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?

College Education: Is it Still a Good Investment?