The Best Lesson I Learned At College Was College Wasn't Worth It

With college tuition and fees rapidly increasing and hovering at an average of $7,605 a year, it’s becoming easier to question whether or not it’s worth putting yourself in debt for the knowledge and connections.

Jesse at PF Firewall went to college and pens a post advising youngsters not to follow in his footsteps. Buried in student loans, Jesse says he went to school for the wrong reasons – a love of learning and because he was told he needed a degree to get anywhere in life.

College grads, what did your degree for you, and would you do it all over again if you could go back in time?

Why I Went To College And Why You Shouldn’t [PF Firewall]

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  1. fsnuffer says:

    College degree got me my first job and then that was it. After that no one ever asked to see what my GPA was.

    • HoJu says:

      Exactly. My wife is an executive VP in healthcare. Same exact situation.

    • jeepguy57 says:

      There is a difference between having a degree and caring what your GPA was. My company won’t hire anyone without a degree and they prefer a master’s degree, but I can tell you they probably don’t give a rat’s about the GPA.

      I have a BA and a Masters and because of it, I make a very comfortable six-figure salary. I can assure you I probably wouldn’t make more than $35k without it in this job market.

      • sagodjur says:

        The sad thing is that in this job market, there are people with Masters Degrees who are making less than $35k/yr, and they’re often displacing people with lesser degrees who are in the same field who should be able to make that $35k/yr with their bachelors/associates.

        • unpolloloco says:

          That means that there is an oversupply of people in that field. There are other fields where people make twice that (or nearly so) out of college with a masters (and can get jobs now).

        • human_shield says:

          I’d say that’s true. I have a BS and I currently make about $20k/yr, when just a few years go I made 3 times as much.

        • Anonymously says:

          My Dear Wife has a Masters and never used it. We’d have to move for her to find work, if at all.

        • Verdant Pine Trees says:

          Yep, it’s an arms race for the near future.

      • wackydan says:

        I lack a degree and make a comfy six figure income as well. You do not need a degree to make 6 figures, but you need a lot of focus on your skills, reputation, and work ethic to compensate.

        That said, I was laid off for six months and the lack of degree hurt my search to a point. However, my reputation got me hired at a major corporation that was looking at candidates with masters degrees. They were willing to re-write the job posting and post a separate job # for me to apply to based on my skill set and accomplishments… Yes, I am proud and lucky. My skills, reputation, and work ethic is what made me able to compete.

        • kc2idf says:

          My current day job specifically puts onto job postings that “Candidates with an equivalent combination of education, training and experience will be considered.” As I see it, this means that if you lack the degree, but have the knowledge, you should be okay.

          I don’t know how well it works. I have the degree. I do know, however, that there are some in the company who have degrees for different areas than where they are working. While that’s not the same as having no degree, it does mean that they had to get their specific expertise by some other means.

          As for college, I enjoyed it. I also feel it was important to making me who I am. While the content of the classes often left me terminally disappointed, that disappointment sparked my curiosity enough to find out the parts that I thought were missing from class. As such, I believe it was key to my education, but not in the way they thought it would be.

          Incidentally, my GPA sucked after two years. That fact only cost me one job opportunity.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Which is why you should just forge documents to get your first job. Once you have a few years experience in your field, no one cares about your education anymore. They care about your job experience.

    • whitecat says:

      SO not true. I’m in my 50s and every single job I want REQUIRES a college degree. Job experience is NOT enough.

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        My dad started encountering this in his 50s. Over 30 years of sales experience in a specialized field and suddenly they want to see a degree?

        I’m going for CIO of some company in the not so distant future, so my education is necessary. Too bad in IT that a degree is not enough, and every company thinks you need 20 different certs at anywhere from $200 – $2000 a pop.

    • bubbleshnoz says:

      I thought that becoming an attorney would make it easy to get a job. I have a bachelor’s in political science (cum laude), which is definitely only toilet paper. I have applied to 200 jobs at major, mid- level and small-time companies and law office. I have two summers worth of experience in law, one in lobbying.

      I have gotten two responses employers saying they will hire me…. for an internship. Basically slavery.

      So i guess the $140,000 in degrees is not looking good or helpful right now…

  2. StuffThingsObjects says:

    I make my own degrees at home.

  3. Alisha Gray says:

    My degree got me closed out of a lot of lower-wage jobs. I didn’t make many connections because I was too busy throwing myself into my schoolwork. -_-

    • Hoot says:

      I completely agree. I am now either “overeducated” and/or “inexperienced” from working really hard and getting good grades at a top college.

      • jessjj347 says:

        Yeah, taking advantage of connections at a top college is super important and worthwhile. Maybe more important than the degree in many cases. I don’t care so much about grades, but unfortunately many stipulations make maintaining a certain GPA required.

    • eb0nyknight says:

      Don’t tell them you have a degree and you won’t be “overqualified”.

  4. georgi55 says:

    In IT you don’t need it unless you plan to become director/manager and step away from actual hands on work.

    • georgi55 says:

      You do need certs though, certs = money in the bank in IT world.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Ironically, Certifications are even less useful in gauging the aptitude of an employee than a Degree, which is in itself only an indicator of how willing the holder was to believe everything educators them, regardless of the truth.

        Those with degrees and certs are often only “capable” until they encounter a situation or environment that wasn’t described in a book. Then they usually attempt to bend the situation to the book, which never turns out well.

        • georgi55 says:

          Good points, I believe certs should be taken as you start working in the fieled and decide what you focus on, and take them to broaden your knowledge on something you already know. My manager said interesting this the other day; while one may be cable to run current environment, taking additional certs forces into studying much boarder aspects of the technology and be ready for change in environment or when switching jobs.

          Now if you are talking about Comp TIA A+ certs, *I* think those are joke. Why are you out trying to prove you know how to get to help file or command prompt when that’s already expected of you by being in the field?

          • georgi55 says:

            Wow excuse the grammer/spell errors there lol

            In one line I wanted to say Certs are only helpful if you have built a good experience and have ways to prove it. (previous projects, recommendations, etc)

          • gman863 says:

            Wanna hear something hilarious? Fry’s now requires A+ certification for employment in their retail store service departments.

            This for a position that (at best) pays around $14/hour including both base and commission.

            While I know a few good (very underemployed) people working there, my experience dealing with at least half of them when I was a retail associate there makes me think there is a diploma mill on some offshore island where A+ certification can be purchased outright; no exam or questions asked.

        • nopirates says:

          i used to hire a bunch of people with certs, and i found that they were not nearly as effective at their jobs than the many people that i hired without the certs. i will still interview the heavily-certified people, but i put no weight on those qualifications (especially those from microsoft). the certs just aren’t any indication of ability.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          “a Degree, which is in itself only an indicator of how willing the holder was to believe everything educators them, regardless of the truth.”

          Not that you’re being defensive, or anything.

    • Cyniconvention says:

      Really? An interesting thought. Maybe I won’t have to spend the government’s money to go to Georgia Tech.

    • Gmork says:

      A lot of jobs in IT require a degree just to get in the door… Without one I’d say you probably make yourself ineligible for at least 25% of jobs in the market (most of them the better paying ones). I graduated from a state school and walked out with a 60,000 a year job that in two years now pays 85,000. I’d say the 15,000 in loans I took out were completely worth it.

      • VA_White says:

        This was also my experience. I ended school with only 25k in loans and had them paid back in less than five years. My investment in my comp sci degree was most definitely worth it.

        • Gmork says:

          My job actually paid off my student loans at 10,000 a year. You have to work for 3 years for each 10,000 they pay off (or you have to pay it back) but I love my job and am not planning on leaving anytime soon :)

      • segfault, registered cat offender says:

        A lot of borderline-entry-level jobs in IT require five years’ experience to get in the door.

    • Mom says:

      The difference in pay for an IT job that requires a degree and an IT job that doesn’t require a degree is considerable. The advantage to working in IT, though, is that you can get in the door without a degree, then you can get your employer to pay for the degree.

      • aja175 says:

        My boss came right out and told me to get a degree. He doesn’t care what it’s in or where it’s from, just that I have one.
        Seems silly, but that’s how it goes with the job market in the state it’s in.

        • mrhappydude says:

          i was basically told the same thing, since they are paying for it (tuition reimbursement) i know out about 4 classes a year and eventually i’ll be done :)

      • Frogskins says:

        No degree. No school loans to think of. Make 6 figures working on Cisco VoIP. How’d I learn it? I picked up some books and my employer had a lab. Was I fortunate? Probably.

        Most IT positions I see state “degree or relevant experience”. Experience goes a long way to an HR person who knows the difference.

    • Mary says:

      That’s not what I’ve heard from people I know in IT who didn’t go to college and instead trained on the job.

      They’re much more knowledgeable and up to date because they learned outside of a school system so they were always on the latest information. But because they don’t have that pesky little education line on their resume, they don’t get interviews. Since the nature of their work is contract based, every time a contract is up it’s another uphill fight to get somebody to realize they have years of experience and massive amounts of skills but they just don’t have a darn Bachelor’s.

      • Spin359 says:

        When we hire where i work at if they have a degree usually there absolute morons when it comes to the IT field and we usually look for people without degrees but experience. We have interviewed over 100 candidates while i have been there and only hired one with a degree, he got the degree because he thought he needed it. He would have been hired without it and waisted his money.

        • bravohotel01 says:

          A degree would hopefully mean the applicant took a course in basic English grammar.

          Then, if he or she incorrectly uses “there” in place of “their” or “waited” instead of “wasted,” you can flush them.

      • CorvetteJoe says:

        That’s my exact problem. Interviews are harder to get, but once I’m in the door, I’m good to go.
        I’ve straight up told interviewers that I don’t believe in college degrees. Strangely enough, I’ve been hired a several of those places too, even after telling them that.

        No degree here either (I refuse to get one based on skills alone). It hurts sometimes..and yeah some companies don’t pay as much for that piece of paper that says “I can pass a test weeee”… but whatever…

        More money would always be nice, but I’m just as content without it.

        You work to live, not live to work ;)

        • cluberti says:

          There may be other fields like this too, but the IT landscape has very few areas where it would really matter if you have a degree. Most “good” IT folks learn from the school of experience, and are better off for it. Employers that realize this and don’t eliminate applicants based on lack of a formal degree are usually better for it, too.

      • MrEvil says:

        That’s what I’ve seen from my Experience in IT. Being out there in the shit learning how to fix things as they break outside of a controlled lab environment is worth way more than the fancy stationary from a college or university. I’m a community college drop-out and I make significantly more than one of my friends with a Bachelor’s degree. He slaved away 6 years to get that Bachelor’s degree working part-time where I in contrast spent 6 years learning all I could about IT and going to school part-time to cover any gaps in my knowledge. Another friend of mine did something very similar and he’s an IT manager for a company in the energy industry.

        I don’t make nearly as much as the engineers at my company, but I prefer IT and I’m not as quick to be on the chopping block as the engineers can be once a project winds down. (I’m the only full-time IT guy at my office and there’s a couple interns that can be canned first.)

