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Paying for College and Grad School: How to Avoid Spending $100,000 (or more) on a Credential You Don’t Really Need

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Yesterday, while flipping channels at 2 in the afternoon, I realized something: “The Real Housewives of Orange County” was playing on not one, but TWO channels at the same time. Two different episodes, at once. Is this heaven?

Besides that show, and Jersey Shore, one of my other odd loves is reading online articles about education (see my bookmarks about education.) In fact, wade into virtually any online discussion about education, and you’ll quickly notice the following beliefs:

  • Majoring in English or psychology is useless. Study the hard sciences
  • Anyone who spends $50,000/year for a college education is a fool
  • “Elite” colleges are simply for rich kids whose daddies got them in, and they coast until they get their 6-figure job
  • Do anything possible to graduate without debt! Better to go to that state school than the expensive school!

Unfortunately, each of those above “beliefs” — which are usually presented as fact — is wrong.

Yet online commenters have been increasingly vocal about pushing these beliefs, spreading them until the point where they seem almost axiomatic.

And yet, today we have an incredibly detailed and persuasive guest post from someone who disagrees with me.

Someone who thinks that many universities — even elite schools — are a waste of money.

Someone who argues that you can do the most important part of education on your own.

And someone who shows us that, even if you’ve graduated, it’s critically important to understand how we make our educational choices, because they reveal so much about our invisible scripts, or the hidden choices we make — often without even knowing them.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “education is the most important thing you can do,” you know what I’m talking about (especially if you’re Asian).

Josh Kaufman is one of my friends and one of the people I call when I’m stuck on a marketing or systems problem. When it comes to education, I like to hear opposing views — if that they are written by smart people, not anonymous pitchfork-carrying online warriors.

So here’s Josh — with some counter-intuitive arguments, but carefully delineated and argued. I don’t agree with everything, but there will not be a better 15 minutes that you spend today.

If you’re intrigued, you can get his new book: The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business.

Remember, this post is not just about education. It’s about blindly following what “everyone” says in our careers, personal finances, relationships, and virtually all of our major decisions.

* * *

Josh Kaufman: Unbundling College: How to Avoid Spending $100,000 (or more) on a Credential You Don’t Really Need

On my way back from a recent trip to New York City, I found myself in a rush hour subway car bound for JFK International Airport. It was a long ride, and you can only be smashed next to someone for so long before it becomes more comfortable to strike up a conversation than endure the cramped silence.

One of the interesting people I met on that subway car was a young woman (let’s call her Jennifer), who was beach-bound to celebrate graduating from a masters program “in Boston.” After prying a bit, she told me she had just graduated from Harvard Business School.

I asked her what she planned to do next. “I’m moving to the west coast to work for a consulting company,” she replied.

“Are you excited about that?”

“Not at all,” she said with a grimace. “I want to work in developing countries, but the World Bank said I had to have a masters degree, so I went to HBS. When I applied after graduation, they told me that they’d already ‘filled their quota of Americans,’ and there was nothing they could do. I don’t want to be a consultant, and I know I won’t enjoy it, but it’s the only other job I can get that’ll pay enough to cover my student loans.”

For all of her intelligence and drive, Jennifer was an indentured servant.

Then Jennifer asked me what I do for a living. I told her that I’m a business teacher, and that I’d just finished my first book.

What I didn’t tell Jennifer is that I teach people to avoid making the same mistake she did.

“You can’t put a price on a good education”… or can you?

If you ask your parents or mentors how to become successful, their answer will most likely include four interrelated invisible scripts:

  • “Get the best education you can.”
  • “Colleges provide the best education.”
  • “The best colleges are expensive.”
  • “More college is better.”

Like so many of the invisible scripts we grow up with, three of these assumptions aren’t necessarily true.

After graduating from high school, almost everyone will tell you that you should obtain a bachelor’s degree – at a minimum. If you’re smart and want to become extra successful, go to medical school to become an MD, go to law school to become a lawyer, or get an MBA to become a C-level executive with a company jet, stock options, and golden parachute.

Most people seem to think that that the path to becoming a successful person is linear, non-negotiable, and unchanging: go to school at the best institution you can get into (where “best” equals “most expensive”), and pay whatever it takes to attend. Common wisdom says that no price is too high to pay for a “good education”, as long as that education comes in the form of a degree from a prestigious school.

Common wisdom is dead wrong.

Separating education from credentialing

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge advocate of getting a world-class education. Here’s the rub: education and credentialing aren’t the same thing.

Education is the process of learning something useful – concepts, knowledge, and skills that improve your life in some way. Education is what happens in your head, not necessarily what happens in a classroom.

Credentialing is the process of completing a (mostly arbitrary) set of criteria in exchange for a social signal – a degree, certificate, or other form of verifiable proof you’ve played by the rules.

If you want to succeed – to do work that matters, make a difference, and live a rich life, you owe it to yourself to get the very best education you possibly can. That does NOT mean mindlessly mortgaging your financial future (and/or the financial stability of your family) in order to obtain an expensive and unnecessary credential.

Education and credentialing are sold as a bundle, but you’re usually better off unbundling them as much as you’re able. By treating them as separate tools with different objectives, you expand your available options enormously.

Where the scripts came from…

It’s not that our parents and mentors are misguided: the world of credentialing has changed dramatically in the past few decades, and the scripts haven’t caught up.

Twenty five years ago, college was less expensive by a factor of ten, even after adjusting for inflation. You could pay most of your costs by working for minimum wage part time and full time over the summer, and the degree opened enough doors to make a credential a pretty good investment. According to research published by USA Today:

The average debt for a college graduate has soared 50% in the past decade, after inflation, according to the Project on Student Debt, a non-profit advocacy group…

Today, students who don’t want to borrow at higher rates have few other options. Twenty-five years ago, students who wanted to avoid debt could use money from part-time and summer jobs to help pay for college. But since then, college tuition has risen at twice the rate of consumer prices. Tuition has soared much faster than pay has for the kinds of low-wage jobs that students tend to hold.

In 1981, a student could work full time all summer at minimum wage and earn about two-thirds of annual college costs, according to an analysis by Heather Boushey, economist for the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Today, a student earning minimum wage would have to work full time for a year to afford one year of education at a four-year public university – and that assumes she saves every penny, Boushey concluded.

A recent article in The Economist paints a similar picture:

“College fees have for decades risen faster than Americans’ ability to pay them. Median household income has grown by a factor of 6.5 in the past 40 years, but the cost of attending a state college has increased by a factor of 15 for in-state students and 24 for out-of-state students. The cost of attending a private college has increased by a factor of more than 13 (a year in the Ivy League will set you back $38,000, excluding bed and board). Academic inflation makes medical inflation look modest by comparison.”

The benefits of credentials have declined over time, but the costs have increased dramatically. It’s basic math: the higher the cost and the lower the benefit, the worse the return on your investment.

