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Last updated on: 5/9/2017 3:14:59 PM PST
Is a College Education Worth It?


PRO (yes)

Mamie Voight, MPP, Vice President of Policy Research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, in an interview with John S. Kiernan for the Feb. 3, 2017 article for WalletHub titled "Is College Worth It? Experts Pick Sides," stated:

"Absolutely. College is the pathway to the middle class, a practical prerequisite for success in today's knowledge-based economy. The typical bachelor's degree recipient earns nearly 50 percent more than a high school graduate over her lifetime, reaping the financial rewards of her degree around age 36… She also will be healthier, less likely to be unemployed, and more involved in her community - sharing her personal payoff with us all. College isn't only worth it for the individual student; it's worth it for our nation."

Feb. 3, 2017 - Mamie Voight, MPP 



Barack Obama, JD, 44th President of the United States, in remarks at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee on Jan. 9, 2015, available at www.whitehouse.gov, stated:

"Education helps us be better people. It helps us be better citizens. You came to college to learn about the world and to engage with new ideas and to discover the things you're passionate about -- and maybe have a little fun. And to expand your horizons. That's terrific -- that’s a huge part of what college has to offer.

But you're also here, now more than ever, because a college degree is the surest ticket to the middle class. It is the key to getting a good job that pays a good income -- and to provide you the security where even if you don't have the same job for 30 years, you're so adaptable and you have a skill set and the capacity to learn new skills, it ensures you're always employable.

And that is the key not just for individual Americans, that's the key for this whole country's ability to compete in the global economy. In the new economy, jobs and businesses will go wherever the most skilled, best-educated workforce resides... And I want them to look no further than the United States of America."

Jan. 9, 2015 - Barack Obama, JD 



Franklyn Casale, MDiv, President of St. Thomas University, in a June 21, 2013 Miami Herald article, "College Degree Always Worth the Investment," available at www.miamiherald.com, wrote:

"A college degree is always an investment worth making.

In the years a student spends working to obtain a degree, he or she develops as a person in ways that cannot be measured by the 'investment' of going to college. Whether through group projects with fellow students, an internship with a company, or individual research on behalf of a professor, the college experience educates the whole individual, and helps to develop the person’s values.

It is during one’s college years that one develops a sense of self, a world view, an appreciation for the dignity of people, and an enthusiasm for the arts. Also, because of various internship and volunteer opportunities during college, the college graduate has gained a deeper understanding of the importance of civic engagement."

June 21, 2013 - Franklyn Casale, MDiv 



Joseph E. Aoun, PhD, President of Northeastern University, in a June 9, 2011 article, "A College Education Is Your Best Bet," available at www.cnn.com, stated:

"In boom times and recession, labor market figures consistently show that college graduates have a much lower unemployment rate than their less-educated peers...

[P]reparing students for careers is just one important part of what colleges do. For example, in a recent national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than 90% of college graduates reported that college helped them grow intellectually and mature as individuals. College expands students' horizons, exposes them to ideas and fields of study they might not encounter otherwise and fosters relationships with diverse peers. It prepares people to become engaged citizens in ways that few other experiences can...

Time and again, countries have relied on colleges and universities as the surefire way to expand their economies and promote social mobility. In the 1950s, the dramatic expansion of higher education in the United States helped create the American middle class. In one generation, South Korea propelled itself from the ranks of the world's poorest nations to among the world's richest, in large part by emphasizing higher education."

June 9, 2011 - Joseph E. Aoun, PhD 



Anthony P. Carnevale, PhD, Research Professor and Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, in a Apr. 9, 2012 New York Times article, "For a Middle-Class Life, College Is Crucial," available at www.nytimes.com, stated:

"After World War II, the United States economy promised middle-class jobs to high school graduates. As late as the 1970s, more than 70 percent of middle-class jobs still required only high school or less, but between 1973 and 2010, the share of jobs requiring education beyond high school more than doubled, to more than 60 percent from 28 percent.

Furthermore, since the '80s access to college is what has distinguished the middle class from the growing number of low-income Americans. People with at least some college are staying in the middle class or moving up. In addition, the rate of successful family formation has ties to college access; 8 percent of college-educated women bear children out of wedlock, compared to more than 57 percent of women who are not college educated.

Our research shows that individuals with college degrees now make 84 percent more over their lifetimes than those with only a high school diploma, up from 40 percent in 1983. Only a third of high school jobs that provide anything close to family-sustaining earnings ($35,000 a year) still exist, and these opportunities are mostly for men in declining industries."

