Instapundit » Blog Archive » HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: College Isn’t Always Worth It: Across the Anglosphere, the elite…
. . . and going deep into debt for an education is nearly always a bad idea.
"Across the Anglosphere, the elite conventional wisdom holds that a college degree is the only ticket to a middle-class career. But a new study suggests that for some students, at least in the UK, the the much-hyped ‘higher-education premium’ may be inflated or nonexistent. The Sunday Times reports . . . .
There are of course differences between the UK and U.S. higher education systems, and (to our knowledge) no identical study has been conducted here. But the economist Allison Schrager has crunched comparable numbers on American students and found that, “for every degree short of a graduate degree, there’s a decent chance that a good high school graduate will out-earn you.” In other words, it’s not unlikely that marginal students in marginal programs—in the U.S. as well as the UK—would do better to avoid student loans, avoid the opportunity cost, and seek technical or vocational training. The idea that everybody needs four or even two years of academic instruction after high school is madness. When so many students leave high school with something much less than an adequate proficiency in key subjects, it makes much more sense to fix the fundamentals of the system than to tack on more and more years at the end.
Academics and professionals who loved school and did well in it have a hard time understanding that not everybody wants, needs or enjoys drawn-out academic instruction—and that these people can and do make worthwhile contributions to the common good. An education system that made more room for vocational programs in areas like carpentry, plumbing, med tech, and practical nursing would waste less time trying to pound round pegs into square holes."
This is a subject near and dear to our heart since Maddogsson is in college, although deferred until he completes his Marine Corps Boot Camp, Marine Combat Training course, and his MOS course, and Maddogsdatir, is 16 and will soon be college bound.
The costs of college today are seldom worth it for anyone other than those who are in the top 25 - 30% of their high school class, exceptions for schools where the studies are unusually rigorous, and the "bench" is unusually deep.
Caveat: I have told a story in the past of a friend whose daughter took nearly $200,000 in college loans. I met with them again at Maddogsson's Semper Fi party. They said, that although their daughter (married) is living in San Francisco, and has been for the 5-6 years since graduating, she has managed to pay off all of her student loans! I was nonplussed, to say the least, since she had about $200,000 in loans on graduation.
She did this by living in a guest cottage on her in-laws property. They apparently live in the area, and are wealthy enough to have converted a garage into a two story, detached cottage. It does not have cooking facilities, so the couple lives rent free and even eats with his parents most nights.
This is not a reproducible outcome. This young woman earns $90,000 working as a very high end engineer in a downtown San Francisco engineering firm, and lives room and board free. She has frugally saved every penny, and both she, and her husband (also a high earner) have used these savings to pay off all of their student loans.
Regardless, they still don't make enough income to actually afford to buy a middle class home in most parts of San Francisco.
For the average student $200,000 in student debt is a life sentence, and even for the average engineering student who has to pay room and board, car payments, and everything else, the ability to repay such a large loan would be very difficult, and would take decades. It would clearly delay home purchase, and nearly every other large dollar purchase.
Good article outlining the problems students face, and addressing the issue that higher education is not always a good thing.