Is College Worth the Time and Money?


(upbeat music) – Now I’ll be the
first to admit, I was not the best
high school student, my grades were bad. But college was presented as
the only liable real option. Now I eventually ended
up going, I graduated, and I got my degree,
and I’m here now so I guess you could
say it worked out. But then there’s
people like my mom who didn’t finish college, and she ended up on
the radio for 20 years and that was her
childhood dream. Now these are two really
specific examples, but they go to show that
there are different routes and different lanes
for different people. So today that leads
us to our question, is college really
the best option? After high school you’ve gotta
make a big life decision, do you commit four
years of your life and probably
thousands of dollars to go to college and
get a bachelor’s degree? Do you go to community college or the trade school route? Or do you skip all of that and jump straight into
the world of work? This is a really
personal decision. We all know everyone
is different, and what works for one person doesn’t mean it’s gonna
work for everyone. At the same time, college is often presented as
the best option, full stop. Why? Because like it or not a college degree has
become the ticket to access to middle class life. It’s not your grandparents
economy anymore. Back in 1950 a
high school diploma could get you a solid
good paying job. You could go work on an
assembly line, save money, and even buy a house. My mom was telling me about, I don’t know if he’s
my grandpa, my uncle, some dude from back in the day and he was a butcher
straight out of high school, and was able to buy a house
and retire like it was nothing. Today, not so much. Most of the factory jobs
have gone to other countries where labor is cheaper. And the good paying
careers that exist now are more complex. So employers, a
college degree screams you can trust me, I’m skilled, I worked hard for four years, and if you hire me I’ll
work hard for you too. College is now more popular
today than ever before. In 1940, a little over
four and a half percent of the US population
age 25 or older had completed four
years of college. Since then it’s been
a steady climb upward, now that number is
just shy of 35%. That’s more than one out
of every three people. Now that’s all great, but you’re gonna have to
pay for that college degree. Do you know how much
that is these days? I mean seriously
it’s ridiculous. The average cost to
attend a private college is over $35,000 dollars a year. That makes in state
public college look like a bargain at
$10,000 dollars a year. Now yeah, there’s financial
aid and scholarships, but depending on what
your pockets are doing, that could really hurt you. College wasn’t always
this expensive, if you adjust for inflation, students in 1990
were paying one third of what we’re paying today. Maybe today’s grads are at
least making more money. Nope, new college grads in 1990 made around the same
amount of money on average and new college grads today. That’s just fantastic, isn’t it? To pay the absurdly
high cost of college, students are taking out
loans, and that means debt. The typical student
leaves college owing around $30,000 dollars, that’s just the average. For some it’s only
a few thousand, for others, it’s
over 100,000, eek. I was complaining
about a couple grand, I couldn’t imagine hundreds
of thousands of dollars, man. All right, so what
are the arguments against going to college? Well to start with, it’s a risk. That debt we talked
about is no joke, and it’s not just a
number on the screen. It takes the average
person 21 years to fully pay off that
$30,000 dollar loan. That’s not just
an inconvenience, it can limit your ability to save up money to
buy a car, buy a house, or even retire. And all the benefits you
might get from that degree only matter if you graduate. When you look at the numbers, four out of every 10 students fail to graduate
within six years. That’s thousands of
dollars down the drain, you’ll have to put
me that statistic, it took me seven years to
graduate, just so you know. It’s also common belief
that a college degree opens doors to great careers that you couldn’t
get without one, but is that actually true? Well the Federal
Reserve Bank of New York has been tracking this
very question for years, they found that 41% of recent college grads
are underemployed. That means they’re working a job that typically doesn’t
require a college degree. So for those jobs, all that time and money spent getting a degree
wasn’t necessary. And the whole college
decision process is a lot to ask from a
senior in high school. Like I said, I had no
idea what I was doing. It was really easy for me
to make a bad decision, and I’m not the only
one who thinks that. A recent poll interviewed
over 122,000 adults, and found that half of
them either regretted what they studied in college, or the college they went to. Come on people, life’s
too shorts for regrets. And remember,
saying no to college doesn’t mean you’re destined
