Should you go to college?

Should you go to college?

This is an interesting question in a time where student debts are becoming outrageous and grads are struggling to find jobs. I am going to explain my thoughts on this question.

First – who shouldn’t go to college?

College is not for everyone. If you have other plans and already know what you want to do (and it doesn’t require a college degree) then maybe you do not need to go. No one forces anyone to go to college. It’s a choice. If that seems like the only choice given to students – blame their mentors, parents, themselves, etc. because it is a choice. Maybe you won’t need that degree to start up a business. However, keep in mind that even Donald Trump sent his kids to college and then on to an MBA before letting them help him run his business empire. Are you going into the military? Well you may not need college right away. Then there are other reasons too: Are you immature? Don’t know what you want to do? Are not motivated? Are better with a trade/skill then books? Then maybe you should reconsider and figure out what you should be doing before going into college – or even consider trade school or community college first. Also, sometimes taking a few years off from school after high school and working or something (such as volunteering) can help you decide if college is right for you and give you time to mature. And these are just some of the reasons students should not go. Please though, do not avoid college because ‘bill gates’ or marc zukerburg’ didn’t go. Remember both of them went to Harvard and then dropped out. They were not normal people. They each got nearly perfect on their SATs, had started companies while in high school, and eventually dropped out of Harvard when they got what they needed at Harvard (and without Harvard neither Microsoft or Facebook might be here today). Bill Gates was so smart he was exempt from Math in high school so he could program computers. So more than likely you should not be using them as examples.

Is college worth it?

The simple answer is Yes. The more complicated answer is that it depends because its no guarantee to success and please note that it never has been that or claimed to be that. The numbers definitely say it is. In fact, any way you look at the numbers it is definitely worth going to college. College is an investment in yourself. Are you worth investing in? That is up to you. I went to college for 12 years and it was definitely worth it. I learned how to think, critique, evaluate, problem solve, and how to work. I feel that I mostly made good decisions with my courses, schools, and majors. If you pick a major that you are not interested in and then do not use the degree then maybe it would not be worth it. I often hear people say there are worthless majors in college but I usually can disagree with their points because most majors are there because some job demanded them. Just because you are not familiar with a subject and the jobs it leads to does not make it wrong. Take art history for example (a major usually brought up in this type of discussion) when you do a simple google search you find that these majors are highly desired in museums, auctions, and so on – thus its actually a very needed and valuable major. Its when someone goes into art history and then decides that they want to do something else that the major could be seen as ‘not valuable’ to that person while in fact the degree is very highly valuable when used. Now for some numbers – a report just released by the Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington said that college graduates make on average – 98% more per hour than those without degrees. 98%! In fact, any way you look at the numbers college grads are significantly better off. Unemployment of college grads is less than half that of the overall population. The lifetime salaries are also significantly higher and that gap keeps growing. That doesn’t mean that someone without college will not make a lot of money, it just means on average, people do not.

Some numbers:

How much someone earns over their lifetime:

Median annual earnings of full-time year-round wage and salary workers ages 25–34, by educational attainment: 1995–2012 from http://nces.ed.gov/

earning by age:

Is college too expensive?

Yes and no. Most students leave college owing about 25k, which in my opinion is not bad considering that is how much an average car costs (something most people pay off in 5 years). In fact you can check out the average student debt here:

http://projectonstudentdebt.org/state_by_state-data.php

You can get a very good college education for 25-50k at a community or public university. “According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2013–2014 school year was $30,094 at private colleges, $8,893 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,203 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.” (collegedata.com). Thus 8-9k per year for a public university = 32k total. If you were to work and go to one of these schools you would probably graduate with zero debt – I did and I went to college for 12 years. In fact, I had a savings. Now of course if you go to a college that costs 250k for a bachelors degree and go into a profession that makes 50k a year you are going to have trouble paying that off. This is no different than buying a house or car you cannot afford. If you cannot afford it, don’t do it. So do not blame the college for costing so much, blame the student for choosing a college they could not afford. Just remember, college prices are similar to car prices – there are cars that cost 10k-20k new and cars that are 250k new. You cant say cars are expensive and only be referring to that 250k car while ignoring all of the 10k ones. Additionally, while there may be a quality difference in cars there is much less of a quality difference in colleges. In fact, many colleges have very similar quality (to an extent) – whether public, private, or ivy league. What differs? Well the connections you make while attending but overall education will not be too much different (it will be different I just want to stress its not as significant as the car example I used). Its really about what you put into it. Professors are guides, guiding students. They cannot force you to do well or be successful. One last thing to point out here – if you are concerned that public universities are increasing their tuition too much each year, please look at how much funding is being cut from them by the state before jumping to other conclusions (although keep in mind other factors are always at play but the biggest cause for an increase right now is state funding being cut). Remember that while in state students might only pay 5k a semester to go to school, the state is paying the rest of their tuition – it actually costs about the same as a private school when its all said and done (because you pay tuition and the state pays the rest of your tuition). So when the state cuts funding by 10%, there might need to be a 10% increase in tuition to make up for that the money the state was paying for your tuition. While those numbers I just presented are not exact by any means, it is how it works. So take that into consideration when you wonder why tuition is going up. See here for more information on that.

When should you consider college?

1. When you want to learn. College is great for this. Its not the only way but if you are interested in engineering, its very difficult to learn it on your own for a million different reasons (motivation being the biggest). If people could learn everything on their own there would be no such thing as classes – people would just go to the library or internet and figure it out. This does not work though – people are not motivated to do that and cannot know if they have or have not fulfilled competencies that someone in the field they are studying should know.

2. You want to enter a career that requires a college education. So you want to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, architect, museum curator, etc – well they all require degrees.

Lastly I will leave you with this: My kids will be going to college. Most of my colleagues kids will be going to college. Most doctors, lawyers, politicians, etc. kids will be going to college. There is a reason: Education is valuable and it can really pay off.

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