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    • quickisstrong

      My nephew just turned 18 and like most High School Seniors, he plans on continuing his education by going to college. He just found out he got accepted to a college of his choice but the cost is close to $30k a year. That includes tuition, books and living expenses. When he graduates and say he does it in 4 years, he could rack up about $120,000 in debt. I am a child of public education, community college and state university and I made it out with no debt. I feel successful in my life and career and even without a prestigious Alma Mater, I am proud of what I accomplished. So my view is jaded in thinking that you have to spend a lot of money to get a great education and be successful in life. Do you think that it's worth it to invest in the high priced school? By the way, I'm a Wildcat - Chico State.

    • Vilen

      I think it really depends on what field he plans to pursue and how dedicated he is going to be to his studies. College can be either a waste of time if you are still on a discovery path to what you want to do in life, or it can be a great networking "foot in the door" experience. You can build relationships with students and teachers that will help you land the job.

      With all of the above, for me, going to college for 4 years was a waste of time and money. The subject matter (Graphic Design and Technology) was far behind of where the industry was and I was learning obsolete subjects, like developing photos in a darkroom with chemicals and mixing paint colors. Those things are fun for an Art school, but I'm sure we could have learned something more useful instead.

      If he can postpone this decision and instead starts looking for an internship or just take a few months off to travel the world (I think it really opens your eyes) it would be much more useful. Then he can decide on his own if it is worth spending that much money and time on getting a paper certificate.

    • Chris

      Oh, boy. I have strong views about this but I know it's emotional and some people I have enormous respect for will argue the other side.

      I have spent my career in science (10 years in geophysics) and technology (hardware and software companies). I think my M.S. from Stanford has been transformational. I can't imagine how I would have learned how to do science as well without learning from the professors I met there. For my field, I wouldn't think twice about a $120K investment in that.

      Yes, I know a huge number of people who didn't go that route and are really successful. At NeXT, where I worked for Steve Jobs, we only hired Phd and Masters-level students from top schools, which I thought was ironic given Steve himself dropped out of college and so did his rival Bill Gates. At Cake we've hired really great designers and engineers who didn't go to top schools, or any school.

      But as for me, I wouldn't change my experience at Stanford for the world. I am still telling stories of things I learned from some of the best scientists in the world there. I think it helped land me the job at NeXT. And I think it's made a difference in being able to secure funding from VCs, because they are snobs.

    • quickisstrong

      I completely see where you are coming from. There are definite fields that you will excel in if you have the right education and exposure. It isn't a one size fits all, which is why there are so many colleges, schools and avenues that one can pursue to make their way in life.

    • Chris

      @Vilen said:

      With all of the above, for me, going to college for 4 years was a waste of time and money. The subject matter (Graphic Design and Technology) was far behind of where the industry was and I was learning obsolete subjects, like developing photos in a darkroom with chemicals and mixing paint colors.

      To me, that's an argument for paying $120K for a great school. The founders of Airbnb are designers who went to The Rhode Island School of Design and they sometimes mention in talks that what they learned there was critical in building Airbnb. Although, their tuition is $48K

    • coffee

      Elon Musk is a prime example that supports Vilen's POV. The dude figured out space rockets with some books and getting intros to the right people.

    • yaypie

      I accidentally never went to college, and I'm really glad. It wouldn't have been the right choice for me.

      I say "accidentally" because I intended to go to college, but I just never quite got around to it. I was already working part-time as a software engineer during high school. When I graduated I started working full-time, but I figured I'd apply to colleges and maybe end up going after saving up some money for a year or so.

      But work was going well, and I sort of fell into a routine, and the one college I actually bothered applying to said I didn't have enough high school credits in history or math or something (I can't even remember now). Before I knew it several years had passed and I realized I'd been successfully getting the jobs I would've have gone to college to get anyway, so I just never went.

      Since then I've had many jobs, been successful in my career, and have even gotten to help build Cake! Only one potential employer in all that time has ever even asked about my lack of a degree, and it turned out I really wouldn't have wanted to work for that person anyway.

