about the person and how he handle things himself, basically.

I think over the past 15 years, universities have expanded their offerings to cater to students that really have no business going to college.

They’ve lowered the bar to the point where anyone with a pulse can get into some type of program. The result is we have people $100K in debt that can only find minimum wage jobs because of their actual skill level.

These same people could make a killing learning a trade skill that would be better suited to their ability.

It seems that there will always be a market for highly technical trained people in programming, engineering, etc. The world does not need very many English or Liberal Arts majors to make innovations.

[...] @ The Financial Blogger writes Is College Worth it? – Is college worth the [...]

[...] from The Financial Blogger presents Is College Worth it?, and says, “School is a great idea if you know what you want to do and can guarantee work. It [...]

I agree that it helps to know what you want to do. I did not when I first started college, so I quit and went into the military. When I got out, I had the GI Bill and knew what I wanted to do. I got my mechanical engineering degree in 4 years and graduated with no debt. Everyone is different, and my wife got her engineering degree with scholarships and loans. We both got our Master’s degrees using funding from work. We are hoping that we have saved enough that our son will graduate without debt. He will have to work hard and get good grades to keep the money coming, however.

[...] Mike from The Financial Blogger asks a tough question: Is College Worth it? [...]