In the U.S. there are 115,000 janitors, 83,000 bartenders, 323,000 restaurant servers, and 80,000 heavy-duty truck drivers with bachelor’s degrees. Was college education a good investment for these people?
I personally know two PhD professors in social science that, over coffee, have admitted to me that they could be earning more and have a better quality of a life by being a waiter. One of those professors is still buried under student loan debt and is considering getting another student loan to change careers.
I also know a middle level manager who has 8 employees under her supervision. When she gets home she continues working or updating her skills, while her boyfriend, a plumber with an 8th grade education, sits on the couch having a beer and watching tv. As unfair as it seems, her boyfriend earns more and works less.
We have been led to believe that a degree will lead to a lucrative career, but this is not always the case. Sure, statistics show that someone with a college degree will earn more that someone without one, but what kind of degree? Certainly someone with a French literature degree will have a much lower salary than someone with a software engineering degree. Students should look at the job market before embarking in a four-year commitment and incurring thousands of dollars in debt. You can get most French literature works for free on Amazon and read them after work instead of watching tv.
The average student who goes to school from age 18 to age 22, incurs a debt of $28,000 and takes 10 years to pay off this debt. That means that they are breaking even at age 32. If the student decides to go to post secondary school, he can expect to graduate at 26, have a student debt of $30,000 and break even at age 36. It is not unusual to see students in their 40s still struggling to pay off their student debt. Students burdened with debt also delay buying a home, delay starting a family, delay making investments and delay saving for retirement.
In contrast, consider the person who decides to go to trade school for one year. In Canada an electrician earns on average $53K, a brick mason earns about $47K, a paralegal earns about $50K, a plumber earns about $53K per year. These people get out of trade school at age 19 with very little debt. They can have a family, buy a house, and start saving for retirement many years before the college educated people finish paying off their student debts.
In conclusion, we have been led to believe that the surest way to success is to have a college education. But consider that the longer you spend getting educated, the less time you will have in the workforce, which in turn gives you less time to put away for retirement. Maybe having a college degree is not as valuable as we once thought that it was. For me personally, the real value of my college education was to find out by my own experience that I could have been much better off without a college education.