College Not Worth It Anymore

by frugalrvers

With the exception of a select few, it seems to me that college is not worth it anymore. My teenage daughter is getting some unconventional advice from me on economic survival.

In a week, I am going to be 44 years old. My husband and I, by choice, are living in an rv fulltime, a decision that had nothing to do with retirement, savings or a hint of financial security. But in many ways we feel wealthier than we did before disconnecting from conventional life.

I have a Bachelor's degree, my husband has a PhD - and we both, even though from a different era, talk about how we wish we had just learned a trade at community college and called it a day. We aren't using these degrees, nor did we use them much before.

Today's kids are still being told to "do the right thing" and head to college. I feel it is more due to the habits of the parents, not wanting to stray from "societal norms" given the stigma of not having a degree. But are parents pushing kids for that degree making a mistake? We think so...

Why College Is Not Worth It - Grads Getting Low Skill Jobs And Little Pay

An August 23, 2012 article on Market Watch of the Wall Street Journal proclaimed college graduates today are trading the cap and gown for a broom. They are finding few jobs and when they do, they offer low pay and often aren't even in their field. To make it worse, the pay is often an unlivable wage - perfect for financial catastrophe when hit with the ridiculous student loans acquired from getting a college education these days.

The article is brief, and you can quickly VIEW IT HERE.

So for many students, after four years, what awaits them is a whole heap of debt and a job they could have often got without a diploma - at least a four year one.

Is Going To College Worth It, Mom? What I Tell My Teenage Daughter

When my daughter asks if going to college is worth it anymore, I actually say "yes!" Where I differ from other parents is that my strategy and way of thinking are completely different than what her friend's parents are telling her girlfriends.

Let me start by saying that if my daughter absolutely had 100% desire to be a veterinarian, lawyer, psychiatrist or any tight niche requiring a decade of further education, this would be a different discussion - there is no way around that but by way of college. But the average high school graduate just wants to go to school, get a good job and start on his/her adult life. This is the population that is going under the water, as we parents stand on the beach proclaiming "swim farther, swim farther!"

For me, I throw my daughter a life preserver full of tips to ensure she doesn't sink:

  1. Even if you think you want a Bachelor's degree, you start at community college where we can pay cash - no debt for two years. This gives you two more years to explore careers, options and interests worry free. How many seniors in high school really have a clue what they want to do with their lives when their biggest decisions to date have been "which is the best smartphone?"
  2. Choose concentrations that would enable you to be self-employed in the future. Learn a trade, get a certificate or Associate's degree (or get a few) in things you like to do. The only real way to make money in this awful economy, in my opinion, is to work for yourself in the future.
  3. Follow your passions and make money doing a lot of things at once, to live a happy life. My daughter is an awesome photographer, artist, musician and even loves cutting our hair (no training yet does a fantastic job). I tell her to envision a life of making money hiring herself as a wedding photographer, cutting hair on the side and making money like my husband and I do by playing gigs. This adds up to be a lot of money, believe me - and it is fun and makes you feel alive. She can get short certifications, training and degrees in some of these things and have an exciting and rewarding life.
  4. Learn how to market your businesses online. Like we are doing, she can learn how to have an effective website for her various trades - even sell her art online for even more income.

In sum, I'm telling my daughter to pay the least amount in tuition for skills she is passionate about and could eventually do as a self-employed individual. No 9 to 5 of the same job everyday, that quickly erodes your spirit if you aren't passionate about your career. Doing many things that you love to do can generate a substantial income over the new grads who are making $10/hour, 40 hours per week - while trying to pay off a fortune in student loan debt.

The Future Used To Look So Bright With A College Diploma In Hand

Is College Worth The Money?

Though we weren't always this way, back when we did the job thing, house thing, car payment and credit card we live cash only in our full time rv life.

So what does that have to do with college being worth the money? A lot, actually. With our degrees and decent jobs, we felt the economy collapsing before leaving our conventional lives behind in 2009. Food, utilities, insurance and gasoline costs kept going up and up, while our salaries remained quite steady. We knew something was dreadfully wrong, felt the middle class getting squeezed out - and knew the time to run was now, while we still could.

From that moment forward, we committed to living cash only. No debt. Owe no one nothing. Pay for only what we could afford. This is our belief system - so how can I tell my daughter in good conscience to start her life with a heavy debt load, and no guarantee of it doing anything for her? I wouldn't even tell her to buy a house right now, and that could potentially be an investment if the US doesn't completely disintegrate economically...though doubtful. But to tell her "just go get that degree, make us proud and...then what? Come move back in with us once you graduate?"

If I were to ever owe anyone again, it would be for something of value - something I know what I can expect getting from the "debt." A degree doesn't guarantee financial security anymore. Of course, some pursue a degree to follow their passions - but many pursue degrees for perceived financial security. In our opinion, if you live more simply and buy only what you can afford - what you need, not want - then you can be "secure" even without a college degree.

