All large expenses should be measured against a cost–value comparison as part of the decision making process. I agree with that.
The FIRE niche is a tough crowd when it comes to convincing people to spend money on intangible outcomes. However this post argues that those who would disparage spending money on college education are just plain wrong.
And no, this is not an article about the cost of college compared to the salary you will make. Nor is it the one that compares the income of college graduates to high school graduates.
This piece is about the hard to define value of college that is worth its weight in gold.
Most of us grow up in our little fishbowls. We never really experience anything outside of our wheelhouse.
We are pretty much acclimated to our world as we know it by the time we are done with high school. This is not a bad thing. It is how we develop a sense of community with those people who share our values and our zip codes. It makes for decent folk and for nice places to raise a family. But our evolution as human beings and certainly our education should not stop there.
College is there to challenge your notions of what is normal. What is moral? What is acceptable, sufficient, orthodox, and expected? It is for many people the first time they really encounter ‘the other’ whether that be in the form of race, class, ideology, or lifestyle.
College is meant to push buttons and boundaries.
If you are looking at college as simply a means to an end, i.e. trading money for a future job/career, then you really mean Vocational Training. Many professions do not require a formal college education and the pursuit of those jobs does not need to include college and the debt it often requires. If you are clear on a career path that early in life then don’t look at college as necessary.
My point is that it is simply too myopic to view college as a means to an end in terms of a certain degree equals a certain job.
College is not only for expanding your knowledge, but also the freedom and breadth to explore your interests. To expose you to things to which you are not accustom.
Had you ever really met a Dominican before? A communist? Or a Pagan? Or a gay person?
I am bothered by this modern movement regarding; trigger words, safe spaces, and micro aggressions. If you care about any of those things, YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT. If you want to feel safe and that everything you currently know is already correct, go home to the place you grew up in and be that way.
This is why we send people off to college at age 18 or thereabouts. That is when they have some life experience but they are terribly green about the big wide world around them.
College is meant to be a swirling mass of sometimes confusing, sometimes intimidating LIFE. From which you can absorb what you will.
Just think, everything I have mentioned so far is mostly just in relation to the other people who are also going to college at the same time as you. We have not even touched on the fact that there is no other source of knowledge as in depth and thorough as a college campus. Even if you are smart and well read, some professor will come at you from a different point of view and rock your world. Wisdom will make its first appearance in your life if you realize maybe you don’t know everything or GASP, a belief you have long held was wrong.
College is a time and a place in your life.
Never again will your life be so open ended, so filled with possibilities. Never again will you be able to eat so poorly and not totally ruin your body.
I am glad I am done with my college years. I would never want to go back and expose myself to those same tired discussions. Nor subject myself to those people who desperately need to be punched in the face, but I loved it at age 20. So go on, bathe in it. Bask in its chaos. Lap up those 500 level courses. Know you will become a slightly better citizen when it is all said and done. Albeit probably saddled down with Student Loans.
All things have a price. Odin had to give up his left eye for a swig of Mimir’s well water in order to gain wisdom. You shouldn’t complain about a fixed interest rate under 5%. It is not about the size of the debt, it is about debt management.
Now if after college, we could just get you young people to do a few more things. Go to boot camp and work as a server in a restaurant for 6 months. Then you would really be ready for life.