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  1. Haha candy-ass degree. It’s sad seeing so many people with a degree and high debt that don’t have a good job because the degree isn’t marketable. Or tons of people don’t even get a job in the field they have a degree in, which isn’t always a bad thing. I don’t think SAT/ACT scores really matter. So what you can take a test well, it doesn’t mean you will be successful in a job or can’ make it through higher level classes.

    I think education is important and so are experiences. My first year of college I took out every loan that was available to me because I was trying to reach a theoretical number the college said I needed for expenses. That number was completely false. So every year afterward I got smarter and took out less and less loans. My senior year, I was able to work 2-3 jobs in the summer and save for all housing and utility expenses for the year, then picked up a part time job for food and entertainment money. Did not take out a single loan that year. Sometimes it’s good to make a mistake to learn from it. But if you don’t catch on quick, it puts people in a debt hole.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, DD. I had a similar experience with student loans. In my first two years, I borrowed $2,000 each year (this was in the early 80s, mind you). In my third and fourth years, I borrowed $1,000 each year. And in my fifth year, my super senior year, I borrowed nothing. It’s amazing what you can do when you work at least 40 hours during the summer and 20 hours during the school year. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. I really appreciate what you had to share.

  2. Lila

    I think universities today are basically extended high schools. I don’t find my classes to be hard but I’m a marketing major.

    I’m not trying to be self-deprecating, just real. I don’t have the interest nor the intelligence to be a STEM major. I don’t think most people do either.

    At my university the professors really hold your hand. They go over test material for reviews a couple of weeks before the tests.

    Some offer a page of notes to use during the exam. Many don’t even offer this, but will still review the material with you as much as possible a couple of weeks before the test.

    I’ve noticed that with many of them, their job is to get you to pass their class! Jobs may not require degrees, but companies do. Thus everyone and their little sister are getting bachelor degrees.

    Also some degrees like accounting, finance, etc., don’t technically fall into the STEM umbrella, but they are still respected and required in the workforce.

    Most jobs out there aren’t brain surgery. They just aren’t. People get offended when I say this, but it’s true. I think we’re going to see more people opting out of higher-ed.

    You’re starting to see that already. I’ve already seen several organizations that provide mentorships in exchange for jobs. Check out this: https://www.missionu.com

    You already see people establishing blogs, social media accounts, and then starting up their own businesses after they’ve graduated.

    Take artist Dimitra Milan. She asked her parents to let her home-school for high school, so they enrolled her in an online school. She did pretty well with school, and once she was done with her homework, she painted and painted and practiced a lot.

    She graduated early at 16, and now people buy her original paintings which between $3,000-11,000. She also has prints so you don’t need to be wealthy to buy her stuff.

    But here’s this girl who did something with her talent. She didn’t go to art school, and she didn’t go into debt. She did however use social media to build up her following. I think that’s great.

    I think it’s CRUEL of higher-ed to put teens, basically CHILDREN, into such debt so young, and to have them on the hook for life. No. If you have something to offer the world, then offer it.

    Personally I think high schools and suburbia need to get over themselves and bring back vocational education in addition to teaching academics.

    It’s CRUEL of high schools to not teach anything vocational, and so many people graduate at the age of 18, not knowing how to be valuable in the larger society!

    Yes academics are important, but so is real-world knowledge that you can use in the world economy, and earn a living. I think eventually higher-ed will have to figure out what it needs to be.

    Companies will have to figure out how to filter out people besides college. I know some of them have the Wonderlic test, and personality tests, and ethical tests, but there needs to be more than that.

    I think companies should hire the best and the brightest, train them to be employees, that’s what they generally did before they required degree. Sorry for the long posts but I get really fired up about this topic!

