Top 6 Reasons College Is Overrated
Introduction to Why College Is Overrated
One thing we're not short on is our large list of reasons why we don't believe college is a good option for most kids...or at the very least why they should make such a decision warily and with a lot of caution. Some people like the long detailed arguments that are put together in a well tied together format, and others like a step by step list to try to quickly make your point and let them mull it over. We've already shown our disdain for the million dollar lie, and we expect that as more people read our hubs there might be some controversy, and that's okay. If there wasn't any controversy at all, I'd be terrified with what society has come to accept as normal or okay. We thought a top 6 list of why college is overrated, or maybe even why college sucks, might be a good way to get the discussion going. Sit down, take a read through, and feel free to leave as long a comment as you need at the bottom to agree, disagree, or otherwise!
College Photos to Illustrate the PointClick thumbnail to view full-size
Reason #1: Tuition Costs. Do you know how much it costs to go to college right now? The average cost for an in state, public university students is $18,000 per year. For out of state students attending a public college the cost increases to $29,000. For private universities, the average cost is $37,000. These numbers do include tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and other miscellaneous costs, which is what the average college student is going to pay. (Numbers provided by: Troy Onink's article, "The Financial Aid Game")
A lot of these schools will include some type of grant and/or scholarship program to reduce costs, but not eliminate. If you're not top 10%, or even 5%, of the best in the country, expect nearly half to the majority of your financial aid to be student loans. Especially when you think that the average tuition cost keeps increasing around 5% per year. You would be crazy to think that grants and scholarship programs increase by that much every year. All we can say about growing tuition costs is, "Damn that is a LOT of money."
Debt After College
Reason #2: The Debt Load After College. I think people either forget, or don't know, how hard it is to live a life full of debt, especially when the piper comes to collect. Imagine getting your first job after graduating college, and you make around $35,000 a year (before taxes). It could be better, but you're pretty happy with this amount until you start getting $300.00 bills from student loans companies per month (or 500 or 600, depending how many loans you had and what the interest rates are). And guess what? Only a tiny fraction of that money is actually paying of the principal of the loans. Most of it is going to the interest you did not pay during college.
That $300.00 is maybe what you used to pay your credit card bills, which have been piling up a little bit more money since you left school because somehow that first check just isn't covering all the bills every month. You are also making sure your rent, utilities, electric, and water bills are paid-and God forbid you live without cable TV and high speed Internet! Plus the car payment for your new car, insurance for every which thing, and your fiancée is nagging you about finding a home for the two of you while you're still making monthly payments to pay off her ring....
What many college graduates find out, often too late, is that it really is not a pretty picture once all the pieces are put together, and you will be amazed at how much of an effect that $25,000 is school debt has on you. Plus you are now 23 and haven't even started a retirement fund. And when you see your high school buddy who did not go to school driving around in his new truck, inviting you to a party at his house later that night, it can really drive you crazy. Be prepared to put some of those major life decisions like a new home or a new car on hold for a while after college, because the money usually isn't there, even if more debt is.
Video: Professor Admits Education Is Not Enough
Lost Working Years
Reason #3 is lost working years. There is that very famous census that talks about the $1 earnings number, but fails to mention that they don't count any of the work done from ages 18-24. So just what the heck is a high school graduate doing from the ages of 18-22 that a college student is not doing? Working full time.
Never underestimate the importance of work experience. Think about it, while you were getting your management degree, your buddy started as a worker, became an assistant manager and thrived for two years before making manager. Were you apply for the same job, is the hiring business going to think you are ready to be a manager just because you have a piece of paper saying you graduated with a management degree, or are they going to go to the guy who already has 2-3 years of management experience? Unless you have compromising photographs of the hirer from an old frat party, you're probably not getting that job.
While you are racking up debt at college, the high school graduate is making money, and the smart ones are investing it already in a Roth IRA. That four year advantage is going to turn into a new car, possibly buying a home, traveling, and if the high school graduate is smart, $2,000 or $3,000 a year going into a retirement fund. The only thing the college graduate has after graduation is debt, and a much later start on a new car, a home, and a retirement fund.
