Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is College Worth It?

Learning optional

I diligently contribute to a 529 plan for my kids and fret about the escalating cost of college education. It is still some ways away but the projections are scary. Private college can cost $50,000/year, which translates into almost $200,000 for one kid. Double that for two kids and I could be poorer by half a million by the time it's all said and done.

But will my kids go to private college? What is wrong with public schools? And what if they get into an Ivy League college (hey - we can all dream)?

While I wrestle with these financials "what-if" scenarios - I was intrigued by James Altucher's view that "College is a waste of time and money for kids". Wow! Now that is a thought or more specifically - out-of-the-box thinking. Maybe James has a point here.

So what is working against college? It costs too much, you don't learn enough to be considered an expert, four to five of your prime years are invested in socializing and learning a little about a lot of things. But it is an experience, almost a rite of passage to go from being a kid to an adult. Get ready for the real world. Or get ready for the grind of a 9-5 job.

College education has its advantages and can be the foundation to learn social interaction, independent thinking, exposure to academia and it you are so inclined - core concepts to start your career as a lawyer, banker, doctor or therapist. And college education can also lead to financial gains - for example here are 95 ways to make money by leveraging your college education.

Conversely if you skip college what can you do. A typical 9-5 job is out of the question so the options are (1) create your own job - start a business (2) become a specialist or (3) find work that does not require a degree - create online content, start a blog ...

In the end, I agree that one needs to keep their options open. The world is changing and what was routine yesterday can be questioned today. I will still save for my kids' education and be prepared to support them if they decide to pursue higher education but I will also like to present them with options. Option to start a business or become a specialist or pursue a path that makes them successful and happy.

Isn't that the eventual goal of every parent?

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dividend growth said...

When I was in college i was talking to the cleaning crew at my school, who were very nice people. What these ladies told me was that they went to college for 1-2 years, where they met their husbands. The women got pregnant, and had to get married and find low income jobs in order to support the kids.
20 years later they were working for 8-10 bucks/hour, 40 hours a week. I think college educaiton is worth it. As far as James Althucher - i think that he went to college so it is hypocritical that he advises kids not to go to college :-)

theWild1 said...

It really depends on your situation, but I think college is worth it. Even if you want to be an entrepreneur, you never know if it will work out or not. There are numerous options of colleges out there at different prices.
You might as well go and get a degree as a back up plan, and there is nothing wrong with pursuing your dreams while still in college. You can easily do both. I have.

Jack Payne said...

Thank God, my sentence has been lifted, long ago. I financed 14 years of college for my 3 sons, and killer that this was, the costs were nowhere near what they are today.


I just recently wrote a blog piece, "How to Earn a College Degree, without Earning a College Degree." Of course, this route is acceptable only to those with a con man turn of mind.