Apr. 9, 2012 - Anthony P. Carnevale, PhD 



Richard Deitz, PhD, Assistant Vice President for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in an Aug. 3, 2013 Buffalo News interview, "College Is Still Worth It, Despite the Cost," available at www.buffalonews.com, stated:

"Even if you get a degree in a major that didn’t have very good luck, let's say liberal arts, and you work in a job that didn’t require a degree, those people still earn higher wages than people who just had a high school diploma, by far.

...Because you are getting skills by getting your degree, no matter what your major is, those skills are going to help you no matter what your job is and those skills are going to help you continue to move up the ladder… So there are significant differences in terms of what wages you can expect to earn with a degree, even if you don’t find your dream job right out of college."

Aug. 3, 2013 - Richard Deitz, PhD 



Tom Carroll, PhD, President of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, in a Nov. 17, 2011 US News article, "K-12 Education Should Take a Lesson from Colleges," available at www.usnews.com, stated:

"Yes, a college education is certainly 'worth it' to the many students for whom college is a way out of cyclical poverty or geographic isolation... The value of college as a way to access new opportunities cannot be underestimated.

...The inherent value of learning aside, the current reality is that a high school education leaves many young Americans unemployable and unprepared to meet future challenges. Students graduate without the communication, collaboration, and analysis skills that will help them be successful. To succeed in the antiquated structure of many public schools, students have to shut off their technology, separate what they are learning into the often arbitrary silos of discrete courses, and succeed at reproducing answers obtained through rote learning. These strategies are especially detrimental in the sciences, where mastery occurs through hands-on experimentation and problem solving. All too often, college is the first time that students have the opportunity to learn in this way."

Nov. 17, 2011 - Tom Carroll, PhD 



Dewayne Matthews, PhD, Vice President of Policy and Strategy of Lumina Foundation, in Lumina Foundation's 2013 "A Stronger Nation through Higher Education" report, states:

"[W]e desperately need more citizens with postsecondary credentials... 65 percent of U.S. jobs — almost two-thirds — will require some form of postsecondary education by 2020.

For individual Americans, the consequences of not completing postsecondary education are increasingly dire. For many years, the main reason many people went to college was to gain access to better-paying jobs that allowed them to earn more throughout their lives. But earnings potential is no longer the only driver. In this economy, without postsecondary skills, you may not even have a job."

2013 - Dewayne Matthews, PhD 



Julie Margetta Morgan, JD, PhD, Education Counsel for Senator Elizabeth Warren, in a Nov. 17, 2011 US News article, "College Is a Safe Bet," available at www.usnews.com, stated:

"Plenty of evidence suggests that, on average, a college degree is worth it. College graduates make an average of 84 percent more over the course of a lifetime than those who only attend high school. The unemployment rate for young college grads is under 5 percent, compared to more than 13 percent for young people with only a high school diploma. And a recent Brookings Institution paper showed that the return on a college investment is more than that on almost any alternative, including stocks, bonds, gold, or the housing market."

Nov. 17, 2011 - Julie Margetta Morgan, JD, PhD 



Adam Looney, PhD, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, and Michael Greenstone, PhD, 3M Professor of Environmental Economics at MIT, in a June 2011 Hamilton Project paper, "Where Is the Best Place to Invest $102,000—In Stocks, Bonds, or a College Degree?," available at the Hamilton Project website, wrote:

"When compared to other types of investments, how does a college degree really stack up?

The answer is clear: higher education is a much better investment than almost any other alternative, even for the 'Class of the Great Recession' (young adults age 23-24).  In today’s tough labor market, a college degree dramatically boosts the odds of finding a job and making more money."

June 2011 - Adam Looney, PhD 



Mark Cuban, business magnate and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, in a Jan. 26, 2013 blog post, "Will Your College Go out of Business before You Graduate?," available on Cuban's blog, The Blog Maverick, stated:

"I’ve been getting a lot of questions from High School kids asking whether or not they should go to college. The answer is yes.

College is where you find out about yourself. It's where you learn how to learn. It's where you get exposure to new ideas. For those of us who are into business you learn the languages of business, accounting, finance, marketing and sales in college."

Jan. 26, 2013 - Mark Cuban 



Christian Yang, cofounder of reelsurfer.com, in a Jan. 2, 2013 blog post, "DON’T Drop out to Do a Startup," available on Yang's blog, wrote

"Steve Jobs did it in 1972. Bill Gates did it in 1974. More recently, so did Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey… In recent years, dropping out [of college] to pursue a tech startup has become the new American Dream… I'm here to say *don't* do it – do NOT drop out of school… It's pretty easy to come up with success stories, but what proportion of the whole do they actually make up? If we use wealth as a measure of success, Forbes' January 2012 edition reveals that about 85% of America’s 400 Richest People… do, in fact, have a college degree… I looked through this year’s Forbes 30 under 30 in the Tech category and an overwhelming 92.5% stuck to school. Even in a fuzzy category like Art & Style, 87% had undergraduate degrees or better."