    • Mr. Groovy

      No apologies needed, Lila. I love long comments–especially when they agree with everything I believe. I’m totally with you. I don’t know why we’re making education so damn hard. Dimitra Milan is a perfect example of how education should be approached. You hone your math and English skills for a couple of hours, and then you use the rest of the day to develop a skill that the larger society will find valuable. But no, we’re more obsessed with schooling kids rather than educating them. Why can’t every kid who graduates high school have at least one concrete skill that he or she can bring to the labor market? Is that asking too much? And don’t get me started on college. That’s even a bigger joke. You can’t get a golden ticket to the middle class (i.e., a vaunted bachelor’s degree) unless you fork over $100K for knowledge you won’t need and won’t remember. Meh. Talk about a racket. Lila, you nailed it. We need more education and less schooling. We also need a more sober understanding of higher education. It should be reserved for the cognitively gifted, not the masses. In other words, it shouldn’t be grades 13, 14, 15, and 16. We already have enough participation trophies in our lives. We don’t need the bachelor’s degree to remain another one.

  3. Great analogy. And such an important subject to touch on. College has become a business. And taking students who are not college material to the bank is somehow acceptable nowadays. The student loan crisis isn’t a myth after all!

    • Mr. Groovy

      College behavior is atrocious on two levels. First, they accept people who really can’t handle rigorous instruction in difficult fields. Second, they water down the curricula and devise a number of dubious degrees. The kids who go the easy route, whether because they’re lazy or they’re over their heads academically, end up with a very costly piece of paper that is not respected in the labor market. And the real insult to injury is this: college professors and administrators love to point the steely finger of indignation at Wall Street and lament the horrible greed that takes place there. Really, guys? Really? Thanks for stopping by, Financial Muse. You nailed the “new morality” that is crushing so many of our young people.

  4. I think what makes me upset the most with colleges is that $1 B + tax free trusts that they have but with no plans to actually spend the money. There’s a big to do every year when Harvard or Yale announce their latest giving numbers but then what. It’s not like they push the resources to make education free for the students paying. It’s a racket and I’d love to see a disruption in this market.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point, MSM. I forgot all about endowments. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a federal law that mandated endowment spending for colleges that accept federal research funds, student loans, and Pell Grants? If your endowment is under $500 million, you got to use 5% of it to reduce or eliminate tuition and fees for students. If your endowment is over $500 million, you got to use 7.5%. And if your endowment is over $1 billion, you got to use 10%. The nonsense has to stop. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  5. Jacq