to spend the rest of your life in a minimum wage job. You have other options. There are trade schools in
a bunch of different fields ranging from
aircraft maintenance to IT technician,
to sound engineer. There are apprenticeships
where you learn on the job while you get paid. That’s the path that a
lot of electricians take. And a lot of these
jobs pay really well. The median salary for
an elevator installer was almost $80,000 dollars. The average salary
for a new college grad with a Masters degree is
around $51,000 dollars. Honestly I’d take either of
those salaries right now. And for white collar jobs, a college degree isn’t
necessarily a must have. There’s a growing trend
where big time companies like Apple, Google, and
IBM no longer require college degrees for their jobs. Even some top executives
are questioning college, Elon Musk even though
he went to college talking about you
don’t need college. – There’s no need even to
have a college degree, at all. If somebody graduated
from a great university that may be an indication that they will be
capable of great things, but it’s not
necessarily the case. – But the people who are doing
the work that we care about are figuring out
what to do next, not following the person who
told them what to do next. And the problem
with most colleges are they are high school but
with more binge drinking. And high school is
a series of tests that prove that fit in
more than everyone else, that you have done
what you are told. – The A students work
for the B students, the C students run
the businesses, and the D students
dedicate the buildings. – What seems to matter most is out of the box
creative thinking. College is what most of
the job applicants have, so not going can
make you stand out if you have the right skills. Peter Thiel, a tech billionaire who made most of his
money by founding PayPal offers a $100,000
dollar fellowship to people under 23
to not go to college, and instead pursue work
outside the classroom. Not too shabby, I’m mad that I’m just
now hearing about it, but still, not too shabby. All right, so we’ve been beating
up on college pretty hard for the last few minutes. Yes it can be expensive, yes it takes a lot of your time, yes there are alternatives. And it’s easy to look
at mega success stories like Mark Zuckerburg
and Bill Gates, two billionaires
without a college degree and think why not me? But those guys both got
accepted to Harvard, and Bill Gates has
said, and I quote, “college is a much surer path
to success than not going.” The value of a college
degree is pretty clear. Nine out of 10 new jobs
created in the last year have gone to college grads, and those grads will earn
$900,000 dollars more over their lifetime than the
typical high school grad. And while trade school grads
might make more money to start, research shows that
a bachelor’s degree pays out more over
the long haul. On top of that, college gives you access
to career resources and internships that
all give you a leg up in establishing your career. But college isn’t just about putting you in a
position to make money, it’s also about the experience. You’re exposed to new
people and new ideas. You can make lifelong friends, and take a bunch of
different classes that might turn
you on to something you never would’ve known about. And it can be a good
transition to adulting. You’re on your own,
probably for the first time, but you also have structure
and support if you need it. And the connections
you make at college go beyond just the four
years that you’re there. Many schools have
vast alumni networks composed of thousands
of graduates. According to the US Bureau
of Labor Statistics, over 70% of all jobs are found through some form of network. A big chunk of that is people that went to the same
school that you did. As a matter of fact
I’m working with two San Francisco State
alumni right now, hi guys, how’s it hanging? – Hi Myles. – Go Gators. When Mark Zuckerburg left
Harvard to start Facebook, who did he take with him? His college roommate of course, who’s now worth 12
billion dollars. Best networking outcome ever? Maybe. All right folks, that
about covers it on our end. To recap real quick, basic
arguments against college are it can be risky because
you can go into debt and might not even graduate. A lot of people
with college degrees have jobs that don’t require it, and there are other
quicker, cheaper options that might get you to
where you wanna go. The arguments for college are that it pays out more
money over time on average than most other options. It can help transition into
living life as an adult, and it gives you access
to an alumni network which can help you
with job opportunities. But what do you all think? If you haven’t
gone to college yet do you think that you will? And if you did go to
college, or you chose not to, how do you feel
about your decision? Let us know in the
comments below. And if you like this episode, we’ve got another
one that looks at whether or not the government should offer free
college to everyone. Check it out. Until next time, I’m
Myles Bess, peace out.

