Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What's a college degree worth?

 For years now, my Aggie husband Walker has said, "College education is a complete waste of money." And like any good Longhorn, I would answer, "Well, maybe yours was." Lately, however, more and more evidence has been popping up that supports his theory. 

This afternoon I was listening to Dave Ramsey, and a couple called in who had $84,000 of student loan debt from their private Christian college experience. Dave asked how much their takehome pay was. It was $36,000. Just recently The New York Times published an article supporting the same theory regarding law school.

I have a degree in English. I've yet to 'use' it. But that degree only cost about $8,000. Back in the good old days.

Maybe Walker does actually know what he's talking about. Judge for yourself.

Walker here.  Hope you all are doing well.  It's time for my yearly guest blog.

One of the things that's bugged me for years is the nagging fear that in large part a 4 year college education is a big waste of time.

Full disclosure:  I spent 6 years at Texas A&M, four as an undergraduate, and two years getting my MBA.  While I had a fantastic time there, made lifelong friends, and consider myself one who bleeds maroon, I can't with any confidence state that what I learned there academically really and truly prepared me for "real life".

In all, my parents and I probably spent $40,000 to $50,000 on my total higher education, and even back in the 90's this was a steal.  Nowadays, for some elite, private schools its not uncommon for tuition to run you $40,000+ annually.  Spread this over 4+ years and some kids are graduating with largely irrelevant degrees (when judged by the marketplace) in disciplines like Philosophy and Sociology, then are facing a bleak job market where many are forced to get part-time jobs or employment in fields where their college degree has absolutely no bearing for little pay - basically a job that they could have easily got if they had never went to college to begin with.  Nevertheless, six months after they graduate, they are expected to start paying off those $100K + student loans.

To me, this smells like a rip off.

No some folks may say, "Hold it!  What about the atmosphere of learning?  Of students sharing knowledge and insights together on the ol' quad?  You can't put a price tag on that!"  Well, phooey, I say. 

During my years in the esteemed halls of knowledge, an estimated 99.6% of my time was spent talking about chicks, playing Frisbee golf, watching TV, playing computer games like Tecmo Bowl, trying to talk to chicks, drinking beer, and finally, taking huge, endless naps...dreaming about chicks.  It wasn't like I was livin' the Socratic Method over there or anything.  The intellectual stimulation I received on any given day could have been garnered, for the price of a cup of joe, at our favorite coffee house, Sweet Eugene's

You don't have to go to college for that "college experience".

I studied business.  Now I sell computers.  Not once I have ever had to bust out the old HP Business Calculator.  I have never had to calculate the time value of money or make a debit entry for cost accounting.

So why did I go to college?

Now studies are sort of bearing me out.   I have also worried about a so-called "education bubble", a phenomena largely fueled by easy, federal grants and loans, that essentially allow any American to go to college.  More and more Americans are going to college, not necessarily graduating, but are also incurring mountains of debt.  How angry would you be if you borrowed tens of thousands of dollars on the vague promise to getting a good job eventually only to be working as a barrista, as your worthless diploma collects dust on your mom's living room wall? 

I would be pretty ticked off.

And with the massively disruptive nature of the Internet, and how technological advances have completely turned entire industries on their head like publishing and media, you have to wonder if the truly old-school, brick and mortar, 4 year college experience is in serious need of an overhaul.

Couldn't a lot of this be done - just as well and far cheaper - online?  Why is it that we place to an premium on having kids go to college?  Couldn't many youngsters be better served with robust, vocational alternatives where they actually learn vital skills and crafts, things that are actually in demand in the marketplace?

Why do we (and the government) spend so much money propping up thousands of universities, colleges, and community colleges?  Is it just because education is "important" and we always have? 

I want my own kids to go to college.  Sure. My nostalgic reflections cause me to want my kids to enjoy the "college experience." But I also want them to learn something important and be prepared to work in an in-demand field. 

I am not convinced that the college experience as currently defined is necessarily the best choice, especially if they (or I) am saddled with $100K in debt from said experience.  Instead of spending this $100K (and growing) on college, what about using it for them to take some vocational training, backpack through Europe, and put a down-payment on a house or use it for start-up monies for a business?

Would that be a better return on investment, Dr. Business Professor??



  1. Amen! Although I wouldn't trade my college experience for anything (that's where I came to know Jesus AND met my husband...ummm, priceless), I don't think it prepared me for the "real world", and it's crazy how much people pay. I had scholarships for most of it so I'm one of the "lucky" ones.
    A kid I knew had over $80,000 in loans. To become an engineer? No. Doctor? No. Business executive? No. Teacher? Yes. I mean, that is crazy. While I'm glad we live in a land where truly anyone can go to college, I think we need to change the system a bit so that everyone doesn't feel like they have to go if it won't help them do what they want to do.

  2. I have totally mixed feelings on this. I have become convinced that taking on a huge debt load to go to college is incredibly stupid. I have started saving for my kids to go to school, but I will be encouraging them towards cheaper schools and will probably not let them take a lot of loans. This is coming from someone who puts high value on name-brand education. I don't necessarily agree with the notion that college isn't necessary, but you'd better have a good plan for how to get a well paying, in demand job. That means no history degrees. Unlike Walker, I could not have done my job as an engineer without the intensive training I received for four years. My days were not even remotely wasted, I worked my ass off, and my reward was a high paying career.

    My husband football blog is filled with lawyers who are regular commenters, lawyers who all talk about their enormous debt and how much they hate having to work 80 hour weeks at big firms just to be able to afford to pay off their loans. And those are the ones that found jobs, several still have no job but have the massive debt. It blows my mind.

  3. I think it depends on the degree you get. For me, getting a Bachelor and Master's in Accounting (while spending 6 glorious years at A&M) was totally worth the debt because I quickly started making six figures after college. Even though I'm a stay at home mom now, I still have a million more opportunities to work even part-time again if I want/need to...and not as a barista :)

  4. I'm in my last semester of my MBA, and I've paid entirely in student my own name. Now, I'm gonna go cry myself to sleep.

    Seriously though...what to do?! And now, because I'm 24 and had to make decisions of what to do with my life at such a young age, I know that all I *really* want to do is be a stay-at-home mom. What a waste of $. A waste of $ that might not only NOT be necessary, but might stop me from fulfilling my personal goals now. Ugh.

  5. I thought Anthropology was a store. But I only have a Bachelor of Liberal Studies from Iowa State.

  6. I have to agree. My husband and I met in college and that was the best thing we got from it! Neither of us finished (no diploma) and it hasn't hindered us much. My husband has held many different jobs, some that "required" diplomas but gave him a pass for experience. We are often looked down on when asked what our degrees are in and we tell that we don't have any. It hasn't kept us from anything that we wanted and that God wanted to bless us with. Now yes I want my kids to go or go online but I DO NOT want them racking up huge loans. I have a friend that has gone to school for 10 years and is just now finishing. All that debt and her goal is to be a high school counselor. In our area she will do good to pull 40,000 for that and she has more in student loans than her house is worth! Doesn't make any sense.

  7. I think that college can be worth the money, but that it is often not. I will encourage my kids to really find out what they want to do, and if it requires a college degree, then I will help them find ways to pay for college (I'm saving up now, just in case). However, if they don't really know what they want to do, or they just want to go to college to study a topic of interest, like history, then I will have to strongly discourage them. A degree that you won't use, or a degree that will only let you make $20,000 a year, is not worth the investment of $80,000...