    This is tricky because it requires a massive shift in thinking across the business culture, and society.
    In the quest of teaching to the test, things like philosophy and sociology get ‘pushed off’ to college, yet ‘we’ (the general public) expect informed decisions like voting and civilized political debate to be comprehended at the age of 18 (& beyond). A lot of history is high level, gloss over, here are the basics in high school & below because college offers ‘the US Constitution ‘ ‘the 1960’s’ and specific classes in each war the US was involved in, and the students can learn it then. Not only is it is often assumed all students plan to go to college, even when teachers know the student is not on that path, administration often forces their hand in what material to present. Hamilton the musical is doing an amazing job of bringing the details of the birth of the US into the public eye in an engaging way. So much of what happened then, shaped laws we still follow or might like to see updated for the modern day. It’s so much more than the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere.
    The same goes for math, and science. I don’t think everyone needs calculus or biology of some obscure tree leaf, or quantum physics. Most PF bloggers decry the lack of real life money skills in under grad and note gleaning info from a business class. We have politicians who state solar power will drain the sun and wind power will make the planet stop turning & as politicians they probably went to law school! ).
    I didn’t intend for this to get political, but the whole education system needs a shift to have the general public be an informed group. Because comprehension affects us all and the ‘it’s not my job to teach it’, “that’s what college is for”, “you’ll understand when you’re older” mentality needs a major overhaul if we recognize college isn’t for everyone.
    I did get a 4 year degree. I have friends and family who did not. They are really smart, and really good at what they do. I know it isn’t for everyone and it certainly is not worth the money or going into debt if it’s not your thing. I think the business world needs a better experience equivalency metric. One place I worked, an older employee wasn’t eligible for a promotion to the next job title because it required a BS, but she had at least 20 years of experience. With other obligations (a special needs child) and being closer to retirement than the start of her career, it didn’t make sense to go back to school.
    Others I know have trained on equipment specific to their current job, but the boss won’t give them a certificate stating that, so if they interview elsewhere, they have no proof of competency and years of experience. Therefore the starting rate they are offered is the same or less than what they currently make, so it doesn’t make sense to leave.
    My current employer requires a 4 year degree which says nothing of people’s work ethic, sense of responsibility, and ability to make the same mistakes repeatedly. I work in a scientific field and the lack of logic or application of science or statistics hurts my brain sometimes. (Currently a test won’t pass a criteria range the director picked, even though a quick statistical analysis showed a different range. Presented with that and the risk of the test failing, he stuck to his desired range. *shrug*).
    It’s an overall tricky problem in so many ways. The best plan is to avoid college debt if you aren’t sure .
    Thanks for making me think on a Saturday morning.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Jacq. I like the way your mind words. You raise a number of interesting issues. I’ve been thinking about the general lack of general information for a while now. And this thinking has made me even more frustrated with the college business model. College should be in the business of disseminating information to all, not just a select few. Consider this model. College separates it trade school programs from its general knowledge programs. It has admission criteria for trade school but no admission criteria for general knowledge. Anyone would be allowed to sign up for a general knowledge class or program. And here’s the kicker. The general knowledge classes and programs would be grade and test free. They would entail lectures, readings, and Q&A sessions. And they would also be cheap ($50-$100 a class). Now imagine that two Stanford professors put together a 12-week lecture series for $90. They hold the lecture series in a 600-seat lecture hall and the lecture series is sold out. 600 x $90 = $54,000. Assume Stanford charges 15% for overhead. The professors get to split $45,900. And they don’t have to grade tests or give out grades. Everybody wins. Stanford and the professors make a nice chunk of change, and the general public gets to broaden its horizon for a very reasonable price. Man, I would love for something like this to be around. Imagine an economics department putting together a course on behavioral economics. Imagine an architectural and design school putting together a course on building a green residential house. The possibilities are endless. Thanks for stopping by, Jacq. You made me think as well.

  6. Alicia

    I have loved your college related posts. Went to college after HS because everyone thought I should, especially my family. I really wanted to join the Navy. Every test I took said I should be a nurse or a farmer. So I got a degree in Sociology. Everyone at school told me I could get a job doing anything since companies really want people who can comprehend the written word and write. Got a job straight out of school earning $10+ an hour (26 years ago). Two and a half years later I’m in nursing school. $34, 000 later and a bunch of school loans I’m a BSN. School loans paid off, money in the bank and plenty to retire on and everyone is pressuring me, except my family, to get masters. Got accepted into a good program, undergrad was one of the top nursing programs in country, only because my sister was already at that school. Looked at the amount of time and money to complete the masters and decided not worth it.

    Now I watch my nephew try to make college decisions. We are trying to guide him to a physical therapy assistant program to start. He loves only the social aspect of school, but makes good grades. In our family school is a job so doing poorly is not an option. PTA would be a good fit for him. He’s helpful, social, moderately athletic. Got a job the day after his 16th birthday and has become one of their favorite employees. Now some people are trying to talk him in to going to med school. Seriously, this is a kid who hates to study. All these people tell him this because they aren’t looking at his actual qualities and habits. They just see money. I see residents with debt they are moonlighting to try to pay off, crazy studious behaviors, and seriously focused.

    I’m watching this happen to his best friend who until they started all this wanted to be an electrician. I’ve run the numbers with him and he’s back to his desire to be an electrician.

    What really burns me up is when I find out how much the techs I work with borrowed to become Medical Assistants. Two if them I work with now each borrowed $30,000 plus to attend a for profit trade school. $30,000 for 9 months of school to make just over $10 an hour! Fortunately both are now applying to nursing school and can get some tuition reimbursement from our hospital.