30 Comments

  • Faster than the speed of sound

  • Are you thinking about NOT going to college — or did you already make that decision? Did you decide to go to college? How do you feel about your choice? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Kinda funny that the #1 risk of going to college is debt, while in most other countries the #1 risk is just choosing the wrong college/orientation.
    Also, Peter Thiel proved to be a scumbag and you don't want to end up owing him money.
    Finally, sure, you can probably do most jobs without a degree, but you'll still have to learn everything there is to know and you'll be tested for it. If you don't have a degree don't be surprised if the new hire who does have one gets a promotion faster than you. That's how "unfair" the workplace is. YMMV.

  • As someone 3 years post-college with over $100k in debt between federal and private loans, I don't regret GOING to college, but I very, very much regret the way I went about it. Back at the end of high school, there was a lot of shame going around for people who chose to go to community colleges. I was a straight-A student: how could I EVER choose to take the """low""" road and go to a community college?! So, I chose to go straight to a 4-year private college and basically studied history for my degree (I'm a teacher). I didn't really realize until post graduation that not only could I have completed all of my gen eds for only a few thousand dollars while still working, I could have still gone to the college I went to, met many of the same friends and professors, and done many of the same things. But all for AT LEAST half the cost and likely only federal loans. While I probably would not be in the exact position I am right now (Fulbrighter) had I not gone to my specific college, part of me wishes I had just gone to a state school rather than private. Many of the state schools I looked down on because of their cost/size are actually more highly regarded in academia than my college because they have name recognition, alumni and government funding, and good graduate programs. There is just SO much I didn't understand about academia (and the costs attached) as a teen, and I so dearly wish my high school's academic and career advisors had talked about these things instead of ignoring and/or perpetuating the assumptions everyone seemed to have.

  • The decision of college was pretty much made for me by lack of money. Couldn't afford to go, and couldn't afford to not be working. So it was regular hourly jobs for me.

    I think the usefulness of college depends heavily upon your goals. If there's a particular field you want to work in, college may be a necessity, or it may at least be a very sound path.

    But if it's something you can practice and improve at on your own, then if you have the dedication, you can build a strong portfolio and establish yourself in a career faster and with less expense than you would have if you had gone the college route.

  • Pay my man Above the Noise

  • What's after college?
    If you haven't yet answered this for yourself, save your family the cost of tuition.

  • I didn't go to college..BUT! I wish my school did a better job talking about the trades. I probably would have gone down a different path. When I was in high school, trades were looked down upon, and I never considered it. Now I wish I had those skills to be more self-sufficient.

  • This topic highly depends on the person and there really isn't a right or wrong way of what you choose (or chose) to do. It's just a matter of time and how you use it.

  • I was a residential electrician, commercial painter, and a sushi chef but I'm in a university now and plan on pursuing a master's degree soon as I finish my undergrad studies; Better to have an education than not.

  • I chose to go to college. In my generation (I'm 42), you were pretty much promised that if you went to college (Bachelor's at a minimum), you'd land a decent career (read: "career", not "job"), and if you didn't, you were cursed to blue collar low wages for life. *cue retrospective "Okay, boomer."

    Now, I've usually generally made varying degrees of 'more money than blue collar wages', sometimes a good bit more, sometimes not all that much more… but also found maintaining a career momentum and taking professional experience as cache from one job to the next extremely hard. Companies tank, you relocate, whatever the reason, and the down time between jobs and time-and-energy put into finding the next one has been enormous… no exceptions. Years at a time in some cases.

    My friends who work as hairdressers or waiters or whatever don't have to deal with that drudgery. I'm jealous sometimes. The professional job market is a taxing and brow-beating experience, IME… and that's the path college generally puts you on. I sometimes wonder if I'd just be a restaurant manager making $70k/yr. by now and not stressing the eff out every time I had to make a move between gigs.

    Do I regret not going to school? I don't know. I can't look at another timeline where I didn't go to college. I do know I'm not at all happy with the situation as it is.

  • When I was struggling in college my dad told me something I'll never forget. He said that you're going there not to learn engineering but how to deal with people. It's a vaccine for real life. That helped me stick it out

  • I dropped out of high school in my freshman year, got my GED last year, and now I'm in community college. I do good in class but I kid you not, I have no god damned idea about the long term financial aspects which will probably determine whether or not I can afford rice when I'm 30. I wanted to learn again, and I wanted to pursue journalism as a career (which incidentally doesn't pay well), so I found a way. I've basically been cruising from class to class, racking up credits that MIGHT be applicable to my non-existent journalism degree program, in the hopes of transferring somewhere. All the while being unable to shake the suspicion that this is all some sort of elaborate torture and/or brainwashing facility.

