This post was originally published on October 12, 2018 and completely updated with fresh stats and facts March 5, 2020.
We’ve heard it tons of times.
“A college education is the key to a successful, financially secure future.”
And maybe it was true 20 years ago.
But things have changed drastically.
In his book Leveraged Learning, education pioneer Danny Iny calls college, “…old, musty and maybe dead.”
“Higher education is no longer working for the average student or for the companies looking to hire them,” he says. “That’s why it’s a good idea to take a hard look at the facts before committing four or more years of your life and spending a lot of money.”
So, should you invest in higher education? And if you don’t, what alternatives can you grab for a better, brighter future?
Let’s look at some facts.
Is College Worth the Cost? What 2020 Research Says
Despite the pristine togas and huge grins at graduation day, the facts paint a dreary picture of students post-graduation.
They’re saddled with enormous debt, struggling to support themselves, and wondering why their dream companies aren’t hiring them.
- In the last 10 years, the price of college has risen by 25%.
- What’s more, tuition rates and fees are growing every single year. Here’s a look at the difference between the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years.
- Entering college doesn’t guarantee you’ll earn a degree. In fact, only 59% of college students graduate in six years. In four years, the numbers are even slimmer – only 41%!
- The average tuition at a public in-state college is $10,116. At a private college, it’s $36, 801.
- Students owe a total of $1.64 trillion in student loans. In fact, student loans are the second largest loan category in the U.S. (second only to housing!)
- Students with loans over $100,000 pay the equivalent of a home loan every month for up to 20 years. To make it worse, bankruptcy laws prohibit exemption from paying off student loans.
- Huge, successful companies like Google, Penguin Random House, and Hilton prioritize skills over a bachelor’s degree in the hiring process.
These are sobering facts, especially if you’re about to enter college.
But once you’ve completed your degree, you’ll get your dream job and quickly pay off all your debts. Right?
Not so fast.
- Recent graduates are experiencing the highest unemployment rate in 30 years. In fact, it’s higher than the unemployment rate of overall workers.
- Because of technology and automation, entry level jobs open to new graduates are declining (for instance, bank tellers became ATM machines). This means new graduates have to settle for underemployment, taking jobs as Uber drivers, waiters, and home health aides. The low pay these jobs offer make it even more difficult for students to pay off their student loan debts.
- 41% of recent graduates and 33.8% of overall graduates are underemployed.
Put together, these facts make it crystal clear for you: A college education doesn’t guarantee you a bright, secure future. In fact, it might be just the opposite.
The Pros and Cons of Going to College
So, should every single person skip college?
The secret is to consider college on a case-to-case basis. You need to weigh the pros and cons of going to college, which industry you dream of working in, and whether or not you can afford college.
The Pros of Going to College (Indicators that College is Right for You)
If these three things are true of you, college might be worth the cost.
1. You Want to Be a Doctor, Lawyer, or Pilot
There are occupations you can’t get into without a professional license. For instance, if you want to be a doctor, nurse, land surveyor, lawyer, teacher, or pilot, you first need to complete a degree in higher education. Then, you can proceed to get your license.
2. You Can Afford College and Want the Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience It Promises
We’ve seen what an adventure college is.
There are frat and sorority parties, study clubs, and trips. You’ll meet and bond with new friends in a unique, unforgettable way. It’s a rite of passage into adulthood and independence.
So, if you have four (or more) years to spare and you can afford the heavy tuition and fees, why not go to college? It’ll leave you richer in experience and memories.
3. You Need Time to Figure Out Your Career Path
At a young age, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you’re going to do in the future. If you need time and space to find yourself and who you are, going to college is a good idea.
The Cons of Going to College
Here are five reasons going to college may NOT be worth the cost for you.
1. College Isn’t a Good Choice for Creative Types
If you’re a creative type like a writer, artist, or idea-maker, going to college can turn out to be disastrous. In fact, creatives suffer the most when it comes to graduate unemployment.