Credentialing is primarily social signaling

“This is a story about us, people being persuaded to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last, on people we don’t care about.” – Tim Jackson, in a TED talk on conspicuous consumption

College credentialing has become a luxury market. Students (and their parents) aren’t really buying education – they’re buying social status. The credential is seen as a straightforward path to prestige.

In “The Prestige Racket” journalist Daniel Luzer of the Washington Monthly exposed one of the primary reasons behind the last few decades of credential inflation: perception engineering.

Today George Washington, like many “up-and-coming” second-tier schools – American University, New York University – is ruinously expensive. After decades of offering a low-cost education, GW took a sharp turn upmarket in the late 1980s under the presidency of Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. The university went on a high-class building spree, financed by a dizzying series of tuition increases. When Trachtenberg took office, undergraduate tuition was $14,000 – below average for a private, four-year college. By the time he left in 2007, it had mushroomed to $39,000 a year (or, including fees and room and board, a whopping $50,000) – making GW the most expensive school in the United States.

What Trachtenberg understood was that perception is reality in higher education – and perception can be bought. “You can get a Timex or a Casio for $65 or you can get a Rolex or a Patek Philippe for $10,000. It’s the same thing,” Trachtenberg says. The former president gambled that students who couldn’t quite get into the nation’s most exclusive colleges – and who would otherwise overlook a workmanlike school like the old GW – would flock to a university that at least had a price tag and a swank campus like those of the Ivy Leagues. “It serves as a trophy, a symbol,” he says. “It’s a sort of token of who they think they are.”

What’s amazing is that this strategy worked. During Trachtenberg’s tenure, applications for undergraduate admission increased from 6,000 to 20,000 a year, GW students’ average SAT scores increased by 200 points, the endowment increased to almost $1 billion…

Welcome to today’s increasingly elite higher education system, where lavish campuses, high tuition, and huge undergraduate debt loads have become the norm. In dogged competition for affluent, high-scoring students, today’s second-tier colleges aim to achieve higher prestige by aping the superficial characteristics of America’s traditionally elite schools. Indeed, there are few alternatives for ambitious administrators. “If you want to rise, you try to do the things that make you look like Harvard,” says David Labaree, a professor of education at Stanford University. “It’s hard to take a different path.”

(Reading this article is instructive – reading the comments from GWU alumni is even more so. Watch what happens when people believe their social status – which they’ve paid for – is in jeopardy.)

Expensive credentials are rather like expensive cars – you’re paying a lot of money for a depreciating asset whose value declines within five years of purchase. When purchasing a car, you can choose between a Rolls Royce and a Honda Civic. Both will get you where you need to go, but at a dramatically different cost. Is the short-term bump in perceived social status really worth it in the long run?

The Student Loan Industrial Complex

Make no mistake – credentialing can certainly open doors, but it can just as easily close them if you pay too much. If you finance your credential with student loans, you can quickly find yourself in a position where you’re paying the equivalent of a mortgage. Today’s student loans are often mortgage-sized, and work pretty much the same way. You’ll pay 5-10% interest, depending on whether or not it’s a Federal or private loan, and the payments amortize like a mortgage loan. For the first few years, you’ll be paying mostly interest, and if all goes well, you’ll ultimately pay 2 to 3 times the original principle to discharge the loan.

If you find yourself experiencing financial hardship for any reason – unemployment, layoffs, medical emergencies, etc, you’ll quickly find yourself in what I like to call the “Student Loan Death Spiral”. Every time you defer a payment, miss a payment, apply for abatement or forbearance, or consolidate your loans, you’ll rack up automatic additional fees on top of your original principle. That can quickly make your total debt load grow to unmanageable proportions overnight. (For details, see this detailed infographic: The Student Loan Scheme: Gateway Drug to Debt Slavery)

Student loans are also subject to another unique legal provision (at least in the US): they can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. No matter what happens in your financial life, your student loan debts will follow you to the day you either pay them off or die. (The only other loans that fall in this special federal “no escape” category are debts from criminal acts and fraud.)

Taking on loans to finance a credential can make becoming a successful person more difficult than it really needs to be. Debts make it difficult to change course, even if you find you don’t like your new life as much as you thought you would. And, just like credit card debt, they can quickly overwhelm you if you spend more than you can pay. Know the risks before you sign on the dotted line.

Never forget that colleges, universities, and student loan providers are businesses, and have a vested interest in maximizing the total amount you pay for a credential. The more you pay, the more limited your options and the lower your return.

What to do if you ABSOLUTELY need a credential

Sometimes, you really do need the piece of paper. If your desired job mandates a credential as a legal requirement of doing business, you may have to suck it up and get one. The only time a credential is worth the cost is when it’s used as a non-negotiable screening criteria to do the work you already know you want to do, and there’s no other way. If the path you want to take absolutely requires a credential as a screening mechanism, it pays to do what you can to get the best signaling value as quickly and as inexpensively as possible.

If you absolutely must have a credential to do what you want to do, NEVER EVER PAY RETAIL. Here’s what you can do to minimize the direct costs of credentialing:

  • Counterintuitively, apply to the most well-known and prestigious programs you can. Well-endowed private universities are usually in a much better position than public universities and community colleges when it comes to awarding financial aid, grants, and scholarships, so “expensive” schools can give you the highest signaling value AND end up being less expensive in total. Aside from the time and money you invest in applications, there’s little harm in applying to evaluate your true options. Remember, it’s not about the sticker price – it’s about what you ultimately pay in total for the credential, and how much money you borrow to pay for it. If you can get a degree from Harvard or Stanford for a few thousand dollars, by all means, go for it.
  • Apply for EVERY financial aid program, scholarship, and grant you can – even if you think you won’t get it. Way too many people disqualify themselves for financial aid instead of letting the selection committee decide. My wife and I both completed our undergraduate studies on full-ride scholarships neither of us believed there was any chance we’d receive.
  • Establish residency before you attend. Most US colleges and universities give massive discounts to citizens of the state they’re located in, typically as a condition of state funding. Never pay “out of state” tuition – most residency requirements are ~1 year, so establish residency by taking a “gap year” before you attend to save boatloads of money.
  • Look for little-known backdoors. Competition to get into top programs can be intense, but there are often hidden backdoors if you’re willing to do some research and try an unconventional approach. Backdoors can help you pull off anything from getting an accredited bachelors degree in one year for $4,000 to skipping the admissions process and graduating from Harvard for $40,000.

In addition, here are five things you can do to ensure your credential investment pays off:

1. Don’t enroll in a credentialing program if you’re still figuring out what you want to do with your life.

Many people advocate going to college as a way to “explore the world” and “find yourself.” Here’s the secret: you can do this quite well on your own, without paying a college five-figures per 36-week-year for the privilege.

I’m a huge advocate of “gap years” – intentionally and mindfully taking some unstructured time to explore the world and experiment on your own. Most colleges allow you to defer enrollment for up to two years after you’re accepted, so there’s little reason not to take them up on the opportunity.

