Is College Worth The Cost?

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

New schools are popping up. Some offer one year programs but no college degree. Good idea?

Ben Carlson at Wealth of Common Sense is irked by the question: Is College Worth the Cost?

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian gave some advice to young people in a recent interview with the New York Times:

"Do you really need to go to college? There is a huge student loan debt problem in this country. I think there’s going to need to be a drastic change in how these universities work. And I also think we’ve lambasted the trades for way too long. You can make six figures as a welder."

These kinds of statements irk me, especially when they come from rich entrepreneurs. This line of thinking reeks of survivorship bias.

Successful entrepreneurs must understand they’re the minority. Most businesses fail and most 18 year-olds don’t have what it takes to start, let alone run their own business. I certainly would have been lost at that age trying to make a go at it on my own.

I get what Ohanian is trying to say here. There are plenty of problems with the higher education system. It’s too expensive. Most students aren’t given enough guidance in terms of how their preferred area of study will lead to actual employment or how much that employment will pay. Student loans can also be a huge burden after school for many.

In many ways, much like personal finance, people are mostly on their own when it comes to figuring these things out, which is a shame.

Are we really expecting 18 year-olds to perform a cost-benefit analysis on whether or not they should go to college or skip it altogether and go straight to the working world to save on the tuition costs? Better yet, how many adults perform a cost-benefit analysis when they purchase a new car or house? How many adults do you know who track their spending? Create a household budget? Pay down their debt every month? Save enough for retirement?

One Year of ‘College’ With No Degree

Let's now consider One Year of ‘College’ With No Degree, But No Debt And a Job at the End.

As a high-school senior in Hampton, Va., Aidan Cary applied last year to prestigious universities like Dartmouth, Vanderbilt and the University of Virginia.

Then he clicked on the website for a one-year-old school called MissionU and quickly decided that’s where he wanted to go.

Mr. Cary, 19 years old, is enrolled in a one-year, data-science program. He studies between 40 and 50 hours a week, visits high-tech, Bay Area companies as part of his education, and will pay the San Francisco-based school a percentage of his income for three years after he graduates.

MissionU, which enrolled its first class in September, is part of new breed of institutions that bill themselves as college alternatives for the digital age. The schools—whose admission rates hover in the single digits—comparable to the Ivy League, according to the schools—offer a debt-free way to attain skills in hot areas and guaranteed apprenticeships with high-tech companies. Together those create a pipeline to well-paying high-tech jobs.

What they lack is an accredited degree, the longtime entry ticket to a professional career, and the traditional trappings of college including a full liberal arts education.

“The degree is dead. You need experience,” says the website for Praxis, a five-year-old digital school based in South Carolina.

Stunningly Simple Choice

There is no choice here, at least for Mr. Cary. One would have to be a fool to turn down the opportunity.

There is no catch, but there is a problem. These schools get 10,000 applications for 50 spots. They will take the brightest of the brightest, knowing full well the kids can be placed in a high-paying job.

Everyone wins. Those accepted make a great salary after one year, and they finish school with no debt.

Skip College and Go to Trade School

​Parents are stumped Why an Honors Student Wants to Skip College and Go to Trade School.

Raelee Nicholson earns A’s in her honors classes at a public high school south of Pittsburgh and scored in the 88th percentile on her college boards.

But instead of going to college, Ms. Nicholson hopes to attend a two-year technical program that will qualify her to work as a diesel mechanic. Her guidance counselor, two teachers and several other adults tell her she’s making a mistake.

When she was 14, Raelee rebuilt a car with her older cousin. She doesn’t listen to those trying to dissuade her from her passion. “Diesel mechanics charge $80 an hour,” she says.

Less Than Useless Guidance Counselor

Raelee should tell her guidance counselor to go to hell.

The counselor no doubt wants her to blow $80,000 or more on college, and walk away with some sort of degree in a field in which she has no interest.

With no interest in her major, she would be precisely qualified to work at Target or Walmart in a job she hated.

It's crazy.


Let's return to Ben Carlson who is irked when entrepreneurs say skip college.

I think Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian was spot on in this important sense: It is beyond stupid to go to college if you do not want to, especially if you have other viable options.

Carlson asks "Are we really expecting 18 year-olds to perform a cost-benefit analysis on whether or not they should go to college or skip it altogether and go straight to the working world to save on the tuition costs?"

Fair enough. But if they cannot do that, then they also cannot figure out that going $80,000 in debt for a humanities degree is a bad idea.

Carlson and guidance counselors give kids horrendous advice and pressure them on the need to go to college, willy nilly, even when many of the kids are bright enough to figure things out on their own.

Worse yet, those who have no business going to college at all end up in college precisely because they cannot do what Carlson asks, and also because of incessant pressure to blow money on education.

I am a proponent of trade schools, of one year colleges with no degree (if you can get in), and also 4-year degrees in colleges overseas.