  8. I 100% agree with this post.

    I went to school for an elementary teaching degree. I spent 5 years in college and even with tuition free I still wracked up $25,000 in room and board fees.

    All through school we were sold on the idea that we'd have no problem getting a job.

    Bologna pants!

    You can't find a teaching job unless you are willing to move and if you are already married and settled, that just can't happen.

    So I have a degree in a drawer somewhere (not even sure where) that says I can teach. But do I use it? Nope. And ten years later am I still paying my loans down? Yep.

    My husband never went to college, makes good money, and is now an entrepreneur in his own business that is skyrocketing.

    We have decided no college for our kids unless they want to take classes online and then they must pay for it as they go. In fact we want to start apprenticeships with our kids in the areas that will benefit them most.

    Kuddos on your thoughts!

  9. I have paused my graduate degree in ministry to start dealing with the loan I've taken... which in the grand scheme of student loans is not that much, but I don't want an ugly surprise upon graduation. I was at the point where I needed to take another loan and I just couldn't do that to myself.

    I agree to some extent. I am in grad school at BC, and my BC undergrad niece is paying $52000/year.

    This may not be true in your case, but there are studies that show you earn $1M more in a lifetime with a degree than you do without. I think it's a good thing if you can do it without acquiring a mountain of debt.

    Interesting topic!

  10. Life experience is the best education there is. :)

  11. I just wanted to say that I loved Sweet Eugenes....spent a good # of hours there....and a goooood # of years at A&M--4 yr. undergrad, 4 year DVM. And as a highly overeducated stay at home mom, this question hits a little too close to home to address.
    But, we luckily drank the Dave Ramsey Kool-aid and made paying off those student loans an all consuming priority. The 5 years I practiced did get us off to a financially good start and allow us to buy our first home, so I don't regret it at all. But it has all definitely made me ask these same questions when it comes to our kids.

  12. Well, I am not well-spoken, probably due to a lack of college education, BUT I have watched friends and family spend a whole lot of time and a whole lot of money on college... for nothing. People who didn't have time for their friends and family, on a promise that "things will be better when I get out of college and get a job". Then they come out of college, they don't get a job and are depressed because they are either unemployed or employed in a field other than what they were educated for. And they can't pay their loans. I have had many people tell me that I am wasting myself because I don't go to college. I honestly have no desire. I consider myself well educated in the things that matter and I am not willing to sacrifice my family while I educate myself on things that won't help me.

    Um, amen on your post. :-)

  13. Mixed thoughts. I went to a provincial university and paid cash it each semester. I lived at home and rode the bus. I used my degree to work and put my hub through his Phd. Debt free.
    However, after using his degree for 4 years he quit to pursue his dream job. Which requires no post secondary whatsoever. He loves it more than anything.
    University can be a good thing but what really should be stressed is exploring options. There are options when it comes to choosing a school and many more career options than are presented in High school.
    We need to teach our kids how to manage their resources ie, talents, money and time to best serve God and each other.

  14. Fully agree with you! My college experience didn't prepare me for a "real job"---kept waiting for my first boss to give me the syllabus ---didn't happen and it wasn't an easy transition! I've used my marketing degree more raising my kids (16 down to 4) than I did selling and learned tons more about selling once I got into the real world than I ever learned in college.

    As we approach the college years with our older kids, we are being creative and looking for ways to cut their costs and help them determine what they would be doing day to day (one of our sons has been shadowing at a computer store since age 12). We're looking into online programs, CLEP testing, and two year schools, at least to begin. We feel that to strap our kids with huge amounts of debt ($16,000 per year x at least 4.5 years at our state universities) isn't good parenting, just like letting them text and drive isn't. We have a nephew who graduated with honors in education, played football for his college team and wants to teach phy ed. He's been looking for a job for almost three years! And will probably start out in the low 30s with lots of debt.

    I'm shocked at the level of debt people under 30 are carrying! Maybe all colleges should have a course by Dave Ramsey required for kids to graduate:)

    If our kids are interested in the trades, we will encourage that as most of those jobs can't be outsourced and will always have a need. We would much rather spend money on a longer term mission trip that would change our kids lives in a spiritual way (and help them realize what they truly "need") than spend $80,000+ for a piece of paper.

    Agree with all you said! Love your blog!!

  15. It's a tricky concept because there really is a lot to be learned by the experience - even if that is that not paying rent and not going to class will get you in a world of hurt. The transition of being away from home but not being "totally on your own" is valuable. And while many women want to be a stay at home mom, (as I do) you can't plan to not get a degree because of that - who knows what or when God has those plans for your life? All in all, I don't think college is a waste. I DO think there is value in delaying that experience in many circumstances. I do not use my biology degree, but I use my life skills learned there every day. Not to mention that I was SAVED in college!

  16. It's an impossibly hard question, isn't it? We're saving for the boys to go to college, and will probably have enough for in-state tuition - at least that's what all the online calculators say. We already talk to them about what they're going to do there, and how they need to balance what they love and what will be worth spending someone else's money for. I want them to be pragmatic, but at the same time I think the greatest driver of change and innovation comes from people who follow what they love because they are insatiably curious about it. How do you teach your kid to do that, and what does he study in college to get there?

    Right now the 11 year old is very interested in the scarcity of truly skilled labor (things like welders and pipe fitters) and I think if he could snap his fingers and propel himself 10 years into the future, he'd be getting apprenticed at that kind of trade while taking college night courses in his all-time love, history (all debt-free, of course). Who knows what/where the combination of all those things would get him?

  17. TOTALLY LOVE THIS!!!!! AMEN!!!! I love what a friend of the Duggars said on the show. He wouldn't allow his kids to go to college until they learned a trade they could earn a living with. So he taught them how to "take down" trees. Yeah- loads of money in that. Now they have a trade before they get saddled with loads of college debt. Sounds like a smart idea to me. I am sooo over my children "having" to go to college just because everyone else is doing it. I would rather have them truly know what they want to do FIRST! If necessary- go to college, but choosing very wisely!!!

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  19. This is very interesting. I'm currently a psych major at A&M. Most of what I learn (if not all) won't benefit me in my career. I, like many of the other people who've commented, mostly want to be a stay at home mom. I am constantly questioning if the things I'm stressing over now will make a difference in 5 years (but usually just because I don't want to study for finals :) But, I do feel like my time here has grown me tremendously. Through student leadership and service organizations I have grown as a leader and individual; but most of all, I've grown so much spiritually, as have most of the people I've surrounded myself with. I know that isn't where my tuition money is going, but I also know that I wouldn't have benefited from the ministries here if I hadn't been in this setting, so I have to believe it's worth it. However, I'm blessed in that my college is paid for, so I know that my viewpoint may be skewed.

    Tell your husband to look up breakaway ministries. God is doing INCREDIBLE things here. We average about 6,000 at our Tuesday night bible study. And yes, we still spend a good amount of time at sweet eugene's :)

  20. Funny that most of my stay at home mom friends have college degrees and that is the one thing I am jealous of. I went to college never married and had babies instead. Have gone back since I have had kids to try and get my nursing degree, but it is too time consuming with kids. I find myself wishing I would have finished college. I know not all degrees are worth it, but think some are.

  21. I don't think college is a rip off completely. Where we are short changed is in that room with the high school guidance couselor. There we are, 17 to 18 years old making THE decision that will determine our lifestyle, income, happiness... To me the system is backwards. Instead of "Do, Learn, Define" as in "Do" decide where to go to college and what area to study, "Learn" how to in college, and the results of this will "Define" your lifestyle. Flip it backwards- "Define" your lifestyle, "Learn" how from someone (not necessarily college) and then "Do" what you've been called to do.

