I keep seeing that question around the Interwebs. It seems there’s a full scale assault on getting a college education these days. While I’ve seen a number of examples where a college degree hasn’t paid off, I believe the majority of people with college degrees have benefited from them. Of course every situation is different and we all have our own experiences, so what better way to illustrate my point than with my own experience.
I wasn’t one of those kids that was destined for college. After I graduated from high school, I wandered around the job market a bit and just barely dabbled in college. I took a few courses at a community college but drifted away from college once I found a job that paid a decent wage. I started working in a warehouse and ultimately ended up with my commercial license to drive large trucks. I spent about 4 years driving a truck and working in a warehouse and by the the end of the fourth year I was making $30,000 per year. It wasn’t enough to buy a house but I did spend some of my money on a new car and was able to split the rent on an apartment with no trouble. The only problem with my situation was that I’d basically peaked on my payscale. $30K was about the best I could hope for, with a token cost of living raise each year. While I enjoyed my job, I felt like there had to be a more lucrative path in life.
I made the decision to move home to my parent’s house and save as much money as I could. I ended up saving somewhere around $13,000 and quit my job to go off to college and get serious. Through sacrifice, and hard work I got my degree after only about 2.5 years. (My previous dabbling in college helped me speed things up significantly). While I lost about $75,000 in income during the 2.5 years I was in college, I was able to earn a higher income than my previous truck driving job, once I graduated from college. My income rose quickly and within about a year I was making more than I would have ever made if I’d stayed in my previous job. Fast forward to the current day and I’m making a low 6 figure income that would have never been possible for me if I hadn’t gone to college.
As the economy has struggled I’ve kept a close eye on the unemployment stats. Last time I looked, the unemployment rate for people with a high school diploma was over twice as high as those people with a bachelors degree or higher. It’s just one more data point that tells me that college is probably a good idea.