Did you know your college degree is worth $1,000,000?

April 17, 2009 · 4 comments

I was flying to Seattle, with my girlfriend, last night to attend one of my best friends weddings. I told her I had no blog posts prepared and was in desperate need for some material. I needed some inspiration, and wouldn’t ya know, boo #2 (boo #1 is my mom) provided. The GF is an elementary school teacher and she told me her school had a college focused assembly for their entire student body. I was a little surprised that they are beating the idea of college in to second graders heads, but I digress. She went on to say her second graders went crazy when they learned that the average college graduate makes over a million dollars more in their lifetime than a non-college graduate.

I like the idea behind that statistic. Go to college, make more money. Don’t go to college, make less money. But then I started to wonder, is the diploma really worth $1,000,000? Even a diploma from an online college? If that’s the case, I’m going to start a college that costs $150,000 a year for tuition. After four years you paid $600K for the degree, but it will make you a million. It’s worth it right? Okay, I know I’m being a little facetious. What I’m really trying to communicate is this: I wish they had told the kids the same statistic in a different way.

I think it’s great to motivate the kids and get them excited about how important college can be to their future, but I don’t particularly agree with the simplicity of the statement. I’m wondering if the kids walked away from the assembly thinking, “Sweet, I go to college, I’m guaranteed a Million.” I probably would have told the kids the same stat, but would have added a caveat: The degree only represents the person that earned it. I’m willing to bet the majority of that extra million is a reflection of that person’s character , not the degree they hold.

It seems like common sense: A high school drop out is probably going to make significantly less than a college graduate. Why? Because the grad had the dedication to persevere 4+ years of college and that will most likely transfer to their professional life. They’re willing to suffer now, to make more later. Is it preposterous to assume the majority of high school dropouts probably lack the work ethic to find themselves in high paying positions? Note: I realize there are some of you that dropped out and have made millions so kudos to you, no need to send me hate mail :)

I’m sure I’m not the first person to think the person behind the degree is more valuable than the degree itself, but I think the idea is important enough to reiterate. If I was at that assembly I would have said “College graduates earn, on average, $1MM more in their lifetime than non-graduates, but don’t be lazy  you awkward little 2nd graders and think that extra income is a guarantee.”

*to any of you lovely readers that comment today, I wont be able to respond till saturday…I’ll be too busy gettin’ jiggy with it at my friends wedding*

1 Mrs. Onassis

You do clean up nice, and your writing style for this post resembles that of old but is in a more professional tone than usual.

Great topic as well. I was an elementary school teacher for 27 years (now retired) and i always worried that we did not press the importance of college education (or financial education) as much as we should have.

I think your right that the person behind the degree really is the key factor, but there are also the cases of individuals that cheated or slid through college, got passing grades and ended up with a prestigious degree and great job that they are no good in because they never really tried. In those cases, the degree is worth more than the person I think.

Have fun at the wedding!

2 Punch Debt In The Face

Mrs. Onassis- Thanks yet again for poking in to add your two cents. I guess I should take it from you since you are a retired teacher and all. And don’t get me started on slackers/cheaters… I hate those little jerks ;)

3 Dr. Faith

I think anymore though, a college degree seems to be the same as a high school degree was 20-30 years ago. It is almost a MINIMUM requirement for most jobs.

And in my field, a master’s degree is looked at with no difference to it than a bachelor’s degree (and heaven FORBID you have a bachelor’s of arts rather than a bachelor’s of science!!).

I think kids today KNOW that college is important, and in many cases don’t question whether or not they should go but what type of college they should go TO. My sister is 15, and I think she’s always KNOWN that she WILL be goin to college – but I have a feeling she’ll be doing the small community college type gig. But that is simply because of economics. (I was lucky enough to be blessed with a full ride scholarship, she won’t have that luxury).

4 The Divine Miss N

“I think anymore though, a college degree seems to be the same as a high school degree was 20-30 years ago. It is almost a MINIMUM requirement for most jobs.”

Based on my personal experience I agree with this statement. In the company I currently work for it is nigh-near impossible to advance beyond the level above me (with a salary cap of ~$16/hr.) if you do not have a college degree. In the last round of promotions to that level at least 50% of people promoted had college degrees, and another 25% were actively working on one.

Although a college degree is a key to get you in the door, I think more emphasis needs to be placed on what qualities you need after you get through the door. For example, in-depth knowledge of something technical and well-developed social and networking skills.

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