The Value of a College Education


I told you guys many years ago to become plumbers. Most of you argued with me and clung to your antiquated beliefs, beliefs pushed onto you by an industry seeking to profit off of you.

It was too late for me by then, but I think I may have saved some of you. I doubt most of the people that argued are still around. So they won’t read this. But maybe I’ll save some more people.

The numbers they use in the below article are actually false in that they STILL overestimate the value of the degrees and thoroughly underestimate the debt, unemployment and job prospects, as well as opportunity costs. But we’re talking people inside Princeton and other places that are actually going to lose business for this, which should tip you off on how worthless higher education truly is:^DJI,^GSPC,^SPY,COCO,APOL,ESI,DV&sec=topStories&pos=8&asset=&ccode

Forget Harvard and a 4-Year Degree, You Can Make More as a Plumber in the Long Run, Says Prof. Kotlikoff
Posted Mar 18, 2011 09:21am EDT by Stacy Curtin in Newsmakers

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The value of a college education has been a hot topic of discussion here at Tech Ticker. Now there?s more fodder for debate.

A new study from Princeton University shows that expensive college degrees are not necessarily worth the lofty price tags in the long run when you take into account one’s natural ability.

Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of economics at Boston University agrees that an expensive education just isn’t worth it – much to his chagrin of course because tuition and fees at Boston University totalled $39,314 for 2010-11.

With unemployment still about 9 percent, on average, for college graduates under the age of 25, and total student-loan debt now topping that of credit card debt in this country, he tells Aaron in the accompanying clip, ?If you think of education as solely a monetary investment, if we are not thinking about all the other benefits from education like learning things, and getting to hang out with me, and also just becoming a more cultured person, then we have to look at this very carefully.?

So, what does college tuition and room and board cost today?

Well, tuition is the most expensive it has have ever been, rising roughly 5.6 percent per year beyond the rate of inflation, reports the College Board.

In-state tuition and fees at a public four-year university were on average $7,605 for the 2010-11 term. When you tack on room and board, the total average cost jumps to $16,140.
Tuition and fees at a private four-year college were on average $27,293 for the same term. And, the total average cost with room and board amounted to $36,993.

That?s a lot of dough – especially when you multiply it by four years. It’s for that same reason James Altucher, founder of Formula Capital, made his case to Tech Ticker last year that kids should forget the degree altogether. (See: Rethinking College as Student-Loan Burdens Rise)

Kotlikoff has been doing a bit of his own research on the matter as president of Economic Security Planning Inc. He?s developed software that according to the website can ?tell you if a job change, a housing move, a retirement account contribution, and a host of other financial decisions will raise or lower your living standard.?

Kotlikoff’s research aligns with Altucher’s credo. He has found that more often than not, people can have a better lifetime standard of living by choosing NOT to get an advanced degree. And, he says that people can be better off financially by not obtaining an undergraduate degree at all.

Professor Kotlikoff makes his case by comparing the livelihoods of plumbers and doctors. Yes, doctors have a bigger salary. But, doctors have to endure nearly a decade of expensive education before making any real salary, after which the doctor is hit by a very high progressive tax rate. Because of all the costs the doctor incurs, the taxes and the lost wages, he says, ?plumbers make more, and have almost the same spending power over their lifetime as general practitioners."

The high cost of tuition ? and in turn high burden of student debt ? is a key part to Kotlikoff’s findings.

?[This] is a debt a kid cannot discharge through bankruptcy,? he explains. ?We have a lot of kids who are borrowing a lot of money that they can?t discharge through bankruptcy who are ending up basically in debtors prison for the rest of their life because they potentially made the wrong choice when it came to education.?

If parents are paying, Kotlikoff says, all bets are off. But, for those considering college, who have to pay for all the costs alone, his advice is to think not once, not twice, but three times over about the financial burden of future student-loan debt.



So… what if I dont like plumbing? Lol


Haha I just posted that in the lounge thread

Quick summary of what I wrote before:

If you evaluate education purely on the merits of how much it will increase your earning power, then sure, in most cases its a terrible investment. But education makes you a better person, and that has value in and of itself.

For people in high school considering college I’d say consider some of the following ideas …

  1. Go to community college on the cheap, and then transfer to a state university
  2. Get a scholarship so cost is irrelevant
  3. Go to a trade school
  4. Don’t major in something worthless like liberal arts. I got a degree in CS, and I can tell you, its helped me get good jobs, and its been a great return on my investment.


then you obviously haven’t watched enough porno


Dude, I LOVE learning. I also love sports and physical activity. But I HATE school and hated gym class in school.

Schooling never actually is about learning. To me learning and improving is a life long endeavor. I’m constantly studying things and improving myself. I’ve been teaching myself foreign languages recently, and in the past I studied stocks, religion, writing and plenty of other things.

You don’t go to school to improve yourself at all. Because true self improvement has to be done from within. Very few people actually want to teach anybody else in this world. That is why those few that get true mentorship go so much further ahead than most people. I’ve been coached by a lot of other people, and the richest clients I had all told me they got mentored and that’s how they made their money.