    Please keep sharing that there are other options.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Wow, Alicia. Such a great comment. You touched on very critical aspects of education, and I agree with every one of your points. Becoming a doctor requires impressive cognitive abilities and study habits. It sounds like your nephew is very bright but lacks the stomach for 12 years of arduous study. And there’s certainly no shame in that. At his age, I didn’t have the stomach for 6 months of arduous study, never mine 12 years. I think people will find life much more rewarding being first-rate PTAs or electricians than being third-rate doctors or lawyers.

      And I love the point you made about for-profit trade schools. I’m a freedom guy, and I believe in free markets and free minds. But our for-profit trade and technical schools are a disgrace. They cost as much, if not more, than non-profit colleges, and this is despite not having the overhead of non-profit colleges (i.e., dorms, sports, clubs, Greek life, food courts, climbing walls, etc.). I could not recommend for-profit trade or technical school to anyone. Their practices are far too predatory and their product is far to suspect.

      Thanks for stopping by, Alicia. This was one of the most thoughtful comments I’ve read all week. Have a great weekend. Cheers.

  7. I agree that college isn’t for everyone. If you’re not academically inclined, you’ll probably be better off learning a trade. I hope our kid is smart and pick a lucrative field to be in, though.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I had a college professor who often counseled us with the following quote:

      “If you want to know what someone’s going to do in the future, look at what he’s done in the past.”

      People change, of course, but how many 18-year-olds can abruptly shift gears at 19. If you weren’t academically inclined in high school, it’s highly improbable that enrolling in college is going to change things. Meh. Very tough problem. Thanks for stopping by, Joe. I really appreciate your thoughts.

      P.S. I suspect your kid is going to do just fine. Home is the first and most influential school there is, and your home has some pretty awesome teachers.

  8. Great post! Thanks for including the video about adjunct professors. Nice to see Gwen Ifill at the beginning!

    I graduated with a degree in Spanish and about $30k in student loan debt. A few years after I graduated I landed an adjunct instructor gig at my alma mater and soon learned that I would need a summer job to make ends meet. Toward the end of my second year my colleagues were strongly urging me to complete my Master’s Degree. I think the average program that I was looking into was about $60k. When I asked the department head how much my salary would increase with the advanced degree, I believe the answer was that the cap was $25k/year. Suddenly that summer office job was looking more attractive and became my new full-time work.

    The degree and brief teaching experience certainly looked nice on my resume, but it was the summer job where I picked up the accounting and finance skills that would put me ahead financially. The opportunities that followed enabled me to pay off my student loans and to eventually pursue a dream of early retirement.

    I often wonder where I would have ended up if I had skipped the expensive private college experience.

    Even though my degree has nothing to do with how I’m paying the bills today, I’m grateful for the time I spent living overseas and learning another language. I only wish I had researched the many ways I could have done this without taking on a large debt.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I don’t know why the widespread use and abuse of adjuncts in not more of an issue. These people are paid peanuts, do most of the teaching on campus today, and yet tuition goes up every freakin’ year. I don’t get it. When gas prices get out of hand, oil company executives are hauled before Congress and asked to explain. Have college presidents ever been hauled before Congress and asked to explain why a bachelor’s degree is so expensive? Sorry you weren’t able to be a professor, Mrs. G. I’m sure you would have been a great one. But you made the right choice. There’s no reason why you should accept a lifetime of penury just to teach. Sigh.

  9. Excellent points brought up in your post, Mr. Groovy! I never took the SAT so i don’t know how I’d compare but I’m guessing I’d do fairly poor to medium on it. I got into college with an ACT score of 22 and then once my foot was in the door, noone else cared after that, lol.

    I did school but took the 7 yr option since I was working full time and paying for it myself (thru loans, lots and lots of loans). I was making around $40-$45k before I went back to school to get a Master’s. It was paid for and I got a stipend and I still took out loans – stupid Mr. SSC. However, when I graduated I’d doubled my salary with my first position.

    It’s been 10 yrs now and I’ve doubled that starting salary as well. 🙂 BUT, I moved companies that made up for the biggest salary jump, and man they compensate very well in bonus terms and other incentives to keep working.

