Was College Even Worth It? I Paid $134,878 for a Piece of Paper

This is the golden question that almost every millennial is thinking if they aren’t bold enough to ask it. Was college really worth it? My answer: it depends. 

I grew up in a huge family that values going to college. It’s just the norm. Almost all of my aunts, uncles and cousins have degrees. So once I got to high school, I was never asked, “Are you going to college?” — it was always, “What college are you going to?” Honestly, I never really thought about not going — until it was over.

We hear our parents and elder generations saying that education is the key to success. Agreed. But does education mean going to college? Not necessarily. 

College is so expensive. Period. Tuition is at an all-time high and it doesn’t seem to be decreasing anytime soon. The average tuition and fees at public four-year colleges has raised by 13%, from 2010 to 2015 alone. That’s literally insane. 

It’s simple: People can’t afford it anymore. Heck, if we’re being real, I couldn’t afford it. I just graduated in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism. My diploma cost me $134,878. That’s not even including everyday expenses like food, books, transportation, dorm supplies, and other random stuff you need money for. 

I was proactive. I applied for so many scholarships and received over $60,000, which blessed me tremendously. But I’m still over $36,000 in student loan debt. And surprisingly, some sources deem that to be on the low side. 

My Job Doesn’t Even Require a Degree

I’m not gonna lie, I was a little hesitant when I saw that my job didn’t require a degree. Not because I feel like a degree makes someone more qualified or “better,” but it’s a subtle slap in the face when you’ve worked so hard and spent a boatload of money, but don’t even need it for qualification. Ego check. But on the flip side, I know for a fact that my experience of going away to college, getting a degree, studying abroad, and being exposed to so much over the past four years worked to my advantage and prepared me for this position. It’s all about perspective. 

What I will say is that a lot more companies are no longer requiring degrees. Ernst & Young is a big one, for example. With the way the Internet is set up, we have unlimited access to everything. Whatever tools needed to master an area of discipline, I’m 100% certain that it’s possible with the help of Google and YouTube. And quite frankly, there’s only so much you can learn over the course of four years. To be a master does not mean to have a diploma. It means to be knowledgable… and that’s what many companies are beginning (and need) to realize — especially when it comes to hiring millennials. 

More and more college students are dropping out and pursing entrepreneurship. When I was in school, at least 15 people I know dropped out to pursue their true dreams, apart from school. Instead of investing over $100,000 in college, they chose to invest that money into starting their own businesses. Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, are all college dropouts, to name a few.

More Debt, Less Salary

My salary is all out in the open, so I might as well be real. I make $30,000 a year, not including a potential bonus. Decent money for someone who gets a free car with free gas for a year, benefits, and a surplus of other perks. Plus, I’m living with my parents, allowing me to save up as much as possible. But at the end of the day, I have more debt than assets. I owe $36,429 in student loans. Let’s say I wasn’t living with my parents, and had my own place with major financial obligations. I would be doomed, especially when it comes to paying off debt.

Many recent graduates are living that life. Struggling to make ends meet because entry-level salaries are low, and debt is too high right out the gate. In many cases, the return isn’t nearly as substantial as the debt you’re left with, especially depending on your field of study.

I would recommend, if you are in the situation of having a low entry-level salary and tons of student loans, to save as much as possible during your six-month grace period. 

So Do I Regret Going to College?

Absolutely not. I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. The memories I made, the people I met, and the opportunities that Howard University extended to me were immeasurable. But I’m not going to lie and say that the thought has never crossed my mind. Some people graduate feeling like they gained friends, but are still lost when it comes to finding where they fit in, once the four years of fun are over. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t necessarily think it’s for everyone. You can be extremely educated and successful, with or without going to college. It’s all about setting goals and being a go-getter to ensure you maximize whatever experience you choose. If you’re going to school to party, finesse, and make friends, I can guarantee that it’s not worth paying for. And if you’re not going to college because you have an alternative plan and are disciplined enough to follow it, go for it.

Be Easy, 

Erin