Why a College Degree Doesn’t Matter

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One of the biggest scams today is college education. Basically every high school student is coerced into thinking that they need to go to college in order to be somebody in life. Since they have basically no savings, they have to finance their entire four or five year college education, which typically averages out to $25,000 in student loans by the time they have their 22nd birthday. Since they’ve really never had a career job, they just assume that they’ll make big money right after college and be able to pay these loans off in no-time. Quite often though, this just doesn’t happen.

Nearly 20% of all bankruptcy filings are from 20-something year old kids. They get a phenomenal education, but can’t find a job in their field and therefore can’t pay their debts. Since their net worth is in the negative and the job that they do find is paying them $10 an hour (instead of the $25/hr. job they thought they would get), their only option is to file for bankruptcy. It’s a sad occurrence that just happens all too often.

Is College Really Necessary?

As I began to think about those poor college students that have been duped into this fantasy world of a grand career after college, I began to think, “Is College Really Necessary?” I mean, when higher education first came onto the scene, I think it was certainly beneficial. Even 20 years ago I could see a relevant purpose to the learning. After all, what was the main source of learning outside of college? Books, personal experience (via traveling and meetings), and snail mail. In order to find all the information that you needed to know for your desired job, it just made sense to get your training at a single institution.

But what about today? When you don’t understand something at work, what do you do? Do you dig out your old textbook? Do you mail someone a letter with your questions? Do you actually hop on a plane and get your answers first hand? Of course not! Here’s what most of us do. We ask Siri on our iPhones or we take our question to Google. Within seconds, we have all the information we need right in front of us.

So, with all of this information available, why don’t we just teach ourselves what we need to know? If you want to be an accountant, you could probably run a Google search such as, “what do I need to know to be an accountant?” and you could pretty easily find a helpful site that would detail all of the topics that you would need to know in order to excel at your job in accounting. You could then run more detailed searches on each one of those topics and learn them all, just like you would have in college, but for free!

So what the heck is the point of college? What does your little certificate really mean? If I were an employer, it wouldn’t mean jack squat. That piece of paper would tell me that you were able to memorize some facts from a textbook to pass your classes, but most likely, you still have a lot of on-the-job training to go through before you’re of any value to me.

The Sad Truth of Employers

The sad fact of the matter is that not only have the students been duped into thinking that a college education is important, the employers have been as well. They see that you’ve earned a 3.87 GPA and they’re suddenly interested in bringing you in for an interview. If, however, you haven’t attended college, they somehow ‘lose your resume’ into the trash can. Employers aren’t all that dumb though. They know that you may have done well in school, but that doesn’t necessarily transfer into being a model student. So, what else are they looking for? Mainly, they want to see experience. They want to know that you’ve already performed well for a previous employer and that you’ll continue to be a model employee for them as well. This is what the whole interview process is about. That college degree is just your ticket to get into the door, but should it be?

Employers Need to Change Their Brain

So, to be completely honest, there are many areas where a college degree is important, but not because of what you’re learning, it’s just for your certificate that allows you to be considered for that job you’re hunting for. But, is that really worth $100k in education, or $25k of debt once you get out? I don’t think so. Instead, I think the employers need to change their mentality on their hiring process.

If I had a potential employee walk through my doors and tell me of all the things that researched and learned on his own time in order to educate himself about the job he’s interested in, I would be far more impressed than the applicant who just sat his butt in a chair and passed a few tests by the skin of his teeth. That first candidate is a natural go-getter and is self disciplined enough to learn on his own accord. He’s the one I would hire. If employers don’t soon understand this, there will be even more college grads filing for bankruptcy and more employers that are dissatisfied with their workforce. Guaranteed.

What is your opinion? Is a college degree worthless? Is it worth the tens of thousands of dollars that you paid for it?

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AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

41 Comments

  1. I just learned from a friend who recently finished her student teaching year that all juniors (in Michigan at least) have an “ACT day” where they have 4-hour block carved out of their school day to take the ACT. Their first test is free and they get free ACT prep classes. It seems like it’s to encourage students to go to college. I feel old saying I used to have to pay to take the test AND I had to take it on a Saturday morning!

