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Is College Worth The Cost?

by J. Money on Monday, September 6, 2010

college shirt crazy

YES!  Actually, HELL YES! When they say “it’s the 4 best years of your life” they’re not kidding ;) College was by far one of the most exciting and eye-opening experiences of my life, and the amount I grew from it (both intellectually and just overall in general) was incredible.

To me, college is much more than just an education and fancy degrees – it’s about learning how to be out on your own and finding your place in this world. I learned about interacting with people, managing my time (which I later forgot), falling in love, falling out of love, being responsible, partying and partying and studying and studying! (more than ever before), and just really being an adult and taking on the next chapter in life.

While it’s definitely possible to do this without any further education at all (you surely don’t need a degree to be successful!), the opportunities that it offers are endless. I’d recommend it even if you have no idea of what you wanted to be when you “grow up.” (I changed majors twice, and only recently did I even start using my degree in the real world).

But having that degree puts you at the top of the list. It gives you options that others don’t easily get for the pure fact you graduated – whether you’re truly smarter or more experienced than the others or not (and in most cases, you can’t even APPLY to a job without some sort of degree!). It also makes you look professional even if you aren’t ;) And first impressions are everything in the business world.

So would I recommend putting in the time and money for 4+ gloriously long years of schooling? You bet your sweet ass I would. The truth of the matter is, there is no way I could have gotten to where I am today without getting that degree. I highly encourage you to do whatever you can to make it to college. Take out loans, apply to grants, go in-state instead of out of state, start at community college, ask your parents and family to help, whatever it takes. (I will even contribute myself if you ask nicely! :)). If you like having the odds in your favor, an education is where it’s at.

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PS: I got thinking about this stuff from a group writing project going around on education and wealth. If you want to read other opinions on this topic (much more in-depth than mine!), or want to participate by blogging about it yourself, be sure to check it out! Big props to Go Banking Rates for organizing it.

(Crazy college pic by Adam, L’Iconoclaste Banal)


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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jaime September 6, 2010 at 8:32 am

I believe its worth going to college because its harder when you don’t. I’m 27, went back to college this past year and you know I wish I had finished college when I was 21. When I was 18, I didn’t care about going to college, my parents were paying for EVERYTHING. I dropped out because I just didn’t care, I was SO STUPID! I still beat myself up about it. I was such a stupid girl when I was 18. I really was.

All I cared about was going out with my friends, and watching tv. I didn’t care about knowledge, or learning, or acquiring skills. I wish I had a time machine for this reason. I spent years toiling around in my twenties doing crappy jobs that got me nowhere. Most jobs these days want something with at least an associate degree and I live in the midwest.

I consider myself to be an intelligent person, and for the most part I’ve made a lot of good decisions, but that was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my adult life, dropping out of college sucks. Now its harder because not only do I have to balance work and college, but pay for everything on my own: rent, utilities, groceries, emergencies, college.

I should have just sucked it up and gone when my parents were paying for it. I always tell younger people to go to college. Sure I’m going now but its harder now. I don’t have kids, no debt either, I haven’t taken out loans as of yet, but its just really tough trying to go to college when I’m also trying to support myself.

I’ve had jobs where they were part-time but the bosses at those jobs didn’t like the fact that I was trying to go to college, in minimum wage jobs as I’ve found out, they don’t like the fact that you want to get an education, they just want someone who will do the job and not leave for a better job.

Some minimum wage jobs will not even try to be flexible because they need someone to work those hours and in my experience, friends I have, that work professional jobs get treated better at work too. Minimum wage jobs are known to not treat workers well. The managers for a good portion treat you like an idiot, most customers are nice, some can be jerks, but you know most folks try to be decent to you.

Still you realize that you have all this potential, that you are wasting away on an unskilled job.
I’m doing everything in my power to finish college. I’m majoring in accounting, and you know even if I don’t stay in accounting for the rest of my life, it will just help me out to say I’m educated in my resume in any other field that I want to go to.

