Isn’t it good to be back? The summer has finally simmered down, you’ve moved into your new place, and you’re ready to tackle a new semester. But while you’re thinking about how excited you are to see your friends and maybe even hit up Five Points a few times, let’s get real for a second: do you know why you’re here? If you’re not sure, you should probably drop out.
Now that might sound harsh, but I don’t mean it as an insult. Despite the cultural expectation that everyone attend college, it’s in many people’s best interest not to. Every year college degrees are decreasing in economic value, increasing in cost, and, for many people, are becoming wholly unnecessary.
A college education just doesn’t offer the same return on investment that it used to. Gone are the days when a degree guaranteed a high-paying job in your field, a house, two cars, the whole upper-middle-class lifestyle.
In fact, degrees have little bearing on employment at all. Only a quarter of graduates end up getting jobs related to their field of study. About half of college grads are in jobs that don’t require a college degree at all, and of that half only a third have “good non-college jobs” ($45,000 per year or more).
While it is true that you are likely to make more money with a degree than without one, you also need to consider the student loan debt you’ll accrue along the way — the average being around $37,000 — and how it might counteract the economic advantages that your degree will provide.
Now I’m not going to take this to the extreme and advocate that everyone ditch college and head to a trade school — with automation on the rise, they’re no longer a golden ticket either. I’m not even arguing that college isn’t valuable, it is!
What I am arguing is that there are a lot of bad reasons to go to college and the list of good reasons is shrinking. If you’re here for the social experience or to “find yourself,” there are cheaper, more cost-effective ways to do the same thing. If you’re here because you think that college is the gateway to making the big bucks, you need to readjust your expectations.
And if you’re just here to find a spouse ... why?
However, if you’re here because you have a passion for research and want to become a professor, or you’re considering a career in engineering or medicine, then by all means get a degree!
I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting a degree if they need one. What I do want is to challenge the notion that everyone needs a degree. College is expensive, time consuming and not the prize it used to be. It’s not for everyone, and there is no shame in taking another route to reach your goals. But if you decide to attend college anyway, have a plan and remember that there are more important factors in your life than whether or not you have a degree.