    • Nuc says:

      I’m in IT (routing and switching, wired and wireless) with no degree and making 6 figures. However, I am getting my degree part time just so I can fill that box (just in case).

  5. Jane_Gage says:

    I would have gone to a state school instead. Hell, even though I had competitive grades/scores maybe CC for two years prior.

    • mob3000 says:

      It worked great for me. I went two years to CC then two years at UCF (university of central Florida) and now I am making $85K while being groomed for the next promotion. I did start as a front line employee though. I don’t think it was the piece of paper that got me where I am, but the lessons I learned about researching to find an answer and not just going with my gut to make a decision. Working with people who worked their way up to my position in my job without a degree, it really stands out that I have a much more keen understanding of the greater impacts of what we do as managers and all of the moving parts in our line of business. For them, it is a good paying job that they perform strictly according to what corporate training tells them and for me it is an opportunity to make a better running, more profitable company. I’m a management major and through my classes, I picked up concepts that many of my peers may never fully grasp unless someone tells them. It’s like guessing why the sky is blue and knowing. That is the difference between someone with a career specific degree and someone who does not have a degree.

      • Munchie says:

        Sorry to inform you but college does not help with world perception. I simply lied bout my degree and no one checked. I relied on my natural intelligence and logic and no one questioned a thing.

        • AnthonyC says:

          If you did not attend college, then you have no way of ascertaining whether having done so would have helped broaden your thinking or perception.
          Similarly, you have no way of knowing whether the people who did go to college yet still have little sense would have had even less had they not gone to college.

          Actually answering that question definitively would require research, not anecdotes. I have no idea how to disentangle what we learn in college from the lifestyle of a college student or from the effects of maturation between ages 17-23 or so, but if you want a counter-anecdote, I can assure you that my own perceptions have broadened during the time I was in college. I have always had an introspective/philosophical bent, but now I have a much greater ability to step back form the present or from myself and think about a situation from many sides.

          • Bibliovore says:

            One way to analyze such differences would be to study only traditional students but also nontraditional ones of various types — those who skipped grades and started college early or started taking college courses while still in high school, those who started college at the usual time but dropped out and didn’t finish until much later, those who didn’t go to college at all until they were older, those who took only online classes — and compare results.

            Of course, everyone’s experience is different, and is affected by all sorts of factors — maturity level, interest level, focus, determination, quality and “flavor” of school and of teachers, intelligence, individual learning patterns, family and financial support, study and social skills, culture, ambition, how willing or able you are to entertain new ideas or apply them to new situations, etc., etc., etc.

        • graytotoro says:

          I don’t know if that’s such a wise thing to do and then admit.

        • minjche says:

          Sorry to inform you but your own experience is anecdotal.

          It’s a pity your “natural intelligence and logic” doesn’t include the ability to understand that.

    • jesusofcool says:

      Same. I had the option of half scholarship at a private uni or full at a public university. I took the private.
      If I could do it all over again, I either would have taken the public. The only reason to go to a private college is if you’re going to graduate with a lucrative degree (mine wasn’t).

  6. suez says:

    I think I would still do it. I went as a non-trad student because after 3 years of working in a factory, I realized I wanted more out of life. Maybe more students should work a few years first to make sure they WANT to go to college. I think so many go because they’re forced to or because they don’t know what else to do or because all their friends are going, and so they don’t make the best of it and get their money’s worth. I did. I KNEW what it was like out there without it, and I was going to wring every penny out of the experience. Okay, so my BA is in history and no, it really hasn’t played a direct role in my career, but many of the skills I developed (writing, critical thinking, etc.) have made all the difference. And I proved to myself and everyone else that I can start what I finish. Finally, I got to spend my last year living abroad in Germany–a once-in-a-lifetime experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

    • suez says:

      By the way, I also went to a state school and benefited from the discounted resident rates. I think many students bite off more than they can chew by insisting on going to either private or distant schools because they’re more concerned about prestige than actual education. I went to the U of Wisconsin Madison, and I’m damned proud of it.

    • smirkette says:

      I agree with you on all accounts. I ended up going to a state school because I didn’t get enough financial aid to be comfortable going to the private schools to which I was accepted (+$100k loans at 22? No thanks!). At first I was bummed, and then I learned that unless you’re planning on going straight to grad school, no one really gives a damn where you went for undergrad. I got a great education where my professors actually knew me, had only three classes with over 30 students, and got opportunities to do things that a lot of undergrad students don’t get to do as there was a dearth of grad students at the time in my program.

      I’m applying to grad school at a few really prestigious places (they’re the only ones with the program I want) and I feel well prepared! State schools are what you make of them–you work hard and put yourself forward, you’ll get a great education.

      • suez says:

        Yep, I started as a smaller local extention campus and came to know the dean and most of my profs on a first-name basis–and some profs I didn’t even have for classes! And the only classes with more than 30 students for the main survey 101 courses, and then you broke down into small labs the rest of the week. By the time I transfered to Madison where they did have the huge classes, I was already an upper class student where the specialized classes were smaller by default. Granted, this was back in the late 80s/early 90s, but my semester tuition at the UW extension was about $900 plus books. Best value ever! I never even met an TA until Madison!

    • kalaratri says:

      I have a BA in history as well and even though I haven’t done a thing with it, going off away to PSU did a hell of a lot for me. Aside from the whole being able to properly research, write and organize, I also made a ton of useful contacts, learned a lot of life skills, matured a hell of a lot and met my husband.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I wouldn’t give up my college education for anything. But aside from everything I’ve learned in college, it’s where I met many of my friends, where I met my spouse and my mentors. It’s also where I got a lot of discipline and focus. It was the total experience that made it absolutely vital, but my education was very good as well. I learned a lot, and I’m still using all of those skills on a daily basis.

  7. dunnowhat says:

    He went $50,000+ for an online degree?

    And his conclusion is: “If I were to do it all over again, I would have gone to a traditional school to be part of a think-tank of like minded people but in reality college is not required to connect with others.” A little different than “college wasn’t worth it”.

    • bikeoid says:

      >He went $50,000+ for an online degree?

      I thought most online college degrees were scams anyway.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I imagine it depends on the school. I have a coworker who got his degree from Penn State entirely online. From what I understand, he was very happy with the program.

    • Mom says:

      That was my thought exactly. He spent $50k “attending” an online college?

    • Gort42 says:

      College is the first place where you do connect with others. I got my first programming job through people I met in school. This is extremely common. The true value of of a place like Stanford is not the actual education but the chance that your roommate will be the guy who starts the next Google, and thinks of you when looking for people to staff the company with.

    • Portlandia says:

      How come everyone that says “I regret going to college it was too expensive” all went to crappy for profit online schools like University of Pheonix?

      Seriously, this is something I’ve been saying for a while. UofP and the like are JUST NOT WORTH IT…the quality of education you receive isn’t respected in the industry (unless you happen upon the hiring manager that went to UofP).

      I’ve known many hiring professionals and hired my faire share of employees, when all else is equal I would choose a student that went to a state school over a “for profit” university any day.

  8. Joe_lovz_buying says:

    My degree was actually worth it. I have an expensive degree from a private college, but I got a degree in a profitable field. I’m not rolling in money but I paid off my undergrad and grad school in 5 years, through the slumping economy.
    I have friends,same school, with different degrees buried under 100k of debt with no visible way out.

    Really, not all colleges are worth it. The thing to remember is that you get out what you put in.
    If you glide by in college you will likely get little value from your degree, no matter the GPA numbers.

  9. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    There are still a lot of fields where you must have a college degree and/or grad school, either due to professional certifications or federal guidelines.

    I work with many great people who are trapped below a glass ceiling and will never be more than “technicians” because they don’t have BS or MS after their names. The difference in pay between a technician and a analyst or principal investigator is close to 3x. There is also a lot more job stability and actual benefits.

  10. Jayisgames says:

    I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

    I went back to RIT to learn all the Web technologies that seemed to have sprung up from out of nowhere since my first degree. Using the knowledge I was learning in the classroom, I built a website and now it’s a very popular site (1MM unique visitors a month). I’ve already paid off all the student loans I borrowed and working on retirement savings now. All this during one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression.

    So, yeah, it was totally worth it.

  11. DerekSmalls says:

    My husband got his BA just so he could end up a manager at a movie theater. I work a dead end job working in insurance. At least it comes with dental. When I applied for this job, they wanted people with college degrees, not because you really need a degree, but because they can. There’s such a glut on the market.

    In college, I used to do all my friend’s hair. I did haircuts and coloring in my kitchen, all for free, just because it was fun. It was recently that I realized that I could have just gone to beauty school and make what I make now. I’d be doing something creative and fun, I wouldn’t have all this debt, and I could be my own boss.

    So much for “you can’t get ANYWHERE without a college degree.”

  12. dourdan says:

    i had overprotective parents who would not pay if i was undeclared. I now i have a worthless cinema degree.

    They learned their lesson with my sister and let her have 2 years to see what she really wanted to do before declaring.

    • evnmorlo says:

      They are still doing it wrong

      • suez says:

        Agreed. If you don’t know WHY you’re going to school, then don’t pay for it. Seems pretty straight-forward to me.

    • pot_roast says:

      worthless… unless it lets you tick that little box on an application that says you have that degree. :/

    • AstroPig7 says:

      I wish I had been allowed to take a year between high school and college so I would know what I wanted to do with my life. Instead, I ended up dropping out of college and am only just now returning to get a degree (almost 10 years later). Since my options were pay for college myself or go straight out of high school, I naively chose the latter.

    • MW says:

      Honestly, I think it’s better to take a year or two off if you truely don’t know what you’re going to school for, so I’d probably agree with your parents. My school has a lot of opportunities that span the entire time you’re there (work-study, research, interning, ect), but several of the most helpful opportunities are ones that you have to enroll in before your second sophomore semester. There aren’t many classes that aren’t degree centric after your freshman year at my school anyways, and those are better used to provide “easy” classes taken with the harder ones.

      As a general rule among my friends, the ones who waited more than a year and a half before declaring will have more debt, no work experience in their degree, less study abroad and research opportunities (ours are program-centric) and much more stressful final semesters since they used up all their padding classes early but still have to meet the 12 hour minimum. Not to mention that our guaranteed tuition expires after your forth year; I get an extension because my extra time can be attributed to an official program (work-study), they don’t have that benefit. If they had waited to enroll they likely would have been able to mitigate a lot of the issues they’re running into right now.

  13. reckoner23 says:

    I went to college as a comp sci major. And not only has college taught me the essentials of programming, but it gave me a degree that has gotten me many interviews and my first job. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without a degree.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      DailyWTF is filled with people who were taught programming “skills” in college, you know.

      • Mom says:

        What does somebody else’s crappy code have to do with this guy’s ability to get a job?

      • AnthonyC says:

        And yet they mostly all have jobs they wouldn’t have gotten without a degree (nepotism and other exceptions abound, of course).

        The post you replied to didn’t say how much better college will make everyone at their jobs, it said having the degree opened lots of doors.

