Is a college degree still worth it?

This post was sponsored by Scholarshare.


Mark Zuckerberg didn't finish college. Neither did Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. But chances are, someone at my local Starbucks DID finish college…and now she's putting her degree to work making lattes.

As for me, I attended both college and grad school. I have a master's degree. But do you know where the bulk of my income comes from these days? My blog.

I didn't go to college to learn how to be a blogger, because blogging didn't exist in those days. I have a degree in musical theater that I only use in the car or in the shower when I'm busting out some showtunes. I have a degree in psych and only a tiny foot still in the door of that world.

Is a college degree still worth it? It's a question we asked ourselves before opening Scholarshare 529 college savings accounts for our kids. Tuition is through the roof. Wages are falling. Student debt is at an all-time high, and most college grads leave school with thousands of dollars in student loans. And this book says 36% of college students don't demonstrate any significant improvement in their learning while attending a university.

Would my kids be better off entering a non-degree training program for a specialized skill, like computer coding? I'd hate to spend all that money only to end up with a kid who isn't using a degree that cost more than my car.

I think that's still a question every family has to answer, but for us, the answer is still yes.
  • A recent report shows a 14% to 15% rate of return for a bachelor's degree since 2000. That's still a good return on investment, any way you look at it. 
  • People with a college degree earn 84% more over their lifetime than those who only have a high school diploma. 
  • In 2013, those who had a four-year degree averaged 98 percent more an hour than people without a degree. 
  • Overall, unemployment is lower for college grads than it is for high school grads. Some majors and careers—like engineering, business, healthcare, and computer science—have even better potential.
So you can save for college and pay all those skyrocketing costs but have better earning potential over your lifetime. Or you can avoid those costs, skip college, and earn less over your lifetime.

It's not right for every personality or every kid, but I know which path I'd choose for my own children. The one with a greater potential reward. To end up with a well-paying career, college seems the path with the least risk and greatest upside.

I'm an educator. I believe in the power of education to teach people to think critically, to open their minds to new ideas, and to prepare for the workforce. Education stimulates you to ask questions and evaluate concepts. It helps you make connections. It exposes you to fantastic resources and greater opportunities. Our economy today isn't based on manufacturing like it used to be—it's now based on knowledge and information. College is a foot in that knowledge economy door. So I think college is valuable…but I don't think it's worth going into extreme debt in order to pay for it. Especially for some majors. (I'm not sure a $100,000 degree in French Literature is going to pay off.)

But I do think it's worth it to save for some kind of post-high school education for my kids, whether it's a certificate from a community college to a master's degree like mine. Scholarshare 529 accounts can be applied to all of those scenarios.

That's why we did it for our four kids.

What's your view? Is a college degree still worth the money? Will you encourage your children to pursue a four-year education?



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