You should ONLY go to school to make money. For the schools it is a business. They certainly are not shy about collecting money from you, so why should you be stupid about the money and hand it to them?

That’s why higher education is such a toxic scam. The best scams are the ones where you actually scam people so bad they start scamming other people for you. And that’s the higher education scam right there…the scammed not only can’t see how bad they got it, they insist on other people getting screwed too.


my schooling is free (scholarships) so it doesnt apply to me

but i agree that for most people it’s just money down the drain. especially to those who rack up debt and don’t even come out with a degree, they just have a few years of random bullshit classes and 20,000k in debt to the US government


This pretty much, or work on the cheap to get experience in a field. In most cases, the point of a degree is to get your foot in the door at a non shit job because you lack experience, once you have experience that degree is just a piece of paper.


This seems like common sense to me. If you’re only going to college to “find yourself” and spend four years and $50k+ for a fuzzy degree, you’re probably better off learning a trade. That’s financially, of course. Some people put a large value on life experience, which is great but doesn’t really pay the bills.

If you’re just in it to make money, college only makes sense if you’re getting a degree that leads to a solid career (accounting, engineering). Otherwise, you’d better looooove whatever you’re majoring in because it’s going to set you back a pretty penny and it’s not really going to improve your job prospects as much as, say, becoming an electrician or a welder.

This type of stuff has been weighing heavily on my mind lately because I’m considering going back to school to study law. You don’t think about all that debt when you’re 18 but when you’ve been working for a few years and have bills to pay, the prospect of taking on such an enormous financial commitment is imposing, to say the least.


I agree education is a lifelong endeavor, and those who realize that do well in life, and does who don’t, don’t seem to make it very far. School is just a good starting point. It can be useful in certain situations. For example, if you went to school at MIT and go to work on some of their amazing research projects, you are pretty much guaranteed a job anywhere afterward, period. That and the actual research they do there is amazing. You can do research on your own, but you’re not going to have the kind of lab setup and funding that a world famous school will. I’m just speaking from a computer science perspective, but a lot of the top universities played a huge role in shaping today’s technology, and to have been a part of that would have been a giant privilege - forget the monetary compensation (although it goes without saying that guys like Bill Joy, the guy who basically wrote BSD UNIX while at Berkely, are set for life). So its not fair to say its completely a scam.


This type of thing has been in the back of my head for a bit before.
What about communications? I have about a year left.


i got lucky. When the economy went to shit, my province created Second Career, for people who lost jobs and wanted new training. I could only get a 2 year course, but they paid for EVERYTHING (even ‘living expenses’).

Educations being paid for by non government funding is a bad idea, me thinks. I understand there’s all this tradition and bullshit, but seriously. Too many people getting left behind, and even if you do get to go to school, it’s a serious smack in the wallet to you or your family.

I didn’t realize student debts had hit credit card debt levels :frowning:


I think student debts are far beyond credit card debt. It should be about $1 Trillion in student loan debt now.


For almost any degree other than engineering and accounting (although this applies to those as well), your job prospects are going to be all about your connections. One of the main things you get from college is the opportunity to network. You need to take advantage of those opportunities to collect as many contacts as you can from classes, alumni gatherings, job fairs, etc… The tough part is parlaying these into jobs. What you want to avoid is being a new graduate with no marketable skills and no industry experience. The odds are massively against you at that point. If just one of your contacts comes through and gets your foot in the door, then you’re good to go.


An essential piece of paper, right?


I think, have always thought, that as long as the person knows what he/she is going for and isn’t pussy footing it with empty promises and dreams, then I don’t have any gripe on anyone going for the “traditional” route in higher learning. Now, for everyone else that goes from highschool to an expensive University that mommy and daddy is fitting the bill, with no idea what they want to do, is a very poor decision from the start. All the reasons I’ve heard from people that gets defensive after hearing what I have to say, are very unintelligent excuses to waste money.


I kinda wish I’d joined the navy right after high school. Similarly I wish that I’d have proper advisors at the college level; too many incompetent people at that level.


I’m on the cusp of finishing my masters and my supervisor told me that he’d take me on as a PhD student if I wanted. Now I have to decide if getting a PhD in molecular science is worth it. I fear that getting my PhD will over-qualify me for many jobs and that my only choice would be to continue in research and academics (which doesn’t pay very well compared to industry). Also, having a PhD doesn’t really increase your earning potential much more than a master’s degree. :xeye:


an old friend of mine has two PhD’s or one PhD, can’t remember anymore. ChemPhys though.

Even he said it’s pointless in the short run, but you better damn well believe in the long run it matters. Only the tech industry really has to worry about over qualification


Well, I’d enjoy the prestige of having a PhD and being able to call myself “doctor”. :smiley:

Down the road, I’d probably get tired of working in industry and would wanna turn to teaching as a professor so the PhD would be useful there.

The good thing about graduate studies in the science field(s) is that your degree is paid for via stipends, meaning you don’t have to go into debt for the sake of the degree.


What exactly is being overqualified? “Sorry bro, you’re too good for this job”?