      I certainly wouldn't recommend that everyone skip college, but I've always learned best on my own, and my chosen profession happens to be one that's very conducive to this kind of learning, so in the end I saved a lot of money and don't feel like I missed much.

    • neduro

      I don't like the way most people see college as the only option after high school, without really considering the alternatives. In so many aspects of life, the popular answer isn't the only one or even the right one for me, so I've learned the hard way not to do what is expected.

      I'd be tempted by a vocational degree that would rapidly give me earning power without debt (welder, diesel mechanic, etc), and an expectation that I was going to work part time and adventure part time as I figured out who in the world I wanted to be around, where in the world I wanted to be, how in the world I wanted to live. Trying to answer these questions theoretically is possible for some, but it wasn't for me- what I thought I wanted, I didn't.

      I can't regret anything about my life, but if I were giving advice to a younger me, I'd tell myself to question assumed behaviors much harder. College was an assumed behavior that I just dove into without asking why.

    • coffee

      There is a lot to be said about vocational skills as well. You gain a "usefulness" that is typically practical in life. Your example of learning to weld is practical and possibly interesting to dig into a bit more:

      James is a senior software engineer at Google. He is really interested in coffee and decides to start looking into roasting. He quickly discovers that coffee roasters are all of a basic design and could be easy to build. James earns more than enough to justify spending $20k on a hobby to purchase a roaster but James apprenticed as a welder and has access to a shop where he can do some real nice metalwork.

      Instead of buying a roaster, he designs and builds one himself. He couples it with some really great software to automate it and he ends up only spending $1k with several weekends of building a real machine with his family/friends. He proceeds to roast a lot of coffee, blessing his friends with high quality beans.

      James also has a designer wife who really loves to design her own furniture. James could just go to Crate and Barrel to buy the furniture she likes, but instead they work together to design and weld together some custom and unique furniture.

    • cvdavis

      Generally speaking the statistics say that the costs of a higher education are worthwhile up until you've finished a masters degree. A Phd is not cost effective. Keep in mind that's a composite of various schools, students and subjects. I've completed 7 years of university that culminated in earning an MA and then teaching degree that cost me over $100,000 Canadian. It took me about a decade to pay off my loan and that's with a pretty hefty monthly payment. Keep in mind that although you have to pay interest on the loan that much of the interest can be written off in taxes (This will vary). My return on investment has fortunately been worthwhile but there are of course no guarantees and credentialism makes the whole situation even more complicated. It's certainly a more worthwhile investment if you can stay with your parents to reduce the amount of debt you end up having to carry. Anyone that's considering paying that kind of money should put the same effort into researching the school and degree's value that they would into purchasing an expensive vehicle or a cheap home. Ask people in the industry what they are looking for in their workers and what degrees and schools are held in high esteem. Talk to the human resources department in the successful companies that employ people for the jobs you are interested in and see what they think about the schools you've been considering. Ask them what kind of schooling or background their ideal candidates or top workers have. Finally be sure you are passionate about the type of work you intend to spend a large chunk of your life on. "Do what you love and the money will follow."

    • cvdavis

      I should add that I previously worked in trades (renovations) and also as a heavy equipment operator and had therefore tried out a number of careers before heading off to school. Leaving a well paying job to be a starving student sure gives you the motivation and focus to make the most of the educational experience. The advice given by the previous responders is good but I wanted to share my experience to provide another perspective.

    • Shay

      Two thoughts on this:

      1: My sister, Brid, is a Doctor of history and English. She was educated in Ireland, free education, and completed her doctorate in the US. No Student loans. She teaches in Kean University in NJ.

      She has a young daughter, bills to pay, etc. Being saddled with $100,000 + of debt in Student loans would put her under enormous financial strain. I've never asked her but it would be a fair guess that she might not have gone past her degree if she was educated in the US. She wouldn't have been able to afford the student loans.

      Above not a criticism of US education, just a focus on the cost.

