Updated on 07.31.14

Is College Really Necessary For All High School Graduates?

Trent Hamm

Keble College, Oxford by Dimitry B at Flickr!One of the biggest assumptions I read about in books and articles about financial planning for your children is the outright assumption that your child must attend a college or university of some sort after graduating from high school, so you’d better financially plan for it. To me, this assumption is one that needs to be seriously re-evaluated.

The Data
First of all, what percentage of students actually manage to complete high school? According to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), the public high school graduation rate in 2005 was a surprisingly low 68.8%. What about homeschooled and privately schooled kids? The National Center for Education Statistics estimate that 2.2% of all students nationwide are homeschooled, whereas the percentage of private school attendees is 9%. This means that 89% of students nationwide (roughly) are educated in public schools. Even if we assume all private and homeschooled students graduate, the high school graduation rate is still only 72.2%.

What about the percentage of high school graduates that actually earn a degree? According to NCHEMS, 24.1% of high school graduates receive an associate degree three years later, while 52.1% of high school graduates receive a bachelor’s degree within six years. This means that a student in school in the United States has only a 37.6% chance of getting a bachelor’s degree within six years after high school graduation and a 17.4% chance of receiving an associate degree. Note that these numbers are not exclusive – many people receiving an associate degree actually go on to complete a bachelor’s degree. Also note that this number is actually a bit high – it assumes all students in homeschooling and private school situations actually complete their secondary education.

What Opportunities Are Available to the Other 62.4%?
Many people assume that if you don’t go to college and earn a degree, you’re destined for some miserable, failed life, earning minimum wage on a factory floor somewhere. That’s simply not true. There are many opportunities available to those who do not attend a post-secondary institution. Here are four of them.

Trade school Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and other tradesmen do not have the need to earn a four year degree to ply their craft, and they’re always in demand.

The military Military careers give you the opportunity to see the world, offer tons of advancement opportunity, and open the doors to further education if you so choose.

Entrepreneurship Many big entrepreneurs never completed college – just ask Bill Gates. If you have an idea and a strong work ethic, you’re often making a strong choice chasing that dream instead of stopping and following a degree path.

Service corps Some high school graduates may choose to work for a service organization for a few years in order to figure out what they want to do with their life (and also spend that time benefitting others).

Shouldn’t a Good Parent Expect/Demand Their Child Attend College?
This question troubled me for a long while, because I know from my own experience how beneficial college can be. You can learn critical thinking skills and also get the preparation you need for certain career paths. I spent six years earning two separate bachelor’s degrees and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

After I graduated at age twenty three, I spent six years working at two different jobs directly related to my degrees, both of which I enjoyed quite a lot and both of which paid well. But the itch inside me told me that I needed to forge a different path, and now I find myself in a self-defined career as a writer focusing on personal finance topics. I’m not trained in English nor in finance, yet this is the path I’m following.

The point is that college itself does not define the path that your life will follow. When you enter college after high school, you’re moving from thirteen years spent in the educational system directly into another number of years in the educational system. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ve already figured out your internal talents and passions and – even luckier – your parents have supported and fostered those talents and passions.

But most incoming college students aren’t there yet. Most of them (like myself and almost everyone I hung out with in college) are either majoring in something that seemed vaguely interesting in high school, haven’t declared a major at all, or are majoring in something that someone told them would earn them good money. And these were those kids in the minority that were even in college at all.

My Alternative College Savings Plan
Given all of this, my primary concern for my children’s educational growth is no longer pushing them to go to college. That’s a secondary concern – one that might be an outgrowth of other things.

Instead, my primary concern is helping them find their natural talents and their natural passions. I intend to encourage their critical thinking skills as much as I can and try to expose them to as many areas as possible while still at home. They’ll try musical instruments, various art forms, sciences of all kinds, and so on, and we’ll see where their natural magnet leads them.

I’m also going to strongly encourage them to be entrepreneurs in their spare time, from selling lemonade to mowing lawns. Or maybe even starting their own blogs – I’ve discovered some amazingly successful bloggers early in their teen years.

So how do I save for this? I still have a 529 plan for them, but that’s only part of my financial preparation. I’m also planning on many expenses earlier on, engaging them in activities and experiences of all kinds to help them find their passion.

If they find their talent and passion and it doesn’t guide them towards college, no big loss. I’ll just convert their 529 into an ordinary mutual fund and hand it over to them as seed money for whatever great things their lives hold for them. For one child, the 529 might actually be for college; for another, it might be seed money for a business or tuition at a trade school or even a house down payment.

The point is that college isn’t the only answer, and to force your children down that path can deny them the opportunity to spread their wings.

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  1. CBus says:

    Is this your first mention of the military?! Not a bad idea. I graduated from a military college and have to say that just the initial followership training (plebe system) and subsequent leadership opportunities within the corps of cadets were such a benefit to me, developing an attention to detail, a sense of accountability, and a lifelong feeling of accomplishment.

    I feel those experiences alone have enabled me to earn a great job as a project engineer at an aerospace engineering company.

    The B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering didn’t hurt either.

  2. Carrie says:

    From my personal observation, the advice of “following your passions” seems to be non-existent among the Asian immigrant parents I know, including my own. It’s viewed as self-indulgent, impractical, and irresponsible, especially if the children are expected to help the parents when they are old. Do you think it’s a cultural difference or something else?

  3. Jeff R. says:

    At one time perhaps college was necessary, but I have a college degree and when I hire a plumber, a mechanic or someone to fix my drip irrigation system, they make more per hour than I do as a professional with an advanced degree and many years of experience.

    I think the future may be as bright or brighter for someone with a good trade or skill; whatever that may be.

    Good advice would be to find something that you like to do and carve out a niche doing that. If you can do something well and others want that service, the opportunities are boundless.

    PS – I ended up working in a field that didn’t exist when I was in college – [ JBR ]

  4. Movingonup! says:

    I received a bachelor’s degree ten years and am working in a completely different field. In fact, I probably could be making more money if I would have started working right out of college. However, I don’t regret the experience of college one bit. I learned more about art, culture, history, and science than I ever would have learned on my own.

  5. Molly says:

    I’m 26 and I haven’t finished a degree yet. My parents didn’t save any money for me and I couldn’t see spending any money on college because I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. Now I’m older and I know what I want to go to school for. I think its taken me this long, with the experiences I’ve had, to help me decide. I’m glad i didn’t get a degree in something when I was younger, I probably would have picked something I hated.

  6. Russell says:

    I am a twin. My brother Arthur and I have always been sort of different. He doesn’t like sports, I love them; he doesn’t read for pleasure, I do; and he worked 3 jobs at a time in high school and made average grades while I worked enough to show I was trying and made very good grades. The only thing that Arthur did to secure an education for himself after high school was enough tutoring to take advantage of a technical school program the state of Missouri offered. I went on to college and eventually one of the finest law schools in the country.

    At 27, my brother is wealthy, with a beautiful home and no debt and a well paying job that he is very good at and thoroughly enjoys. I also have a job I am good at and which I enjoy, but I rent and I have $185k in education loans I am repaying. I wouldn’t change many things that I have done, nor would Art, I imagine. So is your child more of an Art, or a Russ?

  7. Bonnie says:

    My 27-year-old brother didn’t go to college (although I remind him from time to time that it’s never too late). He has never been academically minded, but he can fix anything (cars, household problems, etc.) and has the most common sense of anyone I know. Plus, he makes more money than I (a college graduate four years older than him) do. He is the manager of a plumbing-parts store and also does plumbing on the side. Is it his dream job? No, but he’s still working on that (becoming a police officer). Is it reliable, five minutes from his house, and recession- and outsource-proof? You bet. My boyfriend also does not have a college degree, but his industry is also recession-proof and very portable and in-demand. You would never know he’s not a college graduate–he’s self-educated and one of the most well-read folks I know.

  8. Joanna says:

    Trent – could you mention some of the teen blogs you enjoy? I’m curious.



  9. I completely agree, Trent! I’ve thought for a long time that this one-size-fits-all college for everyone is kind of ridiculous. Some people are truly gifted to do things that don’t require a college degree, and for them, a degree is something of a waste of time and money.

    I have four kids, and while I’m homeschooling them, I’ll try very hard to help them identify what their skills and gifts are, and after high school, I’ll encourage them to get whatever further education is needed to pursue a career path that is a fit for them, be it trade school or apprenticeship or certifications or college. But it will most definitely be a case-by-case decision.

  10. Randy says:

    I’m not sure if I can agree with you on this, Trent. The stats still show that, on average, college graduates continue to enjoy higher levels of income than their non-college counterparts. In addition, college provides students with an additional opportunity to hone their critical thinking skills before moving on to the working world.

  11. Jaymo says:

    Great post. Great plan. Great job.

    I made a go at college but it didn’t stick (one years worth spread out over four years – mom was proud).

    Somehow, I’ve been in the video game industry for about 18 years – no degree, working with amazing people, and getting fantastic salary.

    I can only attribute it to following my passions, having developed relationships with amazing people, and getting out of my comfort zone (frequently with much pain incurred).

    I applaude your philosophy. I’m convinced it will pay dividends.

  12. Aryn says:

    I think part of the decision about going to college might have to do with the parents’ education level and income level. My dad has a Master’s degree, but my mom didn’t finish college for family reasons. Growing up, we were upper middle class and lived in an upper middle class neighborhood.

    As a result, there was never a question about whether my sister and I would go to college. It was simply assumed. My high school graduating year had 96% college matriculation. Of the four people who didn’t go to college, one entered the military, and one attended culinary school. In my sister’s year, they had 100% college matriculation.

