IS A COLLEGE DEGREE WORTH IT?… NO! UNLESS…

 I graduated in 2006 from the mighty CAA powerhouse George Mason University. GM-U-KNOW!   I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology with a focus in information security. I went into school doing what I love…, which at the time was something with computers! At first I was a computer science major then I moved to math then I became an engineer before setting with the IT.

 

I viewed college at the time as a way of learning the corporate mechanics of what I love.  College didn’t teach me my craft, it taught me the basics. I was passionate enough to go the extra mile and become specialized. What college did teach me was invaluable soft skills and how to deal with other cultures.

 

Your ability to communicate and influence people is what keeps you employed.   A wise man once told me.

 

Anyone can do the work, I want people around me that I like

 

VIEWING COLLEGE AS AN INVESTMENT?

 

At first I didn’t see my degree as an investment. YFS today would punch YFS of 2001-2006 in the mouth. How could I not view my degree as an investment? It was a very expensive investment! That has a payback period, rate of return and investment risk all built into it. Some people (graduate students) face re-investment risk.. /gasp. Education is a huge investment.. hmm .. Maybe if people viewed education as an investment in which they have something to lose we wouldn’t have spiraling student loan debt???

 

But I digress….   I was also fortunate enough to live in the D.C. area while studying information technology. D.C is the capital of cyber security.. NYC has the finance district. CA has fancy start ups. In D.C. we have cyber security. It is such a push for smart talented technical people who can speak well it’s not even funny. The demand is due because of the initiatives that were created from the September 11 attacks.

 

The government got pregnant and out popped what we call the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland security adopted the components (CBP, TSA, FEMA etc etc) then the components birthed cyber security programs! (Yahh… little cyber kiddies!) The cyber security programs were so hot that everyone wanted a piece of them. The demand for talent exceeded the supply then I graduated! (Perfect timing like a boss) And stepped into a high paying secure job. But a degree in my field is not needed in order to get a high paying job. You need soft skills! So, I have to say college for me, was one of the best investments of my life. Not for finance reasons, but for emotional reasons. College mentally prepared me for life in the real world. College prepared me to handle people and all their differences.  


 


IS IT WORTH IT?

 

It depends. I believe that if you are going to pay for something or spend your time for something you need to quantify it. I don’t get into the doing stuff just to do it. What is the payback period? Will you use the degree? Will you work after you have your degree? I still do not understand the point of stay at home parents who will never enter the workforce spending thousands of dollars on a formal degree! I have nothing against education! Especially free and self-driven education. I do have a problem with a person using student loans for a formal degree that they never intend to use.

 

With that said, after you accept the payback period and decide, yes, I will enter the workforce and use the degree. I believe a bachelors degree is worth it’s weight in gold. Why? Because high school is not real life! In high school you don’t have a choice and despite what you think, you’re not an adult. You’re still on the teet of your parents. In high school you don’t have life decisions to make like:

 

Do I party or sleep?

Do I play videogames or study?

Do I get up for class or start pre-gaming?

Do I network with this group or that group?

 

In High school you’re still a dependent. When you go to College you become independent. It is as simple as that. College is a small dose of life. When you graduate college nobody is telling you when to get up, if you should go to work in the morning, if you should go party the night before. You learn this in college.In a nutshell, college teaches you to deal with other people, to make decisions, and to live with the consequences of your actions.

 

Think of college as the parents driving you to the prom. The parents get you to the prom but, what you do once you’re inside the prom is totally up to you! What you say and do while you’re in the prom might, just get you lucky (bow-chica-wow-wow) after the prom or it might not. But, realize it’s up to YOU!

 

What are your thoughts on obtaining a College degree? Is it needed? What points of mine do your agree or disagree with? What makes a college degree worth it to you?

Comments

  1. I think a qualified degree could be necessary for some technical professions, but the most important thing is always the knowledge and experience behind the paper. If there isn't anything behind the diploma, it is really useless.
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    • URFinanceSimple says:

      Well if knowledge is all you seek, there is no need to attend an institution. You can easily order the text books and take on the path of self study. I would say, the diploma is worth it if provided a return within 5-10 years. For example, business schools aren't worth the cost unless you went to a top tier school. Top tier schools give you The bonus contacts/network that say a for profit school just can't give you.

  2. SavvyFinancialLatina says:

    I think it is worth it. My undergrad and grad degree was a requirement in landing my job. Yes, of course my soft skills, work experience, leadership experience were needed, but education is a requirement. It's the first step.

    • URFinanceSimple says:

      Aside from a formal education being a requirement, what else does a college degree provide you in you designated field of work. For example, to be a teacher it requires possible master degree. Most teachers never make up the cost outlay.

