Skip to comments.Is College A Waste Of Time And Money?
Posted on 03/30/2014 6:42:52 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
Are you thinking of going to college? If so, please consider that decision very carefully. You probably have lots of people telling you that an "education" is the key to your future and that you will never be able to get a "good job" unless you go to college. And it is true that those that go to college do earn more on average than those that do not. However, there is also a downside. At most U.S. colleges, the quality of the education that you will receive is a joke, the goal of most colleges is to extract as much money from you and your parents as they possibly can, and there is a very good chance that there will not be a "good job" waiting for you once you graduate. And unless you have someone that is willing to pay your tuition bills, you will probably be facing a lifetime of crippling student loan debt payments once you get out into the real world. So is college a waste of time and money? In the end, it really pays to listen to both sides of the debate.
Personally, I spent eight years at U.S. public universities, and I really enjoyed those times.
But would I trade my degrees today for the time and money that I spent to get them?
Right now, Americans owe more than a trillion dollars on their student loans, and more than 124 billion dollars of that total is more than 90 days delinquent.
It is a student loan debt bubble unlike anything that we have ever seen before, and now even those that make their living from this system are urging reform. For example, consider what a law professor at the University of Tennessee recently wrote for the Wall Street Journal...
In the field of higher education, reality is outrunning parody. A recent feature on the satire website the Onion proclaimed, "30-Year-Old Has Earned $11 More Than He Would Have Without College Education." Allowing for tuition, interest on student loans, and four years of foregone income while in school, the fictional student "Patrick Moorhouse" wasn't much better off. His years of stress and study, the article japed, "have been more or less a financial wash."
"Patrick" shouldn't feel too bad. Many college graduates would be happy to be $11 ahead instead of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, behind. The credit-driven higher education bubble of the past several decades has left legions of students deep in debt without improving their job prospects. To make college a good value again, today's parents and students need to be skeptical, frugal and demanding.
When a lot of young Americans graduate from college and can't find a decent job, they are told that if they really want to "be successful" that what they really need is a graduate degree.
That means more years of education, and in most cases, even more debt.
But by the time many of these young achievers get through college and graduate school, the debt loads can be absolutely overwhelming...
The typical debt load of borrowers leaving school with a master's, medical, law or doctoral degree jumped an inflation-adjusted 43% between 2004 and 2012, according to a new report by the New America Foundation, a left-leaning Washington think tank. That translated into a median debt loadthe point at which half of borrowers owed more and half owed lessof $57,600 in 2012.
The increases were sharper for those pursuing advanced degrees in the social sciences and humanities, versus professional degrees such as M.B.A.s or medical degrees that tend to yield greater long-term returns. The typical debt load of those earning a master's in education showed some of the largest increases, rising 66% to $50,879. It climbed 54% to $58,539 for those earning a master of arts.
In particular, many are questioning the value of a law school education these days. Law schools are aggressively recruiting students even though they know that there are way, way too many lawyers already. There is no way that the legal field can produce enough jobs for the huge flood of new law school graduates that are hitting the streets each year.
The criticism has become so harsh that even mainstream news outlets are writing about this. For instance, the following comes from a recent CNN article...
For the past three years, the media has picked up the attacks with relish. The New York Times, in an article on a graduate with $250,000 in loans, put it this way: "Is Law School a Losing Game?" Referring to the graduate, the Times wrote, "His secret, if that's the right word, is to pretty much ignore all the calls and letters that he receives every day from the dozen or so creditors now hounding him for cash," writes the author. Or consider this blunt headline from a recent Business Insider article: "'I Consider Law School A Waste Of My Life And An Extraordinary Waste Of Money.'" Even though the graduate profiled in the piece had a degree from a Top 20 law school, he's now bitterly mired in debt. "Because I went to law school, I don't see myself having a family, earning a comfortable wage, or having an enjoyable lifestyle," he writes. "I wouldn't wish my law school experience on my enemy."
In America today, approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loan debt, and the average debt level has been steadily rising. In fact, one study found that "70 percent of the class of 2013 is graduating with college-related debt averaging $35,200 including federal, state and private loans, as well as debt owed to family and accumulated through credit cards."
That would be bad enough if most of these students were getting decent jobs that enabled them to service that debt.