    We have college funds for our kids, but won’t necessarily push them to get a college degree if they want to do something else like the armed forces, trades, entrepreneur, whatever. This is coming from 2 parents with advanced degrees. We see the value, but also the waste of time and money if you’re just going to get a philosophy degree or English major, not that there’s anything wrong with those majors.

    Like my degree is in geology, but I would have rather majored in sociology, philosophy or even music. However, I didn’t want to keep working at a restaurant post-graduation and for who knows how long, so I chose something I liked that could also pay well. It’s a balance for sure.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Mr. SSC. It really is all about balance. We all want to follow our dreams and curiosities. But we also don’t want to struggle financially. And this is why I get so frustrated with college. It has totally priced out the dreamers and the curious. If a credit cost $30, you could take a chance. But now that a credit costs north of $300 a credit, you got to be extremely careful. Follow your dreams and you could end up in debt purgatory for the next three decades. Meh.

  10. Mark

    Mr. Groovy, I agree with the spirit of your column. College is not for everyone. And, college students who are not advised beforehand what the commitments are, what the cost is, and what to expect to earn with a degree in their discipline have been massively dis served by their parents, their secondary school educators, and the college and university system.

    All that being said, I don’t think the analogy you present is a good one. And here is why – there is a very small elite of supremely talented and gifted football players attempting to gain entrance into a very, very limited supply of NFL player positions every year. The same cannot be said for most other occupations. Most other occupations have a much larger supply of available positions, and will not require the type of top level specialized talent required to be an elite performer, such as an NFL player. However, many of of these occupations will be MUCH easier to break into with a four year college degree, and many of them will require one to even get in the door for an interview. Further, many of these jobs will be WELL PAYING jobs. So, the value of your NFL school is, rightly so, much overrated given the opportunity to utilize the degree, no matter the effort. The same cannot be said for obtaining a college degree. The benefit greatly outstrips the cost, IF done right.

    And, that is the key lesson, I think, that future college students need to consider. What work will I do? What degree will it require? Here is where most seem to stop, which I think is what they are conditioned to do, because everyone is told you should be happy and chase your dream. No one is told to be practical as well. They fail to ask these final two questions: What will I get paid by getting this degree? And… What is this degree going to cost? In essence, what is my ROI? Why is this so uncommon? Perhaps because academics think such questions are impure and gross. I think the opposite true. If what you are learning creates a debt burden that will take decades to pay off, who is the gross one here?

    My recommendation – get a degree, but make it sure you can make money with it. Make sure you don’t overpay. For most employers, they really won’t care what school you got your degree from unless you are going to work in the State Department or the Supreme Court or Chase, or such old boy institutions. Most will tick off the Bachelor’s achievement and move on. This is why you should ALWAYS, unless you are very wealthy, go to the CHEAPEST schools you can, unless its reputation is completely abysmal.

    Myself, I am, in my 40’s working on a BS, part time. I completed an AS 3 years ago, and I have already returned all the money put into it. Why? I chose a lucrative field, and a cheap state community college with good programs.

    Again, college is not for everyone. If it’s not, trade school almost surely is. Flipping burgers should never be a life goal. We really need to rebuild the middle class in this country or I worry, deeply for our future.

    Okay, enough time typing. Have a great day! Great blog!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Mark, this is one of the most cogent and thoughtful counterpoints to my arguments I have ever seen. If you don’t have a blog, my friend. you need to start one. My football school analogy is indeed weak. After all, there are only about 1600 professional football slots out there. How many K-12 teaching slots are there? Two million? But of all your great points, here’s the one I like best.

      “What is this degree going to cost? In essence, what is my ROI? Why is this so uncommon? Perhaps because academics think such questions are impure and gross. I think the opposite true. If what you are learning creates a debt burden that will take decades to pay off, who is the gross one here?”

      Lot of wisdom there, my friend. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views. You really made me think.

  11. I’m an immigrant too. If I didn’t go to college (or choose not to) it would be like stabbing my Chinese mother in the heart.

