Guest Post: Is College A Waste Of Time And Money?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog,

Are you thinking of going to college?  If so, please consider that decision very carefully.  You probably have lots of people telling you that an "education" is the key to your future and that you will never be able to get a "good job" unless you go to college.  And it is true that those that go to college do earn more on average than those that do not.  However, there is also a downside. 

At most U.S. colleges, the quality of the education that you will receive is a joke, the goal of most colleges is to extract as much money from you and your parents as they possibly can, and there is a very good chance that there will not be a "good job" waiting for you once you graduate.  And unless you have someone that is willing to pay your tuition bills, you will probably be facing a lifetime of crippling student loan debt payments once you get out into the real world.  So is college a waste of time and money?  In the end, it really pays to listen to both sides of the debate.

Personally, I spent eight years at U.S. public universities, and I really enjoyed those times.

But would I trade my degrees today for the time and money that I spent to get them?


Right now, Americans owe more than a trillion dollars on their student loans, and more than 124 billion dollars of that total is more than 90 days delinquent.

It is a student loan debt bubble unlike anything that we have ever seen before, and now even those that make their living from this system are urging reform.  For example, consider what a law professor at the University of Tennessee recently wrote for the Wall Street Journal...

In the field of higher education, reality is outrunning parody. A recent feature on the satire website the Onion proclaimed, "30-Year-Old Has Earned $11 More Than He Would Have Without College Education." Allowing for tuition, interest on student loans, and four years of foregone income while in school, the fictional student "Patrick Moorhouse" wasn't much better off. His years of stress and study, the article japed, "have been more or less a financial wash."


"Patrick" shouldn't feel too bad. Many college graduates would be happy to be $11 ahead instead of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, behind. The credit-driven higher education bubble of the past several decades has left legions of students deep in debt without improving their job prospects. To make college a good value again, today's parents and students need to be skeptical, frugal and demanding.

When a lot of young Americans graduate from college and can't find a decent job, they are told that if they really want to "be successful" that what they really need is a graduate degree.

That means more years of education, and in most cases, even more debt.

But by the time many of these young achievers get through college and graduate school, the debt loads can be absolutely overwhelming...

The typical debt load of borrowers leaving school with a master's, medical, law or doctoral degree jumped an inflation-adjusted 43% between 2004 and 2012, according to a new report by the New America Foundation, a left-leaning Washington think tank. That translated into a median debt load—the point at which half of borrowers owed more and half owed less—of $57,600 in 2012.


The increases were sharper for those pursuing advanced degrees in the social sciences and humanities, versus professional degrees such as M.B.A.s or medical degrees that tend to yield greater long-term returns. The typical debt load of those earning a master's in education showed some of the largest increases, rising 66% to $50,879. It climbed 54% to $58,539 for those earning a master of arts.

In particular, many are questioning the value of a law school education these days.  Law schools are aggressively recruiting students even though they know that there are way, way too many lawyers already.  There is no way that the legal field can produce enough jobs for the huge flood of new law school graduates that are hitting the streets each year.

The criticism has become so harsh that even mainstream news outlets are writing about this.  For instance, the following comes from a recent CNN article...

For the past three years, the media has picked up the attacks with relish. The New York Times, in an article on a graduate with $250,000 in loans, put it this way: "Is Law School a Losing Game?" Referring to the graduate, the Times wrote"His secret, if that's the right word, is to pretty much ignore all the calls and letters that he receives every day from the dozen or so creditors now hounding him for cash," writes the author.  Or consider this blunt headline from a recent Business Insider article: "'I Consider Law School A Waste Of My Life And An Extraordinary Waste Of Money.'" Even though the graduate profiled in the piece had a degree from a Top 20 law school, he's now bitterly mired in debt. "Because I went to law school, I don't see myself having a family, earning a comfortable wage, or having an enjoyable lifestyle," he writes. "I wouldn't wish my law school experience on my enemy."

In America today, approximately two-thirds of all college students graduate with student loan debt, and the average debt level has been steadily rising.  In fact, one study found that "70 percent of the class of 2013 is graduating with college-related debt – averaging $35,200 – including federal, state and private loans, as well as debt owed to family and accumulated through credit cards."

