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Is Going to College Worth It?

If you're interested in pursuing a specific, knowledge-based career path in a heavily regulated field such as medicine or engineering, college is unavoidable. But if you're like most young adults, you have multiple interests and you're open to exploring several options - as you should be. If this is the case, it's worth seriously re-assessing our options before making a financial commitment that may keep you an indentured servant into your 30's, or even 40's.

The days of a 4 year college degree being the gold standard are over. For most for us, a 4 year college degree is simply not worth it.

Why is college so expensive?

1. Universities are brands that don't offer full value for what you pay.

Why is college so expensive?

No different than Nike, Apple or Coca Cola, universities in deregulated markets are businesses that engage in marketing activities to create clout and goodwill that customers are willing to pay for. Except in this case, the customers are the students

If you pay $10,000 per year to go to “School A”, a local public college versus $50,000 per year to go to “School B”, a top 50 ranked private college, is the quality of education really 500% better at “School B”? Is a graduate of school B really 5x better prepared for the work force? Will their salary be 5x higher after graduation? Will they accumulate 5x more wealth in their lifetime? Before picking a post-secondary institution, make sure you’re getting the value you pay for.

2. Majors offered in universities are not driven by the labor market.

Why is college so expensive?

How can a student majoring in Eastern European literature, South American Political History or interpretive dance expect to land a career after college? There are too many majors offered on subject areas where little to no career opportunities exist.

If you’re interested in learning about particular subject matter, there are many ways to become an expert in that area without accumulating massive student debt and starting life at a disadvantage.

Universities are no longer the exclusive owners of knowledge. In Ancient Greek times, the first universities served as central repositories of information. But a lot has changed since the days of Socrates and Aristotle. (Besides the fact that attending university was free back then). It’s 2019, and all the world’s knowledge is available in your pocket.

For those seeking a more structured approach to acquiring knowledge than ad hoc Google searches, several online academies have emerged that offer incredible value.

Coursera.org for instance has partnered with several of the world's top universities to offer universal access to top academic content across almost every imaginable subject matter, from European history to software development.

Even the Ivy League have caught on to the trend as Harvard, Yale, Stanford and the like have created free online learning portals with limited course offerings.

Remember that college should be treated like a business decision. If you’re going to spend $50,000 and give up 4+ years of potential work earnings to study something that won’t get you a job in a relevant field, you may want to re-consider your options.

If you have a specific career path in mind that requires a university education such a medicine or aerospace engineering, that’s a completely different story. But it’s no longer worth going to university to study something purely out of interest.

3. Your tuition is used to finance expensive facilities, and is laden with other hidden fees.

Why is college so expensive?
Why is college so expensive? You can blame 5 star facilities.

The first universities were developed to create independent, critical thinkers who grow to become better able to tackle real world problems and solve life’s most pressing problems – not to give students the opportunity to lounge in a 5 star resort. Olympic sized pools, rock climbing walls, indoor tennis courts and Crossfit style gyms are all built into your tuition

Although they provide no lasting value to students after graduation, colleges have found that having resort-like facilities attracts more students from high-income families, while this also raises the cost for everyone else. And you're also charged whether you use the facilities or not

Other additional charges including administrative fees, athletic fees, counselling charges, mandatory orientation and funding student unions are also often overlooked, and have a substantial impact on the total cost of college. When combined, mandatory fees on average make up 20% of your college tuition bill. Considering an average cost of $9,970 per year to study within your own state at a public college, almost $2000 of that amount is going to pay for miscellaneous fees just to keep the institution running. Spend the average $25,600 per year to attend a public college out of state and you're looking at a whopping $5,120 per year in mandatory charges

These fees provide an easy way for universities to mask the true cost of tuition, and an increasing number of schools have caught on to the trend. Since 1999, mandatory fees have increased by over 30%.

4. Today's colleges offer too many majors, which makes school more expensive for everyone.

Why is college so expensive?
Too many major choices confuses students and raises tuition costs.

Students are overwhelmed by universities with more major options than ever before. Based on the US Department of Education’s list of academic programs offered at American universities, there has been an almost 50% increase in the number of programs offered between 1990 and today.

Every program that’s added to the repertoire requires additional classroom space, equipment, professors, and teaching assistants – raising the tuition cost for everyone.