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2 Bobby September 6, 2010 at 10:21 am

Loving your blog J and I couldn’t agree with you more on college. Without at least a college degree these days it’s almost impossible to get a job. In my field (IT) it’s hard enough to get a good paying job as it is, I wouldn’t want to try it without having a degree.

What I found with college is that it’s best if you move over 2 hours away from home. If you’re too close to home you can still depend on your parents too much, Not having them there really forces the growing up part of your life, but as long as you’re not too far away, if an emergency happens they’re still close by. My college was 4 hours away from my parents and it worked out pretty well for me.

One last thing, much like Jaime said above, even if your parents are willing to pay for everything, it’s best if you pay for some of it. If you’re paying for some of your education, you’re much more willing to go to class and do the work.

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3 jolie September 6, 2010 at 11:09 am

I went to college (university up here) and got 2 degrees. My husband sluffed through high school, barely passed and has no training for much of anything. He hates his job with a passion. Work truly is a four letter word for him. We use him as the don’t example for our kids. I don’t care of it’s a 2 year course at a tech school or full on university. They are going. I keep telling them, ‘you have to be able to earn enough at a job that you don’t hate going to. You don’t have to earn a ton……just enough to buy the things you need and some of the things you want’.

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4 Nick September 6, 2010 at 11:11 am

I agree that “college” is worth it, but don’t agree with folks who just run up six figures in student loans for a degree where they’ll earn $40,000 per year. The problem I see with most people is when they spend like drunken congressmen (as Dave Ramsey would say).

Just like anything else, spending is OK. Smart spending is key. Amost everyone should go to college. But they can get an experience and education from a state school (a lot of times a better one than private).

So I guess I would say college “can be” worth it. But it can also be worth only SOME of what you spend. Maybe I’ll expand on this a bit and blong along with you J$! It’s a great topic!

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5 Rachel211 September 6, 2010 at 12:41 pm

My husband is very successful at his job (internet marketing) and when he was first starting out they didn’t even have degrees that went into that. So he has lots more experience than most people who now have internet marketing degrees, because he was doing back before most people knew it even existed. So you can do well without one…..

BUT – when he does get looked at for promotions or if he switches to a new company, no matter how long he has been at it, they STILL say, “Why don’t you have a degree?” So, even though there wasn’t a degree for what he does now at the time – he still may go back and get a few more credits just to get an associates degree at least so people will just shut up about it and stop assuming its a negative.

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6 Techbud September 6, 2010 at 3:42 pm

It’s the first thing I look for when hiring someone. Even with years of experience. A degree make a difference for promotions. Even if it’s in an unrelated it field. It shows you took the time, dedication for the extra learning. Even if you were partying it up along the way. :)

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7 Jaime September 6, 2010 at 8:27 pm

@Bobby-yes I know deep down if I had paid for some of my college tuition that I would have gone to class and had appreciated my education so much more when I was 18.


Sometimes people say “You don’t need college to be successful look at Bill Gates” it annoys me. He’s pretty much the exception to the rule, people like that have some other skill that they’re working on,he was always working on computers and learning about them. Its not like he was sitting at home watching tv.

Then there are the people who say “I went to college, got a degree, and now I can’t find a job, my college degree is a worthless piece of paper” and seriously these people annoy me more than the people who say “don’t go to college, bill gates didn’t go to college.” Usually these people are those that majored in art history, psychology, communications, literature, etc.

It just drives me crazy because you really need a plan no matter what kind of career you go into. There are people who make money from art history degrees usually they have to go to grad school and become professors, or they go to work at museums. There are people who make money from psychology they also go to grad school to become trained psychologists.

I will say that some degrees are probably easier to “market” such as accounting, nursing, programming, etc than others like art history, psychology, etc. But I’ve noticed that *some* people who get degrees in the humanities, some of them don’t have a plan for them, and the people who can make a success out of humanities degrees are those that have a plan.

Like they intern, volunteer, go to grad school. They have a plan of some sort, sometimes they work in fields they don’t like until they can be a professor of art history in college or whatever else they want to do. There are some people who have Computer Science degrees or really smart degrees that you would think could get them hired just like that and sometimes they don’t get hired because of bad social skills, not knowing how to interview, not knowing how to talk to the human resources interviewer.