  13. akinoluna says:

    I eventually picked Option No. 2, the military, after suffering through college full-time and then part-time for several years. I just hated it. Sitting in classrooms and listening to somebody talk all day long was BORING. What made it worse was that they expected you to read over certain material before class, and then they spent the entire time droning on about stuff I’d already read about! BORING! If that happened I ended up tuning out the teacher and skipping around the textbook reading random stuff. The only classes I liked were the small, upbeat, discussion type where you read beforehand and then everybody talked about it or classes with hands-on work.

    I’ve been to four or five schools, both private and public, two-year and four-year, and I’d much rather work than be in school. If I had my wish, I’d have an degree in Economics and a foreign language but school just kills any motivation I have, no matter how much I love a subject.

    I wish there was an option to get a degree in some other way than the traditional college.

    (Yes, there is the online thing, but as far as I can tell, nobody offers online four-year Econ degrees, and certainly not foreign languages!)

  14. Sense says:

    Assuming 15 years from now that your kids don’t know what they want to do as an entrepreneur, or are clueless as to their true passions (or, more likely, THEY think they know what they want to do, but YOU don’t think it’s really where their heart lies), will you change your tune and then urge them to go to college?

    I found that the most valuable experiences I had in college (and grad school, for that matter), were the connections I made to other people–these have been INVALUABLE in terms of my career. I’ve gotten both jobs I’ve had post-grad because of people I know (disregarding that I was qualified for the positions based on my education). College is much more than it appears on the surface…

  15. plonkee says:

    I think it’s hard to have focus when you are 18. I know plenty of successful people without degrees, but none of them found their niche straight away – they all tried various things before settling into a longer term career/self-employment/whatever gig in their early to mid-twenties. Lack of direction is not limited to college students.

    I hope you won’t be setting your expectations too high. After all, it’s about getting on within a reasonable amount of time, not definitely hitting on the right thing by the time you’re 18.

  16. Stephanie says:

    Here is what happened to me:

    My parents had nothing saved for my college education.

    My grandfather was very kind enough to pay for me to go to community college to get my Associates.

    I have picked up the tab from there for my Bachelors.

    I have always worked while in school so it has taken me longer than 4 years. Let the young person decide. You must teach them financial sense and if it makes sense for them to finance a college degree then they will do it. Corporate America isn’t for everyone and most 4 year degrees lead there. I am working hard to get away from it and there are PLENTY of people that I have met in my life that I have met that are making much more money than I am and didn’t go to college. College graduates often have an elitist attitude though that it is the only way to succeed in life.

  17. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Sense: I think it’d be massively presumptuous of me to overrun a natural passion or talent of my child just because it’s not what I think their talent or passion should be.

    I merely don’t want my children to feel as though college is THE path ahead of them, period. I think for many children (myself included) the idea that college is ahead means you don’t have to think about your future, your talents, or your passions. Then, when you’re in college, you wind up in some degree program unsuited to you – or maybe you’re not suited for college at all.

  18. DoctorS says:

    I definitely feel that college is not always the answer for some people. Finding one’s personal passion is the way to go and if that path leads down the road of higher education, then so be it. But I think when people pursue their true passions they can end up finding jobs that they actually enjoy doing. Most people hate their day to day jobs and wouldn’t we all like to go to work everyday and put in all of our energy into something that we honestly love doing? Its a dream yes, but again, sometimes, college just may not be the answer. Great post. Check me out!

  19. Another Personal Finance Blog says:

    Trade School is an excellent avenue for those who are not inclined to continue onto higher education. It offers on-the-job training and experience (perhaps some schooling) that leads to typically good wages, benefits, retirement, etc.

    Going to school just to go to school can be a waste of time and money. However, most non-trade, living-wage jobs today require a degree of some kind.

    I hope to be able to offer my children the gift of education if they so choose. And unless they are involved in other positive activities, I will likely expect them to have a job. In my experience, working for minimum wage can be the best catapult into higher education.

  20. michael says:

    The problem is that, now that everyone is expected to go to college, ANYONE can get a college degree — it’s like falling off a log. A moron can spend 4 years in college, get a degree, and know nothing. A smart person can get that same degree at the same school (with the same grades!) and be very knowledgeable. This is why so many jobs that used to require a BA now require at least a Masters.

    I have a fine arts BA, a totally unrelated MA, and I have a great career in a field not related to either. Most of my family went to trade school (and live in more rural areas than me) and we all make comparable $$, relative to our cost of living. The main difference is that I’ll be paying off student loans for the next 15 years and they won’t (not complaining — I like what I do).

    Bottom line: If you’re capable of (and enjoy) living off your brains, go to college. If you’d rather do something else, please do it. We really need to stop treating college like a 4 year post-high school vacation.

  21. K.J. says:

    Thanks for this post, Trent. As a scientist/educator, I’m always amazed at how many young folks have never considered that waiting a few years before going to college, or even taking another path forever, can be of great benefit personally and professionally.

  22. writer dad says:

    I did not go to college. In fact, after a bitter argument with my guidance counselor (very funny story), I demanded my transcripts and left my high school. I signed up for the GED immediately. I love the life I’m living, and most certainly would not have found it had I gone to college. My wife is a teacher of twenty years and has been awarded teacher of the year in her district on five separate occasions. She has never thought less of me for not having the degree to dangle, and further, she would never tell our children that college is what they’re supposed to do. This is a whole different subject, but I personally believe that our colleges are an endangered species. The internet is still teething, but by the time our tiny tots are filling out applications, I believe that most learning will be done online. Thanks for a great subject.

  23. Shanel Yang says:

    Too many immigrant parents think their children will have a better life — more respect, more happiness, and especially more income — if they get a college education and become doctors, lawyers, and business executives. The problem is these same immigrant parents don’t really know what it costs in terms of student loans, many years of lost earning capacity, and inevitably the “keeping up with the Joneses” problem of following that path. I wish my own immigrant parents taught the lessons instead that I write about in “10 Things I Wish Dad Taught Me” http://shanelyang.com/2007/11/16/10-things-i-wish-dad-taught-me/

  24. Nick says:

    A better question, “Is High School Really Necessary For College Bound Students?”

    I’d argue no. I left high school after my sophomore year and went to college.

  25. Paul says:

    Hey Trent,
    I’ve been waiting for this post for a long time. I was actually just thinking about sending an email to you to suggest it, but here it is.

    So, what did I learn from college? Economics. Check it out… $38K for a degree that I don’t even use, and I make more money not using it than I did using it! So, what else could I have done with that $38K? I could have bought a house (yes, bought, as in outright, no mortgage)where my wife and I are from or had a serious downpayment on a house where we live now. I could have paid cash for the cars that my wife and I now have, or put the $38K in investments and made money off of it.

    But, alas, no. I spent it on an education that I made less money off of than I do working a job that doesn’t require the degree.

    So, bottom line for me: having gone to college, and done what I see as wasted $38K, is the biggest regret of my life.

  26. Sally says:

    This so true.

    I think I was sold the idea that college was the key to everything, not just by my parents but everyone around me. I’ve recently found myself feeling like a failure in the last year or so, because I got my degree five years ago, and I don’t have the perfect life that was promised to me by the infamous “they.”

  27. Randy says:


    It sounds like you’re thinking that your kid’s passion is potentially mutually exclusive with higher learning. If they decide at the age of 18 that they want to be a mechanic or follow some other calling that doesn’t require a college degree, you should still encourage them to continue on to university. Why? They may decide at the age of 30 or 35 that they’re no longer content just being a mechanic…and instead, they would rather manage a service business or start their own. With the degree, they’ll be in a better position to move up.

    Without it, they may find that opportunities they want later in life won’t be available.

  28. Anjanette says:

    Thank you for this. My husband and I discuss this frequently. As much as we appreciate all that came out of our years in higher education, I don’t know that we would pursue the same path if we had it all to do over again.

    I met my husband, spent an exciting year abroad, and made a ton of life-long friends, but I don’t think the hefty $100,000 price tag was worth it if I could have potentially had the same experiences elsewhere. I fell into the “majoring in something that seemed vaguely interesting in high school” category and wish someone would have given me this advice a long time ago. I felt like it was dishonorable not to attend college and I pushed way too hard to make it work.

    My family could have the monetary and emotional support I could have lent during those 4 years spent galavanting around at my private university, and my husband and I would be able to prepare a lot more for our children’s future without the student loan debt that we have looming over us.

    That said, even though I’m not using my degree in any tangible way – my husband is using his (his master’s at least), and I’m glad he stuck with it. We have decided to consider our chilren’s needs regarding higher education on a case-by-case basis.

  29. Lurker Carl says:

    As much as the mantra is drummed into our children’s heads that they NEED a college degree, I think we need skilled tradesmen more than lawyers.

    Not everyone is college material. The plethora of remedial classes most colleges offer to the incoming freshmen is proof.

  30. half-baked says:

    I’ve always told my children I don’t care if they’re cab drivers when they grow up, but a college education is important and should be sought whenever possible. Nobody I know regrets getting a higher education. It’s not about money, but about having a strong base knowledge on a variety of topics to enhance the decision-making process in every area of life. It’s about knowing history, so it doesn’t repeat itself.

    How many people in developing countries say their kid is “just not cut out for college”? They view an education as a privilege. Americans … don’t have that respect for education.

    I agree with Sense (about social connections), and Carrie (about self indulgence).

  31. Kathy says:

    I have a BA from Berkeley, a law degree from another Univ of CA school, neither of which led directly to my current job. I’m still paying for the law degree, I did graduate but never practiced. It would be great to have a do over on that one, that was many $$ to waste. I will fully support my kids in their paths, whether it involves a traditional degree or not. The more I see of public school, the less impressed I am. My 15 year old is an artist, an independant thinker and a computer nerd in the best sense. She and I are looking at early graduation/getting a GED then moving on to JC for a couple of years with a BA in possibly Graphic Arts by the time she’s 20 or so. My son has Asperger’s, is unschooled, he can’t deal with the social torture of public school. At 13 he has a college level vocabulary, a love of learning and a broad range of interests, including art, Spanish, mythology, world religions and everything science related he can get his hands on. I don’t know where his interests will lead him but I doubt it will be four years in college. Neither of my parents went beyond high school and I wish someone had helped me find the right job for me. While I’m very successful in this job, I find less and less to fufill me. I want something better for my kids.

