Money Problems: Day 12 – Paying for College by Doing Without

Today, I am continuing the  series, Money Problems: 30 Days to Perfect Finances.   The series will consist of 30 things you can do in one setting to perfect your finances.  It’s not a system to magically make your debt disappear.  Instead, it is a path to understanding where you are, where you want to be, and–most importantly–how to bridge the gap.

I’m not running the series in 30 consecutive days.  That’s not my schedule.  Also, I think that talking about the same thing for 30 days straight will bore both of us.   Instead, it will run roughly once a week.  To make sure you don’t miss a post, please take a moment to subscribe, either by email or rss.

On this, Day 11, we’re going to talk about one method of paying for college.

I have a secret to share.  Are you listening?  Lean in close: College is expensive.

You’re shocked, I can tell.

The fact is, college prices are rising entirely out of proportion to operation costs, salaries, or inflation.   The only thing college prices seem to be pegged to is demand.   Demand has gotten thoroughly out of whack.   The government forces down the interest rates on student loans, then adds some ridiculous forgiveness as long as you make payments for some arbitrary number of years, creating an artificial demand that wouldn’t be there if the iron fist of government weren’t forcing it into place.

Somebody in Washington has decided that the American dream consists of home ownership and a college education.  Everything is a failure.  He’s an idiot.

College isn’t for everybody.

Read that again.  Not everyone should go to college.  Not everyone can thrive in college.

Fewer than half of students who start college graduate.   The greater-than-half who drop out still have to repay their loans.  Do you think college was a good choice for them?

Then you get the people who major in art history and minor in philosophy.   Do you know what that degree qualifies you for?  Burger flipping.

Yes, I know.   Just having a degree qualifies you for a number of jobs.  It’s not  because the degree matters, it’s because HR departments set a series of fairly arbitrary requirements just to filter a 6 foot stack of resumes.   The only thing they care about is that having a degree proves that you were able to stick college out for 4 years.   That HR requirement matters less as time goes on and you develop relevant work experience.

A liberal arts education also—properly done—trains your mind in the skill of learning.   First, not everyone is capable of learning new things.  Second, not everyone is willing to learn new things.  Third, a passion for learning can be fed without college.  If you don’t have that passion, college won’t create it.  Most of the most learned people throughout history managed without college, or even formal education.   Even if you want to feed that passion in a formal classroom, you’re assuming the professors are interested in training your mind instead of indoctrinating it with their views.

Now there are some pursuits that outright require a college education.  The sciences like engineering, physics, astronomy, and psychiatry all require college.  You know what doesn’t require college?   Managing a cube farm.   Data entry.  Sales.   I’m not saying those are bad professions, but they can certainly be done without dropping $50,000 on college.

Some careers require an education, but don’t require a 4 year degree, like nursing(in most states), computer programming(it’s not required, but it makes it a lot easier to break into) and others.   Do you need to hit a 4 year school and get a Bachelor’s degree, or can you hold yourself to a 2 year program at a technical college and save yourself 40,000 or more?

That should be an easy choice.   Don’t go to college just because you think you should or because somebody said you should, or to get really drunk.   College isn’t for everybody and it’s possible it’s not for you.

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    1. Parents and children should spend a lot of time discussing their dreams and finding ways to sample parts of those dreams. My daughter expressed an interest in be a fashion designer. e talked about it and decided together she should try a sewing class. Helping your children figure out their dreams, desires and career is part of parenting.

    2. I completely agree with you that college isn’t for everyone. However, I think that after a few years working one should evaluate whether or not a degree will allow them to get further in their career.

      • I’m also of the opinion that everyone should learn a trade right out of high school, before going to college. If you spend a year getting to journeyman electrician, you’ll always have a fallback. Electricians and plumbers don’t get off-shored.

    3. It’s too bad the system here pushes everyone toward college. If we promote trade school more, the kids would have more choices. Plumbers, electricians, and auto mechanic make A LOT of money!

    4. I’m planning on teaching my kids this exact lesson, that college is not for everyone. I went, did well, and got a high paying job. On the other hand, if I had to do it again, I would not. I think I would be happier doing a trade that is more physical.

      Skipping on college was never an option according to my parents. I suspect at least one of my kids will grow up like me, and I want them to know they have options.

    5. Very timely post. Since fall session is round the corner. Students and parents should ask themselves as to how much they want to spend on education and in how much time the loan can be repaid once they get job. They should factor in the expected salary from that job while calculating repayment term.

    6. Wherever I have worked, there was always a stigma about having or not having a degree. Those without rightly thought they were just as good as those with. Going to college just gives people a different experience. Choosing not to go to college can open you up to alternative experiences that are just as enriching, and prepare you for life. I think there are talenetd people with and without degress. I think universities have some students that have simply made the wrong choice in how to spend their time. There is no correlation between knowledge and intelligence.

      • At my last company, degrees were only mentioned when management positions opened up. they were a “requirement” that was waived as often as not.

    7. I firmly believe that student loans are the next crisis waiting to happen. We as a society are too convinced that college is not possible without them. I think they’re appropriate in some cases, but not in the vast majority.

      Think what the repayment of those loans is going to do to the next generation’s spending power. That can only have negative implications for the economy.

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