Student Debt 2013: Why College is the Worst Investment Ever


For years, we have been told college is the best investment one can make. That could not be further from the truth. Thanks to government bureaucracy and lack of economic understanding, college tuition is skyrocketing. This leads us to wonder — what is our education worth? Is it worth a decade of debt? Is it worth all our time for four years or more? College is often a terrible investment, and far too frequently an arbitrarily “necessary” one. There are innumerable better alternatives, including working and learning online.

Many students attend a four-year school and graduate with no work experience and thousands in debt. How is this helpful? It’s not. A better investment is work and internship experience. The majority of professions are best learned on the job.

One unfortunately common example occurs in politics. Many aspiring politicos attend pricey colleges and receive their B.A. in political science in hopes of getting a job in politics. I was once told by a professor that I should work harder in school and less outside of school. She claimed I wouldn’t get a job before I graduated. I proved her wrong within a month.

When these students graduate, they are stunned to learn that this degree which cost six-figures will get them nowhere. They must then intern and struggle with little or no pay for several years, while getting comfortable living in their parents’ basement. Colleges tell them that grades are the most important thing. They’re usually not. Work experience is more valuable than high grades.

Only 16% of employers reported that new hires from four-year colleges were ‘very qualified’ for the workforce.” That’s a scary statistic for graduates who are in debt up to their eyeballs. Another study showed “only 45% of students showed any meaningful cognitive gains after three semesters.” These statistics prove that there is something severely amiss in higher education.

A bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma — meaning, high school standards have plummeted and college now teaches you what high school should have. If you want to be a file clerk in some cases, you need more than a high school diploma, which is ridiculous.

“College graduates working menial jobs is becoming the new normal. In 2012, 284,000 college graduates had a job that paid minimum wage.”

Worse yet — 70% more college graduates are working minimum wage jobs than a decade ago. Almost half of college graduates of the class of 2010 are filling positions that don’t require degrees, as of 2012. Many of these students paid well over $100,000 for that degree. Why get the diploma if you aren’t using it? The obvious answer — don’t.

Why is tuition so unbelievably high, anyway? John Stossel explains why college tuition is skyrocketing. President Obama promised to push colleges to lower tuition, but he also promised more financial aid. At first glance, this makes sense — both moves aim to help students afford college. However, this is not reality. “In the last 30 years, inflation is up 160%, but tuition costs are up 750%.” How can this be?

Stossel explains “It's because colleges have no incentive to cut prices when students can get money from government. Federal aid, adjusted for inflation, increased from 32 billion in 1987, to 169 billion in 2010.” Furthermore, “Government tells us, ‘Here's the gap between what you can afford and what the college is charging, we will now make up that gap. And then the college just inches up the tuition a little bit higher.’” Every time the government pours in money to help students and fill the gap, colleges raise tuition. Remember — not everyone receives financial aid, meaning many will have to pay full price for that degree (which can be upwards of $240,000).

This okay though, because more money in colleges means better education, right? Wrong. “Colleges don't use all or even most of that money in the classroom.” Rather, it is used on frivolous things like spas, rock-climbing walls, and lobster dinners. “Government creates perverse incentives. Colleges compete on prestige and luxury amenities, not their price tag. Administrators don't worry about high tuition costs because their customers have government subsidies.”

My advice: go to college if you need, or if you want a degree in any of the STEM fields - science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Then again, half of STEM careers don’t require a B.A. Only attend the best college you can afford. College is almost never worth the debt, and degrees like “Ppolitical science,” “philosophy,” and the like, are never worth the debt. Don’t fret too much over grades, unless you plan on going to law school or graduate school. Nobody is going to look at your resume, see straight As and no work experience, and say “you’re hired!” Work and internship experience is endlessly more vital than grades.

Make the most of college and learn as much as you possibly can, because you’re paying for it. However, don’t forget the best educational tool — the internet. Nowadays you can teach yourself innumerable tangible skills like graphic design or website coding by researching online guides. There is almost nothing you can learn in college that you can’t learn on the internet.  

Finally, use your judgment, statistics, and facts, to determine if college is the best course of action for you. Just because something costs a lot doesn’t mean it’s great, or even good.