That would be bad enough if most of these students were getting decent jobs that enabled them to service that debt.

But unfortunately, that is often not the case.  It has been estimated that about half of all recent college graduates are working jobs that do not even require a college degree.

Could you imagine that?

Could you imagine investing four or five years and tens of thousands of dollars in a college degree and then working a job that does not even require a degree?

And the really sick thing is that the quality of the education that most college students are receiving is quite pathetic.

Recently, a film crew went down to American University and asked students some really basic questions about our country.  The results were absolutely stunning...

When asked if they could name a SINGLE U.S. senator, the students blanked. Also, very few knew that each state has two senators. The guesses were all over the map, with some crediting each state with twelve, thirteen, and five senators.

I have posted the YouTube video below.  How in the world is it possible that college students in America cannot name a single U.S. senator?...


These are the leaders of tomorrow?

That is a frightening thought.

If parents only knew what their children were being taught at college, in most instances they would be absolutely horrified.

The following is a list of actual college courses that have been taught at U.S. colleges in recent years...

-"What If Harry Potter Is Real?"

-"Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame"

-"Philosophy And Star Trek"

-"Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond"

-"Learning From YouTube"

-"How To Watch Television"

-"Sport For The Spectator"

-"Oh, Look, a Chicken!"

That last one is my favorite.

The truth is that many of these colleges don't really care if  your sons and daughters learn much at all.  They just want the money to keep rolling in.

And our college students are discovering that when they do graduate that they are woefully unprepared for life on the outside.  In fact, one survey found that 70% of all college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the "real world" while they were still in college.

In America today, there are more than 300,000 waitresses that have college degrees, and close to three out of every ten adults in the United States under the age of 35 are still living at home with Mom and Dad.

Our system of higher education is not working, and it is crippling an entire generation of Americans.

So what do you think?

Do you believe that college is a waste of time and money?

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RaiZH's picture

I certainly think so - I find university frustrating in terms of the course, but I feel like I have no other choice. 

(I do Computer Science and like 90% are there with the hopes of becoming investment bankers)

90's Child's picture

American education is just like religion.

It's used to control the masses.

Serfs up bitchez.

krispkritter's picture

It's not education, it's indoctrination.  Welcome to the future.

Anusocracy's picture

Teach your kid to be an autodidact then push him out the door.

NoDebt's picture

If I had it to do all over again I think I'd be a welder.  Or maybe an HVAC technician.

With a farm.

ACP's picture

Now it's probably more a waste of money, as opposed to 15 years ago...

I sure learned a lot:

Which is stronger, Humboldt or Mexican greenbud.

At which point in your binge drinking is the "point of no return".

How drunk chicks will need to be before they say, "Alright, fuck it..."

How to become completely dependent upon the university for all your needs.

...oh yeah, and that birth control is a "civil right" and not something people should actually be responsible for.

max2205's picture

If you don't and graduate from college odds will marry a meth addict who.will end up killing you......

Alex, I'll take college for $150,000

strannick's picture

"Dont want your cheap aroma, or your little bo peep diploma"

-Frank Zappa

August's picture

>>>At which point in your binge drinking is the "point of no return".

When you're lying in the gutter and people are laughing at you, you should maybe lighten up a bit.

Chief KnocAHoma's picture

College is not a waste of time. The best pot I ever smoked and best looking girls I ever laid happen often... like every week end... in college. Ever since it has been work, two kids, one woman, and shitty pot. 

But hey.. it could be worse... two women... one pot... shitty kids...


sodbuster's picture

 "I wouldn't wish my law school experience on my enemy." That statement right there, tells me he doesn't have what it takes to be a lawyer.

sodbuster's picture

...........and any moral values, whatsoever. What's the difference between a prostitute and a lawyer? A prostitute will stop fucking you, after you are dead.

Thomas's picture

Just some random thoughts from the academic trenches:

(1) College is what you make of it; there are many who make nothing of it. The moral question is why is the system set up to take their money and then let them do what they wish.

(2) The idea that everybody should go to college comes, in my opinion, from the left. College is not a panacea to cure social inequalities.

(3) Half the colleges could close down with little loss to society.

(4) Colleges are going to have to offer more pick and shovel curricula. My son transferred to Cornell's Hotel School and I can assure you he got a great education (especially when compared to what you get in some of the generic majors. 

