Is College Worth It?

by Shawanda Greene

English: Day 3 of the protest Occupy Wall Stre...

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about the number of Americans saddled with student loan debt, the high jobless rate among new college grads, and the skyrocketing cost of tuition.

All this college bashing makes you wonder whether a degree is worth the time and money.

Despite reports you’ve read about the sociology major who graduated with $200K in student loan debt, her story is hardly the norm.

There are clear benefits to getting a college education.

Sure. Some people are better served by technical schools, community colleges and other forms of advanced training.

For me, a bachelor’s degree has paid off handsomely.

Apparently, quite a few people agree.

I asked a simple question of the Yakezie Network, the web’s largest personal finance and lifestyle blog network:

Was College Worth It?

Those who responded had this to say.

"I would not be able to work in my current position, earn this level of income, and have the career options that I do without that education."

My current job came to me through networking with a fellow MBA student. There is certainly a measurable return on investment. ~ Narrow Bridge Finance

The one thing I did gain was experience through a plethora of internships. It was the internships that gave me something to discuss in the interviews and ultimately led to better paying job options after I graduated. ~ One Frugal Girl

I have already made substantially more just in my internships than I would have if I wasn’t in school. ~ Add Vodka

I took a 2-year computer science diploma program that gave me a wide range of computer knowledge. It helped me get my foot in the door with my internet marketing career. ~ Modest Money

With the understanding that I can’t go from A to C without B (college), then I guess it’s not only worth it but a necessity. ~ Money Mamba

Working in IT, having a college degree is pretty huge. Regardless of performance – without one, I would likely be stuck in a tech support/operations role. Getting a degree, certainly allowed me to get my foot in the door. ~ See Debt Run

Once I left E&Y, and started applying for Controller and CFO positions, I quickly realized that having a Psychology degree, in addition to an Accounting degree, really helped me to stand out from the other applicants. ~ Financial Knowledge Online

I still feel both of my degrees were worth it, if only for the fact that I was able to find a career I love and hone my skills so I can be a success in what I do. ~ The Single Saver

I wouldn’t be in the job I am in today. Simple. Big companies won’t even look at you without a degree. ~ Savvy Scott

While I have a lot of student loan debt ($79,000), I would not be able to work in my current position, earn this level of income, and have the career options that I do without that education. I enjoy my full-time work, and I appreciate how my education has opened a lot of doors for me. ~ Earn Save Live

I used to believe that a college degree was a complete waste if you didn’t work in the field you studied. Now, I think I might have been wrong. According to this group of personal financial bloggers, I was.

"In college, I learned how to learn."

It opens the door to many hallways you didn’t know existed.  It shows that you have the capacity to learn. ~ This That And The MBA

I think the ability to learn counts more, than being able to regurgitate what you memorized from a textbook in order to get an “A” on an exam. ~ Simply Investing

I do think I learned a lot about myself, critical thinking, and collaborating with others while I was in school. I just wish I had learned those lessons much cheaper! ~ So Over Debt

College made me who I am, but it was more of the experience than the classes. ~ Frugal Beautiful

I loved college, I wouldn’t trade the friendships and the experiences for anything in the world. ~ My Life and My Debts

There are so many intangibles that can’t really be measured from what I experienced and gained from college that certainly has lead to me being more successful in other endeavors. ~ Maximizing Money

In college, I learned how to learn. My degree itself — taken at literal face value — hasn’t had good ROI, but the skills I learned (critical thinking, analysis, etc.) have helped me immensely. ~ Afford Anything

The primary argument for going to college is all the dough you’ll make with a degree. I have the fondest memories of my college years, but make no mistake, I was all about the money. Getting drunk, having sex, and partying were great fun, but give me the cash.

My goal was to use my degree to make as much money as possible while spending as little as possible to obtain it. This requires careful comparison of what you’ll earn in the workforce and what you’ll spend to get a college education.

"Getting an undergrad degree is essential, and strategically choosing where to go is vital."

I am in my first year of university. I have second thoughts everyday. I do plan on using my kinesiology degree to go to a physiotherapy graduate program, so right now I am staring at the horizon. I question it though because I know friends who are working right now making a good income (one is 18 and making $40,000). ~ Poor Student

Looking back though I could’ve saved A LOT of money if I had done two years at a community college and then transferred to a four year school to get my bachelors degree. I wish I had gone into college knowing what I wanted to do with my life instead of changing my major half way through. ~ My Life and My Debts

Getting an undergrad degree is essential, and strategically choosing where to go is vital. Those who blindly go by rankings and pay less attention to loans and debt burdens might be shortchanging themselves immensely. ~ Squirrelers

Several of my friends are over $100k in debt for an MA degree at “good” universities and are struggling to get hired. Is that education worth paying it off until you retire? HELL NO.Frugal Beautiful

I started college when I was 17 and didn’t get my degree until I was 34. Taking that long kept me from having to go into debt for college but it wasted a lot of time. College was probably worth the modest expense but not the time.Tight Fisted Miser