  14. RubiksDude says:

    College got me my first IT job, then I dropped out. Good decision.

    • Putaro says:

      I had a job as a software engineer while I was getting my college degree. The company actually wanted me to drop out at one point and go to work full-time. I decided to keep going to school, though I did cut back school to part-time and was working full-time. We had a new hire, fresh out of college and it turned out she was making more than I was. When I confronted my boss with this, he told me “Well, you don’t have your degree.”

      So, I finished my degree and doubled my salary when I moved to my next job.

  15. DGC says:

    I got an associates degree from community college. I was able to pay for that with a part-time job through the school year and a full-time job in the Summer. I took a job with a company that had tuition reimbursement and earned my BS degree evenings, part-time. It took longer than going the traditional route, but I don’t have any student loan debt.

  16. Al Tuna says:

    Aside from working in a field where a masters or other advanced degree is pretty much a prerequisite, the name of my undergraduate institution opens doors (not an ivy, but a top 25er). I’m still not sure if it’s worth the loans I’m trying to pay, but it probably gave me a leg up in applying to graduate programs and getting my current job.

  17. Miraluka says:

    College tuition and fees at $7,605 a year? That’s a bargain, I’d jump over that price.
    This guy went to an online college to get his degree…I’m not surprised he regrets his decision.
    Besides from the experience of being at a college, and the in-person networking that happens, one of the major drivers in going to a reputable college is the school’s Office of Career Development/Services which will help you prepare for the inevitable job-search. A good school’s career development office will have multiple connections to alumni at different companies, as well as major corporations that recruit heavily out of your school. This should be a major factor in selecting a school, the quality of this department. Or at least it was for me…choosing a school that (at the time) had 90+% of graduating seniors with at least 1 job offer on the table during the Fall semester of their senior years was encouraging.

    Then again that was in a better job market…by the time I graduated I think it was something more like 70% of graduating seniors with at least one job offer in Fall semester. I was one of the 30% without, but had 11 interviews between October and March, and had 2 offers on the table by March.

    But then many people don’t want to pursue the corporate route…so perhaps a college degree isn’t necessary. But the American public loves the idea of kids going to college. And most teens are enamored with the idea of college, not for the learning, but for the experience. You don’t look back at college fondly for the exams you take, but for the experience you had.

    • jamar0303 says:

      I go to a top-tier Chinese college right now. I can get everything covered ($3750 for tuition, $150 for books, $700-odd for housing, and everything else you spend as you wish on feeding yourself and having fun) every school year with that kind of money. Add one year to get your Chinese up to speed (entrance exam is in Chinese and so are most classes) and it’s not a bad idea. Not least of all because loads of big multinational corporations (IBM, GE, Ford, etc, so you have a chance to go back to the US afterwards if you so desire, though big local companies like Bank of China aren’t a bad choice per se) directly recruit fresh graduates (interviews start in senior year).

  18. NeverLetMeDown says:

    In Jesse’s case, it might not have been worth it ($50k in loans from an ONLINE college???). Overall, though, without a bachelor’s degree, you can expect to make 39% less, and be more than 2x as likely to be unemployed.

    Unemployment rate with a high school diploma: 10.1% (Oct 10)
    Unemployment rate with a bachelors or more: 4.7% (Oct 10)

    Median weekly earnings (2009), bachelor’s degree (does not include people with more than a bachelor’s): $1,025
    Median weekly earnings (2009), high school diploma: $626

    If Jesse were the median person, then even if you ignore the higher probability of being unemployed, the difference in weekly earnings ($399) is far higher than the weekly payment on $50k in student loan debt ($122/week assuming the current fixed Stafford rate of 4.5% interest rate and paid off over 10 years).

    http://data.bls.gov/
    http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.txt

    • babyruthless says:

      It gets more complicated that that, though. Part of (though not all of) the reason that people with high school diplomas are paid less and employed less frequently than bachelor’s degree holders is that the kind of people who didn’t go to college tend to be very different people than the people who did.

      If going to college were a random experiment, and you were assigned to either attend or not, based on a flip of a coin, then it would suffice to look at employment numbers and say that if you don’t go to college, you’ll be $X per month worse off than if you did. All you can say is that the average person who didn’t go to college is $X worse of than the average person who did. There’s some pretty serious self-selection going on in college attendance.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        That’s a very fair point. Interestingly, the “some college, no degree” median earnings are only $699, not that much different from high school diploma only.

        Again, not sure if that means “people with the drive to finish college make more money, regardless of whether they actually get a degree,” or “the piece of paper that says bachelor’s degree is the really valuable thing, since people who were smart enough to get into college, but didn’t finish, make a lot less.”

        • babyruthless says:

          There is a really interesting literature in economics about a college degree being a signal to the job market that you’re a certain kind of person–you can finish things that you start, you have drive and ambition, whatever. And the real value of a college education is not that you learn, well, anything, but that it acts as a signal that you’re a high quality worker.

          I think this argument is pretty compelling, and it helps explain why there are these jobs that you have to have a college degree to hold, even though you don’t use your college skills. Plus all of the talk of a college degree now being equivalent to a high school diploma 30 years ago–the signal has changed.

  19. Kuchen says:

    Seeing as I am in a field that requires being licensed, and getting licensed requires a degree, I would do it again. I would have thought harder about what I really wanted to do first, though, so I could start out working on the right degree from the start. Instead, I just picked a major that was a subject I liked, and didn’t even consider what kind of jobs were in that field.

  20. SNForrester says:

    It depends how much you have to pay. My degree was from a top-5 school. I had great financial aid and graduated with only $10K in debt. I paid it all back easily within a couple years. This was about 15 years ago. Today, the same degree would probably come with $50K to $100K in debt. That’s insane.

    College is important but you have to keep costs in mind. I don’t think any undergrad degree is worth a lifetime of debt.

    • smirkette says:

      Seriously. With a few exceptions, it’s where you get the graduate degree that really matters. I wish they’d told us that in high school.

      • Powerlurker says:

        The logic I’ve heard is for a bachelor’s, it’s the reputation of the school, for a master’s, it’s the reputation of the department, and for a Ph.D, it’s the reputation of the advisor.

        • jessjj347 says:

          Yeah, I was just going to say that sometimes it’s more important to consider the reputation of the program. That sounds accurate that for a graduate degree.

    • AnthonyC says:

      If you went to a top-five school today, you would still have gotten enough financial to graduate with about the same amount of deb (inflation-adjusted). In the intervening years, financial aid has gone up as fast as tuition or faster at those schools.

  21. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    I did get a career in my field but was disappointed with my Geography degree in that – at the end – I though “that’s all Iearned in 4 years?” I’d do it again but with the realization that Liberals Arts degrees focus on teaching you discipline and a certain way of thinking, analyzing and researching. That piece of paper gets you into the club and access to jobs that you couldn’t get without a degree. Nobody ever asked for my GPA or even to verify that I did graduate. The biggest slackers in my class now have the best jobs. A degree is a foot in the door, technical skills are just a foot in the door – then you advance through cunning, insight, bullshit, and people skills.

  22. SuperQ says:

    No college degree is going to help an unmotivated, lackluster person get anywhere in life. Also no degree is going to help someone with exceptional skill and drive get to where they want to be.

    Basic college degrees are only good for the subset of lackluster but motivated, and skilled but not driven. And it only helps for the first few years out of school.

    However, I know many people with *advanced* degrees who are both motivated and skilled. The advanced (masters, doctorate) degrees are simply the result of their drive to spend a lot of time developing their skills in a field they love.

    But this is not true of all people with advanced degrees. There are some who just never leave school and are completely useless in life.

  23. Levi says:

    It’s an over-generalization to say college is not worth it. Some degrees may not be worth it, but don’t write off the whole enterprise…

    • wackydan says:

      “but don’t write off the whole enterprise”

      Hit it on the nose… Except that I think what you just said applies the opposite of what you meant…. Colleges are big business. They are money machines. For the last few decades at least they have transformed from institutions of learning to almost 100% capitalist in nature. The higher ed industrial complex has worked hard to make a degree in ANYTHING the standard for near ANY job….and that is just wrong.

      My daughter will hopefully go to college and will do so in a manner that is price efficient and productive for the rest of her life. I will not pay for an arts/drama degree, or a liberal arts degree. She can either work towards a degree in a promising field or pay her own way. I won’t pay for what many end up with… a HOBBY degree.

      • MMD says:

        Education, in the truest sense, is not “efficient”. And a degree is not a direct path to a job.

        Liberal arts degrees teach people how to think. Send your daughter to be educated, not just trained.

        • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

          And plan on her moving back home and having to support her because she can’t get a job with her liberal arts degree.

          Major in something that will get you a job, if you go. Otherwise it’s just a four-year party with a $150k cover.

  24. Outrun1986 says:

    I don’t think an online degree weighs as heavily as someone who went to a good reputable college. If you are going to spend money, at least go to a good university. I would say AT LEAST go for a 2 year degree, because most job postings require that and more, and most won’t even look at your resume if you don’t have any college experience on it at all.

    Think about it you are competing with all these people that did go to college, since almost everyone goes these days, employers will obviously consider them first over someone who has no college experience at all.

    Unless somehow you are born into a rich family or manage to land a good job right out of high school, but if you are working retail jobs right out of high school then you probably want to go to school because that type of experience probably won’t get you anywhere (but another similar job) on a resume. Even if you do land a job right out of high school you might want to consider going to college so that you have something to fall back on should you lose your job. If you lose your job and have no college education then you are going to have a problem. A job is not a sure thing these days at all, people can lose their jobs at any time.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      2 years? A bachelor’s degree is 4 years. I don’t consider anything less a real degree.

      • AnthonyC says:

        Then you’ve closed your eyes to a number of specialized fields or professions that still require an associates degree and not more.
        Also, I know several people who’ve gotten a two year degree, only to help then get a job so they can go to school at night and finish their bachelors (and maybe have an employer pay for it). You can generally get an associates at a local or community college at much lower cost, and depending on the field, transfer at least some of the credit towards a future 40year degree.

  25. MMD says:

    You just can’t measure the value of a college degree in purely economic terms. A degree is only one end result of the college experience, and anyone who expects that the degree in and of itself is a direct path to an exact job is vastly oversimplifying things.

    I know lots of people who are happily working in careers that bear little resemblance to their official college majors. This in no way makes those degrees “worthless”. It means that they had a good college experience – one that teaches you how to think deeply, critically, flexibly and analytically. You can’t measure this skill, and it doesn’t translate into a specific label on a major or a degree. But if you have it, you can find ways to flexibly apply your skills and knowledge to a variety of situations. Those who don’t are going to find themselves thinking they have far fewer options in life.

    This is a cliche, but some things are cliches for a reason: You get out of it what you put in to it. Embrace those “unnecessary” classes for your degree and they just might enhance your thinking in ways you couldn’t have anticipated. Blow them off, and you’re not really a college student – you’re just in training for a job that may or may not be there when you get out.

