Sadly, the first thing I do when I wake up is check my Twitter feed, then Instagram, and if I have time, my Gen Z tendencies kick in and I’ll watch a couple TikTok's. As I was scrolling down my feed this morning, I saw someone say that college is not worth it unless you become an engineer, doctor, or lawyer. I would be lying to you if I said that this was not frustrating to me. I think this notion can be extremely misleading to young individuals who are deciding their next steps in life. However, I want to speak on facts and general truths. Don’t get me wrong - I am sure you have a friend who is making great money that didn’t go to college. Or perhaps, you have a friend who is unemployed with a bachelor’s degree. With that being said, I would like to focus on the general population and not the outliers.
First, to decide if college is right for you or your child, I suggest considering your potential return on investment, or “ROI”. This will give you a clear comparison of the dollar value of the degree you’re paying for and the money you’ll likely earn back. Studies on potential earnings show that the average generated income over the work life of an individual with a high school diploma is around 1.3 million dollars, and that of a college graduate is $2.2 million dollars. Even if you subtract $70,000 to account for student loan debt, there is still an $800,000 difference in favor of the college graduate. Therefore, generally speaking, the numbers say it is financially advantageous to obtain a bachelor’s degree.
As you explore the possibility of college, here are few things worth considering:
1. Your Desired Career
For example, if you are hoping to become a teacher, it may not make financial sense to go to a private institution given you have to pay for everything with student loans. A general rule of thumb is to avoid taking out loans greater than your first year’s income post graduation. There is nothing wrong with attending a community college your first two years.
2. Cost of Living
I believe this is something people often overlook. For example, there were times in college that I was able to pay my own rent since the town I went to school in (Lubbock, Texas) had such a low cost of living. The average cost of a 1 bedroom apartment is $650.
3. The Intangibles
Lastly, I think I would be doing a disservice to withhold acknowledging the intangible assets one receives from college. Consider this, on a college campus you have access to people who have given their lives to research certain topics and industries. I became a better student once I noticed the value found in relationships with professors. Also consider the amount of people to be met through organizations, class, and social events on campus. You simply cannot put a price tag on these intangibles. Another example, I had a roommate in college who grew up in rural West Texas and had less than 40 people in his high school graduating class. I was one of his first genuine black friends. He taught me about hunting, ranching culture, and many other things I would have never known apart from his relationship. What has this done for me? Well, because I now know a few things about West Texas culture, I’ve become a more relatable person! The people I met in college have helped me grow to become a person who feels like he can’t meet a stranger.
Finally, you likely have seen the new social media wave of influencers (fittingly) influencing you to become an “entrepreneur.” Don’t forget that it’s hard to quantify the value of job security and that skipping college to become an entrepreneur may seem cool until your first month with no pay. You are not weak for aiming for higher education and you are not weak for taking a job with a salary. Should you choose to go to college, you are not taking “the easy” route - you are doing something worthy of being celebrated, and you’re investing in your future!
Tamborini, Christopher. “Education and Lifetime Earnings.” Ssa.gov, Nov. 2015, www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/research-summaries/education-earnings.html
“Average Rent in Lubbock, TX and Cost Information.” Zumper, www.zumper.com/rent-research/lubbock-tx.