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Is College Worth It? The Cost of Higher Education

As a man in his thirties who has gone to college, I am often asked by my peers is college worth it? And my response is followed by, no. The cost of college is just too expensive to justify.

The purpose of college was to increase one’s job prospects, however; after being in the workforce for nearly over two decades, a college education is not the only criteria employers look for nowadays.

Sure it’s a bonus, but what employers want to know is how reliable they are and what valuable working skills they can provide.

If we were to go back to the 80s and prior, by the time someone was sixteen years old, chances are they had some form of work skills under their belt. However, today, not many sixteen or even fourteen-year-olds have any work experience or meaningful skillsets.

Due to the lack of work skills, millennials such as myself were told that we needed to go to college to acquire the same job professions as our parents or grandparents. Of course, this is a lie, and I am about to explain why.

It’s Expensive

Let’s face it; most people who attend college are not able to afford their tuition and living expenses. The cost of a four-year university college can range from 80k to 240k.

The majority of students who attend these colleges take on a student loan to pay for their expenses. However, the danger of these loans is that the interest is accumulating the moment the student receives the money.

If a college student remains in college for four years and doesn’t pay the interest payments, the amount unpaid interest amount adds up to quite a bit of money. Hence, this is why it’s not usual to see someone take twenty or thirty years to pay off their student debt.

Student debt has hit another all-time high as the cost of college continues to skyrocket. I regularly hear stories of college graduates having 60k or even 150k student loans. I sometimes wonder how can someone accumulate so much debt, and why did they believe college is worth the cost?

Understand that the student loan debt is now becoming a crisis. There are more than 44 million student loan borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loans. The average student loan for the class of 2016 is $37,172. Student loan delinquency, or default rate is 11.2%, 30+ days delinquent.

When you look at these numbers, they’re pretty scary. Another worrisome statistic is that student debt is unforgivable. An individual cannot file bankruptcy on student loans. One must ask, is college worth it with all this extra expense?

College Isn’t for Everyone

It amazes me how most believes they must go to college. I have co-workers who have trust funds or mutual funds for their children’s college education.

Without even taking consideration of whether college is something their children want to do. For my co-workers, their children going to college is a must. However, college isn’t for everyone, and not everyone excels in college.

Realize this, about one-third of all college students drop out entirely, and more than half of the students enrolled take more than six years to graduate.

Let’s see if you go to college at the age of 18 and graduate at the age of 24, you have missed out on six years of work experience or at the very least have limited work experience. By the way, many of these students never graduate and still have to pay the debt they accumulated while in school.

Many college grads are not working in jobs that are related to their field. According to CareerBuilder, 47 percent of college graduates did not find a first job that was related to their college major.

Furthermore, 32 percent of college grads never worked in a field related to their majors. If you’re not working in your area of major is college worth it? Why go study a field you’re not likely to work in? You’re better off working and avoiding college scam altogether.

Alternatives to Higher Education

I stated this in a previous post in regards to college alternatives, the internet has designed some creative strategies that allow anyone to learn new skills without the need to pay for an expensive study program.

Websites such as Udemy, Khan Academy, Skillshare, Codecademy, all teach a variety of different subjects that one could learn and use in the workforce.

I spent a total of $39.99 to learn various coding programs. I managed to learn, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Jquery, and C++. Since taking the classes, I’ve made a few websites, games, and other software programs.

Now do I consider myself a profession? Certainly not, however, I am sure if I wanted to go into the software engineering field, I could probably get my foot in the door with the subjects I’ve learned. Furthermore, I wanted to learn these skills as I hobby instead of a profession.

However, I am sure if someone were to learn these skills along with other online software engineer courses, they probably would have minimal issues finding a low ranking position in the field.

Moreover, an individual will increase their chances of getting hired if they provide a portfolio of their work to a potential employer.

Quite frankly, I wish they had these online programs available while I was in high school. Learning these skills at a young age would have made applying for an entry wage job much more manageable.

Today employers such as Google don’t care about college degrees; instead, companies are looking for talented workers. Workers who can provide productive skills and services that will increase the company’s bottom line, profits.

When Is College Worth It?

There are possibly a few occasions where going college is worth it or should I say needed. Professions such as a medical doctor, a teacher, or a lawyer. These professions require a college degree or some form of accreditation which is usually acquired while in college.

Furthermore, the collegiate costs for these careers are prohibitive, requiring students to spend upwards of $150,000 and more to receive their degree and accreditation.

However, some believe entering a highly specialized field such as a medical professional is not worth the cost. According to an article by studentloanhero.com, in 1996, Dr. Risley graduated in surgical specialty with $147,000 in student loan debt.

She graduated from residency in 2005, and her original loan had escalated to $255,000. In 2018, Dr. Risley had paid $200,000 on her student loans and still owed $180,000.

That’s a lot of money in student loans, and from my understanding, she has been paying them for over 20 years. That’s almost 30 years of a typical mortgage term. I can only imagine how much her education would cost had she graduated in the past few years.

But nonetheless, a surgical specialty can earn roughly $250,000 through $800,000 a year, which is a lot of money. However, since I am no surgeon, I am not one to say if entering the profession is worth it or not.

I do not know what the job entails, however; I do have a few friends who are in the medical field with one being a surgeon and from my understanding, she is always busy and on call, however; she does enjoy her job.

The Opportunity Cost

While the cost of college is ever rising, one has to ask is college worth it? For me, that answer is no, not unless you want to be in one of those highly specialized careers.

As mentioned, today, there are too many educational alternatives out there that provide the knowledge one needs to enter a career field for a low cost.

Also, companies such as Google and Apple realize that the difference in skill and understanding between a college graduate and non-graduate is minimal.

Many companies understand it’s about productivity and not education. A college graduate does not always mean a productive worker. One has to remember that if you enroll as a full-time college student, you are foregoing full-time work experience.

By the time one graduate, they will be four to six years behind someone who worked full-time right after high school. One will also miss out on valuable work experience and skillsets. As the saying goes, experience triumphs over everything.

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