A Degree’s Worth

Everyone who has graduated from college sits back and wonders 2-3 years later, “Was the degree worth it?”

The average in state tuition for public schools is $7,020 per year, plus living and book expense, and a whopping $26,273 a year for private four-year universities (collegeboard.com).

So let’s consider if students had to borrow the entire amount and not get assistance from their parents or any scholarships. For a public school student that comes up to over $28,000 and for a private school an amazing $105,092 (and that’s without living expenses and considering they actually finish in 4 years).

Now, how useful is exactly the degree that they received right off that bat?

Let’s consider where the money is going:

According to Lynn O’Shaughnessy in an article posted on moneywatch.com, the most popular degree for men is Business Administration at 22.3% and the second most popular is a solar distant Electrical Engineering at only 2.8%!!

The disparity for women is less staggering, but the degree choices go for notoriously low salaried industries. At number one is still a degree in Business Administration with 11.4%, followed by Education (5.1%), Social Work (4.2%), and Elementary Education (3.8%).

Obviously the numbers are considerably skewed with women in majors that offer lower starting and average annual salaries.

But degrees are required for the fields they are looking to get in; it’s hard to imagine someone going to a private school to get a degree in education or social work, it wouldn’t make sense.

Social workers and elementary education pursuits start at $33,000/year (moneywatch.com). Try paying $100k in student loans on that salary!

And what’s worst, real wages for people with Bachelor’s degrees are falling! For Business Administration the median starting pay is only $42,900.

The case rests in how the degrees are used! Surveys show that the majority of people end up working outside of their degrees! So what good does that 30K-100k loan and 4 years of potentially gaining experience and MAKING money rather than spending it, bring to the table?

This could bring a long standing thought debate between Frederick Douglas and Marcus Garvey; Douglas advocated for traditional education, much like our colleges today-the four year universities; while Garvey advocated trade schools. Today trade schools show up in the form of ITT-Tech, Phoenix University, and Kaplan-but even these schools are now charging tens of thousands for a degree.

A niche has started to grow where certifications for specific skills are taught in less than a year. These certifications can cost less than $3,000 and have relevant real life experience built in because it’s not taught by academia but by real professionals.

If you can get the information you need for only $3,000, imagine what you could get for $28,000? Or even $100,000??

These are legitimate questions because there is more and more disdain for what is required in schools. Why is someone in a technical college required to satisfy cultural studies credits? Why do students spend almost 2 years on courses which can be completely irrelevant to their interests and abilities?

Counselors will answer this question under the guise of building a well versed student and bringing them to intellectual maturity. Tell that to the student who skipped that class, got his or her B or C by fulfilling the minimum requirements.

Two years of this stuff is worth $15,000!! For what, skipping class? The funny thing is that students aren’t even aware of this while they are sleeping in to cure their hangovers. They are told the nice story of get a degree and then get a job.

But come the job posting, and comes the question: “what kind of experience do you have?”


“Ok great, let me put you into this lowly starting position where you will actually build skills I can use around here, instead of that mumbo jumbo they taught you at school. No I don’t need your GPA”

Now some positions use skills specifically from what was taught in class right off the bat, but those are more technical skills such as computer programming, and you can learn that with some free time on your hand and a library card!

In the end a degree is worth what the former student says it is. And if more and more former grads are saying they didn’t get their money’s worth, somebody should be listening, such as schools. They need to start dropping the games and start delivering pertinent information to students.

And to satisfy disgruntled alumni, the benefits should be tremendous. Hey they just got done paying you 30 large ones. Don’t you think you should provide them with some free or discounted continuing education, access to resources, or even online education?

I would be curious to hear the response to the first alumni who calls back and says:

“yes, hello, I was calling to say I have tried using this degree, and after 3 years I still haven’t gotten anything real, can I please get a refund?”