(5) Some majors should be minors.

(6) Law school has been a do-over for those who squandered the first degree; that game is now being revealed for what it is.

(7) Be careful of the Dumb Fuck Interviews; you could survey a pile of people in any setting and find some who bat 0-for-5 on seemingly simple questions. 


bpj's picture

A great job is an Orange County public safety officer (baliff through life guard). Start when you are 18, make a $100,000 plus, retire at 50, immediately start a pension of $100,000 plus with life time insurance.

zuuma's picture

yes. a public salary job!  Perfect.

All sunshine and roses - until it isn't.

There's a great, boiling backlash forming against that kind of theft.

Expect drastic changes to occur in the public sector.

Like what, you ask?

What better way to pay for giant pay & benefits specified by an iron-clad contract - than to cheapen the money.

$100K/ year pension? No problem! Keep it! With our compliments. There. Contract fulfilled.

Unfortunately, a tank of gas will be $25,000.  (think $1 = 1 Yen, or $1 = 1 old Italian Lira).

BONUS: this works great on student loans, & gubbmint debt,  too!

If something can't go on forever, it won't.


90's Child's picture

+1 indoctrination

One word to sum it all up.

Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

I spent 10 years being indoctrinated. A very bright navy vet described the culture as similar to the military. It is true. Go get a useful degree (STEM) and NEVER go to graduate school.

BlindMonkey's picture

I did U oh Phoenix on the GI bill and tuition rebursement from my employer. I still wish I hadn't wasted my time on that and instead gotten higher IT certifications.

Skateboarder's picture

Knowledge is always only a book away. You don't need a fancy degree to say you know how to do something. Fucking do it, and people will say "alright. That guy knows what he is doing." Simple as that. It's like people went full retard and forgot this basic principle in favor of a very streamlined, standardized, and centralized system of certification that does not teach particularly teach real skill if you don't explicitly seek it every day. And most don't.

jeff montanye's picture

good insights.  and the internet intensively used is a pretty wonderful and cheap library.  i picture autodidacts in, say, chad or sumatra learning chemical engineering or symbolist poetry on their cellphones.

sm0k4's picture

You have a a point. But, what about physics, engineering, chemistry, biotech, and all other highly difficult areas of study? College has a place, but now with the easy .gov money gravy train, it is abused as everything is when .gov gets involved. Useless degrees that are a waste of money are the problem. When it comes up for debate in Congress, rather than tackle the root cause, they will tackle the symptom. Same playbook as the ACA. 

I had no problem with my 35k in college debt to get an engineering degree. I graduated in 2006 and owe 18k yet. Its a car payment every month, but I have a good job and my education was worth it. I think these college debt articles are the extreme edges where kids were being stupid with their decisions. 250k for a degree? That is just plain stupid. 


They need to break out the statistics by degree when it comes to debt per degree and job placement. This is just another biased article IMO.

UselessEater's picture

20 years ago one of the best 'engineers' at an alumina refinery I worked at had to have a special title and position created for him for liability reasons in order for us to engage his full capability- he was a tradesman who knew more than the uni qualified guys with good experience. I've dealt with this situation many times in my former profession.

plane jain's picture

My grandfather was one of those guys.  The engineers brought him plans to see if they would really work.  After he retired they paid him a lot to come back and work as a consultant.

Marco's picture

There are only so many genius autodidacts, society needs rank and file engineers too.

autofixer's picture

Just great!  An engineer who can't do math.  Your bank masters thank you. 

General Decline's picture

Skateboarder said:  "Knowledge is always only a book away."

Absolutely agree with you, however, if you want to land a job in some corporate monkey enviroment, you will need a piece of paper with some fancy-looking calligraphy scribbled all over it.  Ho...But, if you've the desire to learn and some balls, you can bypass that B.S. and carve out your own niche.   

I've said nothing insightful here.

Dr. Destructo's picture

LOL STEM degree.

Get an H1-B visa instead and you'll get the job.

StandardDeviant's picture

Ah, but that brings up a very important point.

The article's author makes a good case for the value of not going to university; one which is even more powerful today when tuition fees are so much higher, but when you have access to endless free online courses.  (Comp-sci types must have a look at MIT's 6-001 SICP!)