  32. Katie says:

    Unfortunately, some people think it’s OK to pay employees without a degree less than those with one. I think it’s ridiculous – if you do the same work as another employee, for the same amount of time, you should get paid the same.

    In my limited experience, I’ve been turned away from tutoring and teaching gigs because I haven’t completed my degree yet, even though I literally have years of experience. It’s frustrating, but it might be a function of eastern Massachusetts – there are so many people with degrees that people really don’t consider those without them as serious candidates. I’m not sure.

  33. Nick Wright says:

    I’m turning 30 this winter, and I’m just now starting college.

    When I left high school I had no clue what I wanted to do, so I went out and tried everything. I have held each and every job that has ever tickled my fancy. I have never been turned down from a job because of my lack of a degree.

    Twelve years later I’ve finally decided what I want to do, and while college isn’t required it will make it easier I believe. So off I go!

  34. Mary says:

    I wish someone had told me that it was OK to even wait a year or two before deciding to go to college. I went to a private school that massively pushed college enrollment so that they could boast a 100% matriculation rate. Not only that, but they pushed a certain kind of college more than any other. I’ve had my Bachelor’s for a year now, and though life is great in many ways, I feel the four years of misery in classes and the student loan bill were not worth it. I don’t regret my choice of majors, and I am using my degree, but I hate my job. If I’d had a few years of self-discovery time, I might be on a different path now. I always wonder where I would be if I had had more freedom to make my own way. However, I’m saving money so I’ll have the means to re-route my career when I decide that I’ve had enough.

  35. SP says:

    I think the assumption that a child will go to college can be as dangerous as the assumption that a child will not. My parents encouraged education, and I had a knack for it, so… great. My little sister had less of a knack, and though my parents said she merely had to learn to do something (a trade, whatever), I think she felt pressured to go to college. Because that is what everyone did. And it was a diasater.

    If I could dictate, my (theoretical) children would never stop learning, but it wouldn’t necessarily be through college. It might be likely, but if it was through another path, that would be fine.

    Good post Trent. Very good. More people need to be saying this.

    The thought about high school being unneccesary for college bound students is interesting. Socially it was good for me, but I didn’t benefit that much intelectually. This “one size fits all” education system we have is problematic.

    It may be harder, but if someone wants, they can always go to college later in life. But you can’t have a do-over and get a refund if you decide it isn’t for you.

  36. Margaret says:

    You can have some great experiences at university, and if you know what you are doing, it can be a very important step on your career path. However, when I look at my immediate family, the people making the big bucks are the ones who did trades and have their journeyman tickets. One university grad is up there too (as far as I know, but I don’t pry into his financial affairs) and two of the university graduates have not had the education pay off, beyond enjoying the experience. I would like my kids to go to univerity (at least for a year) for the experience, or if they want to go into a career that requires a university background, but I would not be upset if they went right to work and got journeyman tickets. Mainly I want them to be financially sound and reasonably happy. There’s a lot to be said for a job that you work so many hours and are off when you come home.

  37. Jean says:

    Thanks for this post Trent. My youngest is heading to university this fall. She is 21. She graduated homeschool at 17. We let her have the time off, in fact encouraged it, for her to mature a bit and experience the work world. When she realized she was being relegated to fast food and retail jobs she quickly determined she wanted something else. She now has more motivation to work on that university degree than she ever would have had if we had ‘expected’ her to go right out of high school.

    Still, we’ve also had a talk. She wants to be a creative writer and is very good doing this very thing on-line. There are other ways to use her talent than by acquiring a university degree. But most of her friends and cousins are in university, and she doesn’t want to be left behind. So off she goes.

    Frankly, the prices local contractors charge, I’d be sending my child to trade school if money were the only issue!


  38. I’m not sure I could disagree more with this post. While I think it’s great that we point out that people who choose not to go to college still have legitimate career paths ahead of them, I’m positive that we should be encouraging our kids to go to college. It’s sad that in the US, only 37% of kids get a bachelor’s degree six years out of high school. We should work to get that number up, not tell kids that college isn’t that important. Every bit of data I’ve seen on the subject, as well as everything I’ve seen in the lives of those around me, says that college benefits people tremendously, not just financially, but in their ability to communicate, to think, to be adults.

  39. guinness416 says:

    It’s important not to push too far the other way too, though, or live ones own dreams and regrets out. Kids can drift if not in college too or if they have a million interests and no focus or structure.

    I know quite a few successful people who didn’t go to college (mainly tradespeople, as I work in construction management). But I also have two old friends at home, brothers, whose father (despite his own university education) was very enamoured of his own nonconformity and open-mindedness in our well educated middle-class neighbourhood and pushed them towards apprenticeships. 17 year olds can be very susceptible to influence. They’ve both since gone back to university as mature students, one is still finishing up.

  40. Jim says:

    I think this is a very good point.

    A lot of people who attend college will drop out without obtaining a degree (~40-50%). I believe this is a result of people going to college who have no inclination or aptitude for it. Even among those who graduate too many of them are herded into college with no specific goal in mind and no desire to be there. They end up with a degree they can’t put to use for a job and student loan debt to pay off.

    More people should look into other career paths such as skilled trades and other options.

    If your inclinations and passions leads you to college then fine, but if you’re not interested in college then don’t go there just cause you’re ‘supposed to’.

    On average college degree holders make more than people with just a high school diploma. But those are averages. Someone who went to college with no goal in mind and ended up with whatever degree was convenient and graduated to become ‘underemployed’ in a job they could have gotten without a degree is not going to do better in the long run than someone who thought out their career goals and chose a skilled trade or 2 year degree path and got a decent paying job doing something they wanted to.


  41. Big Ed says:

    You need a college degree for the simple reason it helps you to think different. I work with high school grads and college grads everyday. Most college grads just grasp consepts and ideas differently than most high school educated folks.

  42. Todd A says:

    A counterpoint: I wanted to be a professional drummer. My parents wanted me to go to college. I subsequently finished my 4 year degree in business. While working I had the opportunity to go on the road with a band, which I turned down. Now I’m writing software and raising 2 wonderful children with a woman I love (my wife !).

    If I had been allowed to spread my wings at the age of 18, I probably would have crash landed.

  43. michael says:

    You make a great point. Some of the best students I knew in college had dropped out of high school and gotten their GED. Conversely, many of those I knew who failed out of college or just gave up had been straight-A students in high school but just weren’t ready for the independence that college provides.

    Personally, my SATs weren’t substantially better in 12th grade than they were in 8th grade. I’ve always sorta wished that I had skipped high school, lived a little, then went to college when I had goals. Certainly things would have turned out very differently.

  44. One other alternative is to start with a community college. This give your child a chance to experience college and see some of the opportunities available without the huge expense of going to a regular four-year university, especially one where you’d have to pay out-of-state tuition.

    Cathy Sykes

  45. bunny says:

    great post.
    i graduated high school in 1998 and college in 2002. i still hang out with a friend from high school and we were talking about this recently.
    when we were in school *everyone* said, “study whatever you like in college, it doesn’t matter. people never end up in the field they study in. they just look to see that you have the degree.” so that’s what we did.
    and then we graduated from college post 9-11. i don’t know anyone who found any sort of career-type job after college. i stayed at the retail store i had been working at (i did move up to assistant manager and bought a house, but that’s all long gone now). other friends worked in coffee houses and video stores. it was really frustrating.
    it still is.
    people younger than me have great careers because they graduated a few years later when the economy started taking off again. they entered a world eager for new blood.
    i’m a receptionist with no clue what my passions in life are. which is really frustrating because i’m a passionate person.
    i often wish i had just followed my dreams right out of high school. even if they changed over the years, i’d have the option of going to college when i knew what i was interested in.

  46. Bill says:

    College is necessary. There is quite a difference between being an engineer and an electrician.

    Bill Gates was a dropout of a school most of us aren’t smart enough to get into in the first place.

  47. Ariana says:

    I am glad you wrote this article. In a third-world country, higher education meant a much-necessary opportunity to escape poverty and limited opportunities. I was in such a situation that once I finished my degree, I had no choice but to go and aim higher in hopes of JUST getting A JOB.

    Now living in the US, I realized that higher education is an option out of several for survival. I wish I would have known about this sooner before getting in debt for my degree (which I am being underemployed for).

  48. Anitra says:

    My parents both had master’s degrees, and it was simply expected that I would go to college. College was a pretty good fit for me; it taught me a lot about “the real world” without plunging me in headfirst, AND I like taking classes in general.

    That said, college/university simply isn’t the right move for every 18-year-old. I can point to three teenagers in my own family who simply aren’t prepared for full-time university; two are going part-time while living at home and working, and a third will probably never go to college. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as they can support themselves by the time each one is in their early 20s. It’s when “not going to college” becomes an excuse to stay home and mooch off mom & dad that it becomes a problem.

  49. Moe says:

    I agree. College is not necessary to make a good living. With only my high school diploma I make just shy of 6 figures. This meets or exceeds many of my graduate and post-graduate educated friends.

    Ambition and desire are key.

  50. cliff nixon says:

    Although I think college is a very rewarding experience there are some fields such as IT where it makes very little sense to pursue a degree. I know of many people who have received bachelors degrees and for the most part most of my friends that have been self taught in one IT skill or another make considerably more financially. Of my friends that are doing well in the IT industry most were not the greatest students in high school. I work for a company that will pay 100% for tuition expenses if I were to pursue a degree, but at this point I have to ask myself what really will I learn over my practical real world on the job experience? Basically in my experience college does not equate into a higher paying job when it comes to the IT industry, and having worked with and for people who have degrees and are working in the IT field, the degree doesn’t hold much weight in an ever evolving field.