    My husband has an Mechanical Engineering degree from The University of Notre Dame and he wouln't have gone there (because of the expense) had his parents not found a way to pay for all 6 of their children to attend private Catholic universities without any of them paying a student loan. His parents are products of on-the -job training and associates degrees from a community college. They didn't spend a lot of money as the kids grew up and they never purchased anything unless they had the cash for it. They saved in order to ensure their children got the most out of whatever avenue they pursued. College wasn't a must because both of my husband's parents valued their own personal journey to a career that didn't involve a 4- year degree and crippling student loan debt.

    If the return on investment is worth it then go to college. Just make sure you aren't lettting a 17 year old kid decide your entire future!

  22. Every person and situation is different, so I wouldn't write off college across the board. But, yes, I very much agree with these thoughts. A person should expand his mind, his viewpoint and his horizons, but this can be done in so many ways that do not cost tens of thousands of dollars! Anything in which that much money has been invested really should result in at least the ability to earn a living, and today, traditional 4 year college is just not doing it. Part of the problem is, of course, the slide we've experienced in educational standards (many have said that today's average college degree is the equivalent of a 1960 high school diploma!), combined with the explosion of highly specialized knowledge in some fields, such as biology.

    You know what's really hard to find? A good handyman with room in his busy schedule! In today's world and economy, yes, learn and expand your mind any way you can, but aim to have the actual degrees you earn be productive and valuable. Come hell or high water in America, people will likely always need someone to fix their plumbing, fix their vehicles, and cut their hair presentably! Anthropologists, on the other hand, may find paychecks a little short in tight times...

  23. Absolutely agree with this entire post! Well, except for the A&M part. Hook 'Em Horns! *wink*

  24. Thoughts? Oh, yes, I have thoughts! I think part of the problem definitely stems from the "everyone needs to go to college" mentality. No. Everyone does not need to go to college. You only need to go to college if you are actually going to use your brain and be productive while there. If not, find a trade school. You will save yourself the time and money and not overcrowd the schools so they keep "thinking" they have to raise tuition.

    In terms of teachers... well, let's not get started there. My husband and I both have teaching degrees - Master's degrees. It's pretty much required now to be a teacher even though the pay is crappy. But we knew that going in. That's basically an entirely different argument. Even with a 4 year degree as a teacher you will be required to get a master's degree within probably 5 years. So why not go ahead and get it up front when you can do it intensively in a year and not have to actually be teaching/working full time at the same time. Because due to all the regulations surrounding No Child Left Behind you will have to get it to keep teaching.

    Was my college education worth it? I would say so. I spent 2 years at a local community college and came out with no debt. Did I learn stuff there? Some. Then I spent 2 years at a private Christian university (actually one of the cheaper ones) and learned a whole heck of a lot more. At the end of my 4 year degree I had $10k in student debt and my parents had none. THEN I went to grad school and quadrupled that amount. I'm not sure grad school was worth that much, but see above, it's what was required to be a teacher. And I met my husband there, so as someone above said, priceless.

    But in terms of my 4 year degree. Yes, it would have been worth more than that to me I think. The relationships developed and the things learned in trust I DO see missing in friends who haven't gone to college. The world perspective and historical background for world events... people who don't go to college, unless they take the time to educate themselves, sound like they never look outside of the town they live in. It's crazy! And yes, I probably sound like a snob, but when I hear people saying things like Democracy is simply the answer to issues in the middle east I think, do you even know how that would work in a tribal country?

    Perhaps what we really need is to collectively quit thinking that we already know everything and allow the rest of the world to teach us something. I'm a huge fan of international exchanges, traveling, etc!

    Alright... end 1am rant... Sorry!

  25. Yep, funny how I could have the same degree from a secular school for much less. Sigh. Must tell myself it was worth it :)

  26. I have to agree. Both my husband and I went to college- we're thankful our parents had decided to pay for us way back when their parents didn't/wouldn't. We went to a state school that was very affordable. I am now a stay-at-home mom and my husband changes oil- no degree required. ha.

    We've discussed what we will do with our children: if they want to go to school, they can work and go to a community college either full or part time. We will help them as much as we can with tuition but we think them paying their own way will help them become responsible and maybe they won't waste as much time (i.e. just choose a major already!) However, we won't assume or force them into college- it can be their choice.

  27. I completely agree! I started out in a four year private Christian College and then decided what I really wanted to do was open my own business. My friends thought I was crazy because I switched to graduate with a two year business degree, moved back in with my parents, and saved up money for my business. Now they are under mounds of student loan debt and most of them are not working in their field while I am nearly debt free and doing what I love. My college experience was great and I wouldn't trade it, but looking back I feel that I made a great decision.

    And, I also agree. I haven't once needed to pull out a calculator to figure out time value money. :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  28. College is like much else - you get out of it what you put into it. It's not supposed to be purely a "finishing school" where you hang out and figure out what comes next and meet your spouse and have a chance to live away from home - although all that's all a lot of us do with it! =)

    Whether or not college prepares for a specific job, the fact is, for just about any professional "white collar job", a recruiter or HR department manager will NOT look at you without a college degree of some kind. I don't see that changing for years, because there will continue to be a "glut" of highly-degreed and desperate candidates out there, all competing for the same job.

    Most kids aren't really mentored in high school to think about what they want and to plan for it - and "extended adolescence" through the mid-20s has become the norm. It's sad.

    Few kids get real input from a professional who works in the field while they're in high school OR college, even fewer get real statistics about the number of jobs in the arts, say, or the music business. Even fewer still get real encouragement and help to think about what vocation God might have in mind for them.

    Maybe we should encourage kids to take a year or so off between high school and college or advanced training, take some courses at the local community college while they get adjusted to "real life". Make them take responsibility for things like car insurance, rent, etc. Encourage them talk to people who actually work in fields they're interested in. Encourage more young adults to think outside the box and pursue fields like auto mechanic, HVAC, nursing, medical coding, child care - all those require post-college training and licensing, but you don't need a 4-year degree.

    Even in fields like mine (engineering), often you can get a job as an aide or a technician with some training at a community college. Working as a tech for a few years, or working a classroom aide in a school, gives you a much better idea of what you want to do in those fields. Then go to a 4-year'll get more out of it.

  29. Hmmm. . .talk about thought-provoking! My diploma is in my bedroom closet. . .somewhere. I worked my way through college without a degree, then graduated to marry and have babies and have never worked a day in that field! And that feels wasteful.

    Yet I learned a lot about working hard, setting a goal and obtaining it, being independent. . .which I could have learned in other pursuits. . .

    Another point to consider is some of the stuff we learn in college that we have to UNLEARN in life. . .especially that degree in secular humanism!

  30. I totally agree with your conclusion with a caveat.

    I started out going to a 4-year university, but then realized that I couldn't afford it. So what I did was start a job at a major company that offered tuition reimbursement as a secretary. I found that I enjoyed the company that I worked for, so I mentored with several of the leaders within the company to find out what degree would be worth pursuing. I then pursued that degree with tuition reimbursement, essentially making the company pay for the degree that they "required".

    I will encourage all my children to do the same. Work for a company (that has tuition reimbursement) in a low-level position, find out if you like the company and would like to do that kind of work. Then make the company pay for your degree. If you don't like the company, try to find a job at a different type of company. While you're searching for a good company, you're still gaining valuable experience and collecting a paycheck.