If you’re young, rent an apartment close to whatever college you think you’d like to attend, so you’re surrounded by people your age. (You don’t have to be accepted to a university to live near campus.) Talk with professionals in whatever field you’re interested in exploring. E-mail or call a professor or TA in your intended field and ask them which books you should read, who you should talk to, and which conferences you should attend. By showing more initiative than most enrolled students, you’ll receive help exploring any field you’re interested in – before paying tuition.

Even accounting for living costs, gap years are an inexpensive but valuable education – your time is fully your own, and you can invest that time in any way you deem best: starting a business, meeting people, traveling, or doing research on your own. (Partying is also an option, if that’s important to you.)

You can also use this time to optimize the remainder of your education and credentialing. Find a way to graduate in 2-3 years instead of 4-5 (by planning your course load and testing out of classes), and you can easily save tens of thousands of dollars.

2. Don’t seek a credential in a field where skills and experience matter more than the certification.

In a recent New York Times article, Allison Brooke Eastman, an aspiring photographer, revealed that she racked up $170,000 in student loan debt pursuing a photography degree – a situation so bad her fiance broke off their engagement when he found out.

No matter how you slice it, Eastman’s credential was a waste – she could’ve learned just as much (if not more) at a fraction of the cost by picking up a top-of-the-line camera, buying a computer and a Photoshop license, paying for tutoring with a pro, and shooting pictures until her shutter wore out.

That’s what Mark Cafiero, a professional wedding photographer in Denver, did – he’s a self-taught photographer who’s been shooting photos for most of his adult life. Mark regularly charges over $4,000 to photograph a wedding, and he’s booked solid. He has also created two other successful photography-related businesses on the side. No one cares whether or not he has a degree – his skills speak louder than any piece of paper can, and he has more work than he can handle.

3. Don’t seek a credential when the up-front cost is more than a year’s starting salary in the field.

The field you intend to work in matters enormously. There’s no kind way to say this: if you pay $100,000+ for a degree in a uniformly low-paying field like social work, you’re a fool, and your credential will probably ruin your life. Sad, but true.

Before committing to a field and irreversibly loading yourself up with debt, interview/shadow/intern with people who are actually doing what you think you want to do. Ask about what it took to obtain the required credential. Ask if their investment was worth it. If you get the impression that they regret their choice, think twice.

4. Don’t seek expensive credentials in fields where jobs may not exist.

No credential will help you get a job if there are no jobs available. Some industries and markets have become financial death traps that require you to obtain expensive credentials to enter, only to discover no jobs exist to pay the student loan bill. The worst thing you can do is assume “it’ll all work out” without doing the research.

Law is a perfect example – a field that, for decades, was known for producing graduates that were able to immediately secure stable, high paying jobs. Borrowing huge sums of money for law school was a necessary evil, but expected compensation was more than enough to foot the bill.

Many recent law school graduates are now unemployed, but have over six figures in non-dischargeable debts. Here’s a common story of the Student Loan Death Spiral in action:

“I was admitted to one of the top 14 law schools in the country. And while I did well there I was forced to take out $150,000 in student loans. I know that is a lot of money but I figured this is prestigious, I can get a job making six figures. 2 years after graduation I was still unemployed… I filed for bankruptcy (which got rid of my $50,000 of credit card debt) which did nothing to stop the loan officers from the DoE. As it stands now I owe $412,329.57 (they expect monthly payments of nearly $4,000) and I am still unable to find a job. I am screwed, I think I will probably kill myself.” (Source)

This is a structural supply and demand issue that’s not likely to resolve itself in the near future. In short, this guy is royally screwed.

The same general principle applies to jobs that have traditionally been considered prestigious and high-paying, leading to oversupply. Take being a college professor: there are far more PhD-holders than available tenure-track jobs, particularly in the humanities. To make matters worse, having a PhD means that employers outside of academia consider you “over-qualified” for jobs, and won’t hire you. The PhD glut means that for every teaching position, there are thousands of possible candidates who are willing to work as adjuncts for low pay, just to do something. It’s like playing roulette: the only way to win is not to play.

An extra note of caution if you think that you’re smart and ambitious enough to beat the odds: that’s what everyone else in the market was thinking when they signed on the dotted line. Beware Excessive Self-Regard Tendency – if the structure of an industry is not in your favor, it doesn’t matter how smart or skilled you are.

As a general rule, avoid entering markets where the suppliers are desperate for whatever work they can find.

5. Borrow as little as possible, then mercilessly negotiate your debts.

The more you borrow, the higher your risk and the lower your return on investment. Pay as little for your credential as you possibly can, and find ways to pay for the rest without taking on debt. Here are a few things you can do to minimize your borrowing:

  • Get as many scholarships, grants, and assistantships as you can.
  • Work a part-time job or freelance while in school to pay for expenses.
  • Minimize your daily living expenses, so you’re not racking up credit card debt alongside student loan debt. (For extra credit, live in a van.)
  • Participate in paid co-op and paid internship programs that have a record of hiring participants full-time after graduation.
  • Graduate as quickly as possible – less time in school equals less tuition and fewer fees.

Once you’ve reduced your total debt load as much as possible, do everything you can do negotiate the best possible interest rates with your lenders, and set up automatic payments to avoid unnecessary fees. This is a classic example of Ramit’s 85% rule – a few hours here can save you tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars throughout your life.

Whatever you do, don’t buy the line that student loans are “aid” – loans are actually reverse aid that makes your total cost much higher. The quickest and easiest way to screw up your life is to take on too much debt, so minimize your total debt burden as much as possible.

Remember, the primary value of the credentialing process is the credential itself, so the best strategy is to optimize for total cost and speed. After you graduate, focus your time and energy on doing real work and investing in your knowledge and skills on your own.

DIY has the best ROI

Most of the people who go to college say the same thing: most of the value of the experience had nothing to do with the school itself. As Ramit mentioned a while ago in “Your College is Not a Technical School”:

I think I could probably learn 80% of my college career simply from reading the books. But the last 20% – the hardest and most valuable part – came from talking to people, bouncing ideas off them, doing my own startup stuff, and making a bunch of mistakes. And I did all of this in the relative safety of college, where the worst that can happen is you get a “-” next to one of the letter grades on your transcript…

In the end, I think it’s actually more risky to focus exclusively on classes. Why? Because you have to compete against everyone else who will be trying to get jobs using the same criteria: grades. I hate competing against other people directly, so I’d rather simply go around them.

I agree with Ramit – those things really are the most valuable parts of college, and they have nothing to do with college itself. The freedom to experiment, explore, and socialize are the true benefits of the college experience – classes and tests mostly get in the way. Why pay unnecessary rent to a university for benefits they’re not actually providing? Might there be other viable ways to reap these benefits?

You can learn the essentials of most skills far more quickly and less expensively by reading, researching, traveling, meeting people, making friends, and experimenting on your own. With a little curiosity, hard work, and dedication, you can succeed on your own terms – and save a ton of money in the process.

Real-world experience (and results) will always trump credentials when it comes to getting rich. If you want to start a business (which is the quickest way to become a CEO), you don’t need a credential – what you really need are Economically Valuable Skills, a solid business idea, and a willingness to test it.