But unfortunately, that is often not the case. It has been estimated that about half of all recent college graduates are working jobs that do not even require a college degree.
Could you imagine that?
Could you imagine investing four or five years and tens of thousands of dollars in a college degree and then working a job that does not even require a degree?
And the really sick thing is that the quality of the education that most college students are receiving is quite pathetic.
Recently, a film crew went down to American University and asked students some really basic questions about our country. The results were absolutely stunning...
When asked if they could name a SINGLE U.S. senator, the students blanked. Also, very few knew that each state has two senators. The guesses were all over the map, with some crediting each state with twelve, thirteen, and five senators.
I have posted the YouTube video below. How in the world is it possible that college students in America cannot name a single U.S. senator?...
These are the leaders of tomorrow?
That is a frightening thought.
If parents only knew what their children were being taught at college, in most instances they would be absolutely horrified.
The following is a list of actual college courses that have been taught at U.S. colleges in recent years...
-"What If Harry Potter Is Real?"
-"Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame"
-"Philosophy And Star Trek"
-"Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond"
-"Learning From YouTube"
-"How To Watch Television"
-"Sport For The Spectator"
-"Oh, Look, a Chicken!"
That last one is my favorite.
The truth is that many of these colleges don't really care if your sons and daughters learn much at all. They just want the money to keep rolling in.
And our college students are discovering that when they do graduate that they are woefully unprepared for life on the outside. In fact, one survey found that 70% of all college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the "real world" while they were still in college.
In America today, there are more than 300,000 waitresses that have college degrees, and close to three out of every ten adults in the United States under the age of 35 are still living at home with Mom and Dad.
Our system of higher education is not working, and it is crippling an entire generation of Americans.
So what do you think?
Do you believe that college is a waste of time and money?
I think that a young guy should have a craft and then turn it into a degree.
Apprentice as a pipe fitter in the mechanical and HVAC trades. Learn about control systems as you do your apprenticeship. Work on construction jobs at good money and then get a mechanical engineering degree between projects and with night classes and web classes.
You can be a highly paid craft worker, a highly paid design engineer and the right combination to own and run your own business.
We are never going to not need new and repaired heating and cooling systems.
Ha! Great minds!
It depends on what you want to do. If you want to qualify for a recognized profession, and become an accountant, an optometrist, a programmer, a stockbroker, a math teacher, or something along those lines, then college is necessary. Those who have a definite career in mind, and ask where they can get the necessary skills and credentials to get started, usually do OK.
You are so right about heating/cooling ...it’s a great trade to learn.
For many, college is a waste of cash and time. The sad thing is most people think if someone does not have a degree they are not worth hiring.
The bulk of what I have learned came to me after I got my degrees.
The author is a bit of a hypocrite for not crediting his college education with being able to think critically and write well.
This is not to argue his point that the experience today seems to be wasted on a lot of people since, I suspect, their college “education” was not a true learning experience. The American University survey is suggestive of that.
Myself...unless I had a ton of scholarships, I would think about it twice. Get a trade...then work your way thru college. I can't imagine starting life $50,000 (or more) in debt.
Oh, let me just say, in all seriousness, that "I studied History and it's helped me in other fields."
But many people study soft fields and derive little benefit from it -- English Lit, PoliSci, Gender studies, communication, etc. These do not always work out for people.
We need more on-the-job training. We need more apprenticeships. We need more respect for craftsmanship.
When I was young, I thought the prestigious, well-paying jobs were in offices, behind desks. I now believe that these are most often dead-ends. I have more respect for plumbers and electricians than I do for most people who work in cubicles.
Society needs to rethink labor. The game has changed and a lot of people just don't realize that it's not the 1980s anymore.
I think it comes down to application. If the instructor just regurgitates from a book or talks about pie in the sky, then no. If the instructor provides information and then shows the student how to apply that information in the world, then yes. Drama can be extremely worthwhile if properly taught. Teaching someone to be a mechanic by regurgitating shop manuals to them would be a waste of money.
I pursued Liberal Arts/Criminal Justice desiring to become a door kicking JBT. After working full time with part time school for the better part of a decade I joined the military and became a mechanic. Probably one of the better decisions of my life. I plan on using the GI Bill to learn a new trade, a tangible skill this time.
If you have the right program, you can be making 50k while you are going to college.
