Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is College Tuition Really Worth the Price?

Been There, Should've Done That: 995 Tips for Making the Most of College
A book written by Suzette Tyler
I followed a link from to an article on about the value of a college education. With college freshmen leaving home to begin their higher education this month, the discussion is quite timely.

I feel pretty lucky.  I graduated from a small private liberal arts college in the midwest with a 4-year degree and later I attended graduate school finishing 3 courses toward an MBA - all without spending any of my own money for tuition.

With the cost of college rising some people have been priced out of top tier schools.  My own nephew is facing a similar situation. He's worked hard to earn high marks and is almost certain to finish in the top 1% of his high school class of several hundred students. Most would assume he would be destined to one the biggies -- Vanderbilt, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, know the ones. He's qualified right?  But, without a scholarship for the full amount of tuition it's not very realistic.

Is a degree from one of those schools really worth the price of an average home in a middle-class neighborhood?  Is it even worth half that amount?

Even tuition at my own alma mater has skyrocketed.  It was $9,000 a year when I attended (on full scholarship), but is nearing $15,000 a year now.

Is a medical degree from Yale that much better than a degree from the University of Ohio-Dayton?  I ask this because my own orthepedic surgeon who performed double knee surgery on me last year graduated from the latter.  I am no less happy with the results of the surgery.  Would a piece of Ivy League paper help me walk better?  I doubt it. The arthritis damage is already done. There's only so much repair that can be made.

What about a business degree from one of those top tier schools? In a bad economy does it really make a difference?  I read a recent magazine article about a Cornell graduate that is working as a landscaper and living with his parents.  Really?  $140,000 in tuition costs to mow lawns? I think he could have got the lawn mowing job for the $25,000 he could have spent at a lesser regarded state school (I say jokingly).

Here's my take...

After working in the corporate arena for more than 20 years, I subscribe to the line of thinking that says, "It's not what you know, it's who you know."  I've seen it again and again.  I've seen many jobs filled via personal referrals. Granted, not all jobs are filled this way but many are.  In my personal experience, transcripts and the college you graduated from are after thoughts in the hiring process. As an example, I obtained my dream job after college via a referral from the house mom in my college fraternity house. Her nephew worked for the brokerage firm.  The school I attended didn't carry nearly the weight and influence that her personal recommendation did.  I no longer work in that field, but even as a college history major I now work as an analyst and supervisor in the financial services field. 

My college degree had very little to do with my current position.  The main qualifier is that I have one.

And what about graduate school?  I have many friends with MBAs that do not earn more money as a result.  I lost interest in committing the time and money toward it and stopped pursuing the advanced degree.  It's a decision I don't regret.

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