If your work can provide benefits that other people want or need badly enough to pay for, they simply won’t care whether or not you have a credential. Money in the bank speaks for itself.

As for potential employers, think about it from their perspective:

  • Would you rather hire someone who took marketing classes in college, or someone who actually helped a business get a 1200% return on their marketing investment?
  • Would you rather hire a random computer science major, or someone who’s actually built a fully functioning web application with real, paying users?
  • Would you rather hire someone who has taken a leadership class, or has actually recruited, lead, and managed a functioning team?

The more you invest in learning Economically Valuable Skills and gaining real-world experience, the more economically successful you’ll be. Learning the basics on your own, or enlisting the help of practitioner teachers, will help you learn the fundamentals without mortgaging the next 20-30 years of your life.

Mastering the art of business is how you get rich. If you’re ready to get started, you don’t need to wait for an acceptance letter from an Ivy League school. Here’s how to get started immediately:

  • Read great books. Authors spend years distilling their wisdom and experience into a form you can buy for less than $20, or borrow from the library. There’s no better educational bargain out there. Here’s my curated list of the best business books to help you get started.
  • Take business courses from practitioners. Learning directly from people who are already doing what you want to do is a great way to accelerate your learning process. Online business courses like Ramit’s Earn1k and my Personal MBA Business Crash Course can shave years off of your learning curve, and are worth the investment. (Watch out for “get rich quick” schemes, though – there’s no such thing as an effortless, instant path to financial success.)
  • Start your own business. Owning your own company is the quickest and easiest way to learn the ropes. Bootstrapping your own venture, even a small one, will teach you an enormous amount about how businesses actually work – skills you’ll use for the rest of your life.

Here’s to a rich, successful life – without unnecessary debt.

Josh Kaufman is a business teacher and the author of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business. He teaches craftsmen, programmers, designers, artists, and professionals how to learn the fundamentals of modern business without mortgaging their lives. Learn more at PersonalMBA.com.

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92 Comments on "Paying for College and Grad School: How to Avoid Spending $100,000 (or more) on a Credential You Don’t Really Need"

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Jason L
5 years 5 months ago

Wow, now *that* was a serious post Josh 🙂 Great article though… and completely agree. With higher education costs literally spiraling out of control, it’s good to present some alternatives to people. I think most people would agree as well that the traditional college education is great for life experiences, but the actual useful material taught is pretty minimal.

Gal @ Equally Happy
5 years 5 months ago

I don’t think even the experiences are worth it Jason.

I graduated from a top 10 MBA program last year and what do I have? A fancy title on my resume which is pretty pointless, some skills that were outdated even before they were taught and 100k plus of debt. My “experiences” consist of drinking too much with a bunch of people who thought it would be great to relive their undergrad years.

Josh is 100% right, unless you’re going to learn some hard skills, save your money.

Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach
5 years 4 months ago
Thank you for this absolutely excellent article on thinking through the “Why?” before plunging into what everyone says is a “smart” decision but brings on a ton of debt–like going to graduate school when you can’t find a job or buying a house simply because interest rates are low. These should be carefully considered, personal decisions. As to receiving practical training in school, I found that choosing a program that emphasized real-world skills in the classroom, provided connections for top internships and included professors that still worked in the field was incredibly valuable. I left university with both theoretical knowledge… Read more »
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[…] original post here: Paying for College and Grad School: How to Avoid Spending $100,000 (or more) on a Credential You Don… This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged afternoon, avoid, avoid-spending, college, […]

Carlos
5 years 5 months ago
I’m all for this. Really, every time I read this kind of angle on education, I get amped up. But I do have one problem: I’m 30. I went the traditional route of going to college right after high school, except my parents paid for the whole bit. Which means no debt, for which I’m eternally thankful. But here’s the rub: if I were 17-18 and read this article, it wouldn’t have meant anything to me. I needed more guidance, more help than some books and tutoring. I needed the whole environment of other people around in the same situation.… Read more »
Josh Kaufman
5 years 5 months ago
I don’t think anyone really appreciates this perspective at 17-18. Social status and social proof are powerful forces, particularly as we’re preparing to live on our own. We don’t really understand the long-term consequences at that point in our lives. Unfortunately, student loan documents signed at 18 can drastically alter the next 20-30 years of your life. That’s why this discussion is important. For most of us, college is a sunk cost – we’re already there, or we’ve already graduated. We can’t reverse or change the decision… but we can change the expectations our children grow up with. My daughter… Read more »
Natalia
Natalia
5 years 4 months ago
Well, I actually do care about this and I am 17 right now. I agree with the fact that I shouldn’t go into any kind of debt. However, thank God and thank philanthropists I am able to get a full scholarship as an international student in Harvard, Yale, Princeton and in the other top colleges I plan to get into. However, this post can be helpful for some teens out there who are not into studying so that they can put things into perspective. We know people like Mark Zuckerberg got to where they are without getting a college degree.… Read more »
Gumnos
Gumnos
5 years 5 months ago
College regularly frustrated me: I went to learn, and graduated with a 2.8 GPA but learned a lot; while numerous classmates went for the 4.0 but couldn’t synthesize the material worth squat. Now I’ve been working in the real-world for over a decade and find the same problems when interviewing potential employees: I see folks with 4.0 GPAs from prestigious schools or long strings of MCSE/Cisco/A+/etc industry certifications, but they can’t code their way out of a paper-bag. If it wasn’t on the magic exam, they only return blank stares. Give me a competent employee with a podunk school bachelors… Read more »
Brett
5 years 5 months ago

I really enjoyed this post. I tend to have the same beliefs when it comes to making your way in the post-college world, especially as it relates to investing. You don’t need to spend weeks and months of your life getting a certain education when there are simple things that you can be doing right now to improve your situation.

Dave Sanderson
Dave Sanderson
5 years 5 months ago
GREAT concise advice, Josh …truth well told! My 35-year career in Marketing / Advertising / Product Innovation was done on an associate degree in Psychology = the quickest way OUT of college with “a credential” of some sort to prove I graduated. Since then, it’s been only about delivering SUPERB RESULTS for me, my employers, and my clients. Since my first ‘corporate’ marketing gig 3+ decades ago nobody has ever asked me about my degree / education; they’ve ONLY asked for references to / proof of the RESULTS I have delivered. Now I’m comfortably semi-retired (stil take some contract gigs… Read more »
Erin
Erin
5 years 5 months ago

“Debts make it difficult to change course, even if you find you don’t like your new life as much as you thought you would.”