Some kids are bright enough to figure this out on their own. The rest need a bit of genuine guidance instead of a preach job on the need for a four-year college education.


RAT005 Adolph.H. Sat, 04/14/2018 - 16:02 Permalink

I see another bug developing.  The best kids will be recruited to the intense accelerated program.  Good but not best students will now be branded 1 tier down rather than mixing with the top tier at normal university.  If a couple thousand per year graduate from the branded toppest tier, they will always have an advantage.  It's like Ivy of Ivy league.  It pushes mediocre kids who already have trouble working after college, just that much further down the education totem pole.

Not saying anything wrong, but looks like what will benefit top 0.5-1% is going to hurt 20-30% ranking group.

In reply to by Adolph.H.

J S Bach RAT005 Sat, 04/14/2018 - 16:42 Permalink

If you want a degree in how not to think... how to be a good little antifa... how to appreciate all forms of deviant behavior... how to snort cocaine... how to lose your virginity while intoxicated... etc, etc... by all means, go into debt for $50,000 and attend a local university.  

If you want to learn anything, read a book written pre-1960*.

(* Does not include "Das Kapital" nor "Coming Of Age In Samoa".)

In reply to by RAT005

pliny the longer J S Bach Sat, 04/14/2018 - 16:52 Permalink

literally just went thru this in last 48 hours with 'guidance counselor' who is obviously a druggy flunkie with no better employment options than telling young people what to do with their lives.  

we also had the cutesy blonde with bob haircut and painted toenails telling us how to find a 'good fit' for college with our student.  they are not bad people, just people who never had an original thought in their entire lives and who just don't fucking get it and never will . . . 

In reply to by J S Bach

D503 pliny the longer Sat, 04/14/2018 - 17:21 Permalink

Most millennials look at college debt the way their parents taught them to look at debt: 

It's just a meaningless word. 

Most of my (smarter) peers pay someone to take an online course every semester and defer their debt indefinitely. 

Or you can grab yourself a cancer causing job, like our diesel mechanic girl above, and die disabled at fifty five (good little prol slave). 

Who the fuck are we kidding anyway? Any job that doesn't have a college requirement has a licensing/insurance requirement or pays better off the books anyway. 

If you're going to slum it, fucking slum it.

In reply to by pliny the longer

DaBard51 pliny the longer Sat, 04/14/2018 - 17:46 Permalink

My sympathies w/r/t 'guidance counsellor'.

Trade school:  want to be doing engine overhauls at age 50?

Will there be diesel engines in 30 years?  Choose, you must.

Education (ideally) puts several tools in the personal toolbox.

When nine hundred years old you become, look this good you will not.

<edit> tell Raelee that long loose hair around a running engine will get you killed.  Short pony tail or bob cut to survive.

In reply to by pliny the longer

jcaz DaBard51 Sat, 04/14/2018 - 17:59 Permalink

"Will there be diesel engines in 30 years?"

Even if they stopped producing them today, there are over 100 million diesel engines currently in service- despite what Elon Musk says,  diesels will be just fine 100 years from now.   Kudos to this young woman for wanting to actually produce something tangible with her life.

Now, about that Humanities degree of yours.......

The Star Wars schtick is gay, dude-  quit being part of the problem.

In reply to by DaBard51

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 J S Bach Sat, 04/14/2018 - 21:40 Permalink

I checked out the Kindle version of "Brave New World." I finally finished reading the paper copy of "Hope of the Wicked" and thought I should go back and read some of these older books. Pain in the ass to log into my library site, find a book, and then send it to my Kindle (but it's free). Lots of books were checked out, which is probably good (or maybe not so good which means people can't afford to buy books). I am cutting expenses and clutter so trying to cut back on my book buying. They are fucking heavy.

As for the first chapter of "Brave New World," where do I start? The view of the elites shines through along with their contempt for ordinary people and their attitude that they had the divine right to manipulate, indoctrinate, and experiment on the masses. Did they view them as pets? As vermin? As a necessary evil? I understand the new transhumanist movement and the idea that people will be unnecessary. People are messy. Even those that you have genetically bred to be exactly the way you want them to be: Alpha, Beta, Delta, Epsilon or Gamma. (Not sure what happened to the C class).

In reply to by J S Bach

RAT005 a Smudge by an… Sat, 04/14/2018 - 17:17 Permalink

I mentioned 2 or more groups, not sure who your "them" is.  I think down refers to the 20-30% group in my post.  My point is that this 1yr program (which I think is great) creates a new highest most qualified group, so all of the prior traditional groups now get pushed down 1 level.  Previously the 20-30% ranking group was pretty good, but I see them dropping to 3rd and maybe being avoided by some recruiting plans that can now hire 1 from top 1% and a few more from top 10%.  They can deliberately avoid 20-30% crowd.

That's all I can understand from your post....

