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Berginski: A college degree is still worth it

By Staff | Nov 14, 2014

Is a college degree still worth putting forth the time and the money? There are some who’ve been asking that question. Just last week I was reading an article regarding the worst degrees for anyone who wants to make serious coin (or technically, degrees with bad returns on investment or ROI), and it painted a bad financial picture for those with interests and degrees in sociology, fine arts, education, theology, hospitality, nutrition, psychology and communications.

Concerns about ROI, tuition costs, falling wages, employment prospects and ungodly student loan debt have prompted the whether-college-is-worth-it question in recent years, as have stories of people who dropped out of college and made something of themselves. Who hasn’t heard of the late Steve Jobs? Or even Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg? Each of them are billionaires and college dropouts.

Whoa, whoa, whoa there, sailor. If you’re a college student and you’re reading this, then before you march on down to your college’s admission office and say in your best Eric Cartman (a “South Park” character) voice: “Screw you guys, I’m going home,” you should really take a second and think it over. (And for parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends of college students entertaining the thought of dropping out, you can use this too. I don’t want to leave anyone out.) Zuckerberg, Gates and Jobs had to work really hard at developing brands people have come to know and use. They also had quite a bit of resources at their disposal – Gates, a well-to-do family and programming knowledge for days; Jobs, a father who taught him how to work on electronics; Zuckerberg, the ability to create programs. As self-made billionaires, even with the amount of tools at their disposal the potential to fail was, and still always is, there. And if you decide you’re going to strike out on your own, the potential to fail will always be there for you, too.

According to a June 24 article in CNN Money, wages did fall for employees with and without college degrees (10 percent for the former, 8 percent for the latter) between 2001 and last year. And yet, even after the declines, those with associate’s degrees still earned $325,000 more over a lifetime, and those with bachelor’s degrees $1 million more over a lifetime than their peers who only had high school diplomas. Even those with college degrees who work in low-level service industry jobs, like baristas, clerks, and waiters/waitresses, still make more than their non-degree peers, according to a study CNN Money cited by Federal Reserve economists Jaison Abel and Richard Deitz. They said that since 2000, the ROI for a bachelor’s degree has been around 14 to 15 percent, which still means it’s a sound investment.

If you’re ever wondering, the answer is “yes.” One time, when I was in college, I did entertain the thought of dropping out. (It was at a point where I was doing okay academically, but emotionally I wasn’t. A friend of mine had died at the time and I grieved for weeks on end.) But know this, for every Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, you also have Mark Cuban, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett. They too are billionaires, but they also have college degrees.

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