  51. DrFunZ says:

    Not every child should go to college. As a college professor I can assure you that not everyone is ready, and not everyone who is ready should necessarily be there. Who should be in college?? Two kinds of people: ones who know what they want to study; and ones who do not know what they want to study, but who are intensely serious about learning about a range of subjects from others who are experts. Everyone else is either “hanging out” or “growing up”. It is a personal decision as to whether those two activities are really worth 38K a year!

    College is NOT about getting a job – college is about broadening one’s world view so you can have a better life, which might include getting a better job. It is about becoming a more logical thinker,a stronger reader and writer, a more informed consumer, a wise decision-maker. If one goes to college simply to “get a job” one will miss the entire point of exploring many different areas of thought.

    Parents who ask, “Will my child get a job after college”? I answer, “Probably, it depends on how well your child maximizes the experience he has here. If he discovers who he is and what his gifts are, if he develops certain skills and learns to carry himself responsibly, maturely and morally, he will surely find a good job – BUT do not be deceived – college is not job-training. it is not about getting a job – it is about getting a LIFE. And really, you are not sending your child to here JUST TO GET A JOB. If you only wanted your child to get a job, you could be sending him/her to trade school or technical school.”

    If a child is not destined for college, then he should be encouraged to find something he/she loves to do and pursue it until reaching a masterful level. Lots of kids want to “become a musician” and play in a band or be an “artist”. Fine… take music theory (art) classes and learn how to write music (make art) so you can communicate musically with others take lessons from a master and play (draw) every day for eight hours a day and find out if you really have the chops to handle a full-time job as a musician (artist).

    There will never be a substitute for brilliance (Bill Gates) or natural ability (Mozart). These two types never need schooling. But for the rest of us, direction, study and apprenticeship are usually necessary.

  52. Colleen says:

    College isn’t just about setting you up for a path in life. It’s a valuable experience in its own right, and even if as a parent you want to let a child discover their own way, that doesn’t preclude you making an argument for the benefits of higher education from many standpoints (salary, opportunity, critical thinking, social development, networking, and so on). Kids want guidance as well as encouragement in their passions, just like kids crave limits even if they want to test them.

    Plus, like someone mentioned above, the value of a bachelor’s degree is changing. Odds are when your little kids are old enough for college, a B.A. will be what a high-school diploma is today for many jobs – a minimum requirement – while a master’s degree is what will unlock most higher-end doors. That might become the “optional” path in the way you are seeing a B.A. as now.

    On that topic, have you considered whether you would direct any money into saving for a child’s M.A. program tuition, if that’s where their path took them? Generally, only Ph.D. candidates get the option of a full ride. Or would you consider the M.A., even if it came right after the B.A., to be the child’s financial responsibility?

  53. DrFunZ says:

    Oops… addendum to my comment #40…

    Going to trade school or technical school ALSO affords one to get a LIFE – and a better life, too. These schools open other kinds of doors that are extremely valuable and they also foster good decision-making and personal growth. They are particularly strong in teaching problem-solving, personal responsibility and team-work. They simply are not the schools that focus on the traditional liberal arts.

  54. KC says:

    Undergraduate work has basically been dumbed down to where its just a continuation of high school. Probably the best thing I ever did was get a Master’s degree (then go back and get another one). They have set me apart from the pack.

  55. shahrul azwad says:

    This is a classic debate.

    College education is useful for those who wants to make a good use of it. For some profession it is a must. Like myself, to be a lawyer I need to go to law school either part time, full time or exam based. There is no other way around it. Similar with doctors, pharmacists and nurses.

    To be in business, one doesn’t need a college degree in business but it doesn’t mean you should not have one. Many great actors, musicians, artist, writers etc also didn’t go to college to master their art.

    Education is always good and college is just a part of it. Perhaps it has become some sort of rite of passage that one has to go to but there are many successful people that didn’t have a college degree. But we cannot rely on this reasoning to conclude that college is not necessary.

  56. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Lurker Carl and I are in agreement!? You know it’s a momentous occasion when that happens.

  57. Elizabeth says:

    In my family it was always expected that:
    1. You will go to college.
    2. You will graduate with a four year degree before you may get married.
    3. You will be totally responsible for paying your own way.
    I don’t categorically agree with all three of those points, but I do find myself continually amazed by the way people just assume that paying for college is the responsibility of the parents.
    If you want to help your kids out, great! But it’s not something you should be expected to do. i believe that children should be taught early on that when they finish high school they become adults, and will thenceforth be held responsible for themselves.

  58. George says:

    Unless you own your own business, if you want to be in management, at least other than sales management, you’ll need a college degree of some sort.

    College degrees open doors that can be closed to those without degrees. At my government job, I can readily spot the differences between those with college degrees and those without… with a degree, there is a far greater chance of having a good paying job and the spelling/grammar is 10x better amongst those that have a college degree. Trade school graduates tend to only know their subject matter and aren’t adept at broadening their horizons so they lose when there’s a technology shift that makes their old skills obsolete.

    My former job, in the medical industry, had a concentration of degreed people. The lack of advancement opportunity is extremely high in that industry if you lack a college degree!

    Me? I’m a bona fide jack-of-all-trades, with a BS in Arts & Letters, General Studies. In other words, I have what is essentially an English degree with a lot of higher math classes, engineering, and science classes thrown in for good measure. Took me 6 years of full time study to finish because I wasn’t the most studious student and got ejected from one college for academic deficiencies after 2 years. The resulting career has been as an IT Analyst making an excellent salary without getting into management and I have the skills to know I can shift gears whenever this career peters out.

  59. antiSWer says:

    I personally think SOME college/university is good for everyone. Course in philosophy, history, psychology and the such provide a different perspective and some creativity.

    I subscribe to the idea that you can be a better plumber or CEO if you have imagination. :)

  60. George says:

    And one more thing: it’s rare for someone to graduate college and instantly find work in their chosen career. I was 28 before I had a steady paycheck and that was only after switching from technical writing to pure IT work.

  61. Amber says:

    If you have the will to learn. You will learn, college or not. College is a process of acquiring skills and contacts that are great, especially for a specific field like medicine, as I study. However, I find the experiences and social bonding can be done more efficiently elsewhere. Same to be said about customer/patient service skills and employee/employer relationships.

  62. Meri says:

    As a high school counselor I always make an attempt to help students discover their own path instead of following the crowd. The question isn’t whether or not everyone should receive a college education, but rather what is appropriate for each individual and their ultimate goals. An 18 year old may not be able to articulate their exact professional futures, but they can certainly identify their interests and talents. It’s my job to help them find their path using those interests and talents as a starting point. For many at the school where I work, college is the correct choice. However, I spent a lot of time reassuring those who have other dreams that do not involve college that they are just as valid and valuable as everyone else.

  63. almost there says:

    Any College or University is a business. Does any good happen in them? Yes. But it is an economic free ride for most that grab the brass ring of tenure. I am a classified staff at a major western university. The goal of the business is to promote the need for customers to attend and spend money to give jobs to the people that work there. The guy that drives the van that delivers our uniforms got a BA from here. I work with HS drop-outs that make more than I do, due to senority. I have a BA in liberal arts but it didn’t get me my job. It is a shell game with more and more expecting a college degree is give them a leg up in life. Of course, I am jaded by all the BS self important posturing that goes on around here. The more people graduate with menaningless degrees the more devalued all degrees are. Lots of PhDs around here. My CWO after my name at least informs people that my parents were married.

  64. Ryan says:

    This is an interesting post to be sure. I agree that college is not for everyone. There are many paths. College is one. However, properly executed, the purpose of college is not to learn a trade, but rather to be exposed to the width and breadth of academic knowledge (for better or for worse) and to learn to appreciate, and perhaps even love, the human condition. I recognize that perhaps these are lofty goals, but in my humble opinion, properly understood, the purpose of college is not to land a job, but to expand the mind. It is a privilege granted to a small minority of humanity (and a privilege wasted on many).

    My brother spent a number of years playing in a band after high school, and did very well for himself. It was an opportunity to see the world, do exciting things, party, etc. But I admit that I encouraged him to go to college. Initially he tried to discover what degree would be most appropriate for his (presumed) career goals, but my advice to him was simple. “If you’re going to be at university, study what you love. Learn what you want. No degree guarantees you any job. Learning is everything.” And if more people took this approach, there would be more happy people. No job will make you happy. No amount of money will make you happy. The opportunity to learn what it means to be a human, to learn what humans before you have done, and even to foster the desire to give something back, is perhaps the point of higher education. Naturally all of these things are possible without college, but this is the opportunity that college -properly executed- may offer.

  65. I agree with your evaluation entirely. I’ve been a university professor for ten years, so I have a vested interest in getting kids into college (especially mine). I and most professors I know, however, do *not* think that the benefit of college is vocational training — which is a very different perspective on higher education from that of most of our students!

    As DrFunZ above noted, the intangible benefits of a college education are that it broadens students’ intellectual scope by introducing them to new facts, concepts, and perspectives they may not have been exposed to in their family or in K-12. It also teaches them how to seek out multiple sources of information, evaluate them, and use them to support a line of argument or reach a thoughtful conclusion. These are all skills that will be useful in life long after students forget what they learned in their History of Art or Introduction to Psychology course….

    In addition, because so many students attend college straight out of high school, college has also become an intermediate zone between family and street where students can develop self-discipline, experiment with questions of identity and self-definition, and forge new relationships.

    Unfortunately, some students aren’t emotionally ready for college right out of high school, can’t afford it until they’ve saved up some money, or aren’t likely to develop their true interests and skills in a traditional college environment. Yes, college degrees are essential in many professions, but they’re unnecessary in many others, and nothing I’ve mentioned above about the intangibles of a college education can’t be picked up elsewhere. Sometimes skipping, or at least postponing, college may be a high-school graduate’s best choice.