2. The Nature of Jobs Is Changing Rapidly
According to Mark Schaefer, who teaches a forward-thinking class at Rutgers, our world is changing fast. To keep up with it, we need to be “change junkies.”
Here’s a quote from Mark about the marketing industry.
So, imagine studying a four-year marketing course. By the time you graduate, trends will have changed drastically. Buyer needs and responses will no longer be the same.
What do you do with your four years of wasted time and your load of debt when you find yourself learning marketing from scratch?
3. College Isn’t Enough to Prepare You for a Successful, Fulfilling Future
According to Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang, “the traditional education space is not preparing our students for the future…” Students who learn everything by the book don’t have room for transformation and deep personal growth.
That’s why she started Classroom without Walls, a program designed to help students future-proof their lives and careers.
4. There Are New Hybrid Jobs College Can’t Prepare You For
20 years ago, people would have looked at you in bewilderment if you mentioned jobs like “content marketer,” “content strategist,” and “SEO specialist.”
But today, these are the jobs tons of workers are scrambling for. They promise:
- Freedom from the nine to five rat-race
- The chance to work in a fluid and ever-changing environment
- Great pay (a content strategist is paid $61,031 a year, even without experience)
The problem is the skills these jobs demand aren’t taught in school. You can get a four-year education and not have the grit, growth-mindset, and creativity these jobs require.
5. In the Hiring Game, You Can Lose to People without Degrees
Let’s say you have a degree in journalism, and you want to be a copywriter.
Here’s what a copywriting job offer looks like.
The qualifications for the job? Experience. That’s it.
This means a non-degree holder has as much chance as you of grabbing this job. It all boils down to who’s a better writer.
What Alternatives Can You Take Instead of Going to College?
Not going to college doesn’t mean you’ll sit around and wait for an amazing job to drop into your lap.
There are other sure-fire ways to increase your chances of getting an exciting, profitable job without wasting years on campus and incurring thousands of dollars in debt.
1. Dive into the Tons of Free Content Online
The web is packed with blogs, webinars, podcasts, and live shows created by experts in different industries. You can basically pick experts’ brains on any topic you want to gain in-depth knowledge on.
Here are three educational podcasts you should listen to:
Looking for free online courses to boost your learning and expertise? Try these three:
2. Join an Immersion Program
Earlier, I mentioned Dr. Ai Addyson-Zhang’s Classroom without Walls. If you want to meet experts and mentors from around the world and benefit from a holistic education, this 3-month program is the one for you.
3. Take the Content Strategy and Marketing Course
A career as a content strategist is amazing. When you work in content strategy, you’ll:
- Become part of a $412.88 billion industry. This means no unemployment or shortage of jobs for you.
- Work on your own terms and create your own schedule.
- Get paid more than the average yearly salary in the U.S.
The good news is you don’t need a degree to learn all the skills you need to make it as a competent content strategist.
All you need is my 6-week course. Here’s a sneak peak into what you can get from the course.
- Learn the basics of content strategy, including how to find your brand’s content differentiation factor.
- Discover your audience’s needs and desires, then create personas so you always speak to them on a deep, personal level.
- Dive into the fundamentals of SEO, so your content is always optimized.
- Establish your authority online.
- Create solid content that’s consistent, high-quality, and buyer-focused.
- Learn secrets on budgeting for content and how to promote and maintain your content.
Here’s how students have benefited from the Content Strategy and Marketing course.
Is College Worth the Cost for You?
These days, the answer to this question is not a hands-down “yes.”
College costs are soaring. Student loan debts are next only to home loans. And having a degree doesn’t guarantee you the security of a job.
The key is to sit down and think about it before committing to a four-year course. Evaluate the pros and cons of college. Consider alternatives that are cheaper and take a shorter time to complete. Determine your dream career.
Only then will you know whether college is worth the cost for you.