      2: There was an interesting sound bite in "by the people" a documentary on the election of Barack Obama. In a conversation caught by the camera, Michelle asks Barack if they can afford to take on the presidency as they just finished paying off their student loans a couple of years ago.

      Both in their 40's, both well educated, but both paid the equivalent of a large mortgage to achieve that.

      I think it's tough for an 18 year old to know what his career path is going to be. My humble advice would be to go to a college which offers free education, get a degree.

      Go out into the workforce and, if necessary, go back to college after a few years for a second degree if needed to advance his career. Pay for the second degree / masters having determined what he wants his career to be.


      .

    • yaypie

      Ugh, that's awful. Curiosity and eagerness to learn should be respected and rewarded, not mocked. I'm sorry that happened to you. 😞

    • erinraab

      This question is on so many people's minds right now! As many people have suggested in the feed, I don't think college is the only way or that expensive colleges are for everyone. You can also get an excellent education at many different kinds of schools. However, there are other aspects of higher education to consider - college can be transformational experiences in many ways, not just in a particular trade or area. For instance, if the peers you meet at school are interested in intellectual rigor, or new topics, or come from various places and have experiences you've never had, then your education and experience is broadened by knowing them, and potentially your future opportunities are too. Beyond looking at school as an experience not just career preparation, my two cents would be that, since he is 18, and is together enough to have a dream school/college of choice and have been accepted, then he's probably together enough to have to figure out his own path. You could certainly offer an opinion and alternatives, but allowing him to make his own choices and pursue something he's excited about is probably the best way of being a good mentor and adult figure in his life.

    • nikkiworth

      Such an interesting topic. Back in "my day" (haha) you just went to college. I did, at Augustana College - private liberal arts college. After two trimesters I left, and worked fulltime. Moved away, went back to school at St. Kate's in MN because the field I intended to study was best received there. Now? Yes, it looks good on paper, but my student loans really suck. I don't believe it helped me get my job or several before it. I'm really not sure how I feel about having gone. At the time, I was on my own but married and my then husband's salary did not allow me to receive any aid. I was doing what I thought I was supposed to to advance in the world. I don't believe it advanced me. Granted - I feel it rounded me out. Some of the exposure I received at St. Kate's - women's college - was really good for me.

      Nowadays, it feels like there are so many more options. I don't think there is one path. LIke others have stated - it depends on the field. Obviously certain fields require that education - doctors, etc. and for the return it is worth it. But just a four year degree in business or communication? Debatable.

    • martha

      Sorry, I know this is an old thread, but I just read it and wanted to weigh in.

      My first reaction was: $30K a year for tuition, books and living expenses is a bargain! That is pretty much the average in-state tuition (including all fees like health insurance) at a UC school now. Berkeley $36K, UC Santa Cruz $31K, UC Davis $35K. Chico State is around $25K.

      My kids went private. Now you are in the $60-$65K/year range. Doesn't matter that it's not Stanford or Harvard; private college tuition is over the top. My younger one has a nice merit scholarship that brings the cost down to about $45K/year.

      But for them, the decision to go small, private liberal arts was the right one because, while they both did OK in their large-ish, but very good, public high school, I think each of them would easily have been lost or looked over in a large research institution during their undergrad years. The small private schools, with the close student-professor relationships they built, gave them the sense of place and accomplishment that they had a hard time finding in high school.

      They understand that they are EXTREMELY fortunate that their parents are able to give them the gift of a debt-free undergraduate education.

      We told them if they chose the private schools for undergrad, then we could offer only limited financial help (in the form of small interest-free loans) if any; had they chosen a UC or CSU, there would have been more available. They accepted that tradeoff. But I have seem both of them really shine and become so much more confident in their abilities during their time in the liberal arts schools they attended, I think it was well worth it.

      Not to say that the public schools don't also have the same result. We would have been happy to send them to any of the state schools. But some people definitely do better in a smaller environment, at least for under grad, so no regrets.

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