Jan. 2, 2013 - Christian Yang 



CON (no)

Tim Knight, hedge fund manager and author, in a Mar. 7, 2017 blog post for ZeroHedge titled "Is College Worth It?," wrote:

"Some of you know that I graduated from college rather swiftly (in just 2 1/2 years)... The information I garnered during those 2 1/2 years hasn't been useful to me even once during the many years since I graduated, and there isn't a single contact I made in college that was beneficial to me in any way at all.

Simply stated, I could have gone straight from high school to work without any difference.

Centuries ago, the only reason the tiny percentage of people who attended university did so was in order to join the clergy. These days, the rather substantial percentage of those going to 'college'... have very different reasons for going: namely (1) because their parents or society expects them to do so in order to get a 'good' job; (2) to garner useful contacts, particularly if one is attending an elite school.

I was accepted into 'elite' schools... but I chose instead to go to a more middle-of-the-road school. I suspect if I had gone to a brand-name school, I would have indeed garnered valuable contacts, but frankly, I did all right without them."

Mar. 7, 2017 - Tim Knight 



Michelle R. Weise, PhD, Higher Education Senior Research Fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute, in the Jan. 12, 2015 article, "Obama's Dead-End Community College Plan," available at www.wsj.com, stated:

"Community college is great if it helps you get a bachelor's degree, but only one in five students attending these institutions goes on to earn the degree within six years according to federal data. In addition, only 21% of first-time, full-time students earn an associate’s degree within three years, and tuition is not the main obstacle to the completion of a degree for low-income students.

Census Bureau data reveal that for most students with some college and no degree, it actually pays—in pure earnings premiums—to pursue a professional certification or educational certificate instead of a stand-alone associate's degree…

Today, many employers demand more and higher academic credentials because of their dissatisfaction with the quality of degree-holders…

Continued focus on a college degree loses sight of the needs of most first-generation, low-income and minority students…

College is not the only path into the middle class."

Jan. 12, 2015 - Michelle R. Weise, PhD 



Penelope Trunk, cofounder of BrazenCareerist.com, in a May 31, 2013 interview with CNN, available at www.cnn.com, stated:

"If you think of college as opening doors after graduation, the debt closes those doors. Because you can only go after jobs that can service the debt which takes out about half the jobs that you could be getting… Because you won’t earn enough to pay back the loans each month. You won't earn enough, for example, to live in a city where there are other young people and have your own apartment or your own place to live and pay back the debt. So then you have to start looking only at jobs that pay, say $20 an hour as opposed to jobs that pay $10 an hour.

…But, in general we are not learning in college anything that's useful in the workforce, and colleges right now are acutely aware of that and are trying to figure out how to re-position themselves, either as learning for the sake of learning, or becoming more vocational depending on the school. And companies are shifting how they hire people to focus more on what people do as opposed to where they’ve been educated."

May 31, 2013 - Penelope Trunk 



Dale J. Stephens, entrepreneur and "Chief Educational Deviant" of UnCollege, in his 2013 book Hacking Your Education, wrote:

"I went to college because I wanted to do the things I believed only college graduates could do. Visions of handsome jobs, alumni networks, and all-night parties filled my teenage mind. What I realized is that the fantasy isn’t the college degree. The fantasy is the path to success a college education is supposed to open. It turns out you can skip college entirely and learn more than your peers ever will.

…Education is not a means to an end. It’s not something you do for twelve years so you can get into a university, and then something you do for four more years so you can get a job sitting at a desk forty hours per week. Learning is a lifelong process. It happens all the time. It starts before we are born and continues until the day we die."

2013 - Dale J. Stephens 



George Leef, JD, Director of Research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, in a June 12, 2013 Forbes article, "Don't Buy the Hype, College Education Is Not an Investment," available at www.forbes.com, states:

"If a college degree were a regulated investment opportunity, it would have to bear the standard warning that past performance is no guarantee of future performance. The future won't be similar to the past for many college graduates and telling young people that college will be a good investment is careless and irresponsible.

In truth, going to college isn’t an investment at all...

No one receives any payment or premium merely for having finished college. Employers do not reward workers just for having passed enough classes to earn a degree. They reward workers for their productivity. Going to college might increase a person’s productivity, but it’s neither necessary nor sufficient for that.

…These days, with the labor market saturated with college graduates, the time and money spent on college is often wasted."

June 12, 2013 - George Leef, JD 



Peter Thiel, JD, PayPal cofounder and founder of the Thiel Fellowship, in a May 25, 2011 article, "Want Success in Silicon Valley? Drop out of School," available at www.nytimes.com, stated:

"[I]n our society the default assumption is that everybody has to go to college...