My bf is a programmer and he really knows how to interview and has good social skills. So after college is done, its really up to people to make of what they can with their lives.

I don’t think any college degree is wasted because from what I’ve seen in my experience in life, you really do need a plan for whatever it is you want to do in life. Even if you do get an art history degree and decide you don’t want to be a professor and museum work isn’t for you, you can still say “I got educated, and now I want to do something else and get knowledge in something else.” That happens.

Carly Fiorina got a philosophical degree and then later on got an MBA. Anyway I think I’ve talked enough, sorry for my long posts but you know I just feel really passionate about this, if education wasn’t important why do famous actors like Natalie Portman and Julia Stiles go to college after they’ve been established actresses in Hollywood?

I just really think an education is so important, I really do.

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8 J. Money September 6, 2010 at 9:29 pm

@Jaime – THANK YOU so much for sharing this w/ us! I really really hope it helps anyone considering dipping out to stick with it and get that degree. As teenagers we always think we know better and that everything will be fine, but as you mention it’s incredibly important to give yourself as many options as you can. And college does this for you! I’m sad it took you so long to get back, but I applaud you more than I can express for DOING IT! :) I respect you so much for being open and honest about it and taking action – you’re awesome!

(and leave as many comments – long or short – that you want. your enthusiasm is contagious!)

@Bobby – Agreed. I def. wouldn’t have had the same experience had I been closer to home (or even living at home). You gotta take that jump and immerse yourself into the whole collegey world and get as much as you can out of it – even if it costs more (but if it gets you to nix the whole thing in that case then live at home! the main focus should be on the education)

@jolie – I like that a lot :) You better believe we’ll be making our future kids go to school too – no matter what they want to major in. I knew I didn’t have a choice growing up – my parents told me from day 1 that we were going to college whether we liked it or not, and I’m so grateful they stayed on top of us! I wish all parents were like that :(

@Nick – Would love to hear more thoughts on it from ya :) I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the limits on schooling, but I’m not hardcore against it either.

@Rachel211 – Totally. I’m a HUGE fan of lots of experience and “real life” training – it’s what I’d look for in an employee if I ran a company myself ;) I’d look for the degree too, but in web entrepreneurship (the industry my company will be in one day), experience matters a helluva lot more. So there’s def. fields that don’t rely so strongly on college education, but for the most part it’s smart to have under your belt. And for others it’s required (doctors, engineers, lawyers, etc).

@Techbud – “It shows you took the time (and) dedication for the extra learning” – Exactly. The degree proves that you know the hard work it takes to accomplish something big, and you’re not afraid to take it on. This is especially true in a good game of beer pong ;) I think I’ve mastered that subject pretty damn well…

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9 Serendipity September 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

When I was younger, people would take me being excited about college and achieving a degree as being boastful and thinking I was better than other people. That’s how education is viewed in a small redneck town in Arizona unfourtnately. Now that I’m continuing my education in Las Vegas, in a metro area, people have a different view on education. It’s more of a becoming a more well rounded person and a great ( if not the only) way to move up in a career. I’m glad I’m getting an education. Not so glad for my stupidity towards student loans, but glad none the less that I’m bettering myself and giving myself a head start for my future.

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10 nicole September 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm

A PhD in art history also won’t get you very far… there aren’t that many museum an professor jobs to go around and the pay is jack.

I like the middle-class idea of a college degree as a coming of age experience. It’s what I grew up with. But I wonder if it’s in the minority– I keep coming across people who view education only as a means to a job. I don’t think thinking about it differently it would have changed what any of us majored in… my sister and I wanted challenges so we naturally fell into math-based high-earning majors. My MIL forced DH into a high earning major because of the job security, but he’s a natural almost stereotypical version of that major and career anyway so would have chosen it on his own.

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11 Kelsey September 7, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I loved college and I’m so glad I went. Another thing I would recommend is getting your Master’s if your employer will pay for some or all of it. It’s a great way to keep learning for little cost.

