Go to college

So, there was this article in the Wall Street Journal about how college graduates don’t necessarily earn more than non-college graduates. Evidently, the whole ‘college graduates earn $1 million more over their lifetime’ thing is not totally accurate.

And yours truly served as the example in the article of a college grad gone wrong, I suppose:

And just like any investment, there are risks—such as graduating into a deep economic downturn. That’s what happened to Kelly Dunleavy, who graduated in 2007 from the University of California, Berkeley, with $60,000 in loans. She now works as a reporter for a small newspaper in the Bay Area and earns $34,000 a year. Her father is currently paying her $700 monthly loan payments. “It’s harder than what I think I expected it to be,” she says.

Which is true. Those facts are accurate and I did say that. And it’s really her prerogative as a reporter to decide what role she wants to cast me in.

But.

Now that the story is getting reblogged and reblogged, I’m starting to feel like some kind of symbol of why you shouldn’t go to college. Which is dumb.

I do not think I was in any way tricked or misled. (Other than tuition getting hiked up $10K from freshman to senior year, but that was just plain shitty.) I don’t “regret my mistake” or any such nonsense. And no one guaranteed me I would make a ton of money if I went to Cal.

It was my choice to go to Berkeley. I could have gone to Illinois and it would have been cheaper and I would have gotten a ton of scholarship money for staying in state, but I chose to come out here. And it was my choice to earn $34K and work in an industry that people keep swearing is dying — which is also dumb, but a discussion for another day. I majored in International Economics, I could have chosen to go into consulting or banking and made a ton of money and a college degree from Berkeley would have been beneficial in doing so. I know lots of people who did that. I just didn’t really want to. I could have also chosen to join the Peace Corps and made no money. I know lots of people that did that too. I just sort of enjoy indoor plumbing. