Is College Worth It?
Want to make parents of teens nervous? Even a little P.O.’d? Ask them the above.
They definitely do not like questioning the base premise: i.e., that whatever it costs, whatever sacrifices you have to make, you absolutely must send your kid to college.
Working Girl loves questioning base premises. She’s always found conventional wisdom to be, well, conventional. And she has long wondered whether getting a college education is always always necessary. Don’t get her wrong, WG loves learning, loves books and ivy-covered halls and all the rest, and feels that college is a wonderful thing. But is it automatically a wonderful thing, for every young person, no matter who she or he is or what he/she wants to do in life?? Is it worth, say, huge crippling debt?
However, she has learned not to voice such heretical thoughts to her friends-with-teens because she’s always frightened by the wild-eyed looks she gets in return.
That’s why it’s impossible to resist pointing out a humble little article buried in the bowels of today’s Wall St. Journal, entitled “What’s a Degree Really Worth?” Turns out that some of the “proof” for why you-gotta-get-a-degree is a bit suspect. You can read it for yourself but here are a few highlights:
- The statistics you hear the most (that, over their lifetimes, college grads earn nearly a million dollars more than high school graduates) are based on some pretty crude calculations of averages. Plus, they’re using old numbers. Note that in 1999, average college costs were $15K a year; today they are $26K.
- Comparisons of lifetime earnings don’t take into account income taxes or the cost of college itself. Seems like a huge oversight.
- At least one expert thinks that the million-dollar number is really more like $279K.
- Even the College Board has admitted that its old claim that a BA is worth $800K is “misleading,” and has removed it from its website.
Just in case you’re not wild-eyed enough, Working Girl would like to add: Who’s to say that people who go to college and do well there are just, by definition, people who would normally do well in life, whatever their formal education?
P.S. One last thought: If you are in school, or plan to go to school, congratulations! Study hard.
Update: For some fascinating anecdotal data, check out Gina’s comment below. Thanks, Gina.