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12 J. Money September 7, 2010 at 4:46 pm

@Serendipity – That is sad :( My ex-gf was like that too actually. Made me feel horrible at times for going when she wasn’t, but I got over that real fast. It’s been 13 years since we left high school, and she’s now realizing how important school is and has begun taking up classes. I wish everyone who looked down upon it would snap out of it too!
@nicole – Yeah, when you’re excited to study something it’s pretty hard to convince you to change avenues :) I switched from business to design and just thankful my parents didn’t force me to go back! I’m sure I would have had a diff. experience in that case. A good one still, just not *as* awesome.
@Kelsey – Great point. A lot of employers will pay for part, if not all, of your masters if you sign on for a few years. I gave it a brief shot myself, just picked the wrong subject to study and realized it wasn’t worth continuing. But if I wanted to pimp out my career in design or managing customer service, I’d go back in a heartbeat. Now I just want to be an entrepreneur ;)

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13 Marti Pattinson September 8, 2010 at 12:46 am

Excellent article… A college education is worth every dime and then some! My oldest grandson is in his first year and all ready has a definite plan of two engineering degrees! He plans to be hired before graduation! He will have hands on experience as well as the paper it takes to get the better employment opportunities.

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14 LB September 22, 2010 at 4:07 am

I am doing whatever it takes to go back to school. Can I take you up on your offer to contribute? :)

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15 J. Money September 22, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Yes, do it!!! And set up a page here like my friend Lauren, and I will contribute :) You might be able to get others too!

http://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/campaign-0-1034

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16 LB September 29, 2010 at 2:34 am

I will definitely try anything! I don’t care if no one contributes, it will be good for me write my goal down and tell everyone that school is my top priority. Thanks for the idea :)

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17 J. Money September 29, 2010 at 9:06 am

That is very smart :) With a mentality like that you will go far my friend!

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18 jero October 7, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I definitely agree with some posters don’t do it unless you have a safety net. Myself I come from a poor family, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to school. I paid it all myself. There wasn’t this time to sit, get funded, ponder life. I needed to pay rent and eat. So where do you get these contacts for funding or joining your entrepreneurship? College. Where do you think people are going to respect you? College… It’s almost sadly a prerequisite for anything these days. I actually dropped out of school after 3 years to work in the IT industry…(I was a straight A student) I made a lot of money for awhile and quit b/c the money was too good to turn down, but that was THEN in 2001. 10 years things have changed, do not believe that stuff above in this article for most purposes. Those companies were happening almost 10 years ago as well. Jump to current, people want the degree (in what field doesn’t really matter). I would certainly avoid taking on debt for a graduate degree though unless a co pays for it or if you are an elite academic. I eventually took out some loans just to do be able to do easier, what I was already doing! Try changing a job if your successful business suddenly dries up and you have to work for the man a bit. What happens if the bank starts funding your loan? Experience? HAH. The HR department wants the degree. The potential clients wants the degree. I would have the degree just for a backup but working for yourself is also great. Think of it as investment in yourself just in case you ever have to work a real job. In the information age, I definitely agree modern education is behind the times and brick and mortar, along with the huge salaries are quite arcane.

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19 jero October 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm

btw I went back for degree in Political Science as I always had interest in it and I am not involved with local politics and work with several not for profit groups. My programming still pays majority of the bills though… I did not learn this in school, I learned it for fun when I was a teenager. Most of the classes I was taking at university were already behind the industry, that is why I left, I already knew all the stuff and wasn’t learning anything. I am not sure if all industries are like that but IT definitely was and still somewhat is…

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20 J. Money October 7, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Hey, thanks for sharing your story with us! Love reading these different opinions. And I agree that working for yourself has its advantages, which I’m hoping to get really acquainted with first hand soon! :)

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21 LB October 8, 2010 at 1:09 am

Here is my campaign and plea to send me back to college: http://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/campaign-0-1115

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22 J. Money October 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Good job!! Just added some money to the pot ;) Hope you can reach your goal! Be sure to link to it on your facebook page and everywhere else so your friends and family know (just don’t promote it like crazy and piss them off, haha…)

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