When fellow tweeter Ken Horst "the Jobs Guy" posted a link about the value of a college degree, it drew my attention. Many, MANY moons ago, I felt degrees were unnecessary. The family in which I grew up did not advocate college. I was told there was no money for it, and that I needed to "learn a trade."
Believing "no college" to be my destiny (oh, the power of a parent's words), I did not go back to college until my mid-30's! But after I did, I couldn't get enough. After getting a bachelor's degree I earned a master's, and now I'm in processes of getting a doctorate. And each step of the way I've seen a greater value in getting an education.
To those who might question the value of a college degree, please let me encourage you to "go for it." There's enough financial aid out there to make it happen, and plenty of people on college campuses who will help you make it through. The one responsibility that is yours alone is the mustering up the drive to make it happen.
If you don't think it's worth it, allow me to cite a few figures. In 2002, Jennifer Day and Eric Newburger did some research to find out the typical lifetime earnings of people with different levels of education. They discovered the following:
People with high school diplomas earned (on average) 1.2 million over the course of their life.
People with associate (2-yr) degrees earned an average of 1.6 million.
People w bachelor (4-yr) degrees earned an average of 2.1 million.
That's almost 2x as much in lifetime earnings for people holding 4-yr degrees over those with a high school diploma!
Okay, so what if you're concerned about the costs? According to collegeboard.com, in the 2008-2009 school year, the majority of 4-yr degree college students paid less than $9,000 per year in tuition and fees. That and a few less nights watching TV while you're in school studying.
Is it worth it? Do the math. Between student loans and grants, you invest $36,000, and you get back almost $900,000 in return. That return alone should be enough to make some people say "count me in."
But even if the money doesn't trip your trigger, a college degree gives you much more than earnings. I know for myself I made great friendships with people who hold similar interests, plus I learned to appreciate different aspects of society in new ways.
Did I agree with all my professors? Heck no, but the interactions forced me to think differently. I then understood my own perspectives MUCH better – which enabled me to talk more intelligently about what's going on around us.
Overall, my time in college gave me a bigger picture of the world and my place in it. It's hard to put a price on those insights.
But what about . . .
Granted, some people don't want a degree. For example, some entrepreneurs don't see the value in them. One software guru I know dropped out of college when it became clear to him that he knew more than his professors, and that he also had no desire to work for anyone else. He was already earning a good living, running his own business and staying on top of his chosen profession.
Of course, even if you're not an entrepreneur, it's not necessary to have a college degree, but I want to emphasize that the benefits of having one are many. For example, I know at least one front-line employee that would have eliminated a lot of stress in his life had he earned one.
George (not his real name) has worked in the oil fields all his life. He was the last person hired by his company prior to them mandating that all their field workers have college degrees.
Over the years, people have retired or moved on, and George is now the only employee at his company without a degree – which weighs heavy on his mind whenever he hears rumors of layoffs.
Does George know his stuff? You bet. Is he respected among his co-workers? Of course. But that doesn't stop the gnawing feeling in his gut every time the word "layoff" is even whispered. George tells me he wonders whether his lack-of-a-degree will be a factor when his company is deciding who stays and who goes.
What would it do for you?
The real question is "what would a college degree do for you?" Ultimately, you have to decide, but personally, I give it my highest recommendation. It doesn't matter how old you are (I was 35 when I went back to school), if you've not yet earned a degree, I eagerly join Ken Horst and others saying there's a lot of value in doing so. If you still have doubts, contact me and I'll do my best to talk you into it!