Is a College Degree Worth It?
If you are looking for a bunch of numbers and stats that are designed to convince you of one opinion or another, I am sorry—I’ll not be providing that information for you. You’ll find enough numbers and statistics at college, or online, where they’ll feed you full of numbers that appear to show that your life without a college degree will be full of poverty and hardship.
The purpose of this post is to subjectively (in other words, via my personal opinion and experience) answer a question that is probably on your mind, “Is college with it?”
That question has gone through my own mind a thousand thousand times. It crossed my mind the first time I saw the cost of tuition back in the early 2000s. It crossed my mind again after feeling that my college experience was that I was a freak-show or animal in a circus who was being trained to jump through hoops. It crossed my mind after taking on thousands and thousands in debt. It crossed my mind after graduating with an associate’s degree, and after graduating with a bachelor’s degree. And it crosses my mind day after day ever since. Is it worthy it? Was it worth it? Let’s explore that question.
What is College For?
There are so many things that a person can take away from the college experience. It isn’t as if there is just one single reason to go. So, I’ll make this easy and cut to the chase; I went to college to get a degree that would help me get a good job. That is the objective that I think most of us go to college for, so I’ll write this article based on that.
Did a college degree help me get a job in my chosen field? No. Do I anticipate that it might? No. Did I try, do I now try, and do I intend to continue to try to get a job in that chosen field? Yes. Does my colleges career “help” help? No. Do I think that my degree will come in handy? Maybe.
When I got my I-haven’t-figured-this-out-yet associate’s degree, I had already begun to realize how foolish my college path was. So I sent out this graduation announcement (some private information has been erased):
Whether or not my degree ends up coming in handy, I’ll tell you this one thing: I would rather have the last 10 years of my life back with none of the debt I took on than have this college degree. Why? Debt and time. Those two things are more valuable than a college degree. Without the debt, I would have much more mobility. And if I had used the time to actually develop an in-demand skill rather than a useless degree, I would have a greater chance at getting a high-paying job than I do now.
Do I feel that college was worth it. No. I personally feel that our national higher education system is the biggest scam in our country. It leads thousands upon thousands of children into debt and captivates them for much of the rest of their life. It is an industry that is designed to take advantage of children. Yes, I am referring to fresh high-school graduates as children, but not as a belittlement. 17-18 years old is not old enough to possess the kind of experience that is needed to successfully navigate the treacherous road that is higher education.
Your College Advisors Aren’t Paying Your Debt Bills!
Academic and financial aid advisors aren’t going to be paying your bills, so they probably won’t stay up at night if they help you saddle yourself with mountains of debt for a useless degree. Your parents are probably completely out of touch with what it is like for a young person to enter the workforce these days. When they were your age, it was a completely different ball game. The federal government continues to make it extremely easy for you to take on a ton of debt. Basically, you are being led directly into a financial ambush, and this ambush is sanctioned and encouraged by your government and the society that should have your back.
Sure, there is a lot of talk of improvement, but because higher education is so bogged down with red tape, the kind of improvement that is needed will come very slowly, if at all. This means that you are likely to be too old to benefit from it by the time it comes around if it comes around at all.
Why? Why is it this way? Institutions of higher education generally have very deep pockets and massively inflated egos. They have government contracts, business contracts; there is a whole universe of activities going on and to challenge that is viewed as extremely, well, extreme.
“How dare you speak out against college,” someone might say, “It is still better than the alternative!” What alternative? What can $50,000 in debt and 5 years of my life get me that a free library card and a bit of dedication can’t? Are you seriously telling me that institutions of higher education have the monopoly on knowledge? Of course they don’t, and you know it. They want you to believe that because if you believe it, you’ll probably feel as though they are your only path.
Don’t Be a Lackey! Find a Better Way!
I am here to urge you to get knowledge and skills, but don’t assume that college is the only way to do that. I urge you to fight back against the culture that has cornered you in to a lifestyle of debt and dependence. College CAN be a good path, but it is not by nature—at least not anymore.
There are many good paths to take to develop the skills you’ll need. The way is simple. First, decide what you want to do. I know that can be hard to do, but it is so important. Don’t go to college as a way to decide. In other words, don’t go to college thinking that the classes you take will somehow give you a hint as to what you should do with the rest of your life. If you do, you’ll probably find that you’ve wasted thousands of dollars and years of your life with nothing to show for it but regret, because that “go to college to decide” trick only works for a few.
Decide first. Take a year to decide. Study, explore, interview people, get hands-on experience. You’ve got to decide BEFORE you take on the financial burden. When you have that decision made, then you can begin to explore training opportunities.
In some cases, college might be the best option. But that will not be true for everyone. And you’re no less of a person if you get trained elsewhere.
You can probably learn how to code/develop with less expensive online courses and certifications rather than spending $50,000+ for a degree. If you want to be a writer, you can learn that by practice and experience. You don’t have to spend $50,000+ and 5 years getting a useless degree just to learn how to be a writer. It is completely unnecessary.
Build your own online business. Write about what you’re passionate about and make money!
Whatever you decide to do, please remember this one thing: do not go to college just for the sake of getting a degree. You need to have a plan with the end in mind. Decide before you go. Learn from a bitter man who, for the most part, looks at college with deep regret.
College can be a great tool that you can use to better your situation in life, but only if you use it as a tool and DO NOT let it use and abuse you, because it will if you naively trust the system.
Be careful. Plan ahead. Seek out less expensive alternatives. ALWAYS place higher value on competence and applicable skills over a degree. Only pursue the degree if you have a solid plan to put it into use. Work for a couple years out of high school to save up enough money to pay for college out-of-pocket if you must go. Don’t trust the financial assistance that the government and business provides. You’ll be a slave to unnecessary debt for the rest of the best years of your life.