    I hope everyone who’s either considering attending college or saving up for their kids’ college education looks carefully at your post. I loved higher education so much that I made a career out of it, whereas my sister skipped college, went to a local computer school, and has worked her way up to a well-paying, high-responsibility managerial position. A college degree isn’t everything!

  66. Sara says:

    I agree that the military is an excellent alternative to college. I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and I work at a nuclear power plant where most of my coworkers came from the Navy’s nuclear program (and few went to college). Their military experience is considered equivalent to my college degree in terms of qualifications for the job, and instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend college, they got paid to serve in the Navy.

    There are limitations on career progression without a college degree — most positions at the manager level and above are filled by college graduates — but one can still make good money at my company (some make six figures) without a college degree.

  67. Mavis D. says:

    Well said! Too many kids are pushed into college by well-intentioned parents. Most people who do earn a degree shortly after high school end up working in a field not related to what their degree is even about! Can you say…money wasted?

    We have five sons that we homeschool. It is our goal to find the talents and interests that they have and help them explore careers that they would enjoy. We are also encouraging them to be business owners instead of employees. We are trying no to focus so much on the amount of money they can make but that they provide for their families and MANAGE their money wisely.

    Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is required curriculum for graduation! LOL!

  68. WD+50 says:

    Just found this site a month ago.

    Times have changed.

  69. Sam says:

    Trent, the pursue your passion thing as a way for financial independence probably will work on other cultures/countries.

    But in a 3rd world country where I currently live, if you don’t have a college degree, opportunities are simply too far to reach. No college degree here will only give you thankless job. While I do agree that most Taipans (rich Chinese businessman) here in Philippines are mostly non-college grads, they are an exception.

    Fix My Personal Finance

  70. PChan says:

    Where I live, employers require a 4-year degree of secretaries. This chapped my hide–I respect the skills and abilities a secretary needs to do the job well, but it certainly doesn’t require a 4-year degree to do it. I went to school so that I didn’t have to be a secretary, and those are the jobs I was steered into. I had to move overseas for awhile to break that pattern.

  71. tightwadfan says:

    I have thought about this issue a lot and have known people who took a variety of the paths mentioned here. I think that George may have the best handle on the pros/cons of a bachelors. It’s true that trade school graduates have a hard time adapting and this is something to keep in mind if you’re considering trade school. I don’t know why a college graduate who majored in one subject would be able to adapt better but it does seem to be the case.

    I don’t like to see people getting a college degree just for the sake of it. I’ve seen this with many friends and they either dislike their careers or ended up switching careers when they eventually figured out what they really want to do. I think that’s a waste. However, it is so much easier to get your degree out of high school (or after a year or two off) than to try to go to school and work at the same time, so I think you can’t wait too long. You just make it so much harder on yourself.

    I was lucky, I realized at 16 what I wanted to do with my life and so went to college with a purpose. Also I paid my own way through so I did not waste my time there partying.

    I do think trade school can be a good option, especially since many trades (like plumbing) can’t be outsourced to India , and they pay very well. However keep in mind that many trades, unlike desk jobs, wear out your body. You may want to consider taking some classes in business so that you could move into management as you get older.

    As for the military, joining is a big commitment. You can’t quit until your enlistment is up, your personal life is not separate from your job and your time is not really your own. Many of the fields (like infantry) are pretty useless in the outside world so you could end up working at Home Depot when you get out unless you plan your transition wisely. It has advantages but I wouldn’t consider it a serious alternative to college.

    There are some nice stories here about people who didn’t go to college but let me add some cautionary tales. One is my sister, she never like school and decided not to go right after high school. Eventually she enrolled but changed her mind a few times and after 7 years of community college, real college and some breaks, got her bachelors. The whole time she was living with my parents, she did end up with a decent temp job but said she couldn’t afford to move out, I think the Jeep Wrangler she bought might have had something to do with it. She finally did figure out the career she wants and got her masters. She moved out of my parents house when she got married. Her husband is supporting her while she gets her PhD. She is 30 and has never supported herself. I dread the thought that my children would turn out like that.

    A few stories from the military – friends of the family, career enlisted, really hard working, good men. But were not able to get good jobs after getting out, one worked at the post office, one as a security guard, on as a building supervisor. The building supervisor had a heart attach in his 50s and was laid off a few months later for trumped up reasons. He hasn’t found a new job.

    I don’t think a college degree is necessary for every one but I think it gives you more options. Also if you decide not to go to college, you can do very well, you need to think ahead though.

    I think the best thing you can do for your kids is to teach them to take care of themselves and to make good use of the opportunities available to them.

  72. reulte says:

    This is a wonderful post. May I also suggest taking the Foreign Service Office Exam. This is the first step in becoming a Foreign Service Officer — no degree or foreign language required. However, it can be quite a difficult exam. (http://www.state.gov/careers)

    I loved learning and have plans to return either to finish off a PhD, learn carpendry or to enjoy discourse and dialoge when I’m retired (and tuition for senior citizens can be quite a bargain). However, I’m not making any plans for my son beyond his being able to take care of himself at the earliest possible age and that he travel for a while between high school age and early 20’s (and figures out how to pay for it himself). My family has a history of military (there’s an option) and Foreign Service (another option) as well as a history of obtaining degrees later in life. But we have traveled extensively and spent many hours in museums and historical sites.

    Carrie – Comment 2 — Decidedly, it’s a very “cultural thing” for Asian families to have plans of higher education for children, generally in a context of high-status and high-paying jobs. In Asian culture it is not the individual but the family that is primary and expectations are that the children gradually take over the support the parents. Of course, like all cultural practices, it changes thru time with exposure to other practices as well as within the family. [Can you guess what one of my degrees is in and where I have traveled? :-) ]

    Jean – Comment 37 – if going to college ‘just for the experience’, take the courses that interest you. Ask the professor if you can get a wiaver for any pre-requisites if they aren’t absolutely necessary (let him/her know that you are not seeking to graduate, just that this course sounds fascinating …).

    Big Ed – Comment 41 – I think it’s called maturity. Many non-collge people don’t ever step out of their comfort box; and education take you out of that box by providing more experiences.

    Bunny – Comment 45 – Go back to school, take some on-line courses; read up on something you find of interest, take a position as receptionist at a local college or other industry you find fascinating. Get a mentor or volunteer in that field. I have a degree in biology and another in anthropology with over 30 hours of graduate courses completed and I’m currently working as an office manager! At the moment, it’s what I want.

    DrFunz and Dru Pagliasotti – Comments 51/53 & 64 – couldn’t have said it better!

  73. vfleslie says:

    I have just skimmed the replies and maybe the issue of health insurance has already been addressed, but our situation is my child will no longer be on the family health plan if he\she is out of high school and not a full-time student. Pretty sure that is standard policy on group medical insurance plans. My state requires we pay COBRA (for 3 years, very expensive) before my child can get into the state CHIP pool. My child probably cannot get a personal policy due to some pre-existing conditions (probably not serious, but a medical history never the less). If my child can get a policy it would be very expensive. I would venture most kids are going to have a medical history by the time they are 18 (allergies, accutane, diabetes, etc). While I agree, in theory, with your blog, the reality for our family is my children must stay in school because it is unacceptable in today’s world to go without health insurance. Until the medical insurance field is leveled (affordable access for my child with a condition, moving to states with more affordable state plans, univeral health insurance, whatever) that is a real concern for kids not going off to college.

  74. Cheaplee says:

    I agree. Our system has become mentally mandated to go to school. Funny, I have written a post examining the cost of education versus savings the difference – http://www.cheaplee.com/why-a-fancy-graduate-degree-like-an-mba-may-not-be-worth-the-expense/. Building wealth has more to do with savings and investing, then how much you can make. Why? We build financial bubbles around our lives, so if we make more, we spend more.

    College may give more opportunities, but the competition is still tough, and just as tough at the graduate level. Before you burden yourself with an enormous debt, make sure this is the pathway to take.

    Get an education in what you ultimately want to do. There are tests like the PF16, CISS, etc. that help you on your way.

  75. DivaJean says:

    I am also of the belief that a college degree is not necessary for everyone. I myself went to a 3 year nursing program- and never went on to finish for my bachelors in nursing. I have progressed on over the years without it, and am the sole wage earner for our family of 6. Does it limit some potential jobs I might have chosen? Rarely, but it has. More of a concern has been whether jobs I take would cover my life partner for health insurance- but that’s a whole other can of worms.

    Do we save for our children’s college? Yes- but the belief is that not all 4 will likely want to go to college. We intend to give them all equal amounts for further education to support whatever they opt to pursue. My son is very artsy and is starting ballet in the fall- at age 6, he wants to eventually have a dance troupe- or be a mixed media artist. Does every kid meet their childhood dreams for these types of passions? No- but it shows where he is and what types of skills and passions he has. My 9 year old loves to write. She is much more the one who loves school and learning- and seems more likely of the two eldest to pursue college. Besides our savings, hubby is also starting part time work at a university- to eventually become full time. Employees get free tuition for their family, which can also be transferred to other colleges or schools participating in their “reciprocity” program. So- on some level, we do anticipate or expect them to go to college- or some type of secondary schooling beyond high school.