So true.

trackback

[…] Josh Kaufmann writes: Twenty five years ago, college was less expensive by a factor of ten, even after adjusting for inflation. You could pay most of your costs by working for minimum wage part time and full time over the summer, and the degree opened enough doors to make a credential a pretty good investment. (…) […]

Diane
Diane
5 years 5 months ago
I bought Josh’s book yesterday, because I am tired of working for “the Man”. I have had my own LLC set up for the past 6 years, but I have been afraid to venture past it being a hobby, as I need the money from my full-time job to make ends meet. However, as of late, I am more and more unhappy with the norm, and no longer feel challenged. Hopefully the Personal MBA will set me on my course and make me feel confident about not necessarily receiving a steady paycheck with health benefits, but being more fulfilled instead.
Matt
Matt
5 years 5 months ago

As a recently accepted grad student, I am looking for every possible scholarship or grant to help pay for the degree. You mentioned applying to everything, Josh/Ramit, do you have any good websites that help search for scholarships and grants? The few I have found sound like marketing crap that make me enter a scholarship lottery and then will just spam the hell out of me once they get my email and phone number.
Thanks

Adrianne
Adrianne
5 years 5 months ago

Matt you should check your specific school finaid office. See if there are scholarships etc offered directly by the school. Or go in and directly talk with someone. They should have reps who can help you. Be upfront and tell them you dont want student loans.

You dont mention what field you are in, but instead of googling or however are searching for any scholarship search with you field as one of the key words. Check out organizations you would want to work for, see if they offer or are connected to any kind of scholarship funding.

Good Luck.

Alex Hajicek
Alex Hajicek
5 years 5 months ago

I’d also like to learn a bit more about that. Although I’m about to graduate (won’t help much). If you haven’t covered this I think it would make a great tactical post Ramit.

I was so clueless when I started college and had no idea such opportunities were available for scholarships.

Peace,
Alex Hajicek

Imelda
Imelda
5 years 4 months ago

Ramit has written in depth about scholarships. Try google. I just dug up this one quickly http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/the-1-day-iwillteachyoutoberich-entrepreneurship-boot-camp/

🙂

Susan
5 years 5 months ago
This was a fantastic post. I’ve been trying to beat this into my friends’ heads for years who talk about getting a higher education without even understanding what that will really mean for their career and debt. There are so many implications to how in debt we’re going into over a country club vacation from delaying buying property to cars to investments. It’s impacting the financial world as a whole, not just a students pocket. My Dad was able to pay his way through school with 3 part-time jobs, it wasn’t easy, but he left debt free. I couldn’t fathom… Read more »
Andrew
Andrew
5 years 5 months ago
Great article, but I wanted to offer another factor to consider in this account. I’m one of the people you mention facing a crushingly bad job market after getting a PhD in the humanities (a job market that bottomed out in 2008 and then actually managed to get worse during the next two years). Luckily, I’ve been able to stay debt free thanks to a combination of getting a free ride as an undergraduate and having a reasonably generous salary as a graduate TA. My experience suggests, however, that there are other debts you incur in credentialing, other than the… Read more »
Adrianne
Adrianne
5 years 5 months ago

Another one who doesnt mention any specifics.. but what is your PhD in? Are you sure you will have to start all over and that there is nothing in your field? Have you talked with people, who have jobs, who have your same PhD or less. Read Ramits post again on negative scripts… you might just be telling yourself a lie. http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/earn-money-case-studies-hustle-scripts/

Mercy
Mercy
5 years 4 months ago

This is a brilliant response. My colleague (who has two Ph.Ds) always tells me the same thing. Consider the time commitment and the financial commitment against the ROI. For him, he says that he was lucky to do his Ph.Ds when the Kenyan market was not so “credential-driven”. Now, the market has all these people with Ph.D who cannot even begin to apply the knowledge, several million shillings later.

Paul Rubillo
5 years 5 months ago
Just to add on to the point Josh makes comparing a prestigious college education to a luxury car (paying a lot of money for a depreciating asset whose value declines within five years of purchase), if you do not get a top-notch gig within a few years of graduating, your potential employer will wonder what the heck is wrong with you. How come this person has not been in the specific industry workforce yet? Excellent post and really emphasizes the importance of knowing what you want to do for a living before saying “I do” to a possible large pile… Read more »
Sharon
Sharon
5 years 5 months ago
Just skimming this, but the law school thing is dead on. I know someone (many “someones” actually) that finished law school with – no exaggeration here – $150K worth of student loans and no job. The most fascinating part about it is that, though some of these people felt law school (and other graduate degrees for that matter) were a scam, there were a select few who thought it was worth it. $150k in debt. No job. But it’s worth it for the right to say “I’m an attorney” or “I have a master’s in XXX.” Baffling. To take this… Read more »
Ryan
5 years 5 months ago

Was this a guest article or a chapter from the book? 🙂

Thanks for the contribution Josh, very insightful and some great things to think about not just for pre-college students but also ideas for life and ways to continuously grow. I just searched your book on Amazon and am happy to see that it is available on the Kindle, will pick that up as soon as I am finished with Seth Godin’s “Poke the Box”.

Josh Kaufman
5 years 5 months ago

Glad to help, Ryan – only the best for IWTYTBR readers. 🙂

Alex Hajicek
Alex Hajicek
5 years 5 months ago
Thank you so very much, I’ve been on the fence for a while now about getting more secondary education and I’m finally convinced. You put up a strong case, but it’s not just you. Through my own personal life I’ve noticed most of the rich and successful people I’ve met don’t have graduate degrees or sometimes even a bachelors degree. (I.E Real Success isn’t just reserved to breakout people like Bill Gates.) For example my own father, continue to run and operate our families company (http://www.metrommp.com/), which has over 40 employees and millions of dollars in revenue and he didn’t… Read more »
Mercy
Mercy
5 years 4 months ago

Mercy likes this. Thumbs up!
This post has also saved me time, money, many moments of frustration and headache in the future,