I believe you have a bubble whenever you have something that’s overvalued and intensely believed. In education, you have this clear price escalation without incredible improvement in the product. At the same time you have this incredible intensity of belief that this is what people have to do. In that way it seems very similar in some ways to the housing bubble and the tech bubble.

...I think you increasingly have people who are graduating from college, not being able to get good jobs, moving back home with their parents... I think there’s a surprising openness to the idea that something’s gone badly wrong and needs to be fixed."

May 25, 2011 - Peter Thiel, JD 



Megan McArdle, MBA, columnist for Bloomberg View, in a Sep. 9, 2012 Newsweek article, "Is College a Lousy Investment?," available at The Daily Beast website, wrote:

"Mythomania about college has turned getting a degree into an American neurosis. It's sending parents to the poorhouse and saddling students with a backpack full of debt that doesn't even guarantee a good job in the end…

Why are we spending so much money on college?

And why are we so unhappy about it? We all seem to agree that a college education is wonderful, and yet strangely we worry when we see families investing so much in this supposedly essential good. Maybe it’s time to ask a question that seems almost sacrilegious: is all this investment in college education really worth it?

The answer, I fear, is that it's not. For an increasing number of kids, the extra time and money spent pursuing a college diploma will leave them worse off than they were before they set foot on campus."

Sep. 9, 2012 - Megan McArdle, MBA 



Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, founder of Tesla Motors, and cofounder of PayPal, in an Aug. 13, 2013 CNBC interview for "20 under 20: Transforming Tomorrow," available at www.foundercode.com, stated:

"College is completely unnecessary if you are really smart and driven… I think the evidence speaks for itself when you look at great companies that are being created, how many of those people actually finished college."

Aug. 13, 2013 - Elon Musk 



Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior Editor for National Review Magazine, in a Feb. 24, 2010 TIME magazine article, "The Case against College Education," available at www.time.com, stated:

"It is absurd that people have to get college degrees to be considered for good jobs in hotel management or accounting — or journalism. It is inefficient, both because it wastes a lot of money and because it locks people who would have done good work out of some jobs. The tight connection between college degrees and economic success may be a nearly unquestioned part of our social order. Future generations may look back and shudder at the cruelty of it."

Feb. 24, 2010 - Ramesh Ponnuru 



Sean Parker, cofounder of Napster and founding president of Facebook, in a 2013 CNBC interview for “20 under 20: Transforming Tomorrow,” available at the Founder Code website, stated:

"Radical innovation is suffering. We need to foster a generation of innovators. If your goal is to become an entrepreneur, it would seem that college has become a very bad place to do that… The academic world has historically been one of the few places where you could try things and have big ideas. One of the consequences of modernity is this hyper-specialization. The college experience is not incredibly helpful and is perhaps less helpful than it used to be… There's definitely like an incredible importance to a well-rounded education, people learning about a whole range of topics… This is definitely the case for people like Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerburg. Like they've learned how to learn on their own outside of a structured environment."

2013 - Sean Parker 



Richard Vedder, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ohio University and Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, in a Nov. 17, 2011 US News article, "Going to College Is a Mistake for Many," available at www.usnews.com, stated:

"But for many students, the investment in college is not profitable. About 40 percent do not make it through a four-year bachelor's degree program in even six years. Others who major in subjects with low vocational demands often have trouble getting jobs. For many years, we have turned out more college graduates than the growth in the number of jobs in the technical, managerial, and professional areas where college graduates historically want to work. Therefore, we now have nearly 80,000 bartenders and taxi drivers with bachelor's degrees. One estimate is that 1 in 3 college graduates has a job historically performed by those with a high school diploma or the equivalent."

Nov. 17, 2011 - Richard Vedder, PhD 



James Altucher, entrepreneur and hedge fund manager, in an Apr. 17, 2007 Financial Times article, "Why Investing in College Should Pay Off," available at www.ft.com, stated:

"As far as I am concerned, college is a waste of time. Instead of going to college, I wish I had worked. Or even taken half of the money spent on tuition and travelled for a year or two and then worked. I bet I would have learnt a lot more, met more interesting people, developed a sense of personal responsibility earlier on, and ultimately made more money. And yes, I bet I would have been more cultured and well read. Close your eyes for a second and think wistfully about those college years. You know I am right.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. But so is all the money that is being flushed down the toilet in the elitist quest for a good education. The best education in life is falling on the ground and getting a few scrapes. You don't get that by putting in face time on the 'quad.' You get it by learning the value of money, and occasionally having it robbed from you. Just don't get robbed for four straight years."

Apr. 17, 2007 - James Altucher