Dispelling the notion that "college is not worth it".

There seems to be a popular message floating around media circles these days that there is an “education bubble” and that due to the high cost, college is no longer “worth it”.

I believe this notion is misguided.

A couple of facts from a recent study:
Graduates with a bachelor degree earn about $17,500 more than those with just a high school diploma. And that gap is rising.

Unemployment for Millennials (age 25-32) with a degree is around 3.8%. Over 12% for those with just a high school diploma.

College grads are less likely to live in poverty.

College grad earn much more over their lifetime.

No cite, but let’s not discount the fact that if you want a job as a doctor, lawyer, engineer, accountant, teacher, or almost any other professional job, you typically need a degree in that field as a prerequisite. A lot of people will say “college is not a trade school”, but I sort of have to ask what the heck those people think they plan to do for a living once they graduate? Get hired by some nebulous “Employer, Inc.” for some abstract “job”?

Maybe you’re hopingbillionaire Peter Thiel is going to pay you to drop out of collegeto fund your startup. Fact is that most SUCCESSFUL startups are founded by educated, experienced professionals. Not 20-something wannabe Zuckerberg college dropouts. So basically you would be tossing away your education to build what is likely some dumb Android or iPhone app that will be mostly owned by a venture capital firm anyway.

Without a degree, your career options are quite limited - I think trying to argue against that is pretty silly. That being said, the devil’s in the details in most of these arguments - usually the media I see on the subject is more of a cost benefit analysis approach regarding things such as a very expensive private school not offering enough of a benefit over a state school in terms of increased earning potential versus debt load upon graduation. I don’t see the stuff you’re talking about in the OP in the media I consume, maybe I’m just not looking in the right places.

It really depends on what you want a college education for. If you want higher net lifetime income, then you have to pick your college and your major carefully. The opportunity cost of attending college combined with the tuition at some of these colleges can be higher than the additional income you get from some of these degrees.

If you have a passion for something then that’s a different story.

Why do the skilled trades get lumped in with all the losers of the world?

Maybe we are losers. I certainly don’t get treated as a winner; wouldn’t say I feel like one in that regard.

I don’t. I have several good friends who did not go to college, who started out in the skilled trades and who now own their own companies and who do very well, financially. You can make a decent living as an electrician, and you could make a very good living as an electrical contractor with several tradesmen working for you.

Where did anyone say that? Wouldn’t they get lumped into the “two year degree” category? “Skilled” implies you had to study something somewhere.

It really depends on where you are getting your details from. If you are calling it “skilled” vs “unskilled” then it’s true and the skill trades are generally included. But if it’s “College/Higher Ed” vs “Not” then you tend to have a lot of the skilled trades lumped into the “Not” category. This is because, at least from my experience, a lot of the people in skilled trades were apprenticed. You went to work with Uncle Dan and learned how to fix cars, work with electricity, weld, or otherwise.

A lot of the actual training situations, even in unions, don’t follow the path of school or certification (except in certain areas where law/establishment require it) for most of the skilled trades. You’ll get paired with someone experienced and paid what amounts to ketchup-flavored dirt for two to five years while you are learning how to not complete a circuit on your body with a welding rod.

I believe the fact that your OP mentions bachelors degree and high school education and doesn’t discuss anything in between would lend it to that interpretation for pretty much anyone. You mention no skilled trades in your list of desirable professions either.

This is definitely a pet peeve of mine. In every vaguely relevant conversation, someone always pipes up with “Oh, you shouldn’t go to college, it’s not a good deal anymore.” This is bad advice that, if taken, ruins lives. Unless you genuinely cannot pass college level work, college is basically always a good idea.

Skilled trades are nice, but the reality is that most work is in offices. And most work in offices is increasingly skilled. What looks like “degree inflation” is often just a reflection of increasing skill. Yes, you used to be able to become a secretary without a degree. That was back when typing and filing were relatively rare skills and needed a full-time person dedicated to them. Now, typing and filing are basic requirements just to exist in the 21st century. Last time I was a secretary, I was doing technical writing, basic website maintenance and complex internet research.

My personal opinion is that this trend is a defensive move by people who have reaped the benefit of their own college degree, but would like to keep that market nice and uncrowded.

I think more often, it’s said by people who didn’t choose their college degree wisely. If you’re a liberal arts major from an ivy league school working as a barista, it’s easy to say that the degree wasn’t worth it. For you, at this time, it certainly has not been worth it.

However, I’d say two things to that person: 1) some degrees have a lot more upside in a cost:benefit analysis than others; you have to be intelligent about what you study and how much money you spend studying it, 2) just because you are not currently seeing a direct benefit doesn’t mean that you haven’t benefited now and/or will not benefit in the future.