I could have saved myself at least $20-30k by not going or at least graduating sooner. ~ Figuring Money Out

Going now for my associates. I’ve been working on it for a while, but “life” kept getting in the way. I’m doing it with grants and scholarships, though. No school debt for me. My chosen career path simply won’t pay enough for it.Femme Frugality

Major and Tuition…All it means is to have an understanding of the future earning potential and the number of years it will take to pay back the tuition. ~ I am 1 Percent

Total marginal cost over living on my own without going to school was probably about $40,000 total. I basically covered that (plus living costs) working programming jobs and playing poker and gin nights, weekends and summers. ~ Off Road Finance

Although I was able to graduate without any debt…it still delayed my start in the workforce for four years. It doesn’t help that my job does not require a university degree. I’m happy I have a degree, but regret the TIME it took me to get it. ~ Freedom 48

I knew people who went to school and became engineers, then realized it wasn’t for them and they hated it. In a way it is not a waste because you still have your education, but it is also a waste that you have to pay back tens of thousands of dollars for a degree you won’t use. ~ Smart Wealth

My school was expensive, but I had a hefty scholarship to take the edge off, and I worked paid internships every summer to defray my costs more. ~ Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I wouldn’t be where I am now without it. Also, I took summer classes at the community college and saved a ton of money! ~ Making Sense of Cents

So, what do you think? Was college worth it for you?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

femmefrugality March 12, 2012 at 3:09 PM

Great post. It's important to recognize that education is still vital…not just on an individual level, but on a societal level. We just have to be smart about it. (No pun intended.)


Shawanda March 12, 2012 at 5:53 PM

Thanks for taking the time to contribute to this post! You're wise to not take on any student loan debt knowing it'll create a financial burden in the future.


eemusings March 12, 2012 at 7:29 PM

Absolutely. You need a degree to get started in my industry these days, though it wasn't always that way, and (some of) the things I learned and people I met definitely will stand me in good stead in years to come.


Shawanda March 13, 2012 at 4:24 AM

That's how it was for me too. EVERYONE who worked in the positions I wanted to work in at the companies I wanted to work for had accounting degrees.


Analytica March 14, 2012 at 8:45 AM

Although I ended up with lots of student debt and I'm still struggling to pay it all off, it was the best thing I ever did. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably have chosen a different college. I have two degrees and work (on leave right now) the equivalent of either an industrial engineer and financial analyst. Without my two degrees I don't think I would have been able to have such a good paying job.


Shawanda March 14, 2012 at 9:51 PM

The good thing is you have the income to pay back the student loans. The people who have it the worst are those who have a ton of student loan debt and no degree to make them more marketable.


Max March 14, 2012 at 8:08 PM

Very entertaining and resourceful article. I think if I had to do it all over again, I would still choose to go to college. I definitely ended up very far from where I started, as far as my academic pursuits go, but it was worth the journey to get here.


Shawanda March 14, 2012 at 9:46 PM

Thanks, Max! I'm actually amazed at the number of people who are happy with their decision to go to college. If I hadn't asked the question, I'd have thought I was one of the lucky few who felt they made the right decision.


bogofdebt March 15, 2012 at 7:30 PM

I loved this! I feel that I made the correct choice in going even though I didn't make the smartest choices about loans and money during that time. The experience of meeting new people and making new friends was worth everything for me. It helped me get over some crippling shyness as well.


Shawanda March 15, 2012 at 11:12 PM

Thanks! Before college, I was terrified of networking. Once I realized the necessity of it, I actually got kinda good at it. It's still a tool I use to this day.


From Shopping to Saving June 26, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Really great round-up! I totally think my degree was worth it. It wasn’t just the actual degree itself that opened a ton of opportunities for me such as interviews, etc.. but the networking I learned in college made it more worth it.

I took some GEs at a JC simultaneously while going to the 4 year college and the differences were like night and day. My 4 year college had tons of resources, people willing to help you, career services with mentors that knew a ton of HR people at huge companies, etc. The name of your college also helps… I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
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Jerome October 18, 2012 at 12:25 AM

Don’t get an education! Companies don’t want educated people (thinkers), they want trained people (circus animals).


Greg March 13, 2013 at 10:39 AM

I think it depends on the field and where you go and how much it costs. Both my wife and I could have gone to more “prestigious” colleges that would have cost more, but instead went to schools with good reputations but where we received more scholarship money. I have read (sorry, can’t find the source) that a person’s success can be predicted based on the quality of school he/she was accepted to rather than which attended, meaning that drive and ability are more importatnt than the resources provided from school to school. I earned my MBA while working so that my company would pay for nearly all of it. I would say MBA with no experience, not worth it. MBA with relevant experience, will open doors but experience is still more important.

All of that said, my degree was worth it, but I was very money conscious and did everything to limit student debt.
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