As a college professor for 25 years, I have started to think a degree may not be worth it.
A liberal arts degree has become exactly that: a degree in liberalism.
The average cost for tuition is about $10,000 a year at state schools for residents and $25,000 for out-of-state residents. Private colleges run more than $30,000 on average. These costs don’t include room and board, fees, and books.
So the college bill could run between roughly $60,000 and $200,000.
In many cases, it’s tough to take that degree to the bank. The gap between those with a degree and those without one has shrunk considerably, particularly if a college student studies subjects such as social work, psychology, journalism, and other non-science areas. The pay just tops $40,000, which is roughly the total debt the average student carries upon graduation.
A graduate can make good money in STEM, particularly in engineering. But fewer students major in science than other areas.
If someone took the cost of four years of college–and that assumes students finish in that time–and invested the money into the stock market or a house, the estimated $20,000-a-year gap between the salary of a high school grad and a college grad shrinks considerably.
Moreover, there are a lot of jobs where high school grads can make a lot of money.
USA Today analyzed U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics to determine what jobs that don’t require a college degree pay well.
Take, for example, property managers who earn a median income of $58,670 a year. The typical on-the-job training takes less than five years with a projected growth in the section of more than 10 percent through 2026.
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers earn nearly $61,000 a year, with virtually no training necessary.
Cops and transportation workers make a lot more than most college graduates.
The financial burden of attending college leaves many students and their families with huge debt.
An estimated 69 percent of college students took out loans, ending their studies with an average debt of nearly $30,000. Meanwhile, 14 percent of the parents took out an average of $35,000 in loans. As a result, Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loans or roughly three times the total of outstanding credit card debt.
It’s clearly a crisis, but one that could be helped if people think about alternatives to a college degree.
Entrepreneur Peter Thiel has provided a scathing critique about whether higher education represents much of an investment anymore. He has argued that college is priced uncompetitively and has become a Ponzi scheme in which students who follower others simply maintain a financially flawed system. Thiel has called college administrators mortgage brokers who get a cut on selling pieces of paper that are only as valuable as we all pretend they are.
Whatever the case, it’s time to start thinking about whether a college degree is a good investment.