One example I cite of a hidden benefit is from my own life: when I first started school, I picked a major that didn’t work out for me. I wound up not finishing my degree and thought that I had wasted my 4 years there. However, when I finally got set on the right path, I found that the credits I picked up meant I could get my CPA license in only 2 additional years years - 6 years total. If I’d started without all those “wasted” classes, I’d have been 5 years away from a CPA license. So, in the end, very little of my time in school turned out to have been wasted. I just didn’t know how it would be useful until 10 years down the road.

If you click into the article - and assume that skilled trades are included in two year degrees/some college - you’ll get some data. You are still better off getting a four year degree.

I agree that it’s bad advice to just tell someone not to go to college. But if we’re talking about taking out $25,000 in loans or more to do so, you really do have to take into account your future ability to pay back the loan given your field of study. And of course, as you mentioned, your ability to complete your degree. Aside from being unable to do college coursework, many people stop going because life intrudes. The loans are still there though.

As with any investment, college is a risk. It’s even more of a risk if you’re borrowing. Like most solid investments, it’s a GOOD risk, but that doesn’t mean it’s a going to work out for all people and all financial situations. Borrowing $50,000 for a degree you have no intention of using to get an actual job is dumb(See the huge number of psychology majors who don’t work in the field). Borrowing huge amounts of money to go to school when you’re 40 is also not smart in most situations.

This was mentioned in another thread, but one of the big indicators that a bubble is in progress and that people are taking on debt they can’t pay back is the huge amount of advertising for college we are seeing now compared to in the past. IT’s a win-win for them: they get their money no matter what. You and the taxpayers only win if you get a degree in an in demand field.

The other thing you have to take into account is just how long you’ll need to go to school on loans. If life intrudes and you have to take some time off, you can get into serious trouble. My brother-in-law wants to go all the way through medical school. He chose a private college, so he’s already borrowed $70,000 just to get his bachelor’s. But then his dad got sick and he had to spend two years working and not going to school, and he fell delinquent on his loans(how could he not). So now he can’t borrow anymore without a co-signer, and no suitable co-signers are available. So now he’s got $70,000 in loans, a fairly useless bachelors’, with no more access to higher education.

Fortunately, he’s the kind of guy who never lets anything get in his way, so he’s joined the Navy, which will pay off a lot of those loans and give him access to higher education again when he gets out, plus a lot of medical training while in the service. For a lot of other people, that would be an impossible path, or one that is so undesirable as to be dreaded.

My wife borrowed $8000 before falling ill and taking three years off. Since she fell delinquent, she cannot get loans anymore either. Thank goodness it was only one year’s worth of loans.

It isn’t “worth it” for some people. Some people will go to college and then have a career arc that mirrors what they would have had they simply gone to a trade school or not gone to school at all. Some will go to college, earn a great deal of money but they may find themselves as much as $100k in debt and unable to get out from under until their early 30s or even later.

Having said that, an educated populace is a productive one. One of the reasons that rural areas around the US (especially in the South and Southwest) are so backward economically is the fact that college educated people are scarce. Most are teachers,attorneys and medical doctors, not the engineers,IT professionals and business grads that would be necessary to attract businesses.

It’s clear that some time of advanced training is necessary if people want to earn an above average wage or greater. Whether that training is a college education or not really depends upon the person and what they are seeking in life.

I live in the SF Bay Area, and i can tell you that there are many trades (that only require a HS diploma) that do quite well, and are unionized. There are also many fields with advanced degrees that do very well. Apart from that, it is very expensive to live here because of housing costs.

I agree that a university education is a good thing, in general; but what I don’t understand is why universities are not required to publish placement rates. It would seem to be in the public interest to know the chances of securing a job after graduation.

Probably becuase it’s not supposed to be just about money, getting an education. Which I think is true, unless you’re borrowing. and since most people seem to be borrowing now, they need to know whether they are likely to be doomed to a life of debt or not.

Here’s another horror story: my mother. Bachelors in Marine Biology. Currently, her SS check is having student loan payments deducted from it. Marine Biology is another one of those exciting degrees where there are far more people with the degree than actually using it in a related career.

Before you send everyone to college, take a bit of time and read what Mike Rowe has written about the growing skills gap in this country. http://www.mikeroweworks.com/home
He makes a lot of sense.

Federal student loans have 7 different payback mechanisms, several of which are capped to a percent (15% or 10%) of your disposable income with full forgiveness after a certain time. You can switch these to whatever is most favorable at any given time. Deferral is pretty easy to arrange in truly difficult circumstances. If student loans are breaking you, you are doing it wrong.

I am aware of that, I am making a different point.