Numerous articles over the past couple of years have appeared in the mainstream media questioning the ‘value’ of a college education.
The pundits point to the increase in the costs of tuition, sparse job prospects for college graduates, and innovations in technology that make it possible to learn anything online.
To which I say: not so fast.
First, as I said in Old Money, New Woman: How To Manage Your Money and Your Life, these articles are written by journalists who (most likely) have college degrees and are employed by editors and publishers who (more than most likely) have college degrees.
Yes, times change, but major life experiences do not. One of those major life experiences is Education. Others include Going to War, Becoming a Parent, and Losing a Parent.
All of these major life experiences shape us and create a common understanding of the experience. If you’ve fought in a war, whether it’s the Vietnam War or the war in Iraq, you can sit across from a person who has shared that experience and have a oil tanker full of things in common.
You will have a shared perspective that will transcend socioeconomic background and political ideology. You’ve been there. You’ve done that. And anyone who hasn’t just can’t understand it or relate, no matter how much they want to.
It’s the same with a college education, in my opinion. After four years of (perhaps) being away from home and (very likely) being out of your element on a college campus, you are a very different person. You have crossed a transformational bridge, from a very young and naive 18 year old into a slightly more wise and informed 22 year old.
You have learned more, about your field of study that applies to your future profession, of course. More importantly, you have learned more about yourself and the world around you.
Things won’t appear so black and white, cut and dried, straightforward and simple, if you’ve done your college experience right. People won’t be as easy to label.
Know that I don’t condemn those with a lack of formal education to the depths of hell for all eternity. Nor do I think the college experience is for everybody. My own college experience was a slip-shod, blind-man-with-a-shotgun affair. But I was lucky: I was a white male with resources, a degree of literary talent, and an almost sociopathic drive to succeed.
And I still regret not going to Brown University when I had the chance.
So discount those nay-sayers who cast doubt on the value of an education. Yes, it can be expensive, but as you calculate student debt and potential annual salaries, remember to factor in the Experience, and how it might change you.
And when you can’t find the dollar amount to put in that category, realize that you may have just stumbled across the real value.