    • progrocktv says:

      Some really good points there. My degree has DEFINITELY helped me. WHAT I learned in school does and doesn’t help in the long run. In my field (I’m a video editor) the technology has sure changed since I graduated 16 years ago, however the BASIC skills still matter. Even thought I’m no longer editing on tape, you still need to know HOW to edit in terms of picking shots, pacing, rhythm and telling a story (that’s why so many people who are just buying the software, learning how to run it and think they are editors are out of work) On the other side I have learned skills in critical thinking, research, and analytical skills which have stuck with me to this day. Also I have made MANY connections through school which lead to part-time school jobs that have helped me, connections I still utilize to this day and connections with people I meet to today (fellow alumni are always good to start a conversation.)

    • kalaratri says:

      History BA. I am currently work in web design, marketing and do costuming on the side.

      Learned it all at university, even if it wasn’t in class.

  26. Get A Amberlance says:

    It appears no one watched Jesse Ventura’s “Conspiracy Theory” Friday night. It doesn’t matter anymore. We are going DOWN. I’m not going into detail–watch the episode on Hulu or something. But the recession was (is) intentional and the ultimate goal is to have every human being on the planet on their knees with nothing. I wish I could convince my youngest not to waste his money next year when he’s off to college.

  27. duderonomy says:

    Apparently one thing college also didn’t teach him is the value of anecdotal evidence.

  28. socialretard says:

    Depends on what the degree is in? I’m studying engineering at a state school and my tuition is paid for by the state. I don’t see it was a waste of time. I mean maybe if I was getting my degree in sports medicine…

    • Michaela says:

      Same. My school pays me to attend. My degree in applied mathematics is teaching me what I need to know for my actuary exams. I understand a technical theater major being a bit of a waste of money, but my college education is crucial for my career.

      • moonunitrappa says:

        ” I understand a technical theater major being a bit of a waste of money”

        I’m generalizing but if you don’t have a master’s degree in theatre, a multi-million dollar professional repertory theater will not allow you to lay hands on their equipment (as a tech director). Unless you’ve hit the pavement for several years in shows that are worthy as experience, all major positions in professional theatre require some form of a college degree. I once knew a make up/hair artist who went the route of working shows first, but she kept hitting the pay wall without a degree. Now that she has her degree, she’s working on Broadway.

        No more poo-pooing the arts, people. As part of the artistic community, we expect our artistic compatriots to be educated as well. It’s a fascinating story of struggle and sacrifice when someone makes it without a degree, but how much time could have been saved just getting the degree so they could move on to bigger and brighter things later?

  29. smirkette says:

    While it’s not like 20 years ago when a BS/BA almost guaranteed you a job, a degree is still necessary to be considered for a lot of jobs. It shows you were willing to stick around for at least four years, take some classes you weren’t interested in and were outside your field, be self-directed and responsible for your learning, deal with bureaucracy, and complete some kind of project or paper. Those skills have been pretty important at least in my work history, and while they can be developed and demonstrated outside of a college campus, I don’t think there are as many employers outside of a few specific fields who care enough to consider candidates who took the alternative path.

  30. smirkette says:

    +1

  31. minjche says:

    Not quite a college grad yet (one semester to go) but I already have a job as an engineer lined up.

    So you could say college worked out for me.

  32. sagodjur says:

    Obligatory Graph Jam – What my college degree gets me:

    http://cheezburger.com/View/4038161408

  33. WeirdJedi says:

    Mother wanted me to go to college but without ever having a job, I couldn’t have known why. Had to transfer to another college for personal reasons and learned a lot through various general education classes like Psychology, Humanities, and Technical Writing.

    I soon realized the college was having hardships fitting computer science students with teachers. Due to the unexpected costs of campus expansion, they were having issues with the budget. In the process, my schedule didn’t work out and my scholarships expired. I would have to attend another three years just to complete three classes.

    If it wasn’t for the schedule change, I would have completed my classes within the 4-year period. Just because they couldn’t add another class time, I would have to pay out of my pocket for another 3 years. I just decided to dropout. What other things could go wrong during that time?

    No one cares if I have a degree or not. Here, all they care about is if you have worked in their environmental setting for a few years. Found a job at a restaurant in the mall. Not much, but better than nothing.

  34. lain1k says:

    Horrible article. The kid didn’t do his “homework” (researching the school, job perspectives, looking for reviews and advice from graduates, etc) and wasn’t financially mature. That isn’t a reason to say college isn’t worth the cost. I agree that some degrees are essentially worthless in this day and age. There is still a need for a college education.

    -He want to an online college (not necessarily bad but USUALLY not as respected)
    -Didn’t take advantage of community colleges
    -Didn’t budget/financial projection (said he didn’t track his loans)
    -Did he work while taking his online courses to help pay for expenses?
    -Never said what kind of degree he got (Sorry but a lot of degrees are not worth the cost)

  35. AngryK9 says:

    My 2 year degree from ITT Tech is the most expensive and most useless piece of paper I’ve I’ve ever had my hands on. It has not helped me get any jobs, and has eaten up most of my payacheck for years. Going to ITT was the worst mistake I’ve ever made in my life so far. If I could go back, knowning what I know now, I’d avoid it like the plague.

    • Gmork says:

      When I was involved with hiring people for computer positions at my last job we used to file the ITT Tech apps directly into the trashcan… we didn’t even look at them. I have found that a lot of places do pretty much the same thing.

  36. Lucy K. says:

    Undergrad degrees are worthless. Since ’07, Masters and/or MBA has been a requirement.

    • Powerlurker says:

      In the natural sciences, you pretty much need a Ph.D if you hope to land a career with prospects for advancement.

    • unpolloloco says:

      Depends on the degree. Before 07 there were worthless degrees. Now there are more worthless degrees. However, there are still worthwhile degrees out there (business, engineering, etc.) – they just typically take a bit more work.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      Generalize much?

  37. minneapolisite says:

    College got me my dream job. I never used use a lick of my college learning at that job, but they do not hire people with less than a college degree.

    College doesn’t have to result in debilitating debt. I fully loaded every semester, worked 60 hours every summer, and graduated in 3 years. I lived in a sorority house (cheapest housing option at my campus), didn’t buy things I couldn’t afford, and accepted that Spring Breaks in Cancun were not in the cards for me. (I spent Spring Breaks at my parents’ house with pleasure reading, video games, and “cooking lessons” with mom.) Somehow, I made it through with only $5000 in student loans. I will own my house free-and-clear by 2014.

  38. Mecharine says:

    My college degree included advanced mathematics, mechanical engineering and design. Basically, I got all the tools I need to start my own business.

  39. FreeShaggy says:

    It got me into pharmacy school, which I’m still in, and then that degree will allow me to practice in a number of settings.

    So yea, kinna important.

    But otherwise, my degree wouldn’t have done jack for me. Before I got accepted I tried applying to jobs all around my field and got absolutely nowhere. Everyone wanted Lab experience of which I had zilch. It was that classic scenario of should known somebody/had a contact/etc. instead of concentrating on passing exams.

    • Phexerian says:

      I wonder what your debt is gonna be after pharm school. Mine was at 115k. Some students paid about 190K+ to get through pharmacy school.

  40. arcticJKL says:

    I went to college to learn. I learned a great deal from most of the courses I took, and as a result I am a more well rounded individual with some specialization in a field I enjoy.
    So I would gladly pay to do it again.

    If you are getting a degree to earn more money you should get some guarantees up front from the school or the company.

  41. bubba b says:

    I guess the question is..is a college education and it’s financial rewards worth the cost. That is certainly argueable since it depends on how it enhances a persons earning power. However, the education alone is a no brainer when it comes to the value of enhanced perception, logic, reasoning, problem solving etc. Knowledge is accumulative…no one ever learns too much. Of course, a college education isn’t required to accumulate knowledge, but I think no one should ever shortchange a college degree. I have met many people with a college degree who are ignorant, but I can’t remember ever meeting one who is stupid.

  42. tbax929 says:

    I did the military thing and then got a job in my field and then went to college for my degree. It wasn’t the most traditional way to do it, but by the time I graduated, I already had 6 years of experience in my field. Now I have a job I love in a stable field, and I’m compensated well.

    The degree was for me, though. Although I wouldn’t have my current position without it, I always wanted to earn a degree, and I was the first in my immediate family to graduate college.

  43. B* says:

    If I knew then what I know now, I’d have gone to state school and gotten a nursing degree. I can’t stand needles but I’d force myself to get over it. As it is, a writing degree from an incredibly overpriced private university has done nothing a trade degree from a state school couldn’t. Except give me tens of thousands of dollars of debt, of course.

    Parents, please give your children more guidance than “Follow your dreams! You can be anything!”

  44. catskyfire says:

    I would definitely do it again. I just wouldn’t have my night job as well, and get on medication, so I could get more out of it.

    However, as a fair caveat, my folks had excellent college funds saved up for my brother and me. They understood the value of education and wanted to make sure the opportunity was there. We weren’t forced to go, or stay. My brother left college. I think I became the first degree holder on my father’s side.

    Has it helped in the ‘real world’? More than most would think. Oh, I’m not doing anything fancy with my degree…I’m a staff assistant with the state. But the language skills from my language major gave me a better understanding and control of English. And my history major taught me how to research, expand or summarize information and so on.

    Plus, college is also there to help expand the mind and improve one’s knowledge of the world.

  45. Thorzdad says:

    Whether or not you get a degree, college (or voc school) is just about the only place someone can go to get deep, focused, intensive training in an area of interest. Otherwise, you’re left to flail-about on your own, trying to talk/schmooz your way into some low-level entry job of one sort or another, if you’re lucky. And, with any luck, actually learn what you need to know in order to climb to better jobs. Or not.

    College gives you the opportunity to hone skills, train your ass off, and make connections. That’s the true value of those four years. Of course, the cost a whole other conversation. A conversation which shouldn’t be limited to IT work. Not everyone goes to college for tech jobs. Most people in schools are studying something other than tech.

  46. psyop63b says:

    While I agree with the author’s sentiment, this article seems unworthy of a post on Consumerist.

    There is a much better article along the same lines written by Kathy Kristof of Forbes Magazine titled “The Great College Hoax” which is makes a much stronger argument about the overvaluation of a college degree. http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/0202/060.html

  47. Abradax says:

    I worked my butt off going to school while working full time and having a family to get my degree, only to still have the same job I had before hand.

    I only consider it a point of personal pride at this point.

  48. Zyzzyva100 says:

    I think one of the problems in the US is that the education system is set to push everyone to attend college, when lots of people should do something else instead. I have several friends that bounced around for a few years before deciding what they really wanted to do and now have good jobs after getting degrees in fields they cared about.

    Other friends just pushed through college, got degrees in god only knows what and now work dead end jobs because they weren’t ready for college right out of high school. I guess I am lucky because not only did I enjoy college, but in 5 years I was able to get a BS and MS in bioengineering (which could actually get me a good job if I wanted). However, now I am just months from finishing my MD, so in theory some of my time in college (especially the 8 semesters of math) was wasted. But, theres no way to become a physician in the US without getting an undergrad degree. Learning wise it could be done, but you mature a lot in college, and I would have been a terrible doctor if I didn’t do that maturing.

