Why Paying for College is Your Worst Investment

When I was growing up school was the most important thing in my life. So much so that I became obsessed with good grades and joining just about every honor society I could join. By the time I reached the end of high school I was tired. Struggling to find a reason to continue school. I had grown to hate it.

My family was supportive of me going to college but they couldn’t afford to help me with tuition. I wanted to take a year off, as many kids do, but I was constantly told that if I took a year off I’d never go back to school.

So following my parents’ advice I looked at a couple of colleges that were cheap enough that I could get funding. I chose a pretty big community college to start my college career. It was cheap (compared to the universities)  and it was close to my family’s home.

While I was choosing classes I thought, “Well at least if I’m here, I might as well do something that I think I’ll enjoy.” I joined the graphic design program and was on my way to doing what was expected of me. I enrolled in classes and started that fall after my high school graduation.

I had no idea that going to college is really just an extension of high school. Did I learn a lot? Yes. Did I learn things I couldn’t Google? No.

I could have Googled my entire first semester at college.

In fact, I did just about that. Although I bought books, supplies, and a new backpack I rarely ever opened those books. The only time I used them was if the professors allowed for an open-book test. That was it.

Well over $600 dollars in books down the drain for information you can find on Google. Most of my first semester was stuff I wasn’t interested in either. You have your core classes, your electives, and your program. Your core classes and your electives are things that the state thinks that all students should know. Much of it is skipping class and showing up for the exam to get a grade. Everyone does that for classes that don’t have attendance. Worth your $400 per credit hour now?

I was looking for a change.

After my first year at college I couldn’t wait for the next three to go by fast. I wanted to finally get started living my life and start my career. I thought making money at a “career” job would make me happy. So I decided to switch to the local university because I now had my job as a cashier for over a year and I could afford to take out private student loans. I needed to transfer to a university anyways so I could get my bachelors degree. So I thought why not now? I would be at the same place for three years and would have more opportunities at a 4 year school.

At least that’s what I was told. I was persuaded to believe that I could get a better education at the university which cost thousands more a semester.

Student loans should not go to people not considered responsible enough to drink.

I was taught and assured that student loan debt was “good debt, ” that I would be making enough once I graduated to pay off my loans in just a short amount of time. Firstly, let me tell any young people reading this post, NO DEBT IS GOOD DEBT. Student loan companies, especially private ones, are predatory in nature.

Just because you COULD get a job that pays well doesn’t mean you WILL get a job that pays well. Once you graduate you have six months (usually) to come up with the money for student loans. That’s all fine if you actually get a job that pays you well and that you enjoy. But most people get any job they can find even if they hate it; that job doesn’t pay enough for a studio apartment and over $600 a month in student loan payments.

If you don’t pay them what they want when they want they will call your family, call your employer, call anyone you’ve ever been connected with just to try to get you to pay what you don’t have. The embarrassment of having someone, not even on your loan, know about your financial troubles is enough in itself to make anyone feel like giving up.

You’re stuck in a cycle.

So after college you’re stuck in a job you hate, get paid much less than you’re worth, and struggle to keep up with bills. Then what? What happens after college? What help are you given afterwards? None. People judge and look down on you because you’re depressed and want to give up. They think you’re whiny and that you don’t work hard enough even though you sleep on average of 4 hours on a good day. Even though you save and save and save and the one time you treat yourself to a meal out everyone thinks you’re being irresponsible.

When you go into college you think that once you have your degree you are going to magically have the life you want. This is far from the truth. Student loan debt is not a good investment.

Let’s say you had an important meeting with an potential client you’re thinking about supporting and funding. You go into that meeting and he tells you that upfront he wants $100,000 and in exchange four years later he would pay you 2 percent per month until he has paid you back. That’s about $2,000 per month until you get your initial investment back. You don’t make any money, you give him the money and he pays you back at a much later date. You wouldn’t do that. What is the benefit of investing in that way? There isn’t one.

That’s what you’re doing when you take out loans for college. You pay $100,000 upfront and if you’re lucky you get $2,000 per month in salary to pay your rent/mortgage, car payment, phone bill, utilities for the apartment, food, gas for the car, and student loans. Student loan payments are the cost of your car payment, phone bill, food and gas combined.

Work to enjoy your life. Invest in yourself.

Instead of working to enjoy your life,  you’re working to get caught up on loans. If you miss one or two payments your loan goes into default and they can attach your wages making your apartment or car or phone have to go away. Living isn’t paying bills paycheck to paycheck. It shouldn’t be. One of my colleagues told me that their dad worked for 53 years at the same job all in hopes to live a nice retirement life starting his own small business and traveling. His dad died the day before his retirement and never got to live the life he imagined.

My question is this, why do we think we have to wait until we’ve put in the hours and years to start living the way we want. I got that job after college. It paid me enough to scrape by and afford a tiny apartment on the bad side of town. But I wasn’t happy with that cycle. I didn’t want to work to live in a cubicle for 50 hours a week and go home for sleep and do it all over again.

We don’t have to wait until retirement to start living. We can live now, put aside your preconceptions that say we are doing what you are supposed to do instead of doing what you want to do. Your “working years” are the time to enjoy and indulge yourself. You don’t know if you’ll be here when retirement age comes. Why waste it doing something you’re unhappy doing.

When you start to shift your mindset from what I should be doing to what I want to be doing you open your world to tons of opportunities that you previously ignored or didn’t see. My point is not to stop learning. Always learn, always strive for something bigger and better than your current situation. But you don’t need a college degree to learn these things. You don’t need to start your life in debt to learn anything. 

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2 Thoughts to “Why Paying for College is Your Worst Investment”

  1. Mike

    I totally agree. College was a total waste. You’re better off learning and working on your own terms.

    1. Miranda Kirk Miranda Kirk

      Especially if you’re motivated to live on your own terms! I’m glad you agree Mike!

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