    My degrees (I went on to pursue a Master's on my company's dime) have escalated my salary almost quadruple to what I was earning when I first started. I have continued to work for my compnay for the last 10 years, and Lord willing, will retire from them.

  31. I haven't read all the comment. . . I've got a 4 yr degree and 4 kids. No time to read. :-) I would tweak your argument a bit to say that what you choose to study can make your college degree useful or useless.

    I went to a small-ish Christian liberal arts college. When I met with my advisers they would ask questions like "What is God calling you to do for his kingdom?" not "What is a good job to pay the light bill?" I wish someone had told me Be a Nurse. Be a teacher. Be an accountant. These are defined careers!!

    I have a degree in Communications and Political Science. All that means is that I'm lots of fun to watch Fox news with on election night.

  32. My husband and I both work in higher education and have advanced degrees. But I do not disagree with you. I have long said that college is NOT for everyone, and that is where America goes wrong. We are the only country who tries to force every single person to go to college rather than actually helping them develop their God given talents.

    That being said, there is value to a degree if it is earned and used appropriately. Too many kids jump directly into an expensive division 1 school rather than starting at a community college, where costs are lower AND there are more opportunities for full ride scholarships. This because they want the "college experience" rather than the "college degree."

    The other side of the coin that isn't mentioned here is benefits. We have friends who make more than us with no degree, but they work 70 hour weeks, travel all the time, and have little or no paid benefits.

  33. I have an English degree that hasn't been "used" yet either and my husband has a Wildlife Education degree that has yet to be used. Really, you pay for the connections and the piece of paper, not much else. I can't say school prepared me for life (especially since I stay home) but I wouldn't have met my husband had I not gone to school either.

  34. My husband has FIVE college degrees which include: Chemical Engineering (speed school...not easy), Accounting, Business, Arts and something else...can't remember there so SO MANY and when the economy crashed, he was laid off from his chemical engineering job and could not find ANY WORK for OVER A YEAR so we sold off our possessions just to eat (literally) and ended up having to move 2300 miles away from my homestate in order for him to work with his family business. What is he doing now you ask? PAINTING.??? Ask me how much we still owe in his "student loans"? A LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry for venting but this topic gets me steamed quite often (LOL). Just pray for me people:)

  35. I have mixed feelings on this as well, I LOVED my college experience, I called it "adult lite" because I was out on my own (well living in the dorms and sorority house) and making my own decisions, but knew that I still had a little bit of security in my parents if something earth shattering happened. (sorry for the run on sentence) Going to the college I chose allowed me to study abroad for a semester, which frankly was the most amazing experience ever. I got a super useful degree in history and political science, which I have never used. BUT the job I have now requires a bachelors degree to even apply, so in that respect I dont feel that the degree itself is wasted.
    My husband on the other hand went to school, floundered for a few years (but made amazing friends that he wouldnt trade) before he realized that it just wasnt doing him any good at all and left. Now he is a restaurant manager and has pretty much maxed out on what he can make and where he can go with this company. 6 years later he is back at a junior college to get a technical degree as a radiology tech. I dont see his going to school for this as a waste bc its a job you cant get without this degree. I would have an issue if he decided he really wanted a history degree at this stage in our lives because of the lack of return on the investment.....

  36. This is why I believe community colleges are a great place to start. A student can work toward a degree, live at home, and have a part-time job, usually finishing at least this part debt-free.

    I think it also gives kids 2 more years to figure out "what to do with the rest of their lives" at a fraction of the cost.

    Great post, Walker!

  37. I am a Texas Tech gal, undergrad and masters. I'm the lucky girl who found Jesus, a good job, and an awesome husband out of this experience. I know I'm the exception.

    I just looked up the estimated cost per year (including all living expenses), at this relatively inexpensive university where the cost of living is quite low- $20,000 per year. Seriously? If you are getting some degree because you like it but don't know what you could possibly do with it, I think that's a hefty tab for extended adolescence.

    On the other hand, some kids choose majors like engineering because they hear they make good money... nevermind the fact they worked really hard for that C in high school precal. They rack up debt just to realize they're not cut out for college. Where's the happy middle?

    I think there's something to be said for pursuing education. But that rarely seems the case among today's incoming freshman- "the college experience" seems the primary thing they're interested in. What's even more disheartening is that universities are catering to them (see: who's the highest paid person at UT, A&M, and TTU- the football coaches).

  38. Which is exactly why we're looking in to thing like for our kids. Also, our school district has a program that allows the student to finish high school AND get two years community college credits concurrently, and then be guaranteed admission to a state school. We're definitely looking in to that :).

  39. Great comments!

    Walker here...probably the most interesting thing about higher-ed is how unaffected it is from the relatively recent massively disruptive consequences of the internet. If you think about it - the 4 year college experience is not a lot different than it was for our grandfathers. Kids showed up as freshmen, live on campus, physically are present in classrooms, take exams, etc. To me, I would expect higher-ed to look RADICALLY different than what it looked like in 1935 but it doesn't. There are so many built in costs with he current model...huge campuses, big expensive buildings, kids having to live in the area, etc. It just seems like this is an area of much needed reform.

    A comment was made earlier about how it was a good idea for kids to learn trades because trade work is work that cannot be outsourced. AWESOME POINT. The last job I had was in product marketing...the job before that was supply chain.... At my current employer, a big mult-national computer manufacturer, the finance and supply chain functions are moving even the marketing jobs are. No one is safe... Why should a company pay 80K for a mangager in finance when they can pay a dude in Mexico or Costa Rica 30K? It's a tough world out there...basically we need to train our kids to be adaptible and resilient....

  40. I have not read all the comments already listed, but I think college will always be important as long as so many employers require a bachellor's degree at minumu when looking to hire employees. Even in cases where they don't care what the degree is, I think they want to see that a younger person took the initiative to apply to school, saw it through to the very end, and received that diploma. It says something about the type of worker they will be. Can this be proven in other, less expense arenas? Absolutely. But for now, many employers are looking for that B.A. or B.S. degree.

    Think about it, for lots of people, college is the first time they really step out on their own and accomplish something themselves. No parents to remind you to do your homework. No guidance counselor checking off all your graduation requirements for you. This is many kids' first step into the "real world." I have said it's like being a half-grown up. Students still come home on break and probably bring a car full of laundry with them. But, they are learning valuable lessons for their future.

    These internet start up companies you talked about may pop up by the thousands, and for ever billioniare whose company is successful, there are thousands that go bankrupt. Also, they employee very few people. and ironically, those they do employ often have degrees in science and engineering.

    Again, some of this may be accomplished through less expensive means. But it doesn't lessen the value of college in my eyes one bit.


  41. I went to school on a full scholarship, so that was nice. And I worked like a mad dog to get the entire thing finished in the 4 years allotted so that I could graduate without loans. I did it, with the exception of one summer course that I paid for in cash.

    My degree is bachelors in nursing, so the skills I learned there have been vital. I am a geek, through and through. I don't look back on college and think "Oh what a blast!" (except that part where I met my husband :)). Instead, I look back and think "Man, I studied all those hours!".

    So I think that this debate really depends on what you're studying. I'm a huge Dave Ramsey fan, and I agree that paying scores of cash for a degree that will pay out only minimum is crazy. Gotta teach our kiddos to think abotu the big picture!

  42. It sure feels like college is good for those who have specific goals. A friend of mine is in medical school so that she can be a medical missionary, and this is the life God chose for her and laid on her heart long before she was looking for colleges. Me? I changed majors 5 times and ended up with an Associates that does me no good. My husband, 9 months at a technical school, and now is a successful mechanic. The black under his fingernails - that's called money folks.

