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College Education: Is it Still a Good Investment?

Ten years ago, it was assumed that a college education was a sign that you were going to make something of yourself. Parents would say things like, “My kid is going to college. All smart kids go to college.” Consequently, every teenager evaluated their “worth” and “identity” based on whether they made it into a good university.

Today—the tide is going out.

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According to a nationwide Country Financial Survey, more adults now question if college really is the right answer for every high school graduate. Look at the numbers of those who say a college education is a “wise financial investment”:

In 2008 – 81% said college was a good investment

In 2009 – 79% said college was a good investment

In 2010 – 64% said college was a good investment

In 2011 – 58% said college was a good investment

In 2012 – 57% said college was a good investment

Overall, it remains true that a student with a college degree will make over 30% more money than a mere high school graduate over a lifetime. That is, in general. At the same time, an increasing number of students recognize that what really matters to most employers is productivity. In other words: Can you get the job done? I’m not aware of many job interviews that include the question: “What was your GPA?”

I know people in my hometown who make great money managing a company, and they never earned a business degree. I know people with executive-level staff positions at churches, who don’t have a theology degree, nor are they ordained. What they do have—is a talent and a passion for the industry they now work within. I know a young man who made the honor roll all through high school. Both he and his parents assumed he should attend college. During his freshman year, however, he confessed to mom and dad…that he hated it. It wasn’t that he couldn’t make the grade, but that he just didn’t fit in a liberal arts institution. His parents asked him what he did want to do with his life. He sheepishly said, “I want to work on cars.”

Fortunately, his parents responded, “Then, go get prepared to be the best auto mechanic you can possibly be.”  And he did. Today, he is an excellent, productive auto mechanic, making good money and doing what he loves to do.

You should know—I love colleges. Growing Leaders works with thousands of them around the world. But, let’s call it what it is. For many, it is a great place to gain a liberal arts education, if you choose a good school. For others, it just isn’t a fit, and it would be a waste of money (tens of thousands of dollars) to force a kid to go.

That’s just my opinion. What’s your angle?

5 Comments

  1. Tammy on September 6, 2012 at 6:45 am

    What is your view on public schools giving the message that all students should go to college? I believe they may be in cohoots with loan companies and colleges to make the all mighty $. Many college students who take these loans out default on them because they cannot get jobs to pay the loans. Don’t get me wrong, I have two children who have gone or are in college. As an educator, the message teachers are getting in my county is all students should go to college. Graduation is filled with $ amounts that schools earn in scholarships for students. It is like a competition! My daughter was pushed to take the SAT for a 4th time which we refused. This pressure was put on her in a private meeting with administrations and a group of students they would pay to take the test again to get the scores up for the school. Some of these students have no plans to go to college, yet they are pushed to take the SAT because by grades in class or other tests, it appears they may do well on the test so that their score will reflect on the high school in the positive. Btw, my daughter had already been accepted into the college she wished to attend when the request was made. She also was in tears with their request and being a teacher at her high school, I could not get involved, but my husband did. My daughter felt bullied to take the test.

  2. Craig T. Owens on September 6, 2012 at 7:50 am

    I totally agree with you. This is exactly what I’ve been telling my kids: I want you to be prepared to do what God has called you to do. If college is required, then get in a good college. If college isn’t a requirement, then get whatever training you need to fulfill your God-given purpose.

  3. Lanita on September 6, 2012 at 9:11 am

    The story about the young man wanting to work on cars describes our nephew almost exactly!! He had been a bagger at a local grocery store during high school, but both of his parents were college graduates, so when he graduated, off he went to college. He didn’t do well at college and by the end of the first year, was nearing probation. So, his parents, thinking he was just homesick, moved him home and he enrolled in the local community college and went back to work at the grocery store where he had worked during high school. After the first semester, he told his parents he didn’t think college was for him, he just wanted to work at the grocery store for now, save his money and decide what to do next. In the meantime, managers at the grocery store began to see things in him that he didn’t even see in himself! He was given opportunities and promotions, and today is the manager of his own store, just turned 30 years old, and making good money……and all without a college degree!

  4. Brian Musser on September 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    A question I’ve been dealing with recently, Does the debt accrued financing a college education actually limit your options after school? I know the answer is yes but what are the extent of these limitations? Service oriented positions which may be more fulfilling are questionable because they usually can’t pay enough to handle the debt issues.

    Does anyone know a good resource that a student/young adult could work through that deals with how to handle student loan debt?

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College Education: Is it Still a Good Investment?