      • SavvyFinancialLatina says:

        I work in a quantitative field, so my graduate degree specifically provided me with the tools to solve problems. Both my undergrad and graduate degree provided me with connections to the companies that interviewed me. Will I recoup my investment? Yes,within the first two years. Thankfully. However, I did work extremely hard to get where I am. Getting a higher education was not a fun party for me. Of course, I had fun, but I rarely partied. A lot of kids seem to think college is to have fun. If you are going to invest in a college education, then take it seriously.

        • URFinanceSimple says:

          A 2 year return on investment! Yes, for you college was worth it. I'm glad you planned it out and took college serious and didn't go to college just to go.

  3. addvodka says:

    I approached college in a very different way – I moved out (on my own, no into dorms – the Canadian college system is very different than that of the US) in my first year, and have had to pay my whole way by myself. That said, I didn't really have a chance to party vs. sleep. It was always sleep. Because I had to work full time and go to school, I had to take it very seriously.

    I went into a field that many graduates of that field can hardly find work in, let alone the uneducated. So college has increased my earning potential by double of what I could be doing (maximum) without my degree. My hard work got me the other half of the way, which is actually getting ajob.

    I think college is almost always worth it. It teaches skills necessary to be successful in a job. Sometimes those skills are just interpersonal, or time management, or just coping. I'm sure that can be learned through trial and error as well, but college is important.
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  4. I personally feel like college is overrated. Nothing is better than real life experience, and life learning. However, in some cases you will not receive the opportunity to gain experience without the degree, so what is a person to do? I grew up in Philly, went to magnet schools and graduated from a college prep school in 2004. However, I didn't go straight to college, I joined the Navy. It was one of the best things I could have done for myself. I attended college while stationed overseas and even when deployed. I got out of the Navy and had a job. Then I reconnected with some friends who have Master degree's only to realize that 1. They have student loans and I still have an untouched college fund (MGIB). 2. They have a job that pays what my job pays or they have Master degrees and work at the bank as a teller.

    For me, I am still attending college. I plan to be in a Graduate program next spring and it's only because I am planning to be an eligible candidate for the Governments Senior Executive Service by the time I am 30, 35 at the latest. Do I feel that a degree will help me do my job any better, no. For me, its more along the lines of cutting through the red tape.

    • LT I would say in your case a college degree is definitely worth it. I've been told if you work for the government the more education you have the better. I've heard it is easier to get step/grade boost if you have advanced degrees. Do you share this same sentiment?

      • Not at all, My director is a GS-15 NO DEGREE!!!! I would say a degree is more important getting into the government sector vice advancing in it. A degree will get you there, but the hard work advances you. One of my mentors is a GS-15 and she just got her Bachelor's last year. It is quite possible to be a director, department head etc in the government without ANY degree and definitely without an advanced degree. Surprising, isnt it?

        • What!!! This is in contrast to what a high ranking person in TSA told me. They are a 14 and can’t advance any higher because of the lack of a bachelors degree. Hmm… maybe this person is getting the shaft.

          Also, Does the government pay for you to go to school and study any discipline with full reimbursement?

          • Sorry I am so late on this. I worked in HRO for a few years and honestly in the government, a Bachelor's degree can only guarantee you a GS-5 or 7 at best. A Master's gives a GS-9. Experience without a degree can get you an 11. Seems like your friend is being handled to me. At that level, the only thing that truly matters is the experience.

            Tuition reimbursement is tricky. Sometimes they pay for my classes, sometimes they don’t. They have to preapprove your classes and if funding is available they will reimburse you for the course and materials costs if the course is linked to the position you are currently in. That doesn’t do everyone a benefit if they are trying to progress in a different field. The other thing that varies is the command in which you work for. Some are more restricted and selective than others. For instance some commands will only reimburse undergrad while others reimburse up to grad level. My counterparts in DC have a far higher approval rating than I do, here in New England. Then again, folks at headquarters always seem to be able to get their hands on $$$.

            http://www.opm.gov/qualifications/policy/Applicat

            • Thanks for the update. Hmm, it's interesting how things are different in D.C and other parts of the world. I guess it ultimately comes down to funding and persuasion.

            • What classes are you taking now?

              • I am enrolled in 2 courses right now: environmental science and children's lit. They are winter session classes and are only 2 wks long. Then I will be taking 4 courses during spring semester. A busi course, psychology course, social work course, & a math (rolls eyes). Then I will be done w/ undergrad.