I had my college education sidetracked by the Vietnam draft issues and ended up in the construction business. There aren’t many fields where you can approach and bust across six figures without a degree but construction is one where it is possible. It is also one of the few where being self taught and OJT is respected and valued.
A young engineer is sometimes actually at a disadvantage. Education does not take into account the actual dynamic of the risk of performance and the general means and methods.
Several thoughts here:
-IMHO, college/university *can* be worth it, but it’s also oversold in high school and by TPTB in government. I remember a guy on my floor my freshman year. He was never happy there and left after one year. He now works in a skilled trade (finish carpentry), makes a nice living, and most importantly, *likes* what he does. We ought to be encouraging kids to pursue what works for *them*, instead of a cookie-cutter (and expensive) college-only agenda that might not be their thing.
-I do believe that if you go to a college/university, you ought to pursue your passion. However, you also have to be a realist. If you’re going to pursue a degree that’s not conducive to a high-paying career, especially one that requires graduate school to get anywhere (many of the social sciences, etc), then you need to think hard about the fiscal realities involved - especially at a private school. There’s no shame in attending a local commuter college for a couple of years before transferring, or even the entire four years working while you go take classes.
-The blowoff courses mentioned in the story are a bit like budget earmarks - they are often a bit silly and sometimes of questionable merit, but they generally only represent a tiny portion of the big picture. Usually, these are pet project courses for tenured professors who get to do them in addition to teaching more traditional courses. They might be a waste of resources (depending on one’s view), but nobody is majoring in them. For instance, my last semester in college, I took a film class on the B-Western movie. It was a lot of fun, actually, and I learned quite a bit about the genre. But it was also only one class in one semester of my college years. Most of the time, I was busting my hump in business courses and the like.
Depending on what one "studies" while there it may not be a waste of time, but be selective.
Depending on what one "studies" while there it may not be a waste of time, but be selective.
Well, that's a rather significant concession on this author's part.
Depends on how you do it. I’d advise any young person to start at their local community college and get an Associate’s while still living at home, if possible. Then transfer to a modestly-priced university. For an undergraduate degree, prestige isn’t really necessary in my humble opinion. If you can finish with a debt load around $20,000, it’s worth it. But to do the whole four years living in the dorm on the most expensive campus you can find is foolish, and yes, a waste.
Some careers must have the degree (law, medicine, psych, etc). Fine, but don’t spend private school money on a lesser education. Go to a public school or one that is cost effective. Spending $24k or more per year on a private school is a complete waste of money.
That is outstanding advice! HVAC might be a good field for a young person who doesn’t want to sweat too much yet not adverse to moving around. Their primary job is to make sure people aren’t too hot and not too cold, including themselves.
And, as you said, understanding control systems is a valuable skill, including, but not limited to HVAC.
“We need more on-the-job training. We need more apprenticeships. We need more respect for craftsmanship.”
I agree 100%. IMHO, one of the best things we could do in our high schools is to create partnerships with local businesses for apprenticeship programs (maybe some schools already do, but the ones near me sure don’t). Not just for trades, but clerical work, and maybe certain professional careers like web design. Give the student a chance to learn the ropes of chosen field, and teach them some real-world responsibility in the process.
“The author is a bit of a hypocrite for not crediting his college education with being able to think critically and write well.”
So, you think that he learned that in college...I’ll bet that he was essentially that capable in high school.
The most important things that I learned in college were only indirectly related to the classes.
The University system is pretty amazing. Can you name another business model that involves requiring years from the customer’s life and maybe 100’s of thousands of his dollars and the FIRST thing you tell him is:
“You are an imperialist, a potential rapist, and we advise you to kill your parents.”
Ever hear a car-rental agency tell that to folks walking through the door? How about a steak house? WalMart?
But it’s quite common not only for Universities to do that but in the process they consider themselves highly dignified for it.
OK well lessay your customer puts up with all that for 4 years and he defaults on his debt —he can screw you by going bankrupt, right?
Student debt is not dischargeable via bankrupty, and many since many colleges OWN the collection agency charged with hounding you FOREVER in fact they often HOPE you default.
They are granted levels of consideration far and above those accorded to the businesses they accuse of greed and exploitation of others.
Not a bad idea but let me inject a little bit of reality that makes any engineering program a challenge as a part-time adult student. At a minimum, you have to go into it knowing the choices to be made to successfully complete the program.