However...  If you have any interest in moving and working overseas, you're going to find that many countries admit immigrants based on some sort of points system.  Unless you're already wealthy enough to qualify as an investor, you're probably going to need at least a Bachelor's degree in your field in order to score anywhere near the minimum number of points.  Rightly or wrongly, a degree will still open up a lot of doors.

This is especially important for those who read Doug Casey, Simon Black, etc., and agree that one day they may want or need to expatriate more than just their assets...


UselessEater's picture

True, it can depend on the country you going to (some require more study in local contexts) but also your resume can get you through doors and your ability to meet people even more so. Also not so many seem to verify certificates outside of certain fields like medicine.

FredFlintstone's picture

I was indoctrinated to work hard and to solve problems (problem, after problem after problem). It was a program called mechanical engineering. Very rigorous and has been rewarding.

Georgia_Boy's picture

Ditto. The masters did help, and with the STEM fields you can find research assistantships that pay the tuition. I finished only about 7000 in debt, paid off less than a year after that, and my parents didn't pay any tuition. So guess who it fell to to pay off my wife's student debt (library science, not using it). I just finished that. The oldest kid goes in a couple more years. It's the cultural marxist reward for being the one who makes the smart choices, they just label you "privileged" and pile on more bills.

Fidel Sarcastro's picture

Library Science is a 4-year degree?  WTF is that?  To allow someone to go into debt for that BS is shameful, but the Universities do not care. 

Suisse's picture

Library science is generally a masters program. 

KidHorn's picture

I used to work with someone with a library science degree. It has its uses. His job was basically setting standards for medical terms. You may think it's stupid, but it's important that all the medical research papers use terms correctly and consistently or else people may misinterpret the meaning.

BlindMonkey's picture

Learning Dewey decimal is a motherfucker. You have to know all of those numbers in sequence and shit...

Skateboarder's picture

Dude tell me about it. This one time, they asked me to find x in Al's Zebra class. "It's right fucking there. Are you blind?", I says.

Reference Variable's picture

Oh man, same boat here.

I'm paying off my wife's social work degree from a fancy private university. Whenever she talks about what a good private school she went to I seethe with anger. It's the public school engineering degree that feeds her fat ass. I earned that fucker with many all nighters, lots of sweat, loose women, and copious amounts of alcohol.


Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Sad, my husband asked me to marry him and one of the agreements was he would pay off my student loans ($15K) and I would forever give him my monthly earnings. So for thirty years he's gotten an average of 3k a month, presently $4600/mo and I pay all medical. I'm beginning to think he got a pretty good ROI. In return for his love, I keep my body toned and the bedroom fun. Perhaps you she introduce your wife to a treadmill.


acetinker's picture

Dang Miffed, you negotiated a marriage?  That seems kinda fucked up.  I married my wife 'cos I thought she was hot.  36 years later, she's kinda wide in the posterior, and I'm suffering with dick-doo, but we still get along.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Well, I had a few other fellas at 16 thinking I was hot too! I was certainly attracted to Mr being the best of the bunch but I wasn't sure I wanted to be married so young. Finally, after asking me four times, he asked what it would take. I said 1) be out of school ( he finished college in 3 years) 2) get a job ( got one in San Diego right before graduation) 3) pay off my student loans ( not one lump sum, essentially help with payments) 4) get me out of Spokane WA.

I figured most men would say screw you lady. He looked me in the eyes with out hesitation and said DONE! We just celebrated our 30th and we've been together since 16 and are now 53. The guy is still wildly in love with me and you'd think after all this time he'd be checking out the younger set and driving a corvette. I must have something. But I do keep myself in pretty good shape for my age but I must admit I've got a bit of that pesky posterior spread ( yoga has helped the tone tho). I think he stays in shape just to keep up with me. We both love the bedroom and I think that's the key to stay young. Kinda a use it or lose it thang. Also being an obstreperous untamable filly that laughs at rules must help too! ;-)


acetinker's picture

I'll bet your husband is just miserable, and he don't have the balls to admit it.  Congratulations, Miffed!  It's all yours, can you keep it when hubby says 'fuck it'?  If so, good for you.