    I truthfully wish I never gone. Not because of the cost or quality or outcome but because I missed some huge entrepreneur opportunities that I regret now. Its not the only path (it’s probably not even the right path) but it’s sold to gullible overly concerned parents like it’s the only fish in the market.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I hear ya, Lily. Your parents only wanted what was best for you, of course. But their understanding of college was formed when college wasn’t a racket. Now, college is a joke. Everyone goes, and to make sure as many people as possible stick around, colleges have introduced a plethora of watered-down classes and majors. Yay, everybody wins! Except those, of course, who don’t realize they have useless degrees until after they’ve accumulated a life-altering amount of debt. Oh, well. Thanks for stopping by, Lily. And thanks for your regrets. We need much more of your frankness in our world.

  12. It’s unfortunate employers put such high value on a 4 year degree.

    I spent 6 years (grad degree) and tens of thousands of dollars on a degree with an entry level salary of $18,000 (I should add this was 18 years ago). At the time, those two extra years of college got me an extra $800/year. If I had to do it over again…ugh.

    My son (a senior next year) has very high test scores. So, according to your post, he would be served well by a four year degree. But he has no interest whatsoever in attending college when he graduates. The boy wants to go explore the world and his options and wants (needs) a challenge, so he’s leaning toward enlisting in the Air Force. This is tough for the grandparents to take – according to them, college is the only way to go…

    • Congratulations to your son! The Air Force is an amazing option. Plus, if he chooses to attend college down the road, it will be paid for! My uncle was career Air Force, retired last year as a General, and had a great experience.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Same here, Amanda. My college degrees did absolutely nothing for my wallet. I studied sociology, journalism, and public administration. In my professional career, I shoveled asphalt and programmed databases. The only thing my degrees did for me is get me an interview. And to get those pieces of paper that secured those interviews, I spent a lot of money and surrendered a lot of time. Sigh. Your son is a very bright, young man. He’ll do very well in the Air Force.

  13. So, yesterday at the mall I saw a shirt for sale that said:

    Harvard Law School

    Then below, in smaller letters, it said “just kidding”. This would’ve been the perfect pic for your post!!

    Neither Rick or I attended college, and I’m only slightly embarrassed to say that neither of us regret the decision. We didn’t have massive school loans to pay off, and both of us got pretty decent jobs. If we hadn’t made such a mess of our money we could easily be millionaires by now with our degreeless careers.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I remember very little of what I learned in college. And what I did remember had no bearing on my professional career. I suspect that most college graduates have had a similar experience. And, yet, for some reason, a bachelor’s degree is used to certify intelligence. Those who have one are smart, those who don’t are dolts. It’s wrong and it’s not fair. Thanks for stopping by, Laurie. And thanks for proving that the “degreeless” are neither dumb nor destined for a life of abject poverty.

  14. Unfortunately the bachelors degree is the new high school diploma. No degree, no interview, no question. Gotta pay to play.

    I regularly post job openings that read “MBA preferred” in their description, when in reality I could train any person of average intelligence and work ethic to do the job.

    I agree with the overall sentiment of your post, but the reality is that, at least for white collar jobs, any applicant without a four-year degree would most likely automatically get filtered out before a live person ever had a chance to look at their resume. And that’s certainly not unique to my company. That’s just the way it is.

    There needs to be additional and reliable ways to assess the potential of employees other than their education. As it is today, possession of that paper is a very good filter.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point, Ty. It’s definitely a catch-22. When a bachelor’s degree is widely used as a screening device, you’re almost forced to get a bachelor’s degree. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some nationally recognized test, sort like the CPA exam, that was a good indicator of a person’s critical thinking skills? This way people can forego college and just put their critical thinking exam results on their resumes. And employers would have another and possibly better screening device for potential employees.

  15. So true Mr Groovy. I’m a firm advocate of trade schools and apprentiships for school leavers. The world needs more plumbers, sparkies and builders than lawyers, investment bankers and BA graduates.

    I ‘graduated’ as a tradie four years after leaving high school and never looked back. I certainly didn’t look back at any student loans because there weren’t any.