    Of course now I have 225k+ in student loans, so I hope that in 5 years orthopaedists are still paid well or else I will have to expatriate myself.

  49. Phexerian says:

    Too many people go to school and get worthless degrees because they don’t think 10 to 20 years down the road. They only think 1-3 years ahead.

    Sister went and got a art degree. Shes graduated and now waits tables…

    I went and got a doctorate in pharmacy and am now completing an MBA with my company wanting to move me up the corporate ladder.

    If kids who go to school would actually think about what they want to do in the future and how financially stable they want to be, then maybe they wouldn’t get screwed so much.

    As far as any online school, they are all crap unless they are a big name state university such as university of florida.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      Another problem is that there’s no way to anticipate how things change. When I was in college (late 70s), there was no internet, IT was basically COBOL and Fortran, print media was still viable, we were just post-Vietnam and too idealistic to consider the military, and so on. Without the internet, if you lived in a small town, you didn’t realize the breadth of career possibilities.Who knows what’s next.

      If I were coming out of high school today, I’d go ROTC and get a degree in something cool like cybersecurity or aerospace engineering.

  50. BelleSade says:

    Going to college is only worth it if you major in something practical/useful, and if you don’t want to major in something practical/useful, then you better make sure you’re in an excellent school whose reputation can save you from your Goldfish studies major.

    I don’t regret going to college or my major (economics), as it’s given me an opportunity to go to grad school (one of my major goals in life since I was a child), the job I want require at least a Master’s degree, and my high GPA and the skills I learned at uni will further help me get my dream job or at least something similar to it. I avoided student loans, only getting a $5500 one to study abroad once, kept my grades up, did plenty of research with professors and internships. I loved it.

    The MA that I want, however, I’m not sure whether it’ll be worth it or not. The perfect MA that I want is around $100k, and there are cheaper options, but they don’t carry the reputation the school with the $100k one does. I don’t know whether to go with less debt or a more recognized name on my resume.

    • BETH says:

      My daughter went to a state college for her MBA. She was given a Fellowship, which covered the tuition. She didn’t even have to apply for it; it was part of the financial aid package. She had to work ten hours a week in the library, which covered her room and board. She was finished in 2 1/2 years, and her MBA was essentially free. If you can find a deal like that, I suggest you take it.

  51. BelleSade says:

    Going to college is only worth it if you major in something practical/useful, and if you don’t want to major in something practical/useful, then you better make sure you’re in an excellent school whose reputation can save you from your Goldfish studies major.

    I don’t regret going to college or my major (economics), as it’s given me an opportunity to go to grad school (one of my major goals in life since I was a child), the job I want require at least a Master’s degree, and my high GPA and the skills I learned at uni will further help me get my dream job or at least something similar to it. I avoided student loans, only getting a $5500 one to study abroad once, kept my grades up, did plenty of research with professors and internships. I loved it.

    The MA that I want, however, I’m not sure whether it’ll be worth it or not. The perfect MA that I want is around $100k, and there are cheaper options, but they don’t carry the reputation the school with the $100k one does. I don’t know whether to go with less debt or a more recognized name on my resume.

  52. BelleSade says:

    Going to college is only worth it if you major in something practical/useful, and if you don’t want to major in something practical/useful, then you better make sure you’re in an excellent school whose reputation can save you from your Goldfish studies major.

    I don’t regret going to college or my major (economics), as it’s given me an opportunity to go to grad school (one of my major goals in life since I was a child), the job I want require at least a Master’s degree, and my high GPA and the skills I learned at uni will further help me get my dream job or at least something similar to it. I avoided student loans, only getting a $5500 one to study abroad once, kept my grades up, did plenty of research with professors and internships. I loved it.

    The MA that I want, however, I’m not sure whether it’ll be worth it or not. The perfect MA that I want is around $100k, and there are cheaper options, but they don’t carry the reputation the school with the $100k one does. I don’t know whether to go with less debt or a more recognized name on my resume.

  53. AnthonyC says:

    Number one, you don’t need to go to college right out of high school, especially if you have no idea what it is you want to do. For some people, it’s better to try their hands at something and then go back to school.

    Number two, not every high-paying job requires (or is helped by) a college degree. Consider going to a trade school and becoming a plumber, electrician, or anything else along those lines.

    Number three, if you do need a college degree, you don’t have to go to an expensive private school. The benefit does not scale with the price tag. If you’re going to take out loans, try to go to a less expensive public school (lots of them are really great!) and be sure to choose a field that’ll help you pay those loans back when you’re done. Love of learning is great (I share it!) but it’s a luxury; get what you can afford out of school and then learn on your own for the rest of your life.

    Number four, if you really are brilliant, you’ll be able to get into a school that can afford to give you financial aid. It’s a common refrain that the very rich can afford tuition, the very poor get full financial aid, and the middle class get crushed by loans, and to some extent it’s true. But the very best schools give significant financial aid even to families making well over $100,000/year with just one kid in school.

    I was very lucky. My family could afford to send me to school without, and I got into a school that wouldn’t have made me take loans even if my parents could not have paid. But I saw what my friends from high school and college did. Some friends took out $150k in debt to go to private school… to become middle school teachers; I think they should have gone to a cheaper public university. I saw less-bright friends go to not-very-good-but-expensive colleges with no plan at all, and now they have a degree they’ll never use. And I saw friends go to great schools on financial aid, do as little work as possible, and waste a chance many others would have loved.

  54. Blow a fuse? I can fix that... says:

    It gave me my job and my career. In my chosen profession, there’s no way in except a degree.

    Could I have had a career without college? Probably, but I like what I do, and I liked going to college. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have tried to finish faster by cutting down on extracurriculars and, um, partying.

  55. oldtaku says:

    College may not be worth it for soft fields, unless you want to teach, but it is certainly worth it for hard fields. It’s very easy to tell the electrical engineer or software engineer (as opposed to programmer) who never went to college. They’re the ones badly reinventing the things you should have already learned.

    As an easy example (and realizing you can get calculus in high school as well), I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen software try to reinvent calculus without realizing it – at the base calculus is just figuring rate of change (derivation) and accumulation (integration). So where’s the local minimum or maximum on a curve? It’s where the derivative is zero. If you already know that then the code is trivial. If you don’t then you write increasingly convoluted horrors.

    More to the point, employers know this, and if you want to be a EE or ME, you had better have that degree. If you want to be a personal finance manager, then maybe you don’t need it.

  56. zifnab0 says:

    Demeaning “college” doesn’t work unless you’re talking about what programs/degrees people are working towards. Sorry for all you liberal arts majors out there, but it’s unlikely you got where you did because of your degree.

    People who go to college and get a degree in engineering, programming, or basically any program that grants a BS, is going to be helpful in acquiring a job. These programs don’t teach you “how to think” or “learning about the world,” they give you real, marketable skills that employers look for.

    I got my degree in an engineering discipline and it was a great opportunity that allowed me to enter my chosen profession (after graduate school), and I make a pretty healthy salary only a few years out of school.

    Yeah, there are people out there doing better than me, but I’m happy with my decision and choice of schools.

  57. DifferentialDX says:

    A degree can certainly be worthwhile if you have a specific endpoint in mind. For those interested in graduate school, for example, a strong undergrad performance is essentially mandatory.

    Aside from that, I think education has strayed far from its original purpose of preparing individuals for a productive, happy, well-informed life.

    As career schools and technical institutions providing practical skills gain credibility they ought to win over a substantial portion of students who currently elect to get a liberal arts degree for perceived lack of better option.

    In short, the choice of higher education should be goal-oriented; if you want to get a liberal arts degree for the sake of personal fulfillment, that is fantastic, but recognize that from a financial standpoint it may not be as sound an investment as other avenues of education.

  58. f86sabre says:

    As an aerospace engineer I pretty much have to have a degree to do my job. The technicians I work with mostly have associates degrees or similar experience. I’d do it again even though it kicked my butt.

  59. Bob Lu says:

    We come to this country, pay a sh*t load of tuition (if we start from undergrad), then get paid sub-unemployment-benefit “stipend” as graduate student for publishing top quality research articles, keeping this country in leading position on all these fields. then we graduate, with a PhD degree, find a job as researcher, being paid about 60% of a assembling line worker.

    And we are being blamed for “stealing” all those high-tech jobs in America, as if any stall standing American would want to do these jobs.

    And we still think it is worthy. We still LOVE this country.

  60. Blious says:

    I don’t know a single profession that would hire someone without a college degree

    So good luck with the idea that college isn’t worth it because in my life that deals with several different professions, no college degree = no job

  61. You hate your job but you're still working there? says:

    Why would one go to college, if not to learn or earn a degree? I’m pretty sure there are cheaper ways of getting drunk and acting stupid or nabbing an internship.

  62. ChilisServer says:

    Hasn’t done me a bit of good, and I’m deep in debt. I started my own business, and even though the degree looks good on paper, I could have gotten where I am without it.

  63. JustAnotherJoe says:

    I got an ivy league engineering degree a long time ago. The sheepskin was worth it, but the first two years of education was horrible – large classes, illiterate instructors. My high school AP classes were much better. The last two years weren’t bad. I always told people, consider a junior college for the first two years – ace the classes, get personalized attention, then transfer into a “good sheepskin school” for your last two years. I had a roommate take that approach – easy cheap way to a High GPA and he then went to Hopkins medical school.

    Maybe things have changed, but I figured I’d share this approach.

  64. ldub says:

    My undergrad degree gave me a great overall liberal arts & sciences education, made me a critical thinker and prepared me for a specific career. My graduate degree allowed me to advance in that career and now I am a well-compensated worker in a fairly stable job market. It’s also important to note that I paid my way through a “no name” commuter school, then went to a better regarded grad school and now work for a very prestigious company with ivy-leaguers as both co-workers and underlings.

    I certainly would do it all over again.

  65. Gulliver says:

    1. Getting a degree tells an employer something very basic about a person. They start something and complete a task. I can train you to do anything in a job, but I need to know will you follow through.
    2. A college degree is not always about the money. Knowledge is valuable in and of itself. I have a masters degree and still take classes all the time. Many do not relate to my field, but I enjoy learning about different things in the world.
    3. There are anamolies out there, but statistics do not lie about what a college graduate earns over a life time versus what a high school graduate earns. Currently the number is nearly a million dollars over the course of a lifetime. Even the most expensive schools will not cost that much.

  66. Anri says:

    He has over $50,000 in loans and he didn’t even pay attention to them? That’s not a problem with college, that’s a problem with *him*.

    As far as a degree, it depends on what you value in life and what fields you want to work in. I plan on working in healthcare, where a degree is necessary for most fields, and I feel like the classes I’ve taken so far have really improved who I am as a person, and I’m 2 years into a bachelor’s with only $6k in debt because I have a part-time job in my field and make smart financial decisions. Going to college for a love of learning is only a bad idea if you go to a school where you’re going to get $50,000+ in loans and you’re SO bad at finances that you just ignore them.