    What I think is more important is preparing our kids for life, not hoping they will learn it when they move out and go to college. What if we taught our kids to love learning long before they are in classrooms and making decisions about their futures? That might change the way we look at higher education.

  43. Hi, Walker. I'm Marla, and I love your wife like nuts. My husband and I both have 4-year degrees from Christian colleges. He would TOTALLY agree with you and has ALWAYS said this. Until a few years ago, I kept saying, "But...but....but." Now I'm 100% with him. He's a (very, very good) web designer and taught himself everything he knows. I have a degree in elementary education and make a "living" as a mom, writer, and speaker.

    We'll strongly encourage our girls to do something OTHER than college. Like be missionaries.

  44. I agree in many regards--I don't think everyone who is attending college now should be there (we've set many people up for failure by allowing the entrance requirements to be so low in many schools that students who are at the bottom of meeting them will surely not succeed...after paying a few semesters of tuition), nor do I think that college should be a requirement for many of the jobs that it currently is.

    On the other hand, I attended a state school and between my parents' help (a few hundred dollars a year), my husband and I working (we were married before my junior year), scholarships, and a grant, I left college debt free. I felt that my 4 years prepared me for the teaching position that I served in for five years. I knew how to teach, I knew the laws that governed education, and I felt confident.

    My husband has been in school forever and is now a college chemistry professor. There is value for in-person teaching and labs for his students. He couldn't convey the way to measure chemicals online: they have to touch it, feel it, fail, and do it over to 'get it.' And we do want them to 'get it.' These are our future nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and researchers.

    The price of college, in many places has gotten out of hand, some of the jobs requiring a degree are ridiculous, but there is definitely a value to education: a way of learning that is gained, a new way to think and put information together, and, in the right degrees, a set of skills that truly do prepare you for your career ahead.

  45. My parents used to say that having a college degree was a "ticket" to getting a good job. They don't think so anymore. Since I'm a pharmacist, my degree is obviously needed, although since I only work one weekend a month and stay home with my children the other 26 days, I guess you could argue that I didn't really need college, either.

    My brother-in-law is very high up in one of the oil companies, and he does not have any college at all. He didn't need it since he worked his way up the ladder. I have an aunt, also, who does not have any college. She works with computers and the people with degrees come to her with their problems; she has experience, and they only have school.

  46. Bold! Very bold, Walker.

    I worked my tail off at Vanderbilt (if anything, I wish I had played more), and am not using any "skills" I learned there in my real life. And all the discipline and hard work ethic...learned that in high school. So you raise some really good questions.

    Doing the really different thing is hard. I suspect that's our biggest obstacle.

    Happy snow day to you tomorrow (speaking of school)!

  47. I have mixed feelings about this. My husband and I both have college degrees, and both of us *need* our degrees to be successful in our fields. However, neither of us got our degrees in "typical" way.

    My husband knew that he wanted to be a doctor from a young age. His parents promised to pay for undergrad at any school he chose, as long as he could get accepted. He got into Columbia University... cha-ching! His parents could only afford 3 years at this school, so he did a 5 year biomedical engineering program in 3 years, and started med school just after he became of legal drinking age! He took out loans for med school, but was very successful there and in his residency/fellowship, and actually found a way for the government to pay back a good portion of his loans based on the work he is doing. He is just finishing his fellowship, and with the government pay-back, his awesome job that he is starting, and some careful planning, we will have NO debt from his undergrad/med school/additional Master's degree he picked up to specialize in his field within 1-2 years of him actually "starting" his job. Yeah, he had a LOT of debt from med school, but it was definitely the right move for him, and he now has not only a job that he loves/is passionate about/is able to help many, many people... but is also very financially secure, and is unlikely to ever have that challenged (he is the ONLY person in the country to have received his specialty training- and he is able to transfer most of his skills/training to jobs outside of medicine if that becomes necessary.) Not a bad position to be in at his age!

    I didn't start school until I was 22 (got pregnant, married, divorced, and was a single-mom making barely more than minimum wage when I started.) I went to 2 years of community college in a nursing program- school was basically free because of scholarships/grants, but I took out some student loans because going to school 60+ hours/week left no time to work and I still needed to feed my baby and me. Anyway, 2 years of school= nursing license= multiple job offers= good, stable income. My employer then paid 75% of my tuition for me to finish my BS- I paid cash for the other 25%, and if I would have made better financial decisions, could have easily paid off my student loans within a year or 2. I now have a job where I can work two 4-hour shifts a week (and be home with my kids the rest of the time) and STILL make more than what I was making working full time at minimum wage (and hardly seeing my baby) when I was a single mom. My student loans will be paid off within 4 years of finishing my BS, and would have been paid off sooner if we didn't have a surprise pregnancy shortly after we got married:)

  48. In both our situations, loans were a great option that paved the way for an education that gave us very good, stable, financially lucrative jobs. I never would have been rich as a single mom working as an RN, but I certainly had more than enough money in my budget to complete an adoption, take care of my children, and pay back my loans. My husband is in an even better position.

    My hubby loved his time at Columbia, and feels that his experiences there were a huge part of what prepared him for his current job- and are not experiences he could have gotten at another university. He would love to see one of our children follow in his footsteps at his alma mater. However, we both realize that "the college experience" is not worth much, and certainly not worth the cost of tuition at an Ivy League school! We will support our kids in their college education, but we will also insure they are being educated in the appropriate place at the appropriate time. If our kids want to be doctors and nurses, they don't need to go to Columbia to do that! There are much less expensive options that will get them a much better education for those fields.

    Not every child needs to attend college immediately following high school- especially if they don't know what they want to "do". And not every child needs to attend a 4 year university- community/junior college is great for many, many careers (such as nursing.) BUT, we do agree that every child needs to do something that will give them the ability to financially take care of themselves and their family (including our girls, even if they get married and have children- because you never know what the future holds.) We will not pay for college for a degree that does not have a job/earning potential attached to it (um, Women's Studies, anyone? Or how about Midieval Literature?) We have no problem with the fact that our children might be passionate about things that do not have financial security attached to them (art, music, sports, ministry to name a few) and we will encourage them to pursue that... but they will not pursue education in those areas until they have completed education or training in something that will allow them to support themselves. If they then chose to use their salary to go to art school or something, that's great! But our financial support of their education will not pay for that (I know, we are meanies! We are totally okay with that.)

  49. Blogger hates me today, so one more...

    As for online education... my ADN to BSN program was online (except for the clinical components.) As a very motivated, individual learner type student, I was able to be successful in online college... but many people- including some very bright students I know- are not able to learn this way. I really REALLY struggled trying to learn statistics through an online class (thankfully my hubby- boyfriend at the time- was able to tutor me.) I do think some of the uses of remote learning are appropriate for all students (I mean, if you were just going to go sit in a classroom and listen to a lecture, there really is no reason that you need to be in that building and you probably would get just as much out of it watching it streaming from the comfort of your couch.) Our med school is doing a lot of this with lectures and stuff. But for the sciences, you really HAVE to be on-campus. You can't really do an autopsy online, you know? And blowing stuff up in a chemistry lab is much more fun when you don't have the risk of blowing up your actual house:) But anyway, you very much have to be a self-learner to be successful in online education, and that is just not the way many people are (my husband, bright and smart as he is, would not be successful with online education. We've tried.) But just because you have to be physically on campus does not mean you have to buy into the whole "college experience" thing. I mean, my sister (who is also a RN) lived at home while getting her degree and saved a ton of $. And got to enjoy mom's cooking instead of nasty cafeteria food. Win/win.