Been here long before you, sweetheart.  Sex and sexiness loses its appeal at some point, and you find you don't have a fucking thing in common outside of that, unless you have a dog.

Maybe it's different in Cali, y'all have always seemed 'self-absorbed' to me- it started with the Beach Boys and morphed from there.

Now listen, and know that I love you, and will never abandon you.

Your husband deserves the respect of your not revealing your personal relations.  It's none of my business, nor anyone else's.

Don't try and be my friend- I am an asshole.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Hmmm, I think I hit something there. A sore spot perhaps? No worries, I'm good at that. But, you're wrong. The guy truly, deeply cares for me and shows it every day. And me? I'd take a bullet for him.

Last august I had abdominal surgery. Damn thing opened up. A stinking smelly mess from hip to hip. My surgeon wanted me in the office every 2 days for dressing changes and cleaning. My dearest told him " I will care for my wife" and they showed them what to do. Every day before he went to work he took 1/2 hr cleaning that shitty mess for 3 weeks. My dr was stunned and told me he in 30 years had never seen a man care so well for his wife and could tell he truly loves me. My work associates are horribly jealous because I get flowers and love notes often. He loves me Ace and accepts who I am. Are you so fortunate?

No, we don't have much in common. He loves computers,model railroading and building projects. I like animals, alternative medicine and yoga. We honor or differences and don't try and change each other. What you see on ZH is not me in normal life. I do not go bragging about any sexapades to anyone. I am a loner and very quiet. But there is a lot of raunchy talk here and I will occasionally join it. My husband doesn't care. He knows it's in good fun and done anonymously. He loves sex and over the years I have striven to meet his needs. If it's no longer an interest for you, what does that matter? If you are happy in your life without it I think that's great. No judgement from me. And don't denigrate me for enjoying it. I know it won't be forever. I don't concern myself with that. I am enjoying what I have for the moment and if I truck T-bones me tomorrow, oh fucking well, I had a good life.

But you do misjudge me if you think I am such a materialist. I don't want any crap. If he were to ask me to sign over all our assets to him I would do so. If he were to divorce me tomorrow I'd hand it all over ( well, not my corgi).

I am a great friend. I'm kind, loyal, empathetic,trustworthy and can be counted on when things go bad. Certainly not a fair weather type. If you find that unattractive, frankly my dear I don't give a damn. It's your loss.

And you know something about assholes ace? It take one to know one.


P.S. You wouldn't by any chance be a Scorpio?

acetinker's picture

Nope.  Virgo.  Tough thing to be born in the northernmost house of the system as a virgo male in a southern city called Mobile.

Like I said before, you can aspire to anything, but you can only play the cards you're dealt.  It's all good.

Groundhog Day's picture

My household has 4 college degrees, and my neighbor who runs a 5 man plumbing business is the one with the f150 and s 550 Mercedes.....hhhmmm

Skateboarder's picture

Electrician and Plumber are excellent side-careers to work on. I plan on doing so myself as the years roll by.

jeff montanye's picture

i can imagine outsourcing investment banking, portfolio management, drone manipulation and non trial law.  electricity, plumbing, carpentry, hvac, tile, roofing, farming not so much.

Leto II's picture

Hey Skatebaorder,

Graduated in '05 with a Elec Eng. Degree from a State school... first 3 yrs out of school was a running 50+ electricain crew. I was making 50K. My union guys were pulling in 65K, plus 15-25K overtime. Crazy

Now I do contract electrical work and farm, couldn't be happier...

Electrical work is not that hard...always work de-energized when possible

General Decline's picture

You don't get paid for what you "do", you get paid for what you "know".  That's what I told the last person who I charged $250 to find an open splice in a J-box in 20 minutes...

acetinker's picture

Hey skates, I'm gonna tell you sumthin' you don't know, even if you don't wanna know it-

A long, long time ago a radio station appeared in a city called Atlanta.  It called itself 96Rock.

The first song it played was Baba O'Riley by this band which went by the name "The Who".

Even now, I don't know who Baba was, or even if he was a he or a she, but the opening lyric went like this:


Out here in the fields

I fight for my meals

I get my back into my livin'

I don't need to fight

To prove I'm right

I don't need to be forgiven


So much said, in so few words.  All hats off to Roger Daltrey!