  67. GMFish says:

    I have a friend who has a University of Michigan degree with nearly 20 years in broadcast television. He’s been laid off for a long time and recently got a job as a part-time janitor. The really sad part, he’s really excited to be working again.

    • joescratch says:

      You could be talking about me–unemployed librarian-slash-postal-service-mail-handler. I am really, really thrilled. No, really. I’m making BANK! As in, $10 an hour more than $0 an hour.

  68. Extractor says:

    I dropped out of high school after 11th grade and went directly to the community college. While the rest finished high school, I was able to obtain 2 years of transferable credits for $10 per credit hour, $620 for 62 credits. On April 1, 82 I was driving by my high school and I just had to stop by. I showed the principle my Dental License and asked if I qualified for the high school diploma. He then checked and found that I was listed as a drop out. He then went into a safe and pulled out a 1974 Diploma and asked if I would’nt mind if he typed my name on it. I really had no choice in dropping out. They wanted me to take 4 study halls since I had taken all the advanced classes in 11th grade.

    • lim says:

      We had a girl who “walked” with my high school class as a junior, but she graduated early because she decided to take a class (some sort of English, I think) at the community college during her last semester. The school knew and had no problem with it. This was about ten years ago.

  69. FrankReality says:

    What bothers me is colleges and universities offer so many degree programs that can’t begin to lead to jobs that can pay back the student loans. What you have is the higher education providers charging exorbitant rates of tuition, simply because the student can get loans. They are feeding their high-cost programs off of poor students and the taxpayers.

    This model only works for degrees that actually lead to well paying jobs where there is demand, e.g. engineering, sciences, etc. Your typical liberal arts majors are not among them.

    This is a scandal. When potential students get smart enough to realize their undergrad degrees aren’t a ticket to a good, well-paying job, there will eventually be a collapse of the system. Higher education is now riding a bubble – one thing we know about bubbles is that sooner or later, bubbles burst and crash.

    As for my education and my wife’s, neither Bachelor’s degree helped much in terms of income, but our Master’s degrees were very helpful, particularly mine. That GPA did matter, it was high enough to score me an interview and ultimately a job, but that was 30 years ago.

  70. u1itn0w2day says:

    I T usually requires certifications. This is an old requirement as well. By the turn of the century I T some companies wanted upto 3 certifications in wether it be networking or microsoft but they want certifications. I know college grads and experienced IT workers who couldn’t get squat due to the lack of certifications. Networking and/or something like Cisco are the certifications to get.

    The problem with certifications are that usually you must take a preparation course along with the certification test. It’s not a bad thing but it can get expensive. And certifications frequently need updating or again you are a disadvantage to those who got certified in the latest and greatest.

  71. Kid U says:

    Jesse at PF Firewall went to on online college that costs more per year than most real colleges. That was his mistake, not going to college in general.

  72. Rickdude says:

    I went to school to get a job. Chemical Engineering was one of the highest paying undergraduate degrees, so I went that way. I suffered for 4 years and got my BS. Once I got a job I learned what I loved and went that way.

    My wife loved learning and got an English degree. She then went for a Masters in Social Work. I still make more than twice what she does and enjoy my work. It’s pretty sad that this is still debatable. There are things that are in demand and for a tough few years you can fill that demand.

    Or you can pretend that life is a matter of what you want rather than what your boss or your employer wants and wonder why you can’t make any money for the rest of your life.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      Shockingly, it is possible for life to be what you want AND be financially productive.

    • rorschachex says:

      100% agree. I did my B.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering and got a job I really enjoy with a great salary. I graduated only 2 years ago, into a very shitty economy, and everyone still tells me they can’t find enough engineers to fill their ranks. I continue to get contacted for interviews. Truth is, if you work hard in college and enjoy what you’re doing, you can find work.
      However, it is unfair for any engineers commenting to this article to talk since working as a credible engineer practically anywhere requires an engineering degree from an ABET-accredited college, rendering the question of going to college moot.

  73. Donathius says:

    If I didn’t have my B.S. I wouldn’t have the job I have now. They required a bachelor’s degree, but it didn’t matter what it was in. My degree emphasis was TV and film production, but I work in IT. The education I gained didn’t do a thing for me. Thankfully I went to a cheap state school (and now I work there!).

  74. joescratch says:

    My BA got me some okay corporate jobs in publishing. My master’s degree in library science got me nothing but $40K in loans. Earned MSLIS in 2007; now work for the US Postal Service slinging boxes alongside people with GEDs. (Nothing wrong with GEDs; plus, they’re cheaper than postgrad degrees.) I don’t dislike the work; it’s just damn silly that this is how it ended up. At least there’s no one to inherit my debt. Acme Student Usury is never, ever getting that money back.

  75. Buckus says:

    I think whether you should or shouldn’t go to college depends on where you are in life. If you’re in a position to say what it is you want out of life, you can make a reasonable choice that will probably fit what you expect. If you go to college expecting it to be magical with a pot of gold when you graduate…well, maybe you should wait.

    Many commenters here make excellent points. And in any given situation, a degree may or may not be a deciding factor. I know for my own job, my manager only hires people with college degrees because he has one and he knows the value one gets from said degree. What is my position? Software developer. And my computer science degree absolutely made a difference to me. But that’s how it is for most engineering grads. It’s hard to be an engineer (at least professionally) without a degree.

    I would say that, all things being equal, having a degree is more likely to get you into the interview that not having a degree (unless we’re talking about slinging burgers at McDonald’s.) What you do after that is all up to you.

  76. dragonpancakes says:

    Compared to my friends who focused on a career instead of college all my degree got me was in debt. It was a very expensive piece of paper.

  77. The Marionette says:

    Wow phil posted something decent?

    Anyways in the end, the degree is only as good as the person accepting it. Working with computers I can tell you first hand that a degree doesn’t mean squat if you don’t know your stuff, or at least if you don’t know more than the next guy. You can get a college grad, for…. oh… let’s say computer programming. He knows the stuff they taught him there. Now, you’ve got this other guy who’s been programming almost every day of his life, can whip up just about any program in a jiffy. Now, who would you rather have in your company (mind you, the place where your employee’s skills will determine how good of a company it is), the guy who got his degree and took him only 4 years, or the guy who’s been using his skills for a far longer time?

    I’m not saying college is a complete waste or anything, I’ve seen some successfully people come out of college. Point is it could put you in a worse bind than before you went to college. I’m still paying off my student loans from when I went. Was it worth it? Not in the very least, especially coming from a college where the “instructors” would leave every couple of months, some didn’t show up most of the time (yes, the instructors). Even right now where our economy isn’t in the best shape it’s been in, I would’ve been far better off in my current situation had it not been for student loans, but hey, that’s all apart of the college life, being completely broke right?

  78. Snaptastic says:

    I went to the Air Force Academy–granted it was 4 years of hell, but the education was free and I was guaranteed a job after graduating. When I left the AF, employers were impressed by my alma mater for its reputation and the fact I made it through–despite my less than stellar GPA.

    Would I do it again? Hell no. Knowing what I know now I would have taken one of my full-ride ROTC scholarships and gone to a normal school.

  79. nallanos says:

    this guy is another idiot who went to college and didn’t intern, work, etc to get his life worked out. i make connections and made shit happen with an excellent degree and when i graduated i went after jobs and landed a great one. without it i wouldn’t have been hired.

    • joescratch says:

      An idiot who didn’t intern? I guess by “idiot” you mean someone who couldn’t afford to work for free. Or, heaven forfend, chose not to.

  80. PsiCop says:

    What I learned in college was how to research things and how to think critically. There is no dollar value one can place on those. The idea that education must be boiled down to a financial equation leaves out reams of “intangibles” that, likewise, can never have any monetary value assigned to them. To do so is foolish.

    And yes, I would most certainly do it again, if I could go back in time. I might pursue a different major, but I absolutely would do so again. In a heartbeat.

  81. Geekybiker says:

    I think the biggest reason to get one is because most HR departments filter resumes by having a degree. Unless you’re applying to a pretty small shop where your resume might get directly to a hiring manager, you get overlooked regardless of qualifications.

  82. maztec says:

    Wait, Phil, did you even read the article? This wasn’t “Why not to go to College” but “Why not to go to an ONLINE College”.

    Seriously, read the article first before you post about it …

  83. anduin says:

    didnt do shit all for me, I didnt great grades in university cause I was one of those drifter type peoples that went from subject to subject hoping to find a calling life. Any time I came close to something, it would end up blowing up in my face in failure. Though Im happy I went through the experience, Im in NO rush to go back to school until I have a definitive idea of what Im doing there.

  84. gman863 says:

    The thought process on college should be an individual one and should start (at the latest) in the first two years of High School. Not knowing “what you want to do when you grow up” (or, in later life, what you want or need to do to reinvent yourself) can result in tens of thousands of dollars down the drain and loans that seemingly last a lifetime.

    * Research job trends for the upcoming years. As in the classic Monty Python sketch, although you may dream of being a lion tamer; an accounting degree is more likely to pay the bills. If you’re up to it, lion taming can be a hobby after you graduate and land a good job.

    * If taking the traditional four-year route, knock out as many general studies (a.k.a. bullshit) classes that are required for any degree first. This will give you a semester or two to finalize or change your major if desired without wasting time or money. My opinion is many of these classes have little or no value for non-teaching degrees: Being forced to spend hundreds (if not thousands) on required classes in Phys Ed, History or Shakespeare is the academic equal of forcing a person to buy a set of Monster Cables in order to purchase a television.

    * Try to find part-time jobs, volunteer work or internships in your field of study. If gunning for an IT degree, for example, a part time job at a computer store or IT help desk helps you network (no pun intended) for a full-time position after graduation and looks more impressive on your first resume than a job at Applebee’s.

    * If on a limited budget, buy only the education you can realistically pay off in the first few years after graduation. Research community colleges; find out how many class credits are likely to transfer to a 4 year college. This may allow you to take the required “Monster Cable” general studies classes at a generic price.

    * There is no shame in training for blue-collar jobs. Plumbing or OTR trucking may not be six-figure jobs, but they usually pay a decent salary and have much lower educational expenses.

    * Avoid most “on-line” universities and for-profit training firms (ITT Tech, medical assistant and truck driving schools, etc.) like the plague! Community colleges usually offer the same training at a fraction of the cost and, unlike for-profit schools, educational credits may be accepted for an actual degree in IT, Nursing, etc.

  85. remf3 says:

    I went to a community college for two years to get my Associates Degree in Nursing. My GI Bill covered all of my expenses and I was able to live with my parents for two years, rent free, while I went to school. Thankfully, I graduated at a time when there was still a nationwide nursing shortage. I moved to California and make really good money.

    I did just finish my BSN through an online program offered by a true brick and mortar University. A BSN isn’t really necessary for nursing, but I want to go on to advanced practice (MSN) so I had to jump through the hoops.