In reply to by a Smudge by an…

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0 a Smudge by an… Sat, 04/14/2018 - 21:41 Permalink

Youth are being indoctrinated to expect equality of outcome and to mock equality of opportunity. It is one more way to invert reality. Even the stupid, supposedly, deserve the same outcome. Who is going to pay for that equal outcome? Good question. It didn't work so well in the USSR or in Cuba North Korea or Venezuela, today. But young peope still get hooked into the everything-must-be-fair bullshit.

In reply to by a Smudge by an…

2moogee Adolph.H. Sat, 04/14/2018 - 20:31 Permalink

That's true, but after so many years of service, or getting out 100% disabled (which sucks), student debt is forgiven; unless they go in under the student loan pay off program by waiving their GI Bill. 

In reply to by Adolph.H.

GunnerySgtHartman cheech_wizard Sat, 04/14/2018 - 16:48 Permalink

As is the certification racket.

Damn straight.

The place where I work spends thousands of dollars each year to get certain IT personnel "Microsoft-certified," "Cisco-certified," "Oracle-certified," you name it.  And what's the end result?  A checkoff list item completed and thousands of dollars down the drain.  Yet IT has bought into it, hook-line-and-sinker.

It used to be that if you were "certified," you were a cut above the rest.  Once everyone is "certified," then what?  There will be no differences between anyone, so what will the next scam be?

In reply to by cheech_wizard

SweetDoug GunnerySgtHartman Sat, 04/14/2018 - 17:16 Permalink




In Canuckistand in the late 80's/early90's it was AS/400 or something certification. Wages went from $60/hr down the hole as the govy gave it away to the unemployed bums.


Same for MSCE. By the end of the 90's every bum had their certification, except those of us who couldn't be bothered to get certified 'cause we was working! Guess who the joke was on, when we went looking for work.

"You're not MSCE certified?!"

"Nope. Too busy working."


Chickenshit HR would rather hire a certified unemployed bum than somebody who was working in the field for 5 years.



In reply to by GunnerySgtHartman

webmatex Manthong Sat, 04/14/2018 - 16:09 Permalink

I got my hands dirty - had over 100 jobs between 16 and 21 = experience.

Read COBOL Made Simple in 1974 and started 30 year career in IT.

No qualifications - got kicked out of college as they didn't like me.

I was soooo lucky.


Both our daughters wen't to University but we insisted as its still 'almost) FREE here in France.

Wouldn't touch a $40,000 or even £21,000 loan for education but might apply and get a mortage with the money. 

Oh and i'm not rich but own my own house, have some silver, never paid into a pension and stopped working in  2001.

Eduction education education. Tony Blair. Who didn't take out a student load just intoduced the idea in the UK. 


In reply to by Manthong

Michael Musashi webmatex Sat, 04/14/2018 - 17:55 Permalink

Only problem is, the rest of the world still thinks higher education is above all.

For example, good luck getting a work visa in most Asian countries without some sort of degree. They will tell you to piss off, unless you happen to be a tennis or golf pro.

My kids will either find a cheap college degree program abroad, or go to community college. I love my kids, but I'll be damned if I'm going to pay some university here in the States to brainwash them.


In reply to by webmatex

curbjob So Close Sat, 04/14/2018 - 15:12 Permalink

When New York City upgraded the heating systems in all the public schools, 80% of the engineers overseeing the projects were from India and Pakistan; amusing since most had never seen a boiler.

The American contracting firms that had won the bids told me that salary had nothing to do with hiring these H1B1 visa folk, there simply weren't enough American engineers to fill the positions.

Think about that in terms of how well prepared we are for a trade war.

In reply to by So Close

curbjob DontWorry Sat, 04/14/2018 - 17:02 Permalink

Most of the time yes, but when it comes to certain fields that is not always the case. The shipyard down the road builds ships for the US Navy; plenty of foreign engineers earning 6 figures .. and the legal cost of visas. Gulf of Mexico oil drilling; again, plenty of Canadian material engineers because of a shortage of American engineers. Airbus in Mobile Alabama; 2 years of trying to fill engineering positions, they too had to import skilled labor. 

In reply to by DontWorry

DillyDilly Lumberjack Sat, 04/14/2018 - 15:08 Permalink

I guess that's debatable...


My brother in law has a PhD & it cost him less than the lower of your figures... He's an engineer in metallurgy and has made more than an ample 6 figures a year for the past 20 years...


It's a love/hate for me...


I was with my sister when they met on this kind of vacation shindig where about 40 people were all shacking up in 2 rented beach houses...


I liked him right away, but then none of my other family members did at the start... I was the first to sign off on the marriage, but then everyone else folded in... They all like him now... He's a great dad & good to my sister...


I think I'm the only one who now understands that his work (why he makes so much money), is because all the MIC like Lockheed, Grumman, etc. buy his work & research...


So naturally, I never talk about any of it... mosley would probably love him and right now has his abacus out figuring out the windfall of engineering more tomahawks that actually MISS the interceptors next time... Me? I'm just thinking that tomorrow is April 15th...



In reply to by Lumberjack