    I totally agree that many of the ‘soft’ degrees offered these days are purely revenue generators for the tertiary education industry and that many young people want one of these degrees to appear smarter than they really are. However, the accompanying debt isn’t that smart really.

    • Mr. Groovy

      You’re a wise man, Martin. Here’s a fantasy for you. Colleges like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford would offer degrees in sociology, philosophy, and French Literature, but because the potential remuneration from these majors is so small relative to the cost of tuition, no student would be allowed to borrow money to major in these fields. If they want these type of degrees, they’ll have to cash flow them. Obviously the number of sociology, philosophy, and French Literature majors would fall sharply. But at least these colleges would be more considerate of their students’ well-being.

  16. I’m torn on this one, Mr. G.
    Yes, many people start college when they’re not yet ready for the focus and work required. And yes, trade school and community college are excellent alternative options. Unfortunately, though, a college degree is a screening tool for many jobs even though the jobs themselves don’t require advanced skills. Having that piece of paper can open a lot of doors.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Same here, Julie. What we need is a new credential. Something that has the weight of a bachelor’s degree and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to obtain. Absent that mystical new credential, though, we’ll just have to make due with the current system. And young people would make better choices if they had the information to properly gauge their chances of 1) getting a worthwhile degree, and 2) making sure the ROI on said degree is attractive. Sigh. Come on, college-industrial complex! You’re better than Wall Street. Give us the information we need to be better consumers of higher education.

  17. I do agree that college is not for everyone. As an immigrant though, let me just put these two thoughts out there:

    1. U.S. colleges aren’t the only ones in the world. One could research what it would take to get a cheaper degree elsewhere, while also getting some excellent exposure to other cultures. My sister (Indian, like me), for example, did her masters degree in Sweden and her PhD. in Amsterdam, and got paid for doing both those degrees.

    2. A college degree is pretty damn important for the purposes of immigration. Most ‘skilled labour’ visas worldwide require a college degree.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent points, as always Mrs. BITA. I wholeheartedly agree. I wish more Americans looked overseas for college. Like you said, it’s a great way to broaden your horizons and learn another language. It also won’t put you in the poor house.

  18. I agree that college isn’t for everyone, but don’t just go with SATs as predictors. High School grades should matter as well, even if the quality of the education can vary quite a bit.

    Why? Some kids test well but have no study skills. My brother was one of those. He got his degree…in 7 years. He did his law degree on time, but it took him a while (and a stint in the Marine Reserves) to develop the skills to succeed in school. He really wasn’t mature enough at 18.

    Other kids actually have good study skills and work hard, but don’t test so well. They tend to do fine in college because they’re not afraid of the work, but they’ve got the fire.

    • I agree with Emily 100%. I don’t test well but took all AP classes in high school and graduated with a 3.3 GPA. Aside from the standardized tests to get in, I did great once I was in college and graduated in 4 years.

      We really need to look at academic performance as a whole to determine the likelihood of success in college.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Oh, excellent point, Emily. I forgot about high school grades and the very real phenomenon of bright people who are poor test takers. Definitely have to amend my test for college material. I’m thinking of a class rank of the 75th or 80th percentile. Is that a fair cut off point?

      • I think so, though the best predictor is probably success in more rigorous classes, like AP and IB (International Baccalaureate) coursework or college classes taken in college. Again, you get kids who are passionate about one or two subjects and do really well in them, but not in others. Those kids can be a lot more successful in college than in high school because they can specialize.

        • Mr. Groovy

          Thank you, Emily. I’m so out of touch with what’s going on in high school these days. I graduated from high school in 1979 and I don’t think there were such things as AP and IB classes back then–at least not in my school district, anyway.

  19. How do I sign up for your FootballU? I want to play in the NFL!

    This is one of the items I’ve been challenging our school district with. High School guidance counselor do a great job outlining the process of getting into college, but do a very poor job of explaining career path, ROI of a degree, and job market after graduation.

    Do I smell a kickback?