The biggest hurdle occurs in the senior year and is known as the senior capstone project. This is at least a one-semester undertaking, sometimes two semesters. The student project groups work with people in industry on real projects that require real solutions. This means you will have to attend meetings and conduct project work on regular business hours. This can be a hurdle for students that have daytime jobs while attending evening classes. Thus, the need to be aware of choices that students will have to make to succeed in the program. It’s not impossible for a focused and dedicated student but they should go into the process with their eyes open.
The UK has a “gap year” program, when students take the year to work in the real world or volunteer, or generally to use their time as other than a student and to mature. We might think of having something like that here. Too many go to college because it’s expected and what their friends are doing.
Mike Rowe’s efforts to promote the skilled trades, where you learn a valuable skill in six months to two years, is admirable. It is also a better option for millions of young adults over trying and failing college level work.
Oh, sure, it’s possible that he could have picked those skills up outside college. I’ve seen those people, few, to be sure, but they’re around.
BTW, what years were you in college?
I agree that there would come a time in most programs where you would have to take a semester or nine months off work entirely and tackle the toughest portion of your degree program.
I think that would also allow you to orient your major final courses toward your particular expected final field of employment and expertise.. Central Plant, power generation, process plant work, new commercial construction and the whole variety would be laid out for your choice.
I have had some fine young engineers that went right into construction with good success — but I am focused on the issue of debt and making an opportunity to have what ever you learn in underclassman courses directly apply.
Then sometime in the nineties it became a substitute for independent adulthood and the waning expectation of making one's own way. Now it is baby sitting, unless you choose a course of study which will prepare marketable skills.
The fact that 30% of adults still live with mommy and daddy is a compelling statement on the decline of the culture at large. Italy, here we come.
I imagine if one majors in one of those applied science majors, like engineering, obtaining a college degree is well worth the trouble.
Money racket. Living near one of the biggest colleges in the nation “Penn State” I see that most of those going to college there are in debt for years. Lots of them have degrees but are not working in that field. We need more reality in this system. This campus is under the microscope with what has happened with its liberal agenda. Under Spanier it went deep end with its advancement of promoting the agendas that have nothing to do with education. Being that of pushing the alternative life styles and we all know what happened with the Sandusky crap. It was all done while preaching how great it was to have sexual freedoms and rights to entertain them, Like Sex Fair, C*nt fest and promoting Homosexuality. Twisting the minds of the youths while true education took a back seat.
Being an engineer I am in total agreement with you. The roi of a degree like this is incredible.
I preach to my sons that a plumber charges fifty dollars to answer his own phone and a plumbing business is a good way to make a living.
Also electricians, particularly linemen are in great need.
Nothing wrong with a technology skill and the tens of thousands of dollars I spent on my college degree was pretty wasteful and I am even able to get jobs with it.
It used to be that a standard high school diploma meant that you could critically write well. At least well enough to be understood.
“BTW, what years were you in college?”
Well, let’s just say considerably before Womyns’ Studies - schools (at all levels) were considerably more rigorous then.
I would be interested in seeing a study that focused on the earnings of persons that go into a journeyman trade course versus those that go to a standard liberal arts degree. I have a suspicion that the trades actually have a higher earnings over a lifetime. Particularly when the cost of schooling, loans, and lost work opportunities are factored in.
Agreed, according to this article even the degrees with the worst return, still have a decent return.
You don’t need an education as much as you need a skill. Good friend of mine had two daughters, both wanted to be cosmetologists after high school. So, that’s where he sent them. Both have a skill, both have jobs, both are happy.
IF you want a college degree and can’t afford it without a loan, work in a trade and get as much of your schooling as possible through wgu.edu.
This is especially applicable for getting past non-technical required courses. If you work hard, you can knock out many, many classes within a week if you are willing to read.
Start at 1:58
The only thing I wish I did differenty was go to a trade school first then college. Maybe to learn to be an EMT or SurgTech. My nephew went to tech school to learn AutoTech now maKes more money than his his pointy headed Ph.D. sister.
Btw, I think one of the greatest measure of success is when you say “I can’t believe they pay me to do this”
Btw, I think one of the greatest measure of success is when you say “I can’t believe they pay me to do this”