  76. Mary says:

    This theory is slightly flawed. First off, where do your expectations end? Do you push them to graduate high school but not even attempt college? But what if they aren’t ‘cut out’ for high school? What if they decided that their idea of entrepreneurship is selling drugs…out of you basement? Yoyu can say you won’t impose standards all you want but they can’t be avoided completely. This laissez faire parenting style is not the most effective. For one thing, the world is filled with expectations. Kids need to learn that someone is going to expect something from them (whether that’s going to be their boss, spouse, etc). And they usually seek directions. I’ve talked with many young people who resented the do what you want attitude. It often comes across as not caring. Often times college is intimidating and if there aren’t some expectations or at least gentle encouragement, they will take that as a free pass. But college does more than teach a bunch of classes that leads to a piece of paper. In college you learn discipline, responsibility, you have a chance to network, and even if you don’t use your degree, it makes you that much more desireable in the job market (unless you are applying for a job at McD’s which in that case they can say you are overqualified). No, in fact, in today’s world, a batchelor’s degree is often not enough. This article just seems to be way too middle of the road. Like you are too afraid to completely say that college is a waste of time but you don’t exactly say it’s worth it. Make up your mind. State your opinion with certainty and don’t be wishy washy. And don’t fill your kids day up with scheduled activities where they have scheduled play times and what not.

    And what’s up with the statement: Assuming that homeschooled and private school students graduate? Like there’s a higher propability that pub school kids graduate? I think if you looked at the data per capita, the opposite would be true.

  77. Frank says:

    There are some very good points regarding the topic at hand. I would like to share my personal perspective. I did not graduate from college. I was an excellent student in high school earning 4.0 during the final years of my education. Entering college I was amazed at the cost and the material covered. I felt I was paying top dollar to educate myself. I finished one year and spent the remaining time educating myself in areas I was interested like personal finance and investing. I am now a registered stock broker (series 7) and licensed to provide financial advice (series 66) without a BA degree. This may be completely off base but I feel degrees are now used as a status symbols. I don’t believe that make you better, smarter, or more well rounded than a person who does not have one.

  78. Lynn says:

    @Carrie– I think that it is cultural.

    In the parts of the U.S. where I’ve grown up, and the circles I’ve generally moved in (I have to qualify it like that because it’s a big place with a lot of people) the assumption has been that parents take care of their own retirement, but kids will help them out if they can if they get in a real pinch. Likewise, kids are supposed to be fully supporting themselves very quickly out of school, but parents will help them out in a real pinch. In both cases, one is assumed to be responsible first for taking oneself (so your parents and your kids don’t have to), and second to ones family if they really need it.

    My experience with families from Asian countries, the expectation has been the other way around: one is responsible first for one’s family –especially parents–, placing one’s own needs & dreams second.

    Either system can work, both have their advantages and disadvantages. I’m more comfortable with the first, but then, that’s what I grew up with. I think who it really gets hard for is the children of families who immigrate from one culture to another– they are getting one message about Just The Way Things Are from the culture around them and from many of their friends, and a completely different message about Just The Way Things Are from their families.

    Growing up with the surrounding cultural expectation that you can chart your own path, but the familial expectation that you will make choices based on what is best for supporting your parents can’t be easy– there’s no sympathy from the culture if you make major sacrifices to keep your parents happy, but serious family difficulties if you don’t. And if the parents grew up expecting to take care of their own parents, and expecting their children to take care of them in turn, I can see why the pattern suddenly breaking could be quite frightening.

  79. Lynn says:

    @Carrie– I think it is cultural.

    It’s the difference between the expectation that one is responsible first for taking care of oneself (so one’s parents and/or kids don’t have to) versus the expectation that one is responsible first for taking care of ones parents and extended family, and all choices have to revolve around that.

    Either system can work (and has, in various places, for a very long time). I’m more comfortable with the first, but then, thats what I grew up with.

    It has to be hardest on families that move from one culture to another– kids growing up with the cultural expectation that they can and will chart their own path, but the familial expectation that they will focus on caring for their parents. And parents who grew up taking care of their own parents, and assuming that their kids would do the same for them being frightend and uncertain what to do at the prospect of the new culture suddenly causing breaking that pattern. And even if the kids give into family and put their parents first, they know that it’s less likely that their own kids will do the same.

  80. beloml says:

    I have worked at a major research university my entire career and my Ph.D. is in higher ed administration, but there are times that I wish I had become more of an entrepreneur with a skilled trade instead of going this route.

  81. getagrip says:

    The message to my children is they are expected to continue their education after high school, be it a trade school, college, etc. and if not, they need to get a job and pay rent or move out. I believe you should have reasonable but high expectations for your kids. My feeling is you need to let your children know your expectations, often, whenever the subject comes up.

    Also, while you may not want to squash any passions they have, you need to point out two things.

    First a “passion” may not pay much. As an example my son wants to be in a band and play music (and is currently doing so with high school friends). He thinks they’ll be the next Rolling Stones. So I let his uncle talk to him about the band he was in for ten years, the kind of money they really made, and the people he knows who are still trying to break into the industry and make a living at it. It opened his eyes to the tougher side of the business and his need to really commit if this is what he wants to do for a living.

    Second, you can have multiple passions or interests, and you can explore those without trashing your life. College can be a great place to do so, but it doesn’t have to be the only place. I know lots of folks who held a regular 9 to 5 job and eventually found something they really wanted to do, and either turned it into a businsess or a career.

    Point is not to forgo trying (e.g. playing in a band and making it big), the point is you can have multiple interests in life and explore them without sitting on your butt living off of your parents.

  82. rb says:

    I think going to college after high school depends on the individual student and their situation. I am a drifting, unfocused sort of person, and I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school. The only thing I was sure of was that I didn’t want to go to college right away.

    I didn’t figure out what I wanted to do until I was about 25 years old, and by that point you don’t have the same support system that high school graduates have.

    So now that I know what I want to do, I’m on the pay-as-you-go plan for attending college, and wishing I had stayed in school and got my degree years ago instead. I can’t blame my parents; they made several excellent suggestions that I didn’t listen to. After a certain point, you become responsible for your own stupidity.

    That said, I recommend college for people who can stay the course, and trade school for those who don’t want to go to college.

    I also recommend serious financial education courses for everybody. It saves you a lot of trouble to know what to do with money before you get it, and how to stay out of debt. That was information I could have used in the 11th and 12 grades, instead of the 8th grade when I didn’t have a job and didn’t care.

  83. Whatever says:

    Commenter #6:

    If you went to a top law school, and assuming you’re not in public interest law or some other low paying legal field, your starting salary at any decent law firm is $160K. If you follow this blogs advice your debt will be paid off quickly.

    Your salary as an 8th year associate will likely approach $300K. If you make partner, it’s probably $500K and up.

    So don’t cry poor yet. :)

  84. Kevin says:

    I agree college isn’t for everyone, but it is important for other aspects besides education. I’m glad I went to college just for the social aspect (not to mention the accounting degree is coming in handy as a CPA). I was pretty shy and going off on my own definitely helped me break out of my shell and meet people I probably otherwise wouldn’t have. I feel that has helped me tremendously in my career.

    About the only thing I would have done differently is either taken a long trip to Europe or just driving around the US after graduating college. Instead, I went straight to work and then got married a month later. I will definitely encourage my kids to explore while they are young and not jump too fast into anything. That is probably the only regret I have in my life along with never living outside of the state of Missouri.

  85. Sam says:

    Carrie (comment 2): I too have observed this all-but-extinct practice of helping parents as you (and they) grow older. A friend of mine fully intends to help his parents with retirement (from a financial aspect). His parents ran a successful restaurant when he was young, which ultimately helped develop his strong work ethic. Not in the distant past, this practice was in place in the United States as well. Many families took in relatives, much like the Indian culture does to this day. I spent a great deal of my life living with my great-grandmother and grandparents, and I believe I’m the better for it. On to other topics..

    Paul (comment 25): While you still have $38k in student loan debt, at least it’s not $100k+ of debt. My total bill for my four-year (yes, on time!) degree was $118,000. While I was very fortunate to have relatives that saved for my education practically since birth, I walked away with no debt. Could this money have been put to better use? Perhaps. I could have easily purchased a very nice home where I live (at least at the time when I moved to the east coast of FL for my degree), or attend a four-year state school where I grew up (central Ohio – OSU most likely) and have a large pile of cash left over when I finished the state school. Do I regret the decision? Certainly not – some comments missed the mark on the true benefits of a college education – the opportunity to live on your own without constant assistance (government, family, etc), the development of a great network of friends (some of my best friends from my college years I would have never met in a different setting), and the development of critical thinking skills.

    On a different note – college can be beneficial in many aspects, but I’ve seen many people realize after completing their $100k degree, they can’t find a job in the field at all, or only a very low-wage position. A marine biology degree, for example, does not bring the $50-80k that some come to expect out of college. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a marine-bio position out of college that pays in excess of $30k. With $100k of debt, this salary does not go far, even after the bare essentials are covered. You may find that your chosen path may not be as fruitful as you originally thought – I think many college students expect a $40-60k+ job once they finish – if this were the case, great. Clearly, this is not the norm, particularly with highly-specialized degrees. Does this mean you should go on to a boring degree that you hate? No! Please don’t sacrifice your own passion for knowledge just to gain a slightly higher paycheck. Bottom line: choose a degree path that interests you, but become fully aware of the opportunities available to you, post-graduation.

    Mary (comment 34): I too would have preferred to take a break from schooling for a year, but I don’t believe I would have the financial resources to spend my time off from school wisely. Ideally, I would have traveled the world for a few months, returning with a global view of the world around me. I was very fortunate to have met students from an international background during my studies, so this was mitigated in some respects (roommate from Trinidad, best friend from Brazil). Exposure to other views and experiences is invaluable.

    Dru (comment 64): Great post. Someone finally commented on the real classroom benefits of higher education. Encouraging different perspectives on issues is a key component to the development of critical thinking skills. This responsibility lies with the professor, by providing topics for debate among students in a classroom setting, as well as the students, who show their own bias during these discussions. If you can lead someone with a very narrow-minded view to consider other viewpoints (and clearly articulate his/her own position), you’ve succeeded as a facilitator of higher learning.