    • Mr. Groovy

      Nailed it, Brian. I went off to college in 1979. At that time, college wasn’t expensive and it was still a novelty for most graduating high school seniors. ROI, in turn, wasn’t a major concern. Today, however, the story is much different. College is very expensive and most graduating high school seniors pursue some form of post-secondary education. ROI is critical. Screw it up and you can sabotage your financial future for decades.

  20. If I could go back 8 years in the past to my senior year of high school, I wouldn’t go to college. I’d start a business at 18 and fail my way forward. Luckily for me, I didn’t have much student debt (8k) and I paid it off, but now I’m a looking to start a business at 24/25 and have a full time gig and a house… life is just a bunch of choices 🙂

    Thanks for sharing Mr. Groovy.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Same here, Erik. I got a 630 on the math portion of the SAT and 450 on the verbal portion (I wasn’t a reader until college). So intellectually I was somewhat prepared for college. But emotionally I wasn’t. Had no stomach for work. And I certainly didn’t have any discipline. Needless to say, my first round of college was a supreme waste of time and money. The better route for me right after high school would have been work.

  21. I think it depends on the University. Recently I saw an article touting my alma matter as having a decent graduation rate of 80 percent. True enough. But it’s 80 percent after 8 years. It’s in the 20s for 4 years. But, part of the school’s brand is it kills you and weeds out the weak. You know that going in, so be it. Skirting over the qualifications to get in is not a good idea there. Conversely, I know people from a local community college where the criteria to succeed is about level with the hs level. People still get a decent pay jump from these schools, usually in a trade even though it’s not a trade school. It’s relative.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent points, FTF. It is indeed relative. Getting a philosophy degree from Harvard will probably pay off in the long run. Getting a philosophy degree from Podunk U will probably keep you in poverty unless you learn how to service HVAC equipment or manage a McDonald’s.

  22. Awesome article! My brother is a hockey player and arguably shouldn’t have gone to college, except that he went to play. He chose to major in Philosophy, and while he won’t have debt because of scholarships, I really don’t know what he will do with his degree if hockey doesn’t work out.

    I am with Fritz – The mission Mike Rowe is on to make the trades a viable option, instead of being portrayed as a subpar route meant for apes, is incredible. I know truck drivers, miners, and landscapers making +$50,0000 a year with no degree. They wouldn’t be half as well off if they had gone to college. We have to keep spreading the word that there is no one route to success!

    • Mr. Groovy

      THANK YOU, Chelsea! You are so right. Here’s one for you. One of my good buddies bought a small bread route right after high school with the help of his father. By the time I finished college five years later, he was making over $150K. And this was in 1984. You know what I was making at my first job after college? A measly $17K. As you so aptly stated, Chelsea, “there is no one route to success.”

      P.S. I love college hockey. When I was living in New York, my friends and I would go to the Beanpot Tournament in Boston. Where does your brother play?

      • Crazy story! A friend of mine started a landscaping company when we were in high school. By the time he finished his senior year he had secured contracts with the school district. He was definitely making way more than most of our friends by the time everyone else finished college.

        The Beanpot tournament is great! My brother was at College of the Holy Cross, but now he plays AA hockey in the ECHL (below the AHL). He had a good rookie season and it is a fun level to watch!

        • Mr. Groovy

          That’s great, Chelsea. I wish your brother well. Just to get to that level he’s got to be a damn good hockey player. Do they still fight a lot in the minors? Or has that largely left the game at that level too?

  23. Great analogy with the “Football U”, and a nice twist to make your point. It’s a valid argument that not everyone is cut out to be a college star, and I do think the technical/trade route is undervalued. I love the work Mike Rowe is doing to promote the trades. I hope more folks consider that option, maybe your post will help!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Fritz. I just don’t get it. There’s no shame in not being NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL material. Why is there shame in not being doctor, lawyer, or Wall Street quant material? I don’t want to steal a person’s dreams. But I also don’t want to saddle a person with a mountain of student loan debt and nothing to show for it.