J.R.C.
J.R.C.
5 years 5 months ago
MBA grad here! I loved this article for both Ramit’s view as well as Josh’s. I think both sides have very valuable points. Josh is dead on when he says many people are trying to get certificates that they can then exchange for jobs just like at an arcade (do they even have arcades anymore?). Ramit is dead on when he points out that all of these things are well and good, but are you as an 18 year old going to strategically learn a framework to explore what a meaningful career looks like to you and an optimal learning… Read more »
Rebecca
Rebecca
5 years 5 months ago
I do not have a college degree. I was on advanced placement/college prep tracks throughout school, but by the time I was in my last couple of years of high school, I realized that the *last* thing I wanted to do was to go sit through four more years of school. My parents didn’t have the money to pay my tuition, so I decided that for something I didn’t care about and didn’t explicitly need, it would be a huge waste of time and money, certainly not worth going into debt over. I did go to a well-regarded but non-accredited… Read more »
Erick
5 years 5 months ago
This is a great post, and I have to say that I agree more and more with those that advocate this way of thinking. I went to a community college my first 2 years and paid as I went. I finished up my last two years at a private college, ending with a total of 22,000 in loans. I consider myself pretty lucky because if I were to try that same thing today, I’m sure that my student loans would be significantly higher (probably more than double). I graduated in business because I really didn’t know what I wanted to… Read more »
P. Hunter
P. Hunter
5 years 5 months ago
Dear Ramit, you did it again. Honestly I been having this conversation with my girlfriend (for 1-2 years now) who thinks I should go back to school for a masters in IT (I have a bachelors in Communications) but I am interested in IT. This article is pretty much my thought process. I do not want unnecessary debt for a field that 1) i may lose interest and 2) is very popular. I currently work in a financial call center (so much for my degree lol) and I do not want to be in the same position 4 years from… Read more »
Ben Polidore
5 years 5 months ago
interesting. i agree with much of what he says, but he is missing the value of technical schools. he makes brief mention of computer science and then mentions a web app.. well, webapps are not really the domain of computer science. true computer science is about building efficient systems, and there’s a lot of theory around that. with this in mind, only about 10% of computer scientists actually use this type of skill. most of them add checkboxes to guis, so practically, he’s not too far off. but there are other technical degrees that have similar levels of complexity where… Read more »
Josh Kaufman
5 years 5 months ago
My background is computer engineering / computer science / information systems, actually. The theory is useful, but putting the theory into practice is what people actually *pay* for. I think the best thing a 17-18 year old can have is an ambitious project that interests them, plus a bit of guidance and support as they explore it on their own. Travel is also a great use of time at that age, since they’re as free from day-to-day concerns as they’ll ever be. I agree on the value of apprenticeships – working directly with a practitioner plus reading great books is… Read more »
Stacy
Stacy
5 years 5 months ago
My husband and I are living this in several different forms. I graduated high school and immediately went to a small private liberal arts college for an education degree. My parents paid for everything that my scholarships didn’t cover, for which I will truly be eternally grateful, especially since I went into teaching (a historically low-paying field) and would have owed more in loans than I would make in several years of teaching. After getting my first job (which REQUIRED the teaching certificate/degree) I haven’t needed it since- experience has been enough since I am no longer working in a… Read more »
Nate Heinitz
5 years 5 months ago

Great post Ramit! You nailed it on the head, I have a few friends and family members in school right now that could definitely use this information. Thanks!

Nisch
5 years 5 months ago

Very insightful post,
I completely agree with the comment that you get a lot of life experience in college but the education can be minimal. ( At least not very applicable for ”real”-life)

Best Regards,

Nisch

Jay Cross
Jay Cross
5 years 5 months ago
Josh, I have been implementing your “Earn An Accredited Undergradute Degree For $4,000” strategy for the last 4 months. I owe you a permanent debt of gratitude for opening my eyes to that possibility. I had spent several years in traditional colleges and earned most of the needed credits. Having started a business in the last year, continuing to attend was very stressful – but I still want the credential. Call it old-fashioned, but emotionally, earning someone which no one can strip me of is important to me. Since then I’ve passed three exams. Five more to go and I’ll… Read more »
Jay Cross
Jay Cross
5 years 5 months ago
BTW, in response to Ramit’s earlier comment: I would’ve *absolutely* devoured this knowledge when I was 17/18. Looking for a better way is foundational to my entire worldview. My parents would’ve hated the idea of testing out of a degree, for example, but I would’ve seen the ROI argument and the fit with my lifestyle and unflinchingly done it. I just turned 24 (yes, admittedly, a more mature age than 17) and immediately started the moment I read Josh’s article in December. Perhaps I’m not typical, but I think more inquisitive 17/18 year olds than you realize would be open… Read more »
Justin
5 years 5 months ago
Going, or in some cases, gone are the days in which employment automatically follows getting a degree. Our global marketplace is too competitive. When I was in college I learned a very valuable lesson from the university president. He said that the most important 2 things that you walk away with are: 1)That you learn how to learn. 2)You learn to love to learn. He went on to say that things are changing so fast that by the time you get out of school, much of what you will have learned will not be as relevant as intended. You have… Read more »
trackback
5 years 5 months ago

[…] today, I read something that puts this whole issue into long-overdue perspective. It’s written by Josh Kaufman as a guest post on Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog. I strongly recommend reading the whole […]

Emma Chace
5 years 5 months ago
I could not agree more with the drawbacks of focusing exclusively on classes. I am currenty in an MBA program, and the dean of the graduate school works tirelessly to provide us with opportunities for networking, which no one but myself takes advantage of because they are focusing on completing the coursework. Last week I attended a “young professionals” event where I made several good contacts, one of which I am having lunch with next week. I was the only person from my program to attend because we had an exam the next morning. I relaxed, met a lot of… Read more »
Justin
5 years 5 months ago

Great observation and experience Emma. A great business mentor said that all through school she would get in trouble for talking in the halls. Looking back on her successful career, she relates that none of it came from what she learned in the classes but from her ‘talking in the halls’ or networking with other people. I would assess that you are focusing on the things that will actually make you money and a career (identity of trust and value).

AD
AD
5 years 5 months ago
Hey Josh, Just wanted to drop by with a quick thank-you note. I came across your book summaries while attempting to not get buried in some personal crises – and landed on the one for “Strengths Finder 2.0”. Your summary was short-and-sweet enough to convince me to buy a copy and take the assessment—not for the productivity benefits, but rather, to help me recognize that I had strengths to strengthen in the first place. (Suffice it to say it was quite the rough patch.) In any case, I got a good boost out of the whole experience, and have been… Read more »
patrick
patrick
5 years 5 months ago

I am 19 years old, and am figuring out what to do about college. This article was incredibly enlightening and matches several personal experiences I have had talking with people. Don’t stop writing stuff like this, at least one 19 year old is checking it out.

Steve O
Steve O
5 years 5 months ago
I am living this right now! I went to a very good state school for free and got a degree in French, English, and psychology, and thought that I was going to go into sales. I quickly changed my mind, and now I’m preparing to take tests and become an actuary–even though I haven’t taken a math class since high school. Instead of spending two or three more years at school, I’ve found a tutor. I believe I’ll be able to learn at least four times faster and spend much much less money getting a better, personalized education. Fortunately, companies… Read more »
MoneyIsTheRoot
5 years 5 months ago

I owe about 30k on student loans from grad school, work paid about another 30k. Going back, I wish I would’ve paid more of my tuition myself. I remember hearing stories about people taking out student loans to fund a down payment on a house…and now my mortgage rate is lower than my student loan rate! That just seems crazy to me, as student loan debt always seemed to be the more understandable type of debt…in a way it is, but we are letting them get out of hand today.

http://www.moneyistheroot.com

Mario
5 years 5 months ago

Student loans are such a burden. I’m working twice as hard to pay them down and hopefully paid off within the next year. This is a fantastic article on other options than borrowing money for a “piece of paper”.

