I’m pleased as punch by the awesome discussion spurred by my last blog post! I love tossing ideas out into the universe and then seeing what floats back. After much discussion by a variety of people, I think a consensus has been reached and I thought I’d share it.
So far, whether or not a college education is valuable appears to be largely determined by how much debt you incur during the course of your studies. One rule of thumb I found particularly helpful was the following:
If your annual income your first year out of school is not greater than or at the very least equal to the total amount of your student loans, your degree probably isn’t worth it.
So, if Aidan wants to go to university to study Russian literature, I’ll probably discourage the notion. He can read all the Tolstoy and Dostoevsky he wants in his spare time without garnering thousands of dollars in debt for the privilege.
I heard from a lot of people who didn’t take on any debt while in college, and they all said they enjoyed college and found the experience very valuable. Truthfully? If I hadn’t had to work so much while in school and hadn’t graduated in so much debt, I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more too.
The people I talked to who graduated in debt, however, were a lot less glowing in their reviews of the experience. One person cracked me up with her suggestion that we stand on the side of a freeway offramp with a sign that read, “I graduated with a liberal arts degree. Any bit helps!”
As for the idea that a college degree is the new high school degree, I’m starting to wonder if that’s an idea propagated by college admissions departments. I’ve just met and talked to so many people who are successful and never finished college, the argument doesn’t seem to hold water.
It stands to reason that if you interview well, network your tail off, and do your job well, you stand as much of a chance of getting hired as anyone who graduated college. How else can you explain a college drop-out who makes $80,000 a year doing Web design existing in the same city as the college graduate earning $35,000 a year doing data entry?
The gist of the conclusion I’ve drawn from this discussion is that if someone else is footing the bill for your college education, study whatever you want and enjoy yourself. If you’re signing your life away in exchange for college credits, though, you’d better make sure you’re majoring in something that’ll pay well. Or, just get really used to the idea of using half your monthly income every month to pay for your student loans.