  • The favorite thing that I like about my degree is that it tells employers that I know how to learn something and put it to use. I think they're more willing to present you with opportunities if they think you'll have a good chance to succeed. I may be wrong but I think a college degree gives them more confidence in you. I know a lot of people who've gotten good jobs that aren't related to their degrees but were given a chance because they had a degree.

  • I was so messed up. Despite having great grades, I dropped out of high school in the middle of my senior year and moved to a different state. I finished in night school while holding down a minimum-wage day job, which convinced me I could never build much of a life on minimum wage. I knew I had to go to college. But I had no clue what I wanted to major in, so instead I joined the US Navy. Where my good grades encouraged them to roll out the red carpet for me, when everybody else saw me as a low-wage dropout.

    When I left the Navy 6 years later, I had a great technical education with lots of experience, so I immediately landed a dream job as a very well-paid technician. Within 6 months I went from the production line, to working with engineers on prototypes, to finally becoming the personal technician for a physicist. I soon realized I was just as smart as he was, the only difference being he had more education, and knew how to use it.

    I also knew I absolutely wanted to become an engineer. So I applied to the best engineering schools in the nation, and got accepted to the one I most wanted. With my skills (combined with being a veteran), I was able to work my way through college, though it did put me on the 5-year plan. I graduated debt-free, with more money in the bank than when I started. I got an outstanding job offer from the same company that hired me as a technician when I left the Navy.

    That was nearly 35 years ago. And while there have been lots of bumps along the way, I can say with confidence it's been a joyful and exciting ride. Looking back, my greatest gift to myself was not letting an 18 year-old pick my college major! After military and some work, at 24 I had a much better picture of what I wanted to do with my life. And the other gift to myself was always working to get good grades in high school, even when the rest of my life totally sucked.

  • I actually got a huge chunk of tuition taken off first years of college due to a parent being a university employee. I had experienced both the good parts about college and the bad parts about it. There were things that I thought needed to be improved with the way programs worked, but I do not regret going.

  • I think trades are awesome. AND people should got to college for at least 2-4 years…. Because I'm positive we don't want to live in a society of dumbasses.

  • 💲

  • SF State represent!!! 🙌

  • Two words: critical thinking.

  • The most important thing to me: college opened up my mind to new ideas and experiences. Take courses outside your "vocational" center. They can be the most interesting.

  • Two points:
    1) Trades can be great and would be the best fit for a lot of people, but you also have to remember they tend to involve more physical labour which gets harder as you age;
    2) You don't have to get a degree after you graduate high school. You might decide to get your degree when you're 30, 40, 50, or 60.

  • Journeyman in my trade gross over $300k/year. Let me know when your bachelors degree can make you that much money.

  • I hire programmers, and although a highly relevant degree is not immaterial, I'm almost entirely interested in other things: the skills I need from the appicant, their ability to pick-up new technical skills, their people skills, their good character and honesty, their ownership of actions and customer focus. If you show me that you spent a year studying a language in antoher country, or doing volutary work; that's going to weigh heavier with me than a degree certificate. I have one of those, so I know their actual value!

  • go through the college with GI bill LOL

  • I went to college for 3 semesters. Then, I gave up. I was working part-time at a TV repair shop. I learned electronics. I became an electronic technician. That was in 1970. About 20 years ago, I took several Microsoft classes and got certificates for each class. I have been working as a computer technician since then, and I love the work and the pay. No regrets about college.

  • This is all just evidence for publicly funding or at least heavily subsidising college for everyone to take away some of the cons but still get the pros.

  • I had the luck of being in a position of starting different colleges. I haven't finished the first 4 (all STEM), and ended up running with my trade school degree. At age 36 I started in law school, fell in love, and I now have a masters in law.
    My point is that choosing your career when you are that young, right out of high school, most often than not doesn't work. Having a trade school degree allowed me to get financially secure and mature enough to discover what I wanted to do with my life.

  • 7:19–7:30 or you could just easily and cheaply photoshop these experiences!

  • I wouldn’t ever have been able to afford my 4-year university. I went to my city/community college for 2 years then transferred to my university for the last 2 years. It was the most mentality straining process I’ve been through so far but I’m still very proud of the degree I got from my university.

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