It also makes it harder for students to pick a direction and stick with it. Approximately 80% of students will change their major at least once during their undergraduate academic careers, which adds semesters or even years to the time it takes to acquire a degree

The all too popular college major of “undecided” is the choice of an estimated 40% of American college freshmen. I can’t think of a bigger waste of money than paying an institution thousands of dollars per year while you’re in limbo, trying to determine a direction. Taking time off from full times studies can do wonders by offering perspective and often giving you the clarity to see what you really want to do. Below we discuss some of the best alternatives to a 4 year college degree if you're not completely convinced.

What are the best alternatives to a 4 year college degree?

What are good alternatives to college?

The belief that earning a university degree is the optimal path for everyone, and it's your best bet to set you up for a life of financial success is antiquated, and simply not true. If you're having second thoughts about whether or not college is for you, take some time to consider one of these options:

1. Internet-based careers.

What are good alternatives to college?
Internet-based careers have become a great alternative to a college degree.

The modern age has created tons of internet-based career options that have not yet even been recognized by the world of traditional academia. More and more people are making a living through blogging, affiliate marketing, search engine optimization, drop shipping, and video editing; while simultaneously working from the comfort of their homes and escaping the 9-5 grind. All of these skills are available to anyone, at an affordable price, via comprehensive courses and programs offered by many reputable sites with proven track records of success

Large institutions are always the slowest to adopt change. Don't take the university system's collective failure to acknowledge these career options as proof that they aren't legitimate alternatives to a 4 year degree. (Some called Jeff Bezos crazy for thinking he could create a profitable company by selling books online).

2. Trade School.

What are good alternatives to college?
"If I’ve got one call to action, it’s that I want to see parents and guardians of our newest generation of kids encourage them to keep an open mind when it comes to the trades. And if you’re thinking of making a career change, the skilled trades are a great place to be, no matter your age. I’ve seen lawyers walk away from their field to pick up a hammer and they’ve never been happier." - Mike Holmes

Today, Baby Boomers (born 1946-1966) account for the majority of the workforce in traditional sectors such as construction and manufacturing, but many of them are beginning to retire. The school system's gradual shift toward advocating college as the best option for everyone has pushed many millennials into other sectors, creating a huge (and growing) need for skilled trades across North America. Today, more than 50% of skilled tradespeople are over 45 years old, and it is estimated that 31 million positions will be left vacant by 2020 if this trend continues.

The high demand for skilled trades is reflected in the high wages earned by its practitioners. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the average journeyman electrician or plumber earns over $50,000 annually, while top 10% rakes in over $90,000 – not including additional money earned by taking on weekend side jobs which can easily add an additional 25% or more to your income.

Skilled tradespeople who set up their own practice have the potential to earn incredibly high salaries, which you may have seen if you've ever had to write a check to an emergency plumber for their $100-125 per hour services.

A trade professional willing to brave the cold also have the option of electing to work in a remote location for a significant pay premium. In the oil fields of Fort McMurray, Alberta, equipment operators earn $104,749 per year, and their shift manager takes in a healthy $130,892 per year, according to a survey taken by Indeed.

At a cost of $33,000 for the average trade school degree, the price tag is considerably lower than the $127,000 spent by the average student in acquiring a 4 year college degree, according to a study conducted by the Idaho Department of Labour. And while a 4 year college degree gives no guarantee than you'll find a relevant job after graduation, trade school prepares students for work in specific fields, and gets you started working as an apprentice as soon as your in-class hours are complete.

3. Unpaid internship.

What are good alternatives to college?

Taking an unpaid internship could be a decision that completely changes the trajectory of your career and your life. By working with and learning from a seasoned expert in a field you are looking to get into, you get the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and potentially cut years off the time it takes to achieve your desired outcome. You might also find out you aren't really that crazy about the area you thought you were passionate about, saving you from spending thousands of dollars majoring in that subject matter in college.

Do you have a special skill which you can offer a business? Savvy business owners are always looking for ways to add value to their enterprise. Maybe you're really good at spreadsheets, or video editing. Find a way to contact business owners, either by e-mail or social media DM. Make them a quick pitch. Something like this:

Dear Mr. / Mrs. X,

I design and develop websites, and would like to offer you one year of my services for free. I can add value to your website by making it faster for users and optimizing the layout for SEO, ultimately driving more traffic to your business.

Here is a link to my portfolio so you can take a look at my work: XXXXXXXXX

I would be grateful for an opportunity to speak with you at your earliest convenience.

Thank you.
Your Name

Keep it simple. Get straight to the point. Get inside the mind of a busy entrepreneur and try to write what you would want to hear. You will be pleasantly surprised by the number of responses you'll get.

Do you think college is worth it? Let us know below.

What are good alternatives to college?
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