I went to college for something I never ended up using. I know lots of other people who lament the same thing to me. They studied for 4 or 5 years and an expensive university, only to graduate and begin working in a field that values them more for their intelligence, rather than their knowledge.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going to college. It can expose you to interesting people, and interesting ideas. But I do see a few problems that are becoming more and more common.
One is that the cost of an education seems to be going through disproportional inflation – where the cost of becoming educated at a university is rising faster than the general cost of living.
Perhaps because of that, students these days have to take on more debt to pay for their education. There was an article in the New York Times about this. Since 2000, the total student debt has climbed from 200 billion, to 1 trillion!
There were two pieces of information in the article that really caught my attention. First, is that it’s not possible to discharge student loans debt in a bankruptcy. You can discharge credit card debt, medical debt, and even mortgage debt in a bankruptcy. But no matter how grim your circumstances become, you can’t get rid of your student loans debt.
Second, there was an anecdote from president Obama and his wife, talking about their student debt. They both left school with about $60,000 of student debt each. They state in the article that they weren’t able to pay off their student debt until about 8 or 9 years after being married. Based on a bit of research, it turns out they were married 1 year after he graduated from law school (1991). So, it sounds like it took them a total of 10 years to finally pay of their student loans.
Furthermore, the only reason they were able to finally pay off the student debt, was thanks to the royalties of his best selling book Dreams From My Father (which incidentally is a great read).
Another problem is that, many young people don’t really consider any option other than heading off to a university. More and more people think they need to get a university education, just to compete. It’s true – university graduates have a much higher average life time income, compared to those who don’t have higher education. It’s this thinking that leads young people to mindlessly pursue higher education, in spite of the rising costs and debt associated with it.
Some people, like Peter Thiel, one of the original founders of Paypal, have even come out and said that higher education is a bubble right now, and that the best students should skip it entirely!
There are no easy answers for this right now. In retrospect, I really enjoyed my years studying biochemistry. But if I was a high school senior right now, I’m not sure if I would follow the same path that I did back then.