    Mary (comment 69): I think your comment gets the point across. Don’t ignore your children. Encourage them, but lead them to the right path if they are heading in the wrong direction. Wrong direction: life of crime, drugs, etc. Many parents don’t promote the ideals of education, developing your interests/passion, and PERSONAL FINANCE. Some that do forget the other component – ensuring the environment is suitable to foster such ideas. If all you see around you is a gang-controlled neighborhood where the only way to “get ahead” is to deal drugs, you’ll likely end up dealing drugs or a similar fate, without clear direction. Bottom line: Parents! Take interest in your child(ren)’s life(ves)! Find out what your child(ren)’s friends are like, as well as their parents. Provide them many opportunities to have varied experiences – attend plays, encourage reading, outdoor activities, arts (music, art, theater, etc). Travel domestically, as well as internationally, if possible. Most importantly, don’t let the TV be the babysitter for their entire life!

    Think of it this way: If someone asks your child what they did over their summer break (new teacher, perhaps?), you probably don’t want them to say: “I watched a lot of television and played video games.”

  86. Carolyn says:

    I was the proverbial ‘good student’ in high school and went to college immediately after graduation because it was the natural next step. What a mistake. I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself and convinced that the things I was interested in were too hard, picked a school and major at random, and hated every moment of the two years I was there. Two years that would have been much better spent working some low-paying, PITA job that would have taught me the value of a college education and doing what I loved for the rest of my life. I did eventually go back to school, and got my bachelor’s in engineering at age 28.

    I can’t agree more with the concept that allowing your children to develop their own interests and passions is much more important than teaching them that the right college is the only right choice. Had I gotten the tiniest amount of encouragement from the beginning, maybe I wouldn’t have been so afraid of pursuing my passions.

  87. Jason says:

    College is absolutely not *necessary* for everyone. Nor does it mean you have to learn a trade or join the military. It’s possible to have a great, high-paying career with little or no college education. College doesn’t equal a good career, and no college doesn’t have to mean a bad one.

  88. B says:

    Wow. For a person who wants me to trust his novice but purportedly well-reasoned personal finance advice your estimates here are WAY off base for your kids. First, does the overall high school graduation rate approximate the appropriate comparison group for your kids? No. How many kids with college educated parents don’t complete high school? College? Second, ON AVERAGE do college educated people make more than those that only complete a high school education? Yes. Quite a bit more in fact. Does that mean that there aren’t under and over performers? No. Does that mean that the people that didn’t go to college aren’t happy or financially viable? Or that the people who earned more are? No. But averages are like the index funds of stocks. On average, should you expect that your kids will aspire to a college education? Yes. So, are the books recommending that you save for your children’s educations assuming that college is necessary? Maybe. But maybe they’re anticipating that parents savvy to personal finance don’t want their kids to have to take on huge amounts of debt in order to go to college (if they so choose). Most kids will be grateful that their parents aspired for them to do great things and become good people by saving for their future (college or not) in whatever way they could. Does any reasonable person actually disagree with the underlying sentiment, “one does not have to go to college to be successful?”

  89. just me says:

    Steve Sailer has an interesting take on the whole thing – it is no longer legal to have IQ tests for jobs- hence the use of college degrees as a barrier to entry/filter…the problem has become just that – beginning with grade inflation in the sixties (give a kid a C, you send him to ‘Nam) and continuing with “If a ghetto kid flunks out, you’re denying him opportunity” …thus the degree has become worthless not to mention absurdly expensive – college costs have risen far above inflation while the worth of the degree is less and less – just like a devaluing currency.

    I do know a thing or two about one form of education:: art training – anyone wishing to become a fine arist can waste four years and 100,000 at PRatt, Yale, etc have a ‘degree’ and know NOTHING (i am not exaggerating here, I really mean nothing) about painting the human figure. On the other hand, one can go to a non degree atelier (like all the old masters did) pay about $300.00 a month full time – and become a master level painter.

    In fact many artists who get ‘serious’ about art after college go on to Atelier programs and look back at their BFA’s as wastes of time.

  90. Yes, yes, yes! Thank you so much for this post, Trent! I totally agree and think it’s wonderful that as a parent, you are leaving the options open for your children. I have had relatives disparage me because I chose not to go to college. Funny thing was…one who was quite vocal in criticizing me had a history degree and was working a day job in a tanning salon while I was several years into running my own successful business and serving in professional associations.

    There are so many opportunities in the world now for expanding one’s education, developing skills and establishing businesses that I think it is very short-sighted for our society to keep placing such importance on college as the primary (or only) path to success.

  91. I love the vibes you’re putting out there about college. IF following your dreams includes college, then that’s what will be done… but, I agree, college isn’t necessary for everyone.

  92. Tyler says:

    I don’t like to look at it as a “37.6% chance” that a student will get a bachelor’s degree within 6 years, but that 37.6% of students DO get bachelor’s degrees within 6 years of graduating high school. There’s no “chance” about it.

    At the school I went to, I only know of a couple people that had their education paid for by their parents. I didn’t get a dime from mine, and I never expected anything either. Most of my friends are in the same boat. I worked my tail off and paid my own way.

  93. Treva says:

    Thanks for this article, Trent. At one point when my daughter was first born I felt some pressure from a financial advisor to invest in a 529 college savings plan. I explained to him that I don’t expect my child to go to college unless she wants to and what if she wants to go to a trade school instead? He told me that money could then wait for a grandchild. He wasn’t kidding. Neither was I when told him NO in no uncertain terms.

    In addition to the above, I must ask: Why do so many parents feel obligated to put their children through college? My parents didn’t have the money for me to go, so I had to figure out how to do it myself. We live within our means and have very few extras; we can barely save for retirement let alone our daughter’s possible future education. It is not that I won’t support her in her endeavors; I will. I will provide her a home, food, etc. But as I see it right now she will have to pay her own way through college. Personally, I feel this is best. If she has to work for it, she’ll appreciate it more. College does not have to be an experience living a few hundred or more miles from home. An adult child can study where he/she chooses while living at home. Only for the truly unique areas of study would a student need to travel so far. For something more commonplace (teacher, accountant, business management) most people could study much closer to home making college a more easily obtainable pay-as-go situation.

  94. ChangeForA20 says:

    This is a very interesting post, not a topic I have seen discussed in the PF community but definitely one that deserves some attention.

    I am currently between my 3rd and 4th year of college. The first 3 years of my college education cost about $60,000 (pretty inexpensive in comparison to my peers). This summer I took an internship and without question I have learned more valuable information and gained more real world experience in 1 month than I have in my 3 years at college.

    Unfortunately, it has become a social norm to pursue higher education after graduating from high school and I have simply conformed to the norm.

    However, I commend your decision to not force a college education upon your children. My parents took the same approach to an extent, and it just so happened that college was in the deck regardless.

  95. Lynne says:

    I have 2 children & 3 step-children. The oldest went to a trade school, is a mechanic & has owned his own repair shop for 18 years. The next son has no education after high school, but entered a trade and is now a general contractor. #3 step-son works for a home improvement store. #4th child, my daughter, began college, could never get the classes she needed, so enrolled in a business school. Got her degree in legal administration and has been working ever since (10yrs.) for the same company at a very good wage with fantastic benefits. My youngest son had planned to go to a trade school to learn air conditioning, etc. trade. Didn’t do that, but followed his love of woodworking. He has been self employed for several years now and doing wonderfully. I will say that all of them found what they really liked to do and used that to focus on building a future.

  96. Carrie says:

    My husband never went to college – he didn’t know what he wanted to major in, so he didn’t want to spend the money on it. Instead, he got in to a specialty trade, and has been financially and professionally successful. He makes more money than a good number of college graduates I know. I, on the other hand, earned my bachelors, and did exceedingly well in school. I have been a homemaker since I married about a year after college, of my own choice.

    For us, the fact of getting, or not getting, a degree has had little bearing on the “successfulness” of our financial lives.

  97. Carrie says:

    My husband never went to college – he didn’t know what he wanted to major in, so he didn’t want to spend the money on it. Instead, he got in to a specialty trade, and has been financially and professionally successful. He makes more money than a good number of college graduates I know. I, on the other hand, earned my bachelors, and did exceedingly well in school. I have been a homemaker since I married about a year after college, of my own choice.

    For us, the fact of getting, or not getting, a degree has had little bearing on the “successfulness” of our financial lives.

    So, I say, kudos to Trent for speaking up for the idea that college isn’t vital.

  98. kevin says:

    I agree with Trent. The book the Millionaire Next Door (or maybe it was the follow-up makes the point that lots of millionaires never went to college. And in fact, just not everyone is cut out for college. Me, for example. I stuck it out and graduated and now I make extremely good money. The only catch being I absolutely hated to social scene at college, and while I do have a good job it is a constant source of stres in my life.

    I think when my son gets older I will somewhat follow Trent’s path. And where is it written that you have to start college right away? Why not take a year and work some different jobs. See what you like. Grow up a little and then start college. Thanks again Trent.

  99. NYCtek says:

    I left college after one year and starting working in IT; I pull in about $1000 a week. I’m still in my twenties.

    My roommate is a neuroscientist. He worked dutifully unpaid for two years to get the job he has now, and nets a meager $500 a week. He barely affords his rent and food since we live in NYC.

    I don’t tell him how much I make — I don’t have the heart. He excitedly tells me that, with perseverance, he may one day see $750 a week, if he gets his PhD…

    …at least he loves what he is doing.

  100. Kenny says:

    I hear you guys……Success can be planned and planted in many young minds, but it has to be done with a focus, and started, at an early age.

    Look at my Blog site that gives a lot of success characteristics. Most of them are easier said than done, but being an immigrant parent, I know only one thing and that is ‘Design Success and You Shall Have Success’. I am proving this point to my kids and they are showing early signs of good (small) successes through their middle school and high school. This should pave the way for a good future (lawyer, doctor, pharmacy, scientist, bio-technologist etc).

