When I was in high school I knew only one thing about college – I had to go. It was a universal truth, sung by a chorus of well-meaning adults, that a college degree was a golden ticket to a bright future. And if you didn’t have that golden ticket, you were going to work at the golden arches.
This put a lot of pressure on me to perfect my college resume. I became somewhat of GPA junkie, doing extra credit whether I needed it or not.
There were clubs I joined, paid dues to, and never attended. Why? Not because I had an interest in the activities, but because I was collecting memberships for my college resume. My obsession led to many sick and sleepless nights, but it was all worth it when I got accepted to a “prestigious” university.
Even with a huge scholarship, my college education was going to cost about $30,000 a year. No big deal. I heard somewhere that college graduates earned a million dollars more over their lifetime. That bit of misinformation had me signing for massive loans with the same hesitation I might have signed a check for lunch.
Even with my above-average GPA and SAT scores, I am ashamed to admit that it took me until my junior year to figured out that college wasn’t adding up. I finally saw passed the sales pitches and slogans, and I no longer felt like a smart college kid; I felt like a sucker. So, do you know what I did?
For the first time in my life, I thought for myself. Heading into my senior year of college, I quit.
People thought I was crazy, and to this day, they still ask if I plan to go back and finish. I am not saying that I haven’t been tempted. Many people esteem degrees and degreed people. In our society it is an automatic qualifier, whether it deserves to be or not.
But I just can’t do it, I’m no longer a believer.
That is not to say that no one should go to college. If you plan to work in a profession that requires a degree, then you have no choice. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is, and so you will have to submit to the system.
Still, before any kid throws a small fortune at college here are some things that they should know:
What Kids Should Know About College
1. True Cost
You have probably noticed that college is outrageously expensive, but you may not be aware of the total cost. On the low end, with room and board, you will pay about $10,000 and on the high end, maybe $60,000 a year. So, the cost of a 4-year degree runs $40,000 to $240,000, right?
Actually, it can be a lot more than that, because there are other costs, hidden costs, that most high schoolers don’t consider.
Unless the 18 year-old graduate has a trust fund, he is going to need a loan. On $40,000 at 6% over a term of 10 years, our college student is going to pay an additional $18,237 in interest. So, the apparent cost just went up nearly 50%! On $240,000 at 6% over 10 years, he will pay an additional $109,423 interest! Ouch!
Then there is the unearned-income cost. For instance, if you devote 8 hours a day, between school and homework, to college, that is 8 hours that you could have been working. If you only made $10 an hour, that’s $1600 a month – $19,200 a year. Multiply that by 4 years and that’s another $76,000 of unearned income that your four year degree is costing you.
Some people will protest that kids could go to college and work. That doesn’t change a thing because they could also take the extra time to work two jobs.
Oh wait, there might be more! Most of the high paying jobs that require degrees, require more than just a 4-year degree.
For instance, if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, you are going to need to budget for an additional 3 to 4 years. And the bad news is that graduate degrees always cost more money than undergraduate degrees. So again, factor the cost of room and board, the interest on the loans, and the unearned income.
You start adding it all up, and even if you do make that promised million dollars more, you might need it just to break even!
2. Financial Aid:
Financial aid is rarely that at all. It should called financial enslavement, because that is usually what it is. But if you are going to go to college, you need to know the difference between college grants, college loans, and college scholarships.
A grant will cost you nothing – not now anyway. However, before you get all excited about free college money, understand that there is no such thing as “free money.” The federal government collects money from taxpayers and grants it to you, no strings attached right? Wrong.
Once you graduate and have your degree, you will be a taxpayer, forced to fund other students college grant money. And unlike your student loans, you will be on the hook paying for other students’ college grant money for the rest of your working life!
A college loan is not free money either, it is debt that will be paid with interest.
You are selling banks a substantial stake in your future earnings.
And college loans are the worst, and most dangerous loans because there are no qualifications. When you apply for a home loan, the banks look at your debt to income ratio to determine the loan amount. But most college students have no income, and there is no guarantee that they will have the income to cover the loan after they graduate.
Filing for bankruptcy isn’t likely to help you, as students loans are nearly impossible to discharge. Thanks to the low quality of our schools, most high school students don’t know any of this. That’s why banks love to loan to college students, who will sign their life away without any comprehension.
Scholarships are probably kids’ best option. Still don’t get overly excited. If a school offers you a scholarship, they are simply selling you their services at a discounted price. You are still on the hook for the remaining balance. And you aren’t likely to get a full ride scholarship without strings attached.
Say you earn a full ride scholarship to play football. You haven’t won the lottery! The college is simply paying you in educational vouchers, while they reap real monetary benefits. For most college athletes, their sport is a fulltime job.
Between practice, games, travel, meetings, conferences, and workouts, most spend at least 40 hours a week working for the college. Yet, that college rakes in all the sponsorships, advertising, licensing deals, and ticket money.
Subtract the tuition our full-riders save from they money they could earn working a minimum wage job, and most would come out ahead working the minimum wage job!
3. Education or Degree:
Colleges still maintain a monopoly in degrees and certifications, but they are no longer the sole educators. We live in the information age. I swear, anything college can teach you, Youtube can teach you better!
So, unless your chosen profession requires a degree, educate yourself and keep the change! You want to study art? – then take your tuition money and build yourself an art studio. You want to study business? – then take your tuition and use it as startup money. You want to study history? – then take your tuition and travel the ancient world!
Take your tuition money and get an education, not a degree!
4. A Million Dollars More:
Okay, but in the end isn’t it all worth it? I mean, don’t college students earn a million dollars more over their lifetime?
The answer is no.
This rhetoric is closer to a bold-faced lie, than it is to the truth. It is a lie that could only be bought by an uneducated, schooled population, one that is accustomed to swallowing and regurgitating any line thrown their way.