Brian
5 years 5 months ago
As a 19 year old who recently made the choice to stop going to college and start his own business, flipping burgers to fund it and spending at least 6 hours in the local book store per week; I appreciate this article. As the other people whom have commented have already stated, social status is huge for someone my age and everyone is still competing to maintain coolness and get approval from one another. This makes it extremely difficult for someone like myself to try and branch out (pressure from parents, friends, family to go to school, etc.). If any… Read more »
Educated and scared
Educated and scared
5 years 5 months ago
Hmmm; yes we could all just live in our parent’s basements and pontificate as if we know as much as those who have actually pursued an education. The arrogance is astounding. I am smarter than any professor; school is waste of money. Oh hold on, I must go play a video game while my mother does my laundry! Get your heads out of your arses people- an educated populace is an objective one; one capable of advancing society, not just criticizing it blindly. Open your mind, get an education- not to get Job A or B, but for the sake… Read more »
Justin
5 years 5 months ago
Brian- I find your decision interesting. Deciding to not get formal education is a choice that must align with your objectives. If your goal is to be an engineer or doctor, obviously that won’t work, but all too often education is defined by the world as that which you only receive at a university. Education can and should be sought with great fervor always in everything you do. You have to be very intentional and self-driven because many don’t go to school under the guise that they are self educating but in reality they don’t have the self-discipline and they… Read more »
Garry
Garry
5 years 4 months ago
You are spot on when you say ”a formal education was teaching me to be an employee and not an entrepreneur’. I did a four year degree and actually realized one year after graduation it had actually held me back! I was thinking like and employee and had the employee mentality. This was not what I wanted so decided to work for a startup firm opposed to going down the “safer” corporate route. This gave me better exposure to the business and developed my sales skills, marketing ability as well as general business administration. In fact I pretty much did… Read more »
James Palmer
5 years 4 months ago

I agree 100% with this post. I just wish I had read it before I graduated high school, though my family would have talked me into going to school anyway. Now I’ve got a worthless English degree (yes, Ramit, they really are worthless; I’ve checked), $40-60,000 in student loan debt, and a job that barely pays the bills I could have gotten without the degree. I’m going to print out this article and save it for my daughter to read when she’s old enough to start thinking about such things. Thanks for posting this.

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[…] post is definitely controversial with some of you but I thought it was too relevant not to link up: Paying for College and Grad School: How to Avoid Spending $100,000 (or more) on a Credential You Don…. This DIY bow belt is adorbs and looks pretty simple to make, although it does take a little bit of […]

Sunyoung
Sunyoung
5 years 4 months ago
Wow this was such a great article! I admit as a 18-year-old high school senior, that most of the things on this page made little sense to me. I don’t think I quite understand what things meant, but still, the article got me thinking. And with college acceptances coming left and right, I think that I’ll put a lot of thought into where I choose to go, considering this article and the cost of each university. I totally agree with the reasoning for #2 which is why I am now hesitant about deciding where to go since I know that… Read more »
Jeff
5 years 4 months ago

The DIY startup and Masters of Internet Entrepreneurship degrees are really popular in the NYC area right now. Probably not as finance-heavy besides startup equity and venture finance, but alot of technical web skill emphasis.

I just finished my MBA and got out with minimal debt through Associate Programs and internships, but realized that I didn’t learn anything about what I am doing now in the startup scene. All B-school students should try to start their own business at some point.

Ramiro
Ramiro
5 years 4 months ago
I think that advocating to not go to the university can be dangerous, especially if you are accepted to a top school. The value of an education is not just in the skills you learn but the community you are part of, and the name of the school. You associate your name to a top school and that will be an advantage to any circle you want to enter later in life. I think that what needs to happen is for tuition inflation to be curved, but people still need to go through formal education, I think. The credential is… Read more »
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[…] one of the best articles I’ve ever found on the topic of going to university or not. It was a guest post on Ramit Sethi’s blog “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”, and the author Josh Kaufman discussed […]

Debt Donkey
5 years 4 months ago

Awesome article. I have 5 kids and I have been thinking a lot about this very issue, especially what 5 college educations will cost. This article gave me a lot of food for thought. Thanks!

f!ck
f!ck
5 years 4 months ago

great. poor black girl with no one to show her any ROPES of financial, personal and academic health followed all the scripts and is now 80G in debt. great. now i want to f’ing kill myself. my grandmother was a sharecropper and now so am i. i am trying so hard to reverse the trend. i shouldn’t have tried this way. now, like he said, i’ve ruined my life.

G
G
5 years 4 months ago

This post is just too funny. Well, little sharecropper, you’re in the same boat as the rest of us. Hang on and don’t fall over the edge! Your grandmother doesn’t have the degrees that YOU stand for. You may be poor, but you graduated and that will follow you for the rest of your life.

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[…] Paying for College and Grad School: How to Avoid Spending $100,000 (or more) on a Credential You Don… […]

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[…] Paying for College and Grad School: How to Avoid Spending $100,000 (or more) on a Credential You Don… […]

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[…] Paying for College and Grad School: How to Avoid Spending $100,000 (or more) on a Credential You Don… interesting discourse by a guest at I Will Teach You to be Rich […]

Justin
5 years 4 months ago
Just for some background, I went to a really good 4 year school for an engineering degree. However, I have definitely been thinking about this icollege stuff for my kids (when I have them + 18 years from then when they start college….) Granted, things may change in the next 20 years, but the way colleges and financial aid work now are insane. You spend 100,000 getting a degree in…. Food Science? Huh? Some careers require specialized training- doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, etc. But for internet marketers, photographers, event planners, etc., I think they’re probably better off just starting their… Read more »
Sarah
Sarah
5 years 4 months ago
I agree for the most part of this article, however I would disagree if it applies to undergrads as you almost do need a college degree to get a job these days, or at least a decent one. I do agree that you don’t necessarily need an MBA to be successful in business, but it is a great networking tool. The other degrees like law and md you need, but you should be weighing the decision greatly and be educated about the facts and job outlooks before you make your decision. You don’t necessarily need a degree for most art… Read more »
ross
5 years 4 months ago
I went to 2 different colleges and i really get the feeling that all the money that i spent was wasted. I work in a job now that is completely outside of my degree, and i really feel like i didn’t learn anything that helped me. I think that trade schools or education that will lead you directly into a job, is a good way to get into a certain field. But, you can always get an internship and skip all of that. I think college is just a place for kids to learn who they are and what they… Read more »
James M
5 years 4 months ago

I wish I had been able to read this post when I was 17 and just starting the process of applying for schools. I was fortunate to attend an inexpensive University in Canada and had my tuition covered for the duration of the degree, but was stupid in choosing theatre as a major. I’m doing much better now that I picked a different career path five years ago and starting my own business, but the damage was already done. May not have been set back financially, but I was set back with a lack of transferrable skills.

