After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, the reality of four years of student loan debt set in. I didn’t enjoy my job, was making little money, and wondered if the time spent at the University was worth it. I remember saying that if I could sell my diploma to pay off my student loans, I would.
William J. Bennett and David Wilezol’s new book, Is College Worth it? is full of stories like mine (and much worse.) While I finished college with a relatively low amount of debt, it’s not uncommon for graduates to owe $100,000 or more. “Total student-loan debt in the United States has surpassed $1 trillion.”
To make it worse, college no longer guarantees a good job–or any job: “The number of PhDs on food stamps tripled between 2007 and 2010.” And while the cost of college soars, the quality of education declines.
So what do the authors say—is it worth it? “It depends.” Some should definitely go; some, definitely not. “The most fundamental reform that should be made is abandoning the idea that a four-year college education is the appropriate or even necessary choice for everyone.”
Bennett and Wilezol say that whether one should go to college or not depends upon a variety of considerations: the student’s ability, their financial situation, their interests, and their goals. If you’ve worked to earn good grades in high school, you’re interested in engineering, and your parents can afford it, then go. If you don’t know what you want to do other than meet girls, you should probably consider something else, at least until you mature. If you would rather start a business and you have the ability, why delay?
Though the authors point out the flaws with today’s higher education system—outrageous costs, low academic standards, political indoctrination by professors—they are not anti-college. Bennett has a PhD from Harvard and was formerly a professor, and Wilezol is a graduate student at Catholic University in Washington D.C. Their message is this: a four-year degree isn’t the only pathway to success (just ask Bill Gates). We always need skilled workers and, right now, there’s a shortage of them. Remember how much you paid that electrician? Community colleges and the military are also great choices.
The authors say that before someone enrolls in an expensive university, they need to consider all of their options. College is a big investment. Like any other purchase, one should first ask, “Is it worth it?”
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.