Exactly 10 years ago, I was in the final weeks of grade 12, anxious for school to be over so I could be done with high school for good. Like many of us at that age, I was excited at the almost limitless possibilities that lay ahead of me. I could go to college, enter into some sort of apprenticeship program, or just go out and get a job somewhere. I could take a year off and then go back to school, which is what I publicly told people I was doing, even though I knew that college wasn’t right for me, especially at that point in my life.
Plus, I couldn’t talk to girls. What? They have boobs. Those can get distracting.
I don’t regret missing out on college. In fact, I think one of the biggest failings of our educational system is pushing the college or bust mentality. Here’s why:
It’s Not For Everyone
A well quoted statistic about college is the dropout rate. When I took the mortgage broker’s course, half the class dropped out before the course was completed, matching the average everyone hears about. And that was an easy 3 week course.
Naturally, people assume they’ll beat the odds. They won’t drop out, because they’re more dedicated, smart, attractive, or nice smelling than everyone else. People tend to overestimate their own abilities and underestimate everyone else’s. This overconfidence is the downfall of many of us.
So many people are pushed into college who have absolutely no business being there. People who are hoping general studies will inspire them into a major and a career would be better off staying home and working. So would those people who have problems with math or reading. It’s the same with the people who go to major in partying. Stay at home, live in your parent’s basement, and get drunk there.
If someone knows they want to be a teacher, nurse, architect or lawyer, then they should go to college. College is an awful expensive way to find one’s calling.
Debt Can Cripple A Graduate
Countless PF blogs have wrote about either the evils of student loan debt or ways to dig out of it. This blog won’t spend time on either, with the exception of noting that graduating college without student loan debt is becoming more and more unlikely.
In Canada, the average university grad has over $16,000 in student loans when they graduate, which has been growing at 4% a year since the beginning of the century. Interest rates are either prime + 2.5% (on a floating rate) or prime + 5% (on a fixed rate).
If a student got a 16,000 loan today and prime remained at 3%, they would have to pay back $305 every month for 5 years (ignoring the grace period to keep things simple). If the degree works out for the grad, this is all fine and good. But what if it doesn’t?
Here’s another scenario: what if the person who didn’t go to college saved $300 every month for 9 years- 4 college years and 5 years to pay back the loan. They would have $32,400, not including a nickel of interest. If they managed to earn the 5.5% interest rate the college grad would pay, they’d end up with savings of $41,677.
The college grad would have to save $794 every month after they graduated to end up with the same size of nest egg at the same age. They’d have to do this on top of paying back a student loan.
I Don’t Buy The Higher Wage Argument
I’m sure you’ve all got the same argument on the tip of your tongue. But Uproar, don’t you know? College graduates make more money than non-grads. Any moron knows that.
That may be true, but those studies don’t tell the whole story. Do college graduates make more than dropouts because they went to college? Or do they make more money because they’re smarter/more ambitious/harder working than non-grads? It’s a chicken vs. egg argument.
Just how much value does attending college add? We will never know, unless you find a way to clone yourself.
When Krystal made her impassioned argument for her communications degree, it got me thinking. Is she (or any college graduate who has a degree that some consider, shall we say, flaky) successful because of that degree? Or is the degree a result of the good qualities that were already there long before they stepped on a college campus?
The Entitlement Of College
There are all sorts of whiny, self indulgent, snot nosed douchebag kids at college.
These are the kids who are there just putting in time until they get their degree. They whine about the amount of reading they have to do. They whine if they get a C on an assignment. They either get the smart kids to do their papers or download them on the internet.
Once these kids get their degree, they go out and finance a new car, buy a bunch of other crap on credit, and become good little consumers. Then guys like me can lend them money. Is this really what we want to encourage?
An Alternate Plan
Here’s what I did when I younger. And since I’m the man, you should rush out and do exactly what I did.
I worked, lived in my parents basement, and put away every spare dollar I could. I worked nights intentionally, so I would have no life and no excuse to spend money. I had no car, I walked to and from work every day. I had only one purpose in mind- to save money.
I probably saved 80% of my income for the first few working years. It took a lot of sacrifice, but I did it.
Yes, my example is extreme. I don’t expect most people to save that much right out of school. Then again, I don’t expect most people will ever get wealthy either.