    Unfortunately, most nursing students nowadays are having to wait at least a year to find a job in hospital or anywhere else. The nursing shortage is cyclical, though, and we’ll probably be in a shortage again soonish.

  86. Sam Rabin says:

    I would definitely do college again. I’m getting my PhD in a natural sciences field right now, and you can’t really expect to do that without at least an undergraduate degree. It helped that I went to a college I was overqualified for, and thus got my entire way paid for. Perhaps part of the complaint that a lot of people here seem to be echoing (mountains of debt) could be avoided by not trying to get into the very very best school possible, instead aiming a little lower and getting some more merit scholarship funding. Especially if a Bachelor’s isn’t your end goal, I don’t think the school you come from matters too much. GPA, GRE (or other test) scores, recommendations, and interviews seem to be the most important factors… and not necessarily in that order.

  87. dragonvpm says:

    Seriously? This person went to a mystery “online college” and they’re wondering why they aren’t getting anywhere with that degree? A significant part of the value to a college degree is what it’s a degree in and where it’s from. A creative writing degree from your local state school will probably help you get your foot in the door when you’re looking for a job, but it won’t compare to say an engineering degree from a top tier engineering school. That being said the creative writing degree will probably get you further than any degree from j-random-online-school-no-one-has-ever-heard-of.

    Sure some people don’t need college degrees. Heck, some don’t even need high school diplomas, but I don’t think too many folks would argue against someone getting their HS diploma. No amount of formal education is absolutely necessary for everyone but all of it can be very helpful for a lot of people (just judging by what many jobs require nowadays). The trick is to be smart about what you’re buying. Would any of you have sympathy if someone was whining about how they didn’t really research their vehicle options and paid $50k for a Yugo and now they’re having problems because it’s falling apart and keeps breaking down? Or if someone bought a motorcycle and now they were having problems wedding cake business because they couldn’t load the cakes on the bike?

    Way too many people seem to take the idea that you need a college degree to mean that you can just goof off and come out with a basket-weaving degree and you’ll be set to land any job you get an inkling to apply for. That’s just dumb. If you are undecided about what you want to do but you have the chance to go to college (e.g. you got some scholarships coming out of HS, or you can go to the local state school as a resident etc…) get a degree in business, or management or something else that you can apply to a future career. I’ve known way too many people who come out with creative writing degrees, or art degrees, or any of a number of random degrees that are really useless if you’re not passionate about the subject. If you’re really into it and you want to go in that direction they can be great degrees, but if you’re just picking them (or even just going to college) to avoid being out in the “real” world for another 4 years that’s just dumb.

  88. agent211 says:

    BSEE from a public university. Worth every penny.

  89. c_c says:

    What my degree did for me?
    Got me my first job, then into grad school where I got my master’s degree, which in turn led to my current job, which I am very satisfied with.
    And, yes, I went to an expensive private school and will be paying off loans for some time (but at a fantastic interest rate because I consolidated in 2004.

    Oh, I also met my wife at college, so there is that. And a lot of my (still) close friends).

    So yea, I’d do it over again.

  90. IT-Princess: I work in IT, you owe me $1 says:

    I’ve been in many situations where employers was to see my Computer Science degree. I’ve also been offered a job over over college grads because while others were earning their degrees, I was learning on the job, getting my employer to pay for my certifications, and learning real world experiences you don’t learn behind a school desk or in a book. I have no debt to pay off while earning more than most my age.
    I really can’t complain, and I don’t regret not getting my degree.

  91. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Someone in my degree field (journalism/communications) suggested we file a class action suit against all the counselors and college instructors who promised us it was a great field with bountiful job opportunities. 8-)

  92. nosense22 says:

    I graduated from a Top 25 college and a Top 10 MBA program, and it cost me $200,000. Since it’s a business degree and I’m in a business field, the $200,000 was well worth the money. In fact, I paid off my $100,000 in student loans in 4 years.

    I guess you have to decide that if you end up paying for a degree, you need to enter a career field which will allow you to make more money than not going to college.

  93. Tallanvor says:

    I spent 4 years on as an undergraduate and 1 year working towards a Master’s degree (M.Ed. that I didn’t finish), and it was definitely worth it. I don’t use the stuff I learned in my graduate program anymore, but it helped me get my first job, and my Bachelor’s degree has definitely helped me earn more than I would have otherwise working in IT.

    If I had to do it over again, though, rather than starting the M.Ed., I probably would have gone for a Master’s in Computer Science. But then again, if I did that, I may not have had the opportunity to work in the UK and now in Norway, so there’s something to be said about not regretting the choices I made.

    I went to private schools and took out less than $5000 in loans thanks to scholarships, internships, and help from my parents. I have about $1200 left to pay off. I used to have credit card debt – most of it from the first few years after college – but that’s been paid off for over a year now.

  94. Siendra says:

    Depends entirely on what you study and why. It probably also helps to not live in the US where you’re paying ridiculous sums for tuition. My tuition per year works out to be around $3000 less than the US average. I’m graduating (Directly into a job, no less) with a minor $8000 debt.

  95. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I went to music school right out of high school and ended up not getting anywhere. Then I went back later and graduated cum laude in 2005 with a BS and an AS. I’m answering the phone for a living. I tried going to grad school, but left when I realized I don’t want to teach high school and can’t afford the time and money to get a PhD.

    I just redid my resume into a skills one. It’s full of things that are pretty transferable, but none of them are practical except for working in an office. And none of them, except writing, are anything I did in college. My job experience even with college is no better than if I’d stayed out of it. But with things the way they are, having the degree looks better on my resume than not having it. So I’m glad I went, even though going at night meant I met no one and have no contacts other than the alumni association.

    Actually, I’m pretty well screwed. Please kill me now.

  96. Jesse in Japan says:

    Without a college degree, I would not have been able to emigrate to Japan.

  97. diasdiem says:

    As a programmer, you pretty much need a degree just to be taken seriously. I probably could have done without a Master’s degree, but it does add a bit more shine on the resume and a bit more money to the starting salary.

  98. BewareofZealots says:

    It’s not COLLEGE that is not worth it. It is the degree. Any degree with an A at the end is pretty much useless. History, Arts, Psychology, Sociology, English, Speech, Criminal Justice, etc.. All degrees that you have a LOT of competition in. Then you have to go for more advances degrees, Masters, Doctorates, and competition for those jobs is fierce.

    Science degrees are harder to earn and meaning there is less competition for those jobs, thus they pay off in the long run.

  99. Brunette Bookworm says:

    It depends on what you want to do. My first degree was in Computer Technology. Unfortunately, I graduated just before the tech market crash so I had a hard time finding a job that paid decently since tons of others with my same degree plus more experience were out of work too. At my most recent job they offer tuition reimbursement so I went back for an Engineering degree (just one more semester) and I think I have learned WAY more going back while working than going just after college. I can see how the stuff I learn works in a job. Fields like Engineering require a degree if you are just starting out. Older workers who’ve been in the field forever can get away with on-the-job experience but you can’t get into a place without having a degree now.

  100. krutan says:

    Yes, I would do it all over again. I should probably have picked a state school over a private one, but my school got me the job I have now. Name recognition does count for some things. If I had never gone to college I would still be living in the same town I grew up with and never have gotten the opportunities that I now have. College is worth it, if only to broaden your horizons and see what else is possible.

  101. GoPadge says:

    I went to college twice. Once at a large state supported institution, where I spent 5 years drinking beer and chasing girls. I had 5 majors in 5 years and manager to earn about 95 transferable credits and $10,000 in debt. I finally wised up, dropped out and joined the Navy.

    After six years “haze gray and underway” I left the Navy and got a job in the IT field relying on my electronics experience from the Navy. I ended up working for a software company that also manufactured some data collection devices. Within about 4 years I had transitioned to pure software support, and was making about $50K. Two years later the company laid me off, but I was able to find a new position making over $100K with one of the clients of my old company.

    I finally deciced to complete my degree using an online program from an accredited for profit university. This time I was able to cover the expenses with my GIBill.

    I wasted my time and a lot of money the first time I tried college. I wasn’t ready, I didn’t have the study skills, motivation or any clue as to what I wanted to do. Six years in the Navy matured me quite a bit and I learned the value of hard work. College the second time, cost more than perhaps it should, but then I was married with kids and working a full time job with a schedule that didn’t mesh well with a traditional classroom approach.

  102. MattyC says:

    I think this debate all depends on what you want to be or what field you want to be in. I think some fields experience will get you just as far as a degree, while others relay heavily on education. So figuring out what you want to do and where you want to go first, will help you make the decision if its worth it or not. As for me, getting my BS hasn’t shown me anything accept more bills to pay.

  103. u1itn0w2day says:

    One of the problems with the emphasis on college is that too many become used to classroom only learning. They can only learn in a really formal system/enviorment. They want someone to tell them what to do to learn. This is part of the problem with business/customer service today. Unless there’s a formal meeting and memos even if many have somekind of empowerment they won’t do squat.

    Then there’s the opposite type-I don’t need no stinking school or books/manuals. That’s no good either. There are too many that have not updated themselves in their trade/industry. You have professionals(white and blue collar) relying on what they learned decades ago in college or trade school. Unless they have actually learned from their real world experiences they’re in deep crap.

    I guess the best way to look at college or real world experience is how to make the combination work for you. Which would be the better tool in your situation.

  104. Burzmali says:

    If I could go back, I’d major in computer science (the degree I’m almost finished with now) instead of molecular biology (the degree I first got). Lab work SUCKS! My advice to anyone entering or in college: if you don’t like the stuff you’re doing to get your degree, then don’t be afraid to switch majors to something else. It will save you time and money in the long run, and also help keep you out of a career that you hate.

  105. samonela says:

    If you wish to get into the education field, you will get no further than a classified employee without a minimum of a BA/BS. That is not to say that classified staff can’t make a good living (this includes custodians, secretaries, cafeteria, groundskeepers, etc) after working for a few years and paying into the public employees’ retirement system, however, when cuts come around (and they come around often), you and the non-tenured teachers are often the first on the block.

  106. SlappyFrog says:

    Bachelor’s degree = 33% increase over non-degree wage.
    Master’s degree = 214% increase over Bachelor’s degree wage.

    Both times, I sat down, looked at my options (which included looking at the career paths on the jobs I liked and wanted to pursue which all required a degree), figured out where I wanted to be, and made it happen.

    Jesse in this article didn’t have a plan nor other skills, that was the real problem.

    Regardless, one has to sit down, evaluate their situation and make the best decision to meet their needs. For some, that will be a degree, for others it won’t. The most important bit is to find the path that works for you and not take any one person’s situation as the end all be all.

  107. Red Cat Linux says:

    The joke goes, do you know what they call a guy who graduates dead last his class in medical school?

    Doctor.

    I have no qualms about my degree, and I’m sure in some circles it would catch the eye to see it’s from a well known university, but it isn’t. It’s just a degree – the best that in-state tuition money can buy at CUNY.