    • Ha. I didn’t know that! Basically, ever single high school student is now molded to go to college, whether they really want to or not. They just feel that they have to because that’s what everyone else is doing.

  2. I agree in general that the education does not necessarily translate into useful career skills. I think for the employers, though, it is a way to weed out people that may not have the same work ethic. As you mention in the example of the go-getter doing things outside of college, I think the assumption is if a person is self motivated enough to do well in college, then that should translate into a solid work ethic in the work world.

    I think my rant would go more towards some of the ridiculous degrees offered and schools should be made to show how each degree program translates to real world value.

    • But don’t you think that’s a terrible scale to go by? Just because someone doesn’t go to college doesn’t meant that they don’t have a work ethic! Maybe they just couldn’t afford it and didn’t want to take on the massive debt load? I think our society really needs to change their way of thinking.

  3. I would say that a college degree is not always important. I have three degrees and I will say that first hand experience has always been better for me.

    • I am actually going for my MBA right now. But everything I’m learning in class I could learn online for free. But, because my work doesn’t recognize that, I have to shell out thousands of dollars to get recognized…

  4. I went to college and graduated with a Psychology and human communications degree. I became a dancer, photographer, actor and commentator. It’s safe to say I haven’t used my degree at all.

    • Ha, I don’t think you’re the only one! Think of all the money you would have saved if you didn’t go to college!

  5. I feel like you can always identify the people with a liberal arts degree in these kinds of posts. You never hear people with a STEM degree wondering if college was a waste of money!

    • To be honest, I don’t even know what a STEM degree is…. But, I do understand where degrees are useful for people like doctors and such. Things that are severely important to get a structured education in. But with my job as a financial analyst, I could have learned everything I needed to know online and done just fine!

  6. I agree that for many people a college degree is useless, and they could get much better use for their time and money by investing that money, or by working a job and getting real-world experience. However, many professional degrees are well worth the time and money. Also, unless our society changes their opinion in the near future, college degrees will still be the “golden ticket” to the vast majority of jobs. They are essentially a very high priced piece of paper.

    • I do agree with you Adam. Some jobs do need a formal education, but don’t you think that many employers put too much emphasis on that piece of paper?

  7. I believe that’s one of the reasons why I was hired for a previous employer. I had no degree, but a natural tenacity for seeking out knowledge as opposed to getting it the “traditional” way.
    At the time I worked for 4 partners at the company who all had an MBA, and they could see the drive in me.
    Now, I usually feel that I wouldn’t benefit from having that degree due to my age, even though I know it would make things a little easier if I were let go.

    • You must have had a great interview, or your employers are wise enough to look beyond that piece of paper! I would like to meet your employers and shake their hand. They are one of a kind for sure.

      • When they hired me, they told me that they were impressed with my business acumen, understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses, and what they perceived of my perseverence.
        They later realized that I had about as much perseverence as the 4 of them put together. 🙂

        They were very knowledgeable and great mentors to be sure. I am proud to have worked with and for them for almost 10 years.
        I kind of wish I bought the business from them like they thought I was going to do, but we parted ways some 11 years ago on a good note. But that’s another story for another day.

        • Very cool Chris. I would love to hear that full story sometime. Maybe a future post on your site?

  8. I think that perhaps this points to “degree inflation”: instead of a college degree being obsolete, a graduate degree is often required for many jobs. A sad truth.

    • Yeah… I hate the way it’s going, but I bet the college institutions love it! Do you think there will ever be a day when everyone is expected to have their PhD?

  9. I disagree! College is always worth it, however it is up to the individual to do something with it. In this bad economy, employers can ask for anything and get it. Right now they want experience which leaves out a lot of new college grads. This is where the new grad should be looking to show how they applied those skills in an internship (paid or unpaid), part time work, or summer jobs. They can still do something now, but it is harder with the debt etc.

    • Ha! I knew you would Krantcents! If I remember right, you are mister education! 😉 I do agree that employers are looking more and more for applicants with degrees, but I think it’s ridiculous.

  10. I don’t think college can be classified as “worth it” or “not worth it”. It is really up to the individual and how they learn or how they apply their knowledge.

    • Mmm, I disagree. If you pay $100k to teach you how to get a job for $25k a year, then that’s a rip-off. I would say that it’s absolutely not worth it at that point.

