Should Everyone Go to College?

July 28, 2010 — 1 Comment

       This article has been reprinted with permission from Gary Foreman of The Dollar Stretcher. You can find the original article here: Should Everyone Go to College?

       For at least the last few generations it was assumed that a college education was the ticket to success in life. Parents encouraged their children to strive for that college degree. But, like all assumptions, it’s a good idea to examine them periodically.

       A provocative article in USA Today by Patrick Welsh, a high school English Teacher does just that. And, what he found could provoke some heated discussions. His main concern is that many of the kids you enter college have no chance at earning a bachelor’s degree. He points to cases where 70% of students entering college drop out. His wonders if colleges are admitting students that they don’t expect to succeed solely to grow their schools and make more money.

       That’s the type of thing that’s almost impossible to prove, but sure looks like it could be true. More students means more professors and clerical workers. It means bigger paychecks for the administrator’s, too. It also means more clout in the community and with every one the school does business with.

       Unless I miss my guess, none of those administrators will have their pay reduced if too many students drop out. Nor will they bear any responsibility if students end up with debts that are much too big for their income level. In fact, they won’t have to face the problem since student debt doesn’t require payments until the student leaves school.

       Studies show that the average graduate has more than $23,000 in debts (NY Times). Which is a lot of debt for someone who might be making $30k per year or less. But, debt is especially nasty for students who don’t complete a degree. Their income potential and ability to repay student loans is even less.

       Now I’m not saying that everyone should avoid college. Far from it. Based on what I see many, many jobs will require continuous education. It will become very difficult to find a job where you don’t need to continue learning.

       But, I expect college to change in the next decade. The idea of devoting full time to college and attending classes in person will gradually give way to a different approach. One that’s not nearly so expensive. One that doesn’t require as many professors and ivy covered buildings. A continuing education model that will take what we need from colleges and blend that with an internet world. A new paradigm that will be much, much more affordable for students (yes, you can call it more frugal!).

       In the meantime, don’t be surprised to see an explosion of college debt defaults. There’s a little more than $600 billion in federal education loans outstanding ( and $45 billion are in default (7.5%). It’s almost impossible to get relief on student loans. Generally even declaring bankruptcy doesn’t make them go away. So the former students will drag these loans around. For some the choice will be between food/shelter or paying their loans. Guess which choice will win out.

       So should you plan on going to college? Well, maybe. If you know what you want to do and going to college is the only way to do it. But, for many people, the idea of going to college just so you can say that you went is becoming a very expensive luxury. A luxury that you might pay for the rest of your life.

       Keep on Stretching those Dollars!


       Gary Foreman is the publisher of The Dollar, a website dedicated to frugal living. Click here for more information about how to find money for college.



Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

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