Should Everyone Go to College? - The Dollar Stretcher
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Should Everyone Go to College?

For at least the last few generations it was assumed that a college education was the ticket to success in life. Parents encouraged their children to strive for that college degree. But, like all assumptions, it's a good idea to examine them periodically. 

A provacative article in USA Today by Patrick Welsh, a high school English Teacher does just that. And, what he found could provoke some heated discussions. His main concern is that many of the kids you enter college have no chance at earning a bachelor's degree. He points to cases where 70% of students entering college drop out. His wonders if colleges are admitting students that they don't expect to succeed solely to grow their schools and make more money. 

That's the type of thing that's almost impossible to prove, but sure looks like it could be true. More students means more professors and clerical workers. It means bigger paychecks for the administrator's, too. It also means more clout in the community and with every one the school does business with.

Unless I miss my guess, none of those administrators will have their pay reduced if too many students drop out. Nor will they bear any responsibility if students end up with debts that are much too big for their income level. In fact, they won't have to face the problem since student debt doesn't require payments until the student leaves school.

Studies show that the average graduate has more than $23,000 in debts (NY Times).Which is a lot of debt for someone who might be making $30k per year or less. But, debt is especially nasty for students who don't complete a degree. Their income potential and ability to repay student  loans is even less. 

Now I'm not saying that everyone should avoid college. Far from it. Based on what I see many, many jobs will require continuous education. It will become very difficult to find a job where you don't need to continue learning. 

But, I expect college to change in the next decade. The idea of devoting full time to college and attending classes in person will gradually give way to a different approach. One that's not nearly so expensive. One that doesn't require as many professors and ivy covered buildings. A continuing education model that will take what we need from colleges and blend that with an internet world. A new paradigm that will be much, much more affordable for students (yes, you can call it more frugal!).

In the meantime, don't be surprised to see an explosion of college debt defaults. There's a little more than $600 billion in federal education loans outstanding (FinAid.org) and $45 billion are in default (7.5%). It's almost impossible to get relief on student loans. Generally even declaring bankruptcy doesn't make them go away. So the former students will drag these loans around. For some the choice will be between food/shelter or paying their loans. Guess which choice will win out.

So should you plan on going to college? Well, maybe. If you know what you want to do and going to college is the only way to do it. But, for many people, the idea of going to college just so you can say that you went is becoming a very expensive luxury. A luxury that you might pay for the rest of your life.

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!




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July 9, 2010 10:23 AM

vcudnik said:

I've questioned the logic of pigeon-holing students for quite some time. The path to college is perfectly appropriate for some students, and others should be focused on learning a trade. Not everyone is cut out for academics and I think the current culture makes students feel like they're not measuring up. There are more honest jobs that don't require a degree than there are that do. Yes, times are changing, but we still need folks that have a knack for landscaping, house painting, and even sweeping floors. Of course, part of the problem is that folks that dig ditches have been raised in a culture where they expect to reap the same rewards as a doctor who spent a decade in college.

July 9, 2010 5:45 PM

cheapchic said:

As old as I am to learn a trade come off it,Im just a title clerk,and to learn a new trades is harder for me this is making me feel like old and inadoquit...

July 11, 2010 7:02 PM

File recovery said:

Great post. I agree with your post. I think everyone should go to college and I agree with this point you mentioned in your post that for many people, the idea of going to college just so you can say that “you went is becoming a very expensive luxury. A luxury that you might pay for the rest of your life”. Some people think like that.

July 15, 2010 3:55 AM

Should Everyone Go to College? | Provident Planning said:

Pingback from  Should Everyone Go to College? | Provident Planning

July 28, 2010 6:04 AM

The Dollar Stretcher said:

Some things are personal. I admit that I can't help but look at the cost of college with a bit of

September 21, 2010 3:23 PM

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About Gary

For more than 25 years, Gary Foreman has worked to manage money effectively. Prior to starting The Dollar Stretcher, he was a financial planner and purchasing manager. While helping clients manage their hard earned money as a financial planner, he applied commonsense, time-tested techniques during the turbulent 1980’s. The experience convinced him that you didn’t need to hit the lottery to accumulate significant wealth. Following that, Gary had an opportunity to learn more about how to get the best value for a dollar spent in the corporate world. As the Purchasing Manager for a computer manufacturer, he was responsible for supervising over $10 million in annual purchases. Gary began The Dollar Stretcher website <www.TheDollarStretcher.com> and newsletters in April 1996. Over 300,000 readers benefit from the time and money saving ideas presented in The Dollar Stretcher newsletters each week. His mission is to help people "Live Better for Less". He also provides private label newsletters for companies wishing to provide money saving information for their clients and/or prospects. Gary lives in Florida along with his wife of thirty years and their two children. Much of his time is spent working with the men's ministry of his church. One of their ongoing projects is the "Holy Smoke BBQ" which sells bbq on Friday nights with the profits going to support local foster kids and orphans. When he has a free moment you’ll find him restoring a Checker station wagon nicknamed “Two Ton” or cruising in a '65 Impala SS Convertible with doo-wops playing in the background.

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Gary is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who edits The Dollar Stretcher website <www.stretcher.com> and newsletters. You can follow Gary on Twitter.com/gary_foreman
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