Will
5 years 4 months ago
Great post – I am a proud graduate of a state school that was unthinkably cheap at the time I attended, and I was lucky enough, in a sense, to land a job right afterward with a company that placed little value on advanced degrees. I paid as little as possible for a pretty good finance degree, hit the business world running, and 20 years later, my career progress has always been strong enough that I’ve never had the need or time to devote to an advanced degree. I can’t imagine having paid over $150,000 for that credential at this… Read more »
Josh Kaufman
5 years 4 months ago
Will – you’re assuming sales and self-employment are sub-par starting options for young businesspeople. They’re actually great places to start: you have a lot of responsibility and freedom to experiment from the very beginning, and you’ll learn a lot in a very short time. That said, it’s true that many hiring managers are (for better or worse) biased when it comes to undergrad degrees. That’s why I recommend looking for ways to obtain a degree quickly, with as little debt as possible. See: http://personalmba.com/hacking-higher-education-clep/ Protip for hiring managers: setting up a formal apprenticeship program is a great way to attract… Read more »
Glendon Cameron
5 years 4 months ago
Will- ” But, in this business environment, not holding a higher education degree AT ALL carries an untenable stigma in the business world and eliminates pretty much every professional option except sales and self employment.” As the guy said in the movie “Independence Day” said -“Uh…excuse me, Mr. President. That’s not entirely accurate.” We live in a world where kids are making six-seven figure incomes on YouTube (same kids, being courted quite heavily by BIG business) and self taught inventors like Dean Kamen are bringing products to market and a young lady named Amanda Hocking ( both college drop outs)… Read more »
Ryan
Ryan
5 years 4 months ago

Very very cool article….couldn’t read the whole thing…but very immpressive
Its true i am using very little of what i learned in my degrees.
I love the extension back-door….even though i knew this…i have never taken advantage of it….almost did a few years ago but decided i had different goals and location of the univ was too far from my work.
Regardless an awesome contribution Josh!

Eric
Eric
5 years 4 months ago

Josh, where are the GWU alumni that were supposed to come in and comment like you promised?

“(Reading this article is instructive – reading the comments from GWU alumni is even more so. Watch what happens when people believe their social status – which they’ve paid for – is in jeopardy.)”

I was looking forward to some entertainment, but now after reading through all the comments and finding nothing I feel let down 🙁

Ben Whitehair
5 years 4 months ago
Fascinating article. Absolutely some stellar points. As the benefactor of a college education I didn’t have to pay for it’s easy for me to espouse the benefits of a college education. I certainly got a lot out of it, but I will absolutely agree that the most learning I did was outside the classroom. As Mark Twain said, don’t let school get in the way of your education.” As with anything, I feel like it greatly matters on the individual, but clearly there needs to be a broader discussion around the myth that college is the only way to go.… Read more »
Dilan Patel
Dilan Patel
5 years 4 months ago
Another really great post, wow, kudos! Such thought and honest-to-goodness wisdom in here… This is something I told myself repeatedly after graduating from college. My first year out alone I learned 10x more about business, success, life, and people through self-education & networking than anything else, literally. I wish more kids would read this article, Ramit you must expose this piece to blogs or people who have audiences that are going to college or in college (better late then never)… but then again, I don’t know the demographics of your audience. Nevertheless, I have definitely forwarded this to many people… Read more »
Blandy
5 years 4 months ago
Terrific article. My husband and I both went to private universities as undergrads but it’s a different world now. The costs are astronomical. We have three kids, all of whom — due to the gentle arm-twisting of their parents — are attending in-state public schools. Fortunately we live in NC where there are over a dozen excellent choices and the price is a bargain. Everyone will graduate debt free. I’d also like to remind people that some graduate degrees pay for themselves. I have a recently obtained MS in my field, which I needed, and it was almost completely paid… Read more »
Ron
Ron
5 years 4 months ago
While this article leans toward the entrepreneurship, one thing that isn’t mentioned is having your employer pay for grad school. A lot of my friends are getting MBAs and other grad degrees part time, paid for by their employers. If you get it debt free it takes a lot of the risk out of getting these degrees, especially if you are not going to HBS. Another practical path to consider is learning a trade or establishing a decent source of income first, then going to undergrad as a part time student. I know a guy who was an electrician and… Read more »
Canadian Fan
Canadian Fan
5 years 4 months ago
Hello Ramit and Josh, I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now Ramit, and I usually agree with most of what your views regarding initiative and freelancing, educating yourself and automating your finances and so on. I never felt the need to comment on anything before but I just have to share my experience regarding formal education because of the criticism I’ve been facing lately from my family/friends/social circle. I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and I did my first bachelor’s degree at McGill University (one of the top 10 in the country) in Psychology. Yes it did… Read more »
Will
5 years 4 months ago

I don’t know Ramit, but I bet he would say that a $15K student loan investment is not unreasonable for the credential you’ve picked up. The people in the case studies ended up with an order of magnitude more than that, or even more in some cases.

Yvee
Yvee
5 years 4 months ago

Ramit – you were right, this is the most productive 15 minutes I’ve spent today or even the past week for that matter. My head is exploding because my invisible scripts are really strong (yep, Asian). Really nicely paired with the futility essay since very little can change a person’s mind to pay or not pay.

Andy
5 years 4 months ago

Fantastic article! I’ve just sent the link to the entire high school girl’s team I coach!

Linda Hinkle
Linda Hinkle
5 years 4 months ago

Hi .. for those of us that did not have the benefit of this article’s wisdom and do have a student loan from grad school … what are the best ways to reduce and/or eliminate that student loan?

Linda Hinkle
Linda Hinkle
5 years 4 months ago

Hi .. forgot to check the button to be notified of followup comments to my post.

lae
lae
5 years 4 months ago
I just finished reading this, after catching up on my emails (I’m so glad I get the IWTY emails). This whole post changed my life…really and I immediately (well after reading Ramit’s intro) ordered Ramit’s and Josh’s books. I think reading them will help me clear up where I want to go in life and who I want to be as I’m deciding on career planning, and which school or programs I can enroll in to best help meet my goals. I have to admit all the things Josh advised, about taking the personal MBA course, applying to private universities,… Read more »
Jake Wells
5 years 4 months ago

Great article. You’re right, so many people think they need to “get a good education” and the cost isn’t even considered. An education from a great school is terrific even if you pay out-of-state tuition; but if you pay in-state tuition for that same education, you pay a fraction of the cost. Most people can qualify to get in-state tuition with a little help. That’s why we started Tuition Angels: we help students get in-state tuition in the fastest way possible.

Jake Wells
5 years 4 months ago

oops, sorry I forgot to leave the website, it’s http://www.TuitionAngels.com

Hope this helps 🙂

Richard Stooker
5 years 4 months ago
I’d like to poke holes in this, but it’s hard. There are surveys showing that college educated people make more money — on average — than those without college degrees but, as he pointed out, we can assume those surveys are using students who graduated years ago, without backbreaking debt. I believe the main barrier is that young adults — almost by definition — often don’t know what they really want to do. Yet there’s no social acceptance for taking off a few years to figure that out, without going to college. I believe the smartest thing to do is… Read more »
Adrian Salinas
Adrian Salinas
10 months 25 days ago

Do you think it’s a stupid idea to show my school this article and ask them to minimize my workload so I can go out and start a company or read personal books on my own time?

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jahn seo
jahn seo
3 months 11 days ago

I’m holding myself back by not committing. Growing my business on the side is great, but it’s so stressful balancing the FT job, with great benefits, with the FT job of trying to get my services off the ground. subway surfers

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