                • LOL, don't roll your eyes at math :-) it's needed in the world! I would like to give you a pre-congratulations on getting your undergrad degree. Since, you only come around to comment once in a blue moon I don't even know when the next time I will talk to you lol

  5. I read once that only 20% of all jobs listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook REQUIRE a college degree (bachelor's or higher). But if, as you say, soft skills make the difference and college is where you gained your soft skills, then college might need to be more of a REQUIRED charm school for those looking at the other 80% of jobs. I started college straight out of high school but soon dropped out because I didn't know what I wanted to do. I stopped and started a couple more times with my final time when I was 29. Today I have a bachelor's degree in Communications because I thought I wanted to be a TV or radio producer of news. Do I still want to do this? Yeaaaanoooyeaaah. I mean, truly, if I could have a 60 minute once-a-week news/talk show on the radio (even if on the A.M. dial) I would. But that's not all I want to do. And after a failed try at law school, I am at a career cross-roads. Some of the careers I think about fall in that 20%, some of them don't. I just lost a job last week probably due to my lack of soft skills. So today–no, literally, TODAY I made an appointment with a career counselor, because before I even read this article, earlier today I thought to myself "If I go back to law school, or graduate school, or certificate school, I CANNOT lose anymore student loan money on anymore failed investments." So, I WHOLLY agree with your point about college being an investment. Today, I will not enroll in a college again unless I have thoroughly researched everything, just as I would a stock. I owe college loans today up the waazooo and I have no job. This is not good. This is totally unacceptable. So, maybe college is a conceptually a requirement for everyone, but really tho, if you can't get a grant or scholarship, think twice if more than 50% of your tuition will be paid with college loans. (And this is just my formula; there may be a better ratio out there to determine if your potential loan money is worth the risk). Peace.

    • Jami,

      That is an excellent ratio to use! If you have to finance your education you should be required to have a business plan in place for how you will pay for it. But if you lost a job due to your soft skills I would start there first. There is a great book by Dale Carnegie titled "How to win friends and influence people" this book along with a few negotiation books really showed me how to work people and win them over.

  6. Here's how I see it. College used to be a worthwhile investment…once upon a time. But considering how much cost of education has gone up over the years and the fact the results don't justify the cost, I'm not so sure college is still what it is touted to be.

    • I agree college cost have definitely increased but there is a certain amount of schooling that is worth it? At what point for you is college a worthwhile investment? I personally only have a bachelors degree. In my industry and with my current income a graduate degree isn't worth it to me.

      • I also agree. I'd say if you can guarantee you can pay off your loans within ten years USING the degree you're borrowing for you're good. But you have no right to complain when the economy doesn't work out the way you want it to and you're left with tons of money due to lenders. You borrowed money from the bank. In this situation, the government (or more appropriately the American tax payer) doesn't owe you anything.

  7. Chris Stefan says:

    When I was going through college (2000-2002), I looked at the experience as a way to learn how to market myself and ensure that I would get my foot in the door at XYZ company. I didn't count on college to teach me anything specific. Things didn't get specific (and real) until I started working. My degree didn't do anything for me except get me an interview. Once I was at the interview, I had to sell myself.

    The program I was in needed an overhaul. I think the information being taught was old and outdated in many ways. Students weren't studying to learn, they were studying to pass tests. In the end, I earned nothing but a piece of paper. The education came after I left school.

    • Very well said Chris. Even though you had to learn much more after you left college do you feel it prepared you for the additional education you had to undergo?

      • In some ways, yes. For example, I learned a lot about collaborating in group projects. There's so much that goes into the dynamics of a workgroup. You have to deal with personalities, work ethic, scheduling issues, etc. These are points that are front and center in the real world. In addition to your technical knowledge, your ability to work with and/or manage other people can be the difference between advancing in your career or remaining stagnant.

        But I especially learned a lot about networking (through campus student organizations) and establishing relationships. Never underestimate the power of fostering strong relationships. It's a potentially useful marketing tool.

        • This where going to an actual college rather than achieving and online degree shines for me. Anyone can pick up a book and learn the material. College isn't about learning the material. It's exactly what you said, managing personalities, networking and working in a team environment.

  8. Sam Sesay says:

    I think a college degree is worth it for some and not for others, it depends on the degree and the individual. For example, if you're a doctor, of course you need a college degree. Im not going to have someone cut me up without one. If you have a college degree and your passion is to be an executive assistant or work at footlocker, college may not be for you. For me college was definitely worth it. I ended up getting a real good job out of college in my field, IT, which allowed me to be a homeowner at 22. I was by far the youngest at that job, and i know i would not have gotten the position without my degree. I should add, however, that having just a college degree is not enough. In college, i positioned myself to become more marketable by having a good internship, joining clubs at school, and being team captain of the track team my last two years. Also, it didn't hurt that i had a full athletic scholarship, so i graduated without debt.