    Interesting topic!

  50. My husband says I ramble. Even when I blog. I guess he has a point:)

    Sorry for hijacking the comments!

  51. Looks like I'm coming in late to the game, but I agree with this partly.

    I worked my way through school to get my Accounting degree, and I think the work combined with the classes (because I was working in Accounting) actually helped my understanding and made me a better employee when I graduate. If I had just went to school I would not have had a clue how to apply anything that I had "learned", which would have been a total waste.

    The problem now is that so many people are "educated" that all employers want you to have that piece of paper, even if it doesn't mean anything. For there to be a change, employers will have to change.

  52. I am so glad to know that other people have this same discussion!!

    My husband and I both have bachelor's degrees, and he, being an overacheiver, has a masters and ABD on his doctorate. While he is in education and does receive financial incentive for the increase in education level, our geographical location (South Georgia) doesn't lend much reward for maximum education.

    That all being said, I think the emphasis on only 4-year traditional colleges being suitable for making life-changing wage-determining benefits for their students is the biggest misconception around!!! I know people who went to Tech and Trade schools for 2 years or less and make significantly more than I earn because they are highly trained in a practical manner in a competive field (welding, is just one example, likewise for nurses/healthcare techs who have associates degrees).

    If anything, the emphasis on these 4-year degrees have now oversaturated the job market with candidates who have bachelor's degrees in all kinds of different subjects that are still applying for entry-level jobs alongside those individuals who have high-school diplomas and GEDs. As an HR person, I've seen the emphasis swing more to years of experience in work/related feilds over years of education and I think that trend will continue.

    That being said, Go Georgia Bulldogs! Where I spent 3.5 years of my life being an avid sports fan, wearing lots of red and black, and 10% of my time working on a degree that no one knows what it means. (Speech Communications... and no, I don't mean Speech Therapy or Mass Communications) : )

  53. Pick up the new Family Circe magazine (white cover with bouquet of pink peonies or something on the front). There's a big article in there on this very issue and its very well stated!

    (My husband and I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts!)

  54. My husband has been saying this same thing for years, Walker (and Missy!). We went to the same overpriced private college together, and while our family is worth every penny, we are taking a much different approach with our kids. Take a year off, do an internship, volunteer. Decide if traditional college is right for you, and if it is, go to the one that gives you a full scholarship. No debt for any of us. Period.

  55. I have a bachelor's in engineering (and CLEP'd English so I didn't take it). After four years in the Air Force, I went back to get an associates in drafting so I could get a job. I now have two: drafting/database management and writer.

    But I'm lucking in that the AF paid for 7 of my 8 semesters at that private university.

  56. I do think that it is vital to get a "college experience" or go to a private or Christian school. To me, it's overrated. My boyfriend goes to a private school and that' okay because his parents can afford it. But I worked my butt off getting good grades and got to a local "Community college" but it is a university for free. They actually pay me to go to school! I think that for my major, education, that it is important to go to college. However, our society looks down on "community colleges" and think they are not good enough. But they give an equal if not better education! I think the problem is that we give into what we WANT instead of what will work best for us. If I had done what I wanted, I would be in a private school spending 26,000 a year but instead, I chose a local liberal college that is less than 8000 a year BUT I have scholarships to cover that. If you work hard (which no one ever wants to do that), you can get through without owing. My number one priority was to NEVER take out loans. That is what got America in the state that we are now! :) Therefore, if you go to what school is best for you (money wise) and get the same education, instead of what you want and what fits your idea of the "college experience," then you can come out on top! :) Plus being put down for my faith and learning to defend myself, in love is more of a better experience that I could learn at any school, including a private school

    Great post :)

  57. I loved UCLA and am so thankful I was able to go there for a number of reasons. I loved it. My parents paid for it too which was more lovable. No debt.

    But it didn't really prepare me for my career - motherhood.

    We host and lead young adults small group at our house (18-25 year olds) . . . in 20 minutes. Several of them graduated last spring . . . and can't find jobs. A few of them went to $$$$ schools (that's code for Christian schools).

    My goal for my kids J-U-N-I-O-R College!

  58. Not everyone goes to college to live the life and drink beer. I went to get my degree so I could become a teacher. I cannot do that without a degree and it's the only thing I want to do with my life. Was it expensive? Yes. But I wouldn't ever have my dream job without it. I have never had a sip of alcohol and truly spent my time in college doing two things: school work or involved with campus ministries.
    Unfortunately, I cannot work because I have become permanently disabled. Therefore my degree IS worthless and my diploma and teaching certificate are collecting dust. Still, if I was able to get a job, I wouldn't get my dream job if I hadn't gone to college.

  59. I'm with you. College is not necessary for all, and those who decide it necessary should not wrack up incredible debt for it. I went to 2 years of private school and transferred to a state school for the next 3 years. I got a degree--in the oh-so-useful field of art :)--but have worked in jobs since that have required me to have a college degree. They don't care what, it's just in the hiring agreement. That having been said, I worked my tail off in school, had minimal help from my parents, worked on average 20 hrs/week outside of school (and summer jobs several summers), was active in international student ministry, and had all school loans paid off 6 months after graduation. IT IS POSSIBLE, by God's grace. It just requires making some tough choices and sacrifices sometimes, but let me tell you, I cannot tell you how glad I am to not be saddled with school debt now.

  60. You hit the nail on the head! Our young adults would benefit so much more from actual life experiences... aka a JOB in their field of interest, than in partying in a dorm while reading a book about it! I think a big problem though is that it is EASIER to send your kid off to college than to help direct him/her in a less traditional route. I homeschooled in highschool while also attending a community college for freshman and sophmore courses. Because I was a dual enrolled student, my classes were free and I graduated highschool with two yrs of college under my belt DEBT FREE! My parents understood the value of a good education, but sacrificed to help me get it without paying a hefty price tag. I finished college with virtually no debt and a photography degree that I use while staying at home with my two kids. It can be done!

  61. Hi Walky,
    I see your point. However, it'd be awfully difficult to begin a career in engineering, med, law, business, etc. out of high school. If one hopes to have a career with a higher income, good benefits, upward mobility, and a wife who can stay home with kids(if God so blesses, of course), then college is necessary. Even with my liberal arts education, and the fact that I stay home, I am so thankful for my education! I gained valuable knowledge, learning skills and confidence, and I have options when I return to the work force.

  62. Wow. There's a lot of comments. I'm pretty much guaranteed to repeat someone else.

    I pretty much agree. I think a person should go to college if that is what they want and they can pay for it. I don't think someone should go to college because that is what is expected. I would be more than happy to have my kids be mechanics, hairstylists, plumbers, and so on. I have no intention of putting myself in debt to send my child to college, and I will not limit the size of my family based on paying for college (which seems to be the norm, really). I will support my kids in doing what they are called to do, college or not.

    I loved my college experience. I don't use my degree now, but I did learn a lot while there and am happy I went. Of course, I had scholarships for everything and didn't accrue any debt, so my perspective might be a bit different.

    Good words here though!

