10 Comments

  1. When I sign up for a college degree, I was clueless and it was because everyone does it. But now it has been “proven” that I am earning something I probably never would without the paper. I don’t think I am smarter or knows more but that’s definitely the reason I am paid much higher than min wages.

    • Lynn,
      Most of us went off to college because that was the norm for college prep kids. I’m glad I went and made it through without drowning in student loan debt. Not only are we paid better, but there always seems to be jobs available (at least for us here in GA). Thanks for visiting.

  2. Chris

    Totally agree Ed! When talking with my students I tell them it’s their million dollar decision! This article will be fun to share with them! Thx!

    • Chris,
      Keep pounding a little real-life knowledge into their skulls before you set them free. Maybe a few of them will internalize the message. I have one student who consults me as he plans his future educational and financial moves. It’s a great feeling to steer a 17 year old towards a debt-free degree and FIRE. Ed

  3. Agree 100% on all of these. Especially #1 in technical fields like chemistry ( my discipline) where actually more than one degree is optimal to get ahead.

    I would add Opportunity to Travel. Typically, it is a knock on effect of better job, higher salary . Those better job positions may allow you to lead initiatives outside of your home country. And traveling , even on business, is always an enriching experience. Even without airmiles…!

    • Mr. Pie,
      Yeah, I bet it’s pretty hard to be a chemist without a college degree. The same is true for CPA’s, doctors, or lawyers. Funny, I was think about credentials at the other end of the spectrum–the jobs that require almost any college degree. Either way, a college degree is a very useful credential.

      I cannot believe I forgot to mention travel because it was in my rough draft. I agree with you 100% on this one because solo travel in my 20’s made a huge impact on my life. In 1987, I spent 10 months in Central America and Mexico. While there, I spend 4 months in language school in Guatemala where I learned a lot of Spanish. I also matured and grew as a person. In 1989, I went to Brazil for 3 months with a dictionary, guide book, and a carry-on bag. Oh, the memories…I can hear the cuícas now! I cannot wait to take my son to Brazil..stay tuned.

      Okay, you entered the crazy zone by suggesting that it’s possible travel without air miles. I guess if your company is picking up the tab, it’s okay. (You’ll love this: I just spent $78 total for three one-way tickets from Atlanta to Cancun.) Thanks for the visit Sr. Pastel. Ed

      • I forgot to mention that I also have a Ph.D. In chemistry. Yep, total geeky nerd…

        That Brazil trip sounds like it’s gonna be a blast!

        Salud!

  4. I’m very conflicted. On the one hand, you make a very impressive case for a college degree. In fact, as I was reading your post, I found myself thinking, “Sh*t, Hillary ought to make Ed Mills Secretary of Education.”

    But then there’s the other hand. I think my biggest gripe with the vaunted BA is that it’s the premiere credential out there–largely because accreditation rules have artificially limited any feasible alternative–and big education takes full advantage of this. I mean, c’mon. It knows full well kids need a BA to advance in this world, and every year tuition and fees go up higher than the inflation rate. If it really wanted to, big education could devise an affordable credential. Simply putting together a three-year degree program would immediately reduce the cost of a BA by twenty-five percent. But rather than do something as charitable as that, it would rather maintain the status quo and point the steely finger at indignation at those wretched politicians who are “starving higher education.”

    Sorry for the rant, Ed. Up until a generation or so ago, college did provide the ten benefits you so eloquently outlined. And it did so for a very reasonable cost. But I can’t say that today. Some colleges still do. But do most?

    • I hear ya Mr. Groovy! Let me start by saying that I will be declining the Secretary of Education offer unless I can telecommute from Cancun. Frankly, I’ve give up on ever reforming Big Education the same way I gave up on 401k-403b reform. There is too much power and money involved in the educational-industrial complex for any real change to take place. I love the 3-year college degree idea, but it won’t come from Big Ed. It will come from educational hackers who streamline their college studies via joint-enrollment, CLEP tests, and summer school. Some of those hackers will shave off 2 or 3 years of their college studies. (For the record, I was an abysmal undergraduate student who finished college in 3.67 years. A college degree in 3 years is more doable than most people imagine.)

      As for your ranting, I love it. We need more ranting about this subject because I hate seeing young people starting their lives in financial quicksand. Could you imagine if 25% of college students started hacking their own degrees AND avoiding student loans all together? These debt-free, 20-year old college grads would put more pressure on Big Ed than any “solutions” from the political class. My advice to high school kids is they get crafty and figure out a way to dramatically pare their college costs because student loans are creating a class of debt slaves in need of more political “solutions.”

      In our lifetimes, a college degree was considered an essential part of the America dream. It was followed by a wonderful marriage, a 30-year working career, and a beautiful home. Well, we all know how that worked out for many people: divorce, unemployment, and bankruptcy. Don’t get me wrong, modern-day living is awesome, but if you’re not careful in your youth, you can seriously put yourself behind the financial eight ball. Young people need to know the financial perils of earning a college degree, so rant on! Thanks for the comment and enjoy your FIRE. Ed

  5. Steve

    My reason was mercenary: get the credential. After working in my field of study 25 years, lack of a degree was holding me back, and would become increasing handicap onward.

    It appears college has become the latter equivalent of high school to get decent jobs. Funny many employers don’t care about the major, just the credential. So ideal for non-traditional degree hacking.

    As I recall, Bureau of Labor Statistics asserts 25% of jobs justify a degree, based upon skills and knowledge required, whereas half of employers require one, even for mundane jobs. So dispute the notion “everyone” needs more education, or should go to college, as half with degrees working in jobs not requiring one. Perhaps an Associates or Vocational alternative could suffice? Apprenticeships like Germany?

    I suspect degree oversupply started during Vietnam war, thanks to unfair college deferments, that started a credential ratcheting which continues.

    STEM has long suffered oversupply due to shortage propaganda encouraging excessive enrollment. Other professions go thru regular booms and busts. So tricky picking a major. Getting a non-traditional degree easier than ever, perhaps no need to rush? Get AA degree, work awhile, then finish BS/BA after career seems clearer. Or start with a liberal bachelors, than get another career focused one later. Love the new possibilities.

    I remember 1980’s newspaper article about some 40-something dude quitting job and enrolling in residential state school. Thought there had to be a better way. And there was, as John Bear’s (and others) books about non-traditional degrees made clear. I still wonder why this terrific alternative doesn’t get the coverage it deserves, especially among the high-school set. Maybe the big three should market more to high-schoolers?

    But suspect there may still be stigma to online, distance, alternative methods that could fade after critical mass of such learners prove themselves in the workplace and elsewhere.

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