We think of "wealth" as what is left over after everything is paid off. If you don't own your home, you aren't actually could be lost if catastrophe hits you, like losing a job. Security to us is knowing everything is ours and that we have bills totaling only hundreds per month, that we pay without sweating about it.

Is College Really Worth It For The Average Student Today?

This Is Referring To University BACHELOR DEGREES AND HIGHER, Not Community Colleges
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No, College Is Not Worth It
Holistic_Health on 12/29/2012

No, I've been underpaid since the day I got my degree and lucky to have a job in this economy. I't's much more important to be debt free than to have a degree.

dustytoes on 08/28/2012

I totally agree with you here. College tuition is astronomical. As you've said, unless the student has a definite career in mind and needs all those years to accomplish his / her goals, no, the huge payments for years afterward do not seem worth it in this unstable economy. And too many kids do not have a clue as to what they want when they begin college.

katiem2 on 08/27/2012

You did say average student right? Lets just say it's not right for most of the average students and while they are all told they must go to college it is a mistake. Trade schools should be brought back. More on this ...

JoHarrington on 08/27/2012

No, University is not worth it. I'm sitting here, writing for Wizzley, with MA BA(Hons) after my name. I've never been able to get a job where my degree counted. I'm lucky that I went when education was still free. I'd hate to be saddled with the kind of debt that young people face today.

frugalrvers on 08/27/2012

Between our shaky economy where those with degrees are losing their jobs, the high debt of student loans and lack of decent paying jobs upon graduation, we don't believe it is worth it.

Yes, College Is Still Worth It
frankbeswick on 11/28/2014

It is worth it for some people. I have benefited from my degrees, but I have not enjoyed the demands of professional life. But there are different routes to education. Degree is not the only path or the best for all.

cmoneyspinner on 09/07/2013

Education will never hurt you. It's got nothing to do with what kind of job you can get. It's your mind. Develop it! Sure some do that without going to college. But usually those are the same people that save up money and send their kids to college. What? Are they hypocrites? No. They just know the value. Community colleges and higher. It's all good!

VictoriaLynn on 10/24/2012

Definitely worth it. It opens up a lot of opportunities. Plus there's the value of the experience itself. I have had several opportunities simply because of my degrees. I always have something to fall back on.

JoHarrington on 08/27/2012

University isn't just about degrees and jobs. It's about widening your horizons. It's education! Education shouldn't mean the route to a job, but the sheer joy of learning more about your world. I wouldn't give up what I experienced there for anything. I made life-long friends and it changed the way that I thought. It educated me and that must count for something. (I have a BA (Hons) and MA.)

Is A College Education Worth It - Final Thoughts

In the end, my daughter's life is her own - and the choice is hers to make. However, it is important to me that she hear all views regarding the value of a college education, not just society's view and what her friends are doing, etc. I want her to take time and think about her future - to be aware that if she is only going to a university to follow the herd, she might be following them right off the edge of a cliff.

I don't want her pressured to pick a career at 18 years of age "for life." I don't want her getting a Bachelor's and feeling the pressure of student loans, having to move across the country to get a job in her field (if that fortunate to find one), struggle economically in a job that pays a flat salary as costs go up and pay remains the same. I want her to see there are new ways of making plenty to live a comfortable life, that don't involve old methods.

I can't tell my daughter to go into the "still seemingly secure" health field, knowing she has no interest in it, just to get a paycheck. I can't promise her if she gets her degree she will find a job in the state she wants to live in (my husband's PhD was never used once we moved to Montana in jobs available unless we moved, which we aren't willing to happiness for a paycheck). I can't promise my daughter that even if she finds a job, she might get laid off if the economic downturn continues.

Therefore, I can't tell her to go into debt for a college education - that the "value" of a diploma is worth the cost anymore. After all, she sees us with a PhD and Bachelor's, not using them at all, and living the life of our dreams - she knows we would be lying, to tell her any different.

The Good Old Days, When Staying In School Guaranteed A Better Life

Think Again
Updated: 04/25/2018, frugalrvers
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What College Fields Are Still Worth The Heavy Student Loans, In Your Opinion?

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NanciArvizu on 07/02/2015

The comments have been just as good as the article! True, we all must find our own path and even truer - we must allow our children to do the same. Some go with the flow, others against. Some go cross stream. Just keep swimming. ;)

frugalrvers on 06/30/2015

Couldn't agree more! Everyone thought my husband and I were crazy when we quit jobs, sold everything and bought a modest, older RV we could afford to achieve this simpler life. When you walk against the current it can be tough, but it can be achieved can get out of the stream and be healthier and happier.

