My husband and I paid off over $65,000 in student loans combined.
At first, we tackled my loans, then his loans, and then recently I started helping my parents pay off the Parent Plus loans they took out for my education.
$65,000 is ALOT of money.
Until we decided to aggressively tackle our loans in 2015, we were paying 6.8% interest to avoid the problem.
Two years later we’ve since paid off all of our debt but we’re left wondering, “was it worth it?”
Does It Matter Where You Go To School?
I went to a fancy private school. One of the schools that makes it in the U.S. News Ranking of Best Colleges each year.
It has a large endowment and notable alumni and a low acceptance rate.
It has challenging courses and access to resources and a name that I was told would carry a heavy-weight on a resume.
I have a good job now, yes, and there was a time when I got my first “big job” that my school was noted by a recruiter in the recruiting process.
It wasn’t a shoe-in though that I would get a good job.
I was unemployed when I first graduated college and spent a few hard months learning that I needed to create my own opportunities and couldn’t rely on the fancy name and good grades alone.
In my field, I see coworkers at the same level who went to state school. I see Managers and Directors who went to community college. I see others who don’t have a college degree crushing it.
It’s easy to look backwards and say that my success was because of my college but it wouldn’t be 100% true.
Are Traditional Colleges Worth it Anymore?
I watched Shark Tank Investor, Daymond John, discuss why students shouldn’t go to traditional college and I have to say I agree with him (with a caveat that I’m going to get to later in this post).
Here is the video: Daymond John suggests don’t go to college
His point is that the workplace is changing and traditional education looks backwards instead of forwards.
The majority of students will retire from jobs that didn’t exist when they were in school.
He believes digital courses are a better and cheaper alternative to college.
He finds the fact that 18-year olds can get $300,000 in loans to be ridiculous and so do I.
Related Post: Is an MBA Worth it Anymore?
Why It’s Messed Up That I’m Writing This Post
I feel like a horrible person for sharing these views on education. Here’s why:
First, My Parents Chose My Education Over Their Retirement
My parents get so upset when I share my views on education with them so I don’t anymore.
They took money from their retirement accounts to help pay my tuition and still owe thousands in Parent Plus loans for my sister’s education.
My Dad will work well past 70 because of that.
They were sold the dream and it hurts them when I suggest that it wasn’t necessary.
Related: Paying off my Parents Parent Plus Loans
Second, I Received A Generous Financial Aid Package From My College
I received a generous financial aid package from my college so I feel like a jerk for writing this post.
The school really commits to helping lower income individuals afford the school.
Third, I Opened my Worldview in School and Made Incredible Friends
I was able to study abroad, had incredible professors that impacted my thoughts on important topics and made great friends from all over the world.
It was an amazing 4-years for me.
I learned how to network from the other more-connected (and wealthier) students and they might have pushed me to achieve more.
It’s hard to say whether that type of environment can be recreated without all being on campus.
What do you think? Is formal education such as a 4-year college degree necessary anymore?
How I Paid Off $89,000 Of Debt in 18 Months
Til Debt Do Us Part – Paying Off My Spouse’s Student Loans
Helping My Parents With Their Parent Plus Loans
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I think going to anywhere more expensive than your state university is a waste of money in most cases. Very few employers care about where your degree is from. It is much more important to pick a useful major that fits a future well paid job you will enjoy. You’ll make just as many friends at a more affordable school. Studying abroad is a luxury that is not worth going into debt over. My kids all had 100% free rides so their college was free to me. But I had already told them we’d pay the cost of state U, if they wanted to go somewhere else the extra cost was on them.
Agreed in most cases.
Definitely easier to get into top medical schools, especially on the East Coast, from a top undergrad, and that’s even more true for top law schools, which still heavily consider applicants’ undergraduate school in admissions. FWIW, it’s pretty hard to get into certain PhD programs (philosophy, for example) without the right pedigree.
In terms of jobs, Wall Street definitely has a list of target undergrads (Ivies, Williams, Amherst, Stanford, MIT, Cal, NYU, maybe Chicago, Northwestern and a few others) that make it MUCH easier to get an entry-level job since they don’t really recruit at non targets.
But for everything else, agreed that undergrad doesn’t make much difference, or any at all.
Just a quick note to say that I now read blog posts in your voice since listening to the podcast!
Great post – I paid off my Plus loan for my parents and it was a great way to feel better about the expense they incurred.
Erik @ The Mastermind Within says
If I went back to 18, I wouldn’t have went to college, but at the same time, because I’ve learned a lot in the last 8 years, I’ve also made great gains which I wouldn’t give up for anything!
Kyra Rodriguez says
I was a scholar student way back in college, all the hardships and efforts were worth it! Great post!
As someone working in higher education, I think about this a lot.
This is a thoughtful and important post, but I think you’re conflating two different questions: 1. is private college education worth a potential lifetime of crushing debt, and 2. is the only purpose of college job training? I would answer no to both questions.
Of course, those questions are connected precisely because the cost of college is so insanely high, but since you ask whether formal education such as a 4-year degree is “necessary” anymore, the question I’m left with is, necessary for what? Was a degree in history ever “necessary” for anything other than being a history professor? Not really. Does that mean a history major is useless? Colleges can and should provide classes in subjects that have a more direct or obvious application to specific jobs, and some majors (nursing or teaching for example) require this kind of training in undergrad. Colleges should help students with their career decisions and make sure they have the skills they need to meet their goals. But job training is not the sole purpose of higher education. Most people who major in history or Spanish literature or physics don’t go on to get jobs “in” those fields. But they do go on to great and diverse careers, and I like to think that they are better members of society for their education. The cost of college is inflated and it is far too high. That’s a different question from whether this kind of education is worthwhile (provided it can be obtained without massive debt through scholarships, going to a state university, etc.)