  108. Dr. Doom says:

    I’m a college professor- couldn’t have done it without several degrees. SO it worked OK for me. I see dozens of students just aimlessly wasting their time getting a degree in an area because it is interesting, or easy instead of an area where there is application and employment. Come on-cinema? french art history? You’ve got to be kidding!

    Life long learning is fun-if you are independently wealthy- the rest of us have to pay the bills (and hopefully get benefits).

  109. misslisa says:

    I most certainly would do it all over again. With a liberal arts degree, I eventually became an IT professional, and I have been very pleased with how things turned out. In fact, honestly, I would have taken out MORE student loans so I could have enjoyed the experience and absorbed all I learned. Although my scholarship covered 90% of my tuition, it was still a very expensive private school. I was so busy working full-time while going to school full-time (to cover the remainder of tuition, books, living expenses, etc.) that I graduated as a burned-out, depressed, sickly, miserable person who made some foolish personal decisions. Yet there I was congratulating myself on having a car, a nice home, & no debt (as I’d paid the student loan off immediately) to notice how sick I really was.

  110. mebaman says:

    The college degree these days is like the high school diploma of yesteryear. This has had the effect of (1) driving a lot of people to college because their job prospects are nil without one; and (2) churning out far more graduates than are necessary for the job market, thus causing companies to think “gee, since there are so many graduates out there, I can probably require a B.A. or B.S. to weed out the chaff.” The problem is that otherwise qualified persons who don’t have degrees are often overlooked in the application process while those with the degrees end up in jobs that don’t pay enough to warrant the initial investment.

    While it’s true that you don’t necessarily need a degree to make money, the vast majority of us lack the entrepeneurial necessary to ascend (I certainly don’t think of myself in the same category of Bill Gates or Dave Thomas). Thus, for a large number of folks, degrees remain a necessity, regardless of whether they pay off.

  111. el-brazo-onofre says:

    I worked overseas for 14 years, and wouldn’t have even received a visa if I didn’t have a college degree. My current position also requires a college degree. So, bollocks to any advice that college wasn’t worth it.

  112. chaelyc says:

    I graduated in ’08 and haven’t seen a single benefit of having a degree yet. It may be too early to call it, but I’m definitely leaning toward it being a waste of time & money. I’d probably have the experience I need to get most of the jobs I’m looking at if I wasn’t locked in my bedroom studying for the last 5 years.

  113. tungstencoil says:

    I went to college in my 30s. At the time I graduated, I was a senior program manager at a Fortune 100 company. I was “upper middle” management.

    I went back to school because, as I worked my way up the ladder from customer service rep, I realized that my smarts and talent wouldn’t get me an interview if the company and I parted ways. I didn’t have “20 years’ experience” to offset my lack of degree. Quite simply, a degree was a check-box to get a position. No interview and it doesn’t matter how good I was at my job. Luckily, I kept it (kept moving up, in fact) until I graduated.

    I was fortunate enough to be both good at and interested in a field that has good employment prospects and good wages. It involved a career switch, which made finding entry-level pretty hard (“You want to start in an entry-level engineering position? But that’s a huge cut in pay…”). I knew a few years in and my employment and wage prospects were much greater. Today, I make double what I was making before, and I still have only up to go.

    Totally worth it for me.

  114. erin_w (formerly femme_dork) says:

    For those knocking a liberal arts degree, it’s all about how marketable you are able to make yourself.

    I have a B.A. in English. I’m not a journalist. I’m not a teacher. I secured a job for myself (waiting for me post-graduation, of course) three months before I graduated. I love my job, and yes, I get to use the skills I learned in college every single day. I’m not living in a box, either. I’m VERY comfortable, and I’m lucky enough to love what I do and continue to be challenged by it. College totally helped open doors for me that would not have been available otherwise.

    Why do I think I’m here? I made myself marketable. Yes, it would be fantastic to do nothing but write novels all day, but very few people are successful when they take that road. So before I even entered college, I thought long and hard about what I love to do. As it turns out, I’ve been in love with computers for years. A technical minor, therefore, was my solution. Turns out I’m pretty good at explaining how to use computers and software. Some engineers are not so blessed. Therefore, they need someone like me (a technical writer) to help them explain it. And quite honestly, I can write the next great American novel in my free time, but for right now, I’m happy tinkering with words and software.

    I also took out loans, to the tune of $30,000, because my mother couldn’t afford to send me. Of course, I attended a physical university (and a good one, at that). I also worked minimum-wage jobs to keep that cost down (and yes, I had many sleepless nights and early mornings to keep on top of everything). I earned scholarships. I took on internships. Yes, college was a risk, but it was one that paid off. I don’t think I could have felt good about myself without a degree.

    In short, I was very, very, very busy, but when I look at where I am now, I know that it was all worth it. Without the connections that I made at college, or the skills that I was able to pick up (yes, in that same liberal arts program that so many of you love to deride), I would not be here right now. Period.

  115. Leksi Wit says:

    This article is confusing. First off, the writer went to an ONLINE college, which is not really going to college, but more like sitting at home in front of a computer. Sorry, but he has no wisdom to grant as far as what the college is really like. The title should read “The Best Lesson I Learned at ONLINE College Was ONLINE College Wasn’t Worth It”!

  116. elizabeth33 says:

    I went to art school for photography. I had a blast, but NO WAY would I do it again. There are so many one-off, local classes I could have taken to learn the exact same stuff, without the hefty tuition. I took out $35,000 in student loans, and will have them paid off in December — 9 years after I finished school. I can’t WAIT to be done with these stupid payments. I have a thriving photography career, but my degree had absolutely nothing to do with it. I should’ve spent a fraction of that amount and gone to a state school for a degree in accounting instead. Now THAT would’ve been helpful!

  117. vaguelyobscene says:

    I don’t have a college degree, but I am one of the smartest people I know. I’ve been told repeatedly by the few people who are willing to let me in the doors of interviews without the degree that I am more than qualified for the position, but they cannot hire me without the degree. Now I am working a minimum wage, thankless job and attending school simply to get in the door of these interviews. Sure, Jesse, you might regret it now, but what was your major? If you went in for an art history degree with no particular life plan in motion, yeah, I can see regretting it.

    Sorry, guys, you DO need that paper and those connections.

  118. freelunch says:

    There are degrees that pay for themselves in 5 years, and then there some that will rarely result in a penny more on the job.

    I knew a guy in college that chose ‘outdoor recreation’ as a field of study. Had one heck of a time trying to find a job with his $70k education.

    If you go to an expensive school, and you are paying with loans, you simply MUST consider the financial implications of your choice of major/minor.

    I double majored two business fields, and have no regrets. If I could do it all over again, I would have spent more time socializing with my classmates in the last year or two.

  119. u1itn0w2day says:

    I think one of the things that messes people with a degree in the real world is that working for someone else changes the job wether it’s a budget, working conditions, work rules, who you have to work with, benefits etc. You might be hired by a company who likes or could use your major. But do they really need it or know how to use it/you.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is in the working world what is practical, a neccessity or a management whim are all different things. This is what makes the do what you want do thing a useless platitude in most cases.

    I still say work to live and not live work, that’s reality and obtainable.

  120. pittstonjoma says:

    I got nothing out of my Bachelor’s in Computer Science.

  121. WickedCrispy says:

    I paid off the last of my student loans after 10 years, having dropped out, working retail and kitchen jobs. I’m sad to say that most of my pals with degrees are working the same sort of jobs I am but I’m debt-free, while they owe lots and lots of money.

  122. Ebon says:

    This article really hits home for me because having gone to a top tier school of my dreams I learned a lot but very little of it was from class. I dropped out of college by my last year for a few key reasons:

    1) It became too expensive. At $40K a year the scholarships and financial aid I received barely if at all covered any of what was needed. Footing me with the bill and making that up in hefty loans. By now I owe nearly 100 – 200k in loans that I struggle to pay back in this economy.

    2) I was no longer learning. Many of the courses I had taken did not benefit me in any way. Likewise it felt like a very narrow minded system was in place for giving guidance. I had about 3 guidance councilors for whom 1 was more focused on the pre-law and pre-med kids. 1 was too swarmed by students to adequately give any feedback. 1 was so jaded by people in my major that she would rather ask you “Are you sure you want this major?” as opposed to giving proper guidance. Leading to the classes where only some of the courses benefitted me and my learning and others felt like an excuse to cull the herd and fill up 4 years.

    ——
    In all honesty I am torn a bit when it comes to college since I know I learned a lot but it never felt like it was enough to warrant the disparity in cost and aggravation versus that learning. Likewise I really can’t say that those 4 years were at least not enjoyable, but that was more because of the people I met along the way.

    Since dropping out I have fallen into a mountain of debt that makes me regret having gone in the first place but likewise my lack of a degree hasn’t stunted my job prospects as much as one would think. Sure when I try to apply to some places they ask for a B.S. in my field, but if I go in as a freelancer no one ever asks questions and still pay me what I need.

    Either way, thank you consumerist, this post really resonated with me.

  123. RogerX says:

    Story from the other side: I dropped out of college after a year (state university with 400-person classes, dorm living with hooligan party kids) and went to work at three part-time jobs. After three years, I landed a $35K a year IT job, and after changing jobs a couple of times, find myself 35 years old and making more than double that. I had no student loans to pay off, bought a house when I was 28, and work with peers both with and without degrees. It’s worked for me, and I think far too much emphasis is put on college degrees by HS counselors, college administrators, and frat-boy HR recruiters.

  124. cspirou says:

    It really depends on what you want to do. If you’re going to work in an office or some kind of bureaucrat then an associates is probably good enough. But if you want to be an engineer or scientist then a degree is essential because the skills you learn aren’t the type you just learn on the job.

  125. poco says:

    I got a bachelor’s in English. Now I work at a wine shop. I’d agree that majoring in something you love rather than something practical probably won’t make you successful.

  126. consumerd says:

    I went to college at Ranken Technical college here in STL, So far if I had to compare to what I spent and to what my sister spent for college vs. what money we are making, I think I came out far better than the rest. I had a 2 year technical degree and have some FCC licenses and radio certifications.

    I know guys that went to ITT that still work at burger king.

    I did a lot of hard work to get here today, but am glad I made the journey.

  127. VouxCroux says:

    My degree got me a good job.

  128. aen says:

    I really enjoy all of this discussion about degree vs no degree, but doesn’t the type of degree count for something? An econ major isn’t qualified for an MD’s post while anything I’ve ever seen for engineering requires engineering degrees.

    Am I wrong in assuming that this applies to people who majored in fields that really require a PhD to be able to work in that field?

  129. michaelt82 says:

    College, yes. Grad school? Maybe not. Kept me out of the job market during years when jobs were plentiful, and I can’t help but think how much better off I might be financially if I’d been working – likely at a higher salary than I currently earn – for all those years after earning my BS.

    Still, I no longer hold to the common wisdom that you have to get a college degree to make your way. Sure, college grads are employed at a higher rate in this economy than those with only a high school diploma, but there are far too many college grads mired in debt and underemployed. Who is really better off? A kid earning $25,000 a year with no debt or a kid earning $30,000 a year with $100,000 in debt?