Numbers Questionable at Best: But Shows Value of Saving Early
Not Going to College = Early Retirement
Reason #4: Not going to college can mean an early or more prosperous retirement. We all know that investing $25,000 of tuition money into an IRA or a savings account would mean that I could retire faster than spending that money on college. However, most people do not have $25,000 of tuition money just lying around, so they take out loans and pay for college with grants and scholarships. But what if I didn't go to college but invested a few thousand dollars a year, every year, in a retirement fund right out of high school? Remember, I would get basically a five year head start on a college graduate (and that's low end, it could be as high as a 6 or 7 year head start), and I would not have the debt to worry about.
Let's say both a college graduate and a high school graduate started investing their money (and let's say the market has just an average turnaround over the years) and we can earn an 8% return per year when all is said and done. If both groups start with a $1,000 and invest $2,000 a year until retirement age (age 65), a high school graduate is going to put away $1,015,496 while a college graduate only earns $682,205. Why is this? Because the $10,000 head start a high school graduate gets on investing makes all of the difference in the world in the long term.
A college student would just fall short of catching up to this high school student even if they invested $3,000 a year, and if the high school student maxs out early contributions, it's next to impossible for the college graduate to catch up without a job that pays well into the six figures. The numbers don't lie: it's very possible for a high school graduate to make $500,000 less in a lifetime than the college graduate, but end up with more money at retirement.
Graduation Rates, or Lack Thereof
Reason #5: Because almost half of college students won't graduate anyway. We all know what the worst thing that can happen to a young student is. Going to college and failing to get a degree while taking a load of money out in loans not only jeopardized their future, but takes away any advantage they might be able to get from working right away and not taking out any student loans.
I know what most people say when they go to college; I won't be one of the people who drop out. The thing is, statistics show that almost 50% of ALL students who start never graduate with their degree. Until they system is fixed and colleges are more worried about graduating their students, why spend a lot of money to fail?
Skills, Skills, and more Skills
Great Scene from Good Will Hunting on Education
You Don't Have to Go to College to Learn
Reason #6: Because skills often matter more than academic degrees. Why do people go to college? We have to assume that one of the reasons is to learn, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, learning for the sake of learning is a very noble and commendable pursuit. But why do you have to go to college to learn? If you want to be a lawyer or a doctor, that's one thing, but anyone who has a library card can get a hold of the same books as people who attend college read. Anyone who can use the Internet can learn anything from website design, to computer programming, to basically any type of study they want. All of this learning takes place at a fraction of the cost.
Programming like the Rosetta Stone Software has made learning a foreign language easier than ever. Employers might see that you do not have a college degree, but if you can speak a foreign language, and have great computer skills, why wouldn't they hire you?
Conclusion on Why College Sucks (or is Overrated)
We do want to make 2 things clear before jumping into the conclusion:
- We are not against the college experience - that can be a fantastic time of growth, discovery, and friendship - but students should be told the whole truth before going in.
- We are not against education or learning. But we are against the current system.
That said, college is definitely overrated and the way it is promoted to high school students in our opinion is nothing short of an outright scam for many. Tell the English major they will not make nearly a million a year more over a lifetime as a teacher vs. being a factory worker. Tell a philosophy major how difficult academics really is before pushing them to grad school. Go ahead and tell science majors they're fine...if they can survive the basic science courses at the college level.
I hope this hub will help to open a dialogue and a good solid discussion on the true pros and cons of college so young adults can truly make an informed decision and go into it with their eyes open.
Links and Resources
- The Big Pay Off
The actual government report that is quoted as saying that college graduates will make over $1 million in their life times as opposed to high school graduates.
- John Stossel Asks is College a Big Lie?
Eye opening report by John Stossel revealing that there are a lot of problems with the "million dollar" number as well as the argument that college is a solid investment.
Very eye opening group dedicated to bringing fairness and protection for the students back to the student loan process, and there are some horror stories that every soon to be college student should read.