    My kids put in 40-50 hours a week of extra reading/education/tutoring through the summer, enjoying the rest of the time sleeping, watching movie, playing video games, doing soccer/bicycling type of outside activities etc.

    I have planned for their college with my savings, and will continue to be an ‘enabler’ of their future.

    This is what my Dad did for me, while I DID my part.

    Of course, it all depends on kids, cooperation from God and the way they climb over the road-blocks in their lives.

    So, hope for the best, AFTER, doing your best.

    Kenny – A small Blogger at MySite

  101. steve says:

    “Many big entrepreneurs never completed college – just ask Bill Gates. If you have an idea and a strong work ethic, you’re often making a strong choice chasing that dream instead of stopping and following a degree path.”

    I support this post, and think that probably the most important thing is for a young person to take themselves seriously and find a direction for themselves. I also suspect that while some schooling has value, actually, spending 12 years in what is essentially mandatory schooling (the student never gets to make a choice to attend, it is just assumed) and learning to follow what the guy/gal at the front of the class is doing has a lot to do with stunting a person’s self-direction before it even gets started.

    Gates is an example of not only someone with incredibly strong determination, but extraordinary intellect. He left Harvard because he saw an opportunity to start a business.

    I recently read a book by a man who taught a mathematics course that Bill Gates took when he was attending Harvard (Before he left to work full time on Microsoft).
    In the book, this man describes assigning as homework an unsolved problem in mathematics. He expected to get some interesting work from his students that would be fodder for class discussion, and to stretch their abilities.

    However, Bill Gates the undergrad came in to his office the next day with the proof (solution).

    The professor says that Gates was perhaps the smartest person he has EVER met and had the opportunity to teach.

  102. Ken Barker says:

    College is not for everyone. It never has been and never will be. My wife and I are both college graduates as are our two children. All of us did well for ourselves financially, but college costs are outrageous today and many degrees are worth less than the paper they are written on. Community Colleges and tecnical schools are much more meaningful for many students today than even an Ivy League degree. There are even those who can learn valuable skills working for Mom or Dad in their own businesses than wasting their lives in four year colleges.

    Today, while getting my haircut, my barber – a former student of mine – told me that her son, a recent graduate of a community college, got his first job as a truck mechanic in Gillette, Wyoming. He will receive $52,000 a year plus benefits for his services. This was a young man who hated high school because so many courses seemed like a waste of time to him. The Community College allowed him to focus on the courses that were most meaningful and practical to him. This young man, to me, is more the rule than the exception. His Dad is also a mechanic and he – the young man – has learned more from him than anyone else.

    All that glitters is not gold. Wherever kids go to school, it is important that they choose a route that fits them best. A sound education is much more than a feather in one’s cap. It is a step that hopefully will lead to gainful empoloyment and a life that really matters.

  103. Miranda says:

    I am still a highschool student, but I am really debating weither to go to college. I mean, I am not at all good at math, and my love is to write novels. So i don’t see how I need math for writing books….

  104. Jeff says:

    I am a college professor and here is my take on college degrees:

    Only 1 in 4 Americans actually have a college degree. Studies find on average that people who graduate with an undergraduate college degree on average make more about $10,000 more per year than HS graduates alone. For every plumber making $60K+, there are dozens of people working minimum wage service jobs at Wal-mart, etc. so these explain the numbers.

    College graduates also live on average 4 years longer probably because they are better educated to understand medical care and make more. Graduates also are more likely to work in a job where they have health insurance benefits.

    Most Americans have some college, but most won’t finish a degree. Only about half of people who graduate with an undergraduate degree actually will work in the field they study.

    So, here is my advice to people who are looking to attend college or whose children may:

    a. Read the Sunday paper’s job ads. It is all fine and dandy to nurture your child’s potential or want to be a novelist, but what is going to pay your bills until you sell that first bestseller? Ask yourself which of the jobs listed would you actually want to apply for.

    b. If a job says “College degree required” -many do but don’t specify the degree- then major in something you enjoy, will do well in, and will finish.

    c. If the jobs you want to seek require a specific degree and training such as nursing or accounting, then pursue a major in these areas.

    d. If the job you want doesn’t have a specific major -such a meteorology- then major in something similar such as physical geography and seek out summer internships or jobs to give you training specifically in meteorology.

    e. In my experience with freshmen, most want to be physicians, lawyers, business people, or psychologists. I believe I read where 1 in 6 college students get degrees in Biology and most don’t go on into medical school. Instead, consider alternate paths such a degrees in nutrition, food science, plant pathology, etc. that still require the chemistry and biology needed to apply to medical school but which open up more specialty jobs if you don’t pursue medical school. Similar, the bulk of counseling is done by LCSWs, licensed clinical social workers.

    f. Realize that what a college degree amounted to 30-40 years ago equates now to a Masters degree. Average earnings jump considerably from HS diploma to undergraduate degree. They jump even higher though not as much for a Masters. Ironically, average incomes drop slightly if earning a PhD.

    I find many undergraduate students graduate and are often clueless about their hiring potential. They may have excelled in college but really have few or no skills UNLESS they studied a specialized, applied major. Many lack experience in the areas they want to work. If you start with the job ads and realize you want to prepare to win one of these jobs, you can structure your college career to best be prepared through the right major, possibly graduate school, and internships/part-time jobs in your intended career.

    Yes, some people with HS degrees will make more, but the statistics show a college degree on average will open up higher pay, a longer healthier life, and often personal growth.

  105. Bill in Houston says:

    The Bell Curve shows that pretty much half of the population is not meant to go to college. The problem our country suffers from is Lake Woebegonitis, where we think all of our children are above average. This does children a great disservice. Worse, programs for non-college oriented people grow fewer and fewer as time progresses. Military service is a good career if you can handle the regimentation (as a side note, I did serve proudly in the USN). Trade schools, whether for carpentry or computer repair are needed more than ever.

    College is not for everyone, but we don’t have many other choices in careers.

  106. kenny says:

    I feel my 5 years struggling through college (I have ADD and need to work PT to afford to live while taking 9-10 units max) has been a total waste of time.

    I appreciate the people I have connected with, but I really have learned nothing in my course work to be honest.

    Why in the USA do we require RE TAKING all the Gen Ed we took in high school? Do I really NEED to take a History, Speech, Science class? It is a waste. In most parts of Europe people focus on the career they want to be in. That. Is. It. Makes no sense to repeat the same garbage.

    Additionally, some of the studies just do not work for some students. We do not all fit in this cleanly rapped little box.

    I for one have repeated 3 intro to algebra classes with no ability to get higher than a D. I have had tutors (2 hrs a week), did my HW, tried daily and 3 times a week classes, office hours for “additional” tutoring, looked for assistance in the DSP program, studied with other students…

    All it did was mess me up and waste my valuable time. My high school math… I also experienced the same issues and it is no different now. However, the math requirements just keep going up. Stupid. When is “enough”,”enough”? We cannot expect ourselves to endlessly grow.

    If we are required to take classes of higher and higher levels to get a degree (I am looking to receive an associates in broadcasting… why do I need 2 years of algebra????) how does this effect people who simply cannot make the grade because we are wired differently?

    On the other hand… all this debt stuff… honestly, I would not have attended if I needed to go into debt. I made the choice to live as simple as possible.
    I write for grants, receive financial, aide, avoid spending money I do not have liquid, and get all my books either used or borrow them from the school library if possible.

    I also think the biggest waste of time is the crappy costs for school in the USA.
    FAFSA is a time sucking mess. Why not just open education, socialize? Instead I spend hours getting information to financial aide, filling out forms, following up, etc etc etc

    You know what is harder THAN school? Starting the new quarter. I spend more hours getting the finances to a sustainable level than working on my studies.

  107. kenny says:

    To add… comments such as what if someone does not “just” want to be a mechanic, or assuming that a career in something else is “better”… that is simply downgrading someone.

    I for one would much rather off never own a home, buy new cars, etc… if I was in a job I really loved to do regularly.

    When people get into more lucrative careers “just” so they can make better” money it creates serious pause for me.

  108. Carol Baker says:

    You all have brought some peace to my mind with your comments. My son (home schooled all his life)is about to start 10th grade. I’ve been fretting about what classes and things I need to teach to prepare him for graduation. I have other home school friends who put their kids through so many additional classes to prepare them for college that it takes so much of their summer. I just didn’t know how much to do and my son who is 14 doesn’t have any idea yet if he even wants to go to college. So I feel like you’ve taken some of the pressure off. Most people in my family have never gone to college. After my husband died in 92, I went to a community college for 2 years and I was the 1st of my family. I loved it and got straight A’s. I didn’t stick it out though. I was a lonely young widow with 2 daughters and ready to be married again. And I do agree with those who stated that college grads have an elitist attitude. They look at you in shock if you even suggest that you might not send your child to college. My first husband after leaving the Navy, went onto a trade school to get his A&P license. (Airframe & Powerplant) We couldn’t have planes flying without aircraft mechanics. At least those who are in trades have more physically active jobs and don’t sit at desks all day. That inactivity is really bad on the human body. That is why so many have to go to gyms, jog, or buy tons of equipment to work on at home. At least when people are crawling around in planes, cars, building houses, etc. they are moving. I totally agree though with the age thing. When I was 18 I didn’t even care about going to college. But when I did go when I was widowed at 35 I loved it. I only went the two years, but it helped me get out and took my mind off of grieving for my husband. I haven’t made use of what I learned in a job. In both my marriages I’ve been a stay at home mom. I’ve got much more to say, but I’ll stop for now. Carol

  109. Bill in Houston is right about the fact that not everybody is college material. There’s also the fact that the colleges are overrun with students who don’t really want to be there, and it’s an additional problem when being there is driving the student into debt to get a degree which might turn out to be the wrong choice.

  110. xxx says:

    Poste rudement fascinant !!

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