    • Sam,

      Of course college was worth it for you. You had a free ride. That's like getting a 6% 401k match from an employer and saying no. You would be foolish not to take a free education :-) But, I do agree with you. If you aspire to work in a field that does not require a degree, like a sales associate at footlocker, as you put it. Maybe a college degree that you pay for is not for you.

  9. I know we talked about this a little on Twitter also. I would say a college degree is definitely an investment and I wish I would have thought about that going in. But I definitely agree with you that college teaches soft skills. I was so closed off to other ways of thinking before I went to college because all I ever had was influence from my parents. College taught me to listen before I respond and make an intelligent comment based on facts.

    • Latisha,

      Great point! now that I think about it College definitely had a bigger influence on me as a person. growing up in the inner city I was only exposed to certain things.. albeit only a few of those things would have made me a productive member of society. I used to be very ignorant of other cultures because of my childhood environment. Actually interacting with people other than my own and having to work with people other than my own proved to help me tremendously as a man.

  10. My college degree was definitely worth it for me. For the following reasons: I learned English (it is my 3rd language), got a good degree that landed me a good job. I also got a graduate degree that landed me even a better job. It wasn't easy to study non stop for 6 years. So, at the end, I guess it all depends what you want to do later in life, and where you see yourself.

    • Aloysa,

      What did you get your graduate degree in? Did you require a graduate degree to make the most money you can?

  11. Interestingly, there are several intangibles to degrees such as broadened world views that are difficult to measure their impact and value on ones life. I have a PhD… my best friend has high school… and together, we grow and learn. I'm still working… he's retired. I guess the one thing to take away is that education doesn't equate to money.

    • I agree Doctor Stock. So what did your friend do that he is now retired? Did he make a substantial income or keep his expenses low in order to retire or a combination of both? When do you plan on retiring? How did you pay for your education?

    • I also agree. An education doesn't necessarily mean success or money. It is what you do with the knowledge you learn in whatever capacity you learned it- university, high school, etc. I find that hand's on knowledge is really important and yet overlooked in some industries. Education matters but you have to know what to do with that knowledge or you are as good as a book on the shelf collecting dust.

  12. I was student-athlete in a sport that pays peanuts. I was not lucky @ all after graduation in 2008. My Bachelor of Science degree has done nothing for me. In regards to networking,hanging out with the right group etc. all I had time was track. Since 2008 I have not done what I love @ all. With the exception of helping CEO's in healthcare I have not landed a great job to show case my skills. Two things I love A. Helping kids with their future & B. Being an healthcare professional w/ high paying salary has been non exstinct. I learned I should of said F track,take on debt&loans and network with ppl who can help me pay it off.(FYI: Real ppl in my feild) I personally feel the system is set for many ppl to fail. Hundreds of thousands students graduate and realize their non-ivy league degree has done nothing for them. Sure some ppl will pick up a regular job paying 45-65K and wipe the sweat off their foreheads. But with my ambition to be a CEO of a hospital and not being a Dr.,not having a direct mentor(Thought I ha one but he is currently calling me for jobs) and not immediately enrolling into a master program has proven to suck.

    In all a degree is what you make of it if your focusing on making something of yourself. Nt everyone matures that quickly.(Regarding making life changing choices for your future) when do you as a black man learn that. My advice if you can go all the way and get your PHD. Network Network Network and make yourself marketable.

    • Michah, why would you become a student athlete opposed to focusing on education only? Do you feel you're being held back because you do not have an ivy league degree? I'm sure there are people who achieved your vision without an ivy league education have you reached out to any of them for guidance?

    • Hospital Admin says:

      You failed because of you, not because of the system. You had a leg up on everyone as it sounds like you were a scholarship athlete. You could have had less debt than most other people and the networking of being an athlete. But that would take serious work. My classmate in my MHA program was a D1 Pitcher with tons of school records. He knew he could go to the minors, but instead he picked up a masters degree while playing baseball. But this guy worked hard. Practice or travel was never an excuse for him and he didn't want any breaks because of his hectic life. He came out of school with two degrees, a great job, and some great athletic achievements. I'm sorry that you didn't take advantage of a great situation. But please don't blame the system or other people for things clearly under your control.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Doctoral – they all sound nice especially when tacked at the end of one’s name. But, as with all things beautiful, they come at a price. A high price which is now a veritable prize in today’s economy – money. I touched on this before in my post: Is a college degree worth it. [...]

  2. fwisp.com says:

    IS A COLLEGE DEGREE WORTH IT?… NO! UNLESS……

    I graduated in 2006 from the mighty CAA powerhouse George Mason University. GM-U-KNOW! I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology with a focus in information security. I went into school doing what I love…, which at the time was some…

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