  63. I have a history degree and ended up working in finance on Wall Street. So history degree does not immediately equal serving coffee. While I did not directly use my degree, I did use the analytical skills I learned while writing history papers. It was those skills that lead me to Wall Street.I was fortunate in that my parents were able to provide me with a college education, however, I chose to attend Indiana University instead of a private school. Had I chosen Boston University, where I was also accepted, I would have graduated with between 80k-100k in loans. By choosing IU, I received a great, affordable education and was able to move to NYC to work on Wall Street. I do not think college is for everyone however, it was for me.

  64. i'm not going to get into the education/$/online debate...
    and just say that right now I'd kill for a snickers latte from sweet eugenes.

  65. I have a degree in English. I've yet to 'use' it. But that degree only cost about $8,000. Back in the good old days.

    So are you saying that you were this talented of a writer in High School and college had nothing to do with your abilities now?

    The purpose of college needs to be redefined. It is not about getting a specific degree to get a specific job in a specific field. I, for one, have a biochemistry degree, and work in the software industry for myself. I haven't used the degree but the ability to process thought, solve problems, deal with life situations and spend a wonderful time finding out about life and God.

    College is a unique experience that can't be replace by anything online. We must be careful to raise our kids with an ability to communicate outside of technology otherwise there will be no jobs available.

    What we spend on it is another subject entirely but a good 4 yr bachelors program that doesn't put you into debt for the next 20 years is priceless

  66. Jim -
    So are you saying that you were this talented of a writer in High School and college had nothing to do with your abilities now?

    Actually, yes and no. I don't think I learned how to write at UT. I really think I learned how to write from reading, and usually NOT things that were assigned!

    It's such a hard topic. I totally agree with you that kids need to communicate outside of technology. But the price of college is just ridiculous. Knowing my kids, they will want to pursue artsy fartsy majors that will never pay well (like their mom. And their dad - had he not chosen to be pragmatic, he would have been a history major.) And if that artsy fartsy degree costs 100K? So cannot do that.

    So what will we do???

    Only time will tell....

  67. I have to disagree. A good college teaches you how to think critically, which helps you to be able to discern value from crap, good from bad, propaganda from truth. It teaches you logic, perseverance, discipline/how to study, etc. Although you may not need to pull out a scientific calculator after college, learning advanced math fires those brain neurons and makes you smarter and better able to handle challenges later in life, regardless of their nature. It is true that Sociology, English, History, and other liberal arts disciplines do not translate directly into the marketplace, but I don't think that's a good reason for not teaching people to think, make cross-disciplinary connections, etc. These subjects, more than anything else, I think, give you perspective on yourself and the world. And as for the more applicable subjects, as Math, Engineering, Science, etc., those are obviously more applicable in the "real world," and it's necessary to have degrees to find employment in those industries (my husband is a geologist and, of course, would not have a job in that industry without a degree).

    I also think college is about learning to be an adult. It's about learning a few life skills away from the shelter of your parents but still under some sort of protection/shelter that's not quite out in the rigor of the real world.

    Keep in mind that all this comes from a Rice grad whose husband just finished his Ph.D. at Harvard, so my experiences and love of academia certainly color my opinion, just as yours do.

    Sorry for the thesis!

  68. I don't think I've commented in over a year. I"m trying to be better this year about leaving comments on blogs I read.
    I do think college can be good, but it has to be for the right person. My dh family encouraged him not to go to college. He is cleary a person who is very educated, and college would have been perfect for him. He now has his own business and does well.
    We are Dave Ramsey fans too, so there would have to be very compelling reasons in my opinion for someone to go to college and have lots of debt.
    I also have other concerns about the higher education turning into technical school type places. That is fine, but let's call it what it is.
    Here's an a blog post about it.

  69. Well, all three of my kids have college degrees ~ thanks to Mom and Dad :) ~ as do their spouses. I think it is just wonderful that all three of my girls (two daughters-in-law and one daughter) are currently able to stay at home and raise their children because that is so clearly what each of them wanted to be able to do!

    Their husbands' college degrees made that possible!

    Certainly EVERYone is not going to desire a college education or be suited to that challenge and no child should be forced into it. I have a very talented artist brother-in-law who never had the least bit of interest in going to college and his personal gifts and achievements have been extraordinary withOUT a diploma!

    My husband and I have absolutely no regrets that we provided this for our children, even while going through some very lean times ourselves. All of them expressed a desire to go and all three did well at TAMU! It was a great joy to us and we are confidant that they will appreciate that gift more and more as the years go by!

  70. College is not for everyone, and it's worth it for every high school graduate to consider what's best for them. I graduated from a small Christian liberal arts college with a B.A. in biology and a little less than $10,000 in debt. It would have been half that if I hadn't taken out student loans for travel courses. I semi-use my degree at this point, but my college experience is worth every penny of that $10,000 for the critical thinking skills it honed and the networking opportunities it gave me. Online classes don't give you networking opportunities and friendships like a real campus community does, nor does it foster spontaneous discussion, and I would probably not encourage anyone to pursue an online degree.

  71. This is so interesting. Not only your article, but the multitude of responses from real people with real stories, that in my opinion, tell us way more than statistics do.

    I loved college. I'm thankful I went. I got my four year teaching degree, taught for three years, had a child, got my master's on-line while staying at home with him (trust me, on-line schools have their place!), and am looking forward to going back into the teaching field when he starts Kindergarten next year.

    I'll be making $44,000 annually. My dh, who did not get even one hour of college credit, made 72K last year. He's a brilliant mechanic who can fix anything with wheels or a motor...or pretty much anything that makes noise of any sort ;).

    Our plan for our son is to save for college, but teach him 'real life skills' too. Wherever his gift is, or future desire is, that's what we'll help him pursue. -Unless he wants a degree in philosophy or paleontology, that is.

    Thanks so much for this post and the interesting discussion it has created.

  72. not that I agree with his world view, I agree with his thoughts on college which run along the same line as yours:

  73. To put it simply: I think higher education is good. But I think loans are bad.

    I'm actually severely allergic to debt and am soooooooo thankful that my parents are also. They helped me get through school without any. I hope to do the same for my kids, but unfortunately it won't look quite the same (my parents paid for my college, but even though my husband and I have degrees--something to be pround of, by the way-- we don't make much money and will be encouraging our kids to go to a cheap school and/or work their way through themselves somehow).

  74. wow. hehe. i laughed when you mentioned the part about ending up a "barista" behind a coffee counter with a college education. That's exactly what I did. Smile. I couldn't agree more. Thank you. Especially that back-packing through Europe bit. :)

  75. i didn't go to law school, even though i was pre law and always wanted to be a lawyer working with international adoptions.
    but i also wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. and was engaged by my senior year. and when i looked at how much law school costs and how long i would probably have to practice before we wanted to have kids, it just wasn't worth the money.
    good decision - since i was pregnant much earlier than we had planned, which would have been when i was still in law school!

  76. Evidently back in the 1960's or 70's high schools used to offer trade training as an option for people who did not want to go to college. That was taken away because of accusations of segregation of people who were choosing trades instead of the college route. Everyone was encouraged to go to college because that way there was equality. That has backfired now because kids graduate from high school with no skills and no way to provide income other than minimum wage. Most good jobs require a degree, even if it is irrelevant to the job itself.