  11. Hi
    I agree with Nick that “it depends.” My daughter has a degree in accounting(and graduated owing less than $3,000 by earning scholarships.) I am sure she enoyed much of her time at the university and is poised to land a great job (and has a good one right now). My son chose not to go to university, even though he was awarded a half scholarship (which meant he would ONLY pay $26,000 per year). He’s working and making music and for 19 seems wise beyond his years. He may decide to attend school at a later date and will be a dedicated student at that time. I think that both kids have made good choices.

    • Sounds like you have some pretty great kids Karen! I wouldn’t discourage kids from going to college, because it could definitely help them land a job. I just think it’s sick how almost every job requires a college degree today. Most of the time it’s definitely not necessary!

  12. I think going to college is worth it for many but like you mentioned it shouldn’t be the main piece to consider when hiring an employee. During college I had to do many presentations and I hated getting up in front of people. Today talking in front of others is something I do almost every day. Could I have practiced on my own without going to college? Yes. Would I have? Probably not as much.

    People also make lifelong connections with others during college. For some people just learning some basic life skills and maturing in a structured environment is beneficial for them. That doesn’t mean college is for everyone or that everyone needs to go to college.

    • Valid points Jennifer. I especially like your honest about ‘yes, you could have practiced public speaking on your own time, but would you have? Probably not.’ I bet this method of self teaching would totally bomb in America (where we take things for granted and often feel entitled to a good life), but could really thrive in China or Japan where they are naturally hard workers.

  13. As a financial coach I met with lots of people in the situation you described – spent too much on college, made too little in the workforce. I think college has become overrated. I have two (almost three) degrees, and the discipline of finishing college says a lot about people.

    However, anyone can finish college. Few actually apply what they learn effectively. In the many interviews I’ve conducted over the years, the degree is relatively meaningless to me. Experience and personality are much more important to me, and much more relevant to the job.

    • 100% agree with you Matt. You see my point! Congrats for understanding that that piece of paper is meaningless.

  14. Depends on what degree they are trying to get. Pretty sure it wouldn’t fly for a nurse or doctor to not have a degree, but for most cases I can agree with you.

    • Ok. I’ll make an exception for the nurses and doctors. Formal education is pretty important there and probably shouldn’t be learned on the job…. 😉 But yep, as for everything else, I think we’re on the same page. College just shouldn’t need to be mandatory for a lot of the jobs out there today.

  15. I believe we are witnessing the biggest scandal and swindling of our younger generation, I know conspiracy alert, but seriously why is there so much marketing towards obtaining a college degree when we have seen the VERY dismal results in terms of job placement after graduation.

    • Thank you Marvin! The more kids that are going to college, the more debt they have, and the more likely they are to go bankrupt before they even get their first job! Crazy stuff…

  16. It is kind of sad, but a Bachelor’s degree has become the new high school diploma.

    • Yeah, it’s pretty stupid if you ask me…. I feel like I’m going to need my PhD soon in order to get recognized. It’s just completely unnecessary!

  17. When my kids were finishing up high school, I often heard from other parents that they wanted their kids to have the “college experience” and would pay $$$$ to do so. Ridiculous. Many did well, but just as many got caught up in the “party” and 5 years later, still no degree. My son went to school for a specific career, Air Traffic Control and at 27 is making nearly $160K annually on a 2 year degree. There were several programs that offered 4 year degree but he thought that crazy if he could do it in 2. He wanted to get out there working in the real world. My daughter is in nursing school, which can be done in 2 years as well, and receive the R.N. designation, however recently there is a big push for nurses to complete the 4 year degree. She went the community college route instead of the private school we originally thought of which she felt made far more sense, and I happily agreed.

  18. What I don’t agree with a college degree is that a person is capable of getting a degree in much less time than what is required by any college. If a student was allowed to take only core courses, and didn’t have to take all the rest of the courses that the college requires to build you into a well rounded person, not only would the student be able to do better in whatever degree that he/she is going for, but it would cost less in the end. With the money saved from useless junk that is pushed upon the student, they could go on to get a better education and get a good degree for the same amount of money that a person spends on a degree that gets you no where. Why does a student have to take all the classes that don’t have anything to do with what that student is going for?


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