I always send my daughter a quote of the day - yesterday this is the one I sent her, which seems rather appropriate for this topic today!

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." Ralph Waldo Emerson

frankbeswick on 06/29/2015

People were fed a pernicious lie that life was all about work and that personal happiness could be found in a career. Total lie. The modern career is a treadmill in which people slave long hours, often hoping for the promotion that never comes, and if it does it does not make them any happier. There is some satisfaction in work, but it needs to be balanced by the other ingredients of a human life.

frugalrvers on 06/29/2015

Thank you for your comment! I agree......I am meeting more and more people who are recognizing the mainstream ways just aren't suitable for a healthy, happy life in general anymore. Not just with college, but the whole hamster wheel of life that gets you nowhere (born, work, die cycle). Eyes are opening, one slow lid at a time perhaps, but they are opening...

CruiseReady on 06/29/2015

I think that a small, but growing, number of people are starting to realize some of the things you have already put into action. Sadly, many are not brave or independent enough to swim against the current of 'group thought' that academia constantly strives to impose. And that goes for many attitudes and goals including, but not limited to, 'acceptable' avenues of education

frankbeswick on 11/29/2014

Not many happy people! What a powerful and damning social and political critique. Sadly things are not good in the UK, where capitalism has run rampant and materialism is rife.

I have seen what happens when a parent presses a child into going to university against their own feelings. The result was disastrous, lifelong resentment. Two of my four children have degrees, but with Helen she found her forte second time round. She initially went for an English degree and thought of teaching, which was not right for her, and dropped out. She returned to do social work, which I instantly knew was right, and she takes to that emotionally demanding profession like a duck to water. My youngest son is basically a hippy type, and has a lifestyle where he saves up for his peregrinations round the world. My only reservation on this hippy lifestyle choice is that he is relying on mother and me for cheap [free] accommodation, but we won't be around for ever, and I am retired

People must find their niche. I took up teaching. but I was not aware that I find institutions hard to handle and so I had to go freelance. But no parent can ever reach into the depths of their child's inner life to discover the subtle flows of emotions and how they interact with situations. Thus no parent should control their child's career. Respect the child's choices.

frugalrvers on 11/28/2014

Frankbeswick, I can't thank you enough for such a kind, thoughtful comment........if I have one goal for my daughter while I'm still skipping across this crazy planet, it is to stop listening to what others say she should do (THAT doesn't work...just don't meet many happy people anymore in the US, what about the UK?) and, instead, follow what her inner spirit is guiding her toward. Money absolutely destroys lives (and the goal of money, the lure of money, the esteem of money). If you wake up each day feeling alive and following your path, you will have "enough" in this world.

frugalrvers on 11/28/2014

Thanks Lybrah! It's not the most popular viewpoint in mainstream society....truly appreciate your putting your opinion out there and not worrying about such silly things :)

frankbeswick on 11/28/2014

In the UK the previous government pushed for fifty per cent of school leavers to go to university. But there were not enough graduate jobs, so youngsters spent three years getting into debt with inadequate work at the end. Nowadays the government is pressing many to go to apprenticeships, which are better for them. But when teaching teenagers I have often pressed them to avoid degrees and to do what we call Higher National Certificates and Diplomas. These are vocational qualifications that are shorter and cheaper than degrees. My eldest son did one in Horticulture and found work therein.

Before my son went to college he went to work in Norway for a year with a wonderful Lutheran minister who had an estate. It was one of the most important experiences of my son's life. He learned estate work and social skills and some Norwegian. Yet he did not figure as a success on official college statistics, because the criteria do not allow for experiences that don't fit into the box. The criteria are enforced by Ofsted, the official inspection regime, who are enforcers of conformity.

But principals and academics are to blame for the oversupply of college places. The principals want to get status for their school, so they encourage teenagers to do degrees because they look good on school statistics without considering the students chances of getting jobs from them. Academics want students for the funding, even if they are selling degrees with limited job prospects.

I am in full agreement with the advice that your are giving to your daughter.

frugalrvers on 01/11/2013

Thanks for your comments...
The needing a plan a, b and c is such great advice. My daughter graduated high school early and is following her "plan a" by going to community college/avoiding debt in the Arts to test the waters. She is much happier and more calm than I was, going off to college without a clue. I am so happy to see her focused, excited and passionate about pursuing her dreams vs her wallet. What a Supermom you are...your children (all 7!) sound so healthy, focused and grounded. Was reading recently about young adults today starting to recognize "i don't need a car payment" and "I don't need a mortgage" etc...Maybe there is hope...and that kids have seen a generation of stressed parents, drowning in debt and still unable to make ends meet (often unhappy in their jobs). I wish my daughter success, but also try to show her if you live simply, you can follow your passions without the stress of earning a big paycheck.

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