  77. we agree with your post. we have had many conversation on this topic. anymore it just feels like another avenue for others to take ones money and put them in debt, while the graduate walks away with a piece of paper. and what? any life experience? nope. any inner growth? nope. any IF that paper helps them get the foot in the door, so to speak, is it even worht the path that got them there. i mean the door that foot is in, is it EVEN a place one will be content going to EVERY day. probably not. it just seems to be programmed into kids. i did not want to go to college, but i did and gratuated. i think that time could have been used to do other things I needed to do rather than sit in some dorm room and wonder what i was doing there.
    anyhow, you are correct. online courses are all over the net, alternative learning, out of the box possibilities. so to me, a college ed is worth, well, alot of money; thats about it. i say, teach yourself, experience the world, read up on what interests you, not others. our brains are capable of learning what is needed. period. fill it with what one belives not what others tell you to believe. our brains are our own, there is no price tag on them. we are born with them and our capabilites to feed them with nutrition that matters to each own is up to the individual, not the population at large. great post!

  78. I totally agree! I went to college for my MRS. degree, got that and a BS. I've never really used it,as I am a homeschooling, SAH mom. My DH, however, did not go to college, and does just fine supportin me and soon to be 8 kids.
    We've all heard stories, like a man I know, who is a plumber, and makes more than his brother; a Doctor. The problem is getting society to accept internships, and other on the job training, instead of insisting on degrees.

  79. ha! Love IT! Going to have to have my hubby read this one, he would agree with Walker 110%. We were just comparing our school loans the other day. It's crazy.

  80. Yes, yes, yes I AGREE!!!! I have said this for years myself.

    College is a rip off. You really learn nothing. I personally went to nursing school and learned NOTHING.

    Everything I "learned" was memorized info for a test. I couldn't tell you ANY of that now...not any. Everything I really needed to know I learned ON THE JOB.

    So incredibly frustratiing, especially the part where I HAVE to work now, instead of staying home with my baby, just so I can pay back these school loans. *sigh*

  81. Amen, brother. We at the Byrd house second and third that.

    All I read says that the spike in $$$ is buying better gym equipment, fancier dorms, and better menus. My neighbor now goes to my alma mater (Rice) and his dad told me he pays $40,000 per year (mine paid $10,500 - 12,000 depending on the year) and he has a maid service!!! And the Bachelor degree earns less than it used to! You don't even have a better student/teacher ratio (it's still a pretty good one though and I loved college)

    It's a huge money making scheme and, in my opinion (I often sport tin foil hats) an effort to divide the haves and the have-nots more. Complete rip off.

    I bet handing a kid $20,000 to start a business will teach him more in the long run however hard he fails. He can invest much of that tuition money and support his family better than the degree probably could. And there's always a library card so you can read all those fantastic books for free. I'm all for a good education, but who says you have to pay an arm and a leg for it and acquire it in just one way.

  82. I realize this is an old post, but I think a lot of people took this personally. Education is good, but we have recently began to see it as essential. As a status symbol or an automatic step, rather than a means to a specific end. I loved college, learned a ton, and had lots of fun. But we will not make the money our parents made. Our children will all have even less. Mostly a growing national and personal debt.

    If you want to be a Doctor, you need to go to college. Same with many fields. But for those kids who don't know what they want, they need to figure it out in a way that doesn't cost $40,000+ a year (it'll be much higher when my 1 year old enters). The cost of education has risen much faster than the costs of healthcare or the growth of inflation. We have grown ashamed of trades. Jesus was a carpenter, so why do I think I have to be embarrassed if my kid's formal education is modest? What gospel am I buying into with that thinking? I am open to my children going to college, but only with a clear idea of what they want to accomplish. We will give them what we can save, but the cost of higher education will largely be on their shoulders and thoughts such as these have freed me from the burden of feeling I must pay for all of it. Either many of the next generation will forgo formal higher education, or we will demand it be revolutionized. Perhaps I'll have that energy to help tackle that when all the kids are out of diapers...

  83. Jo I'm not sure if it is even worth it to be a doctor etc.

    Two days ago on Dave Ramsey, a guy called in with $140 in student loans to be a pilot. He was making 25K a year and said it would be 10 years before he made a good living, because it is all based on seniority. "They told me I'd be rich" the poor guy said.

    Then just yesterday an attorney called with $180 in student loan debt, some private. It took him a whole year to get a job, during which time he wracked up credit card bills, and finally got one making $50K a year. He has 4 kids. One can barely feed 4 kids on $50K, trust me I know, much less pay back loans.

    I just cannot imagine the stress of having that much debt!! Was it worth it??

    I think they both shoulda become plumbers. Goodness knows we keep our plumber in business.

  84. I agree. I shouldn't have used doctor as an example. I just mean if you feel called to do something or your field of interest requires a degree, go for it. But automatically putting your kid in college b/c that's what all the rich/middle class people do might not be responsible financially for those of us without $160,000+ per kid to spare. It might hurt the child more to embark on that education than investing that money wisely would.

    I strongly support learning trades. It can often be useful, a means to an end, or an end in itself.

  85. Maya Frost (who I don't know from Joe, and isn't necessarily a believer) encouraged her daughters to embrace what she calls "bold schooling". They moved to Argentina when one of the girls was in high school, and gave their kids a global education. None of them did the "traditional" college route (although I think all of them did wind up with degrees.) One of them aced an interview with Norwegian Cruise lines in 3 languages and now has a job she loves...the others are allegedly similarly "successful" in their chosen path.

  86. This comment has been removed by the author.

  87. Excellent post! Have you read "A Different Kind of Teacher" by John Taylor Gatto? This book exposes the the fallacies of our educational system and the failure of colleges. Mr. Gatto is a former NY city & state public school teacher of the year.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Very refreshing!

  88. Krista said
    You only need to go to college if you are actually going to use your brain and be productive while there

    and i say AMEN.

    You get out of college what you put into it. In effort I mean.

    Anyone who wants to pay any amount of money for four years and expect it to work some magic cure on their life is in for a big let down.

    I have a bachelors in history. Do I currently do historical research for a living?
    no. But I know how and that ability has been applicable to many other situations in my life. I learned how to question, and how to find answers.

    Under no circumstances did I expect a degree to change my life. Which is one of the reasons that I took eleven YEARS to graduate with that BA. Because I did it 2 classes at a time while I worked on campus.

  89. Great post!

    A young adult friend just told me last night that he was a bit concerned about continuing a dating relationship because the young lady has $170,000 in student loans. YIKES! Seriously?!?!?! I wouldn't want to marry someone who already had that much debt ... in their 20's. Oh my!

    As the mama of a dozen children, we have not pushed each and every one into college. College is a good thing, generally speaking, but it is not the end all of end alls.

    son #1 ... chose the military

    son #2 ... just completed his B.A. last month, and has NO college debt. He went to community college for 2 years ... managed a coffee shop for a year ... attended a private college for a year ... worked 2 jobs for a year to pay off the private college debt ... spent a year in Ammon, Jordan going to Arabic Language School ... came home, enrolled in the public university while living at home ... and completed his B.A.. He started community college at age 16 ... graduated with B.A. at 24 ... but had some amazing life experiences strewn throughout his college education. Now, he is off to the Navy, and Officer Candidacy School.

    son #3 started community college at age 17 ... will complete his B.A. at age 21 ... with NO DEBT. He is 20 years old ... goes to school full-time ... works 30 hours/week ... is getting married this summer ... and we couldn't be more proud of his work ethic. He had to go to college to pursue his career dream ... he will be a high school English teacher.

    oldest 3 daughters ... all completed 2 years at the community college (debt free) ... all chose to NOT attend a university ... all chose to travel abroad with missions organizations ... all have worked a variety of jobs ... all are happy and successful young adults withOUT college degrees.

    Can't wait to see what our next 6 children choose to do with their lives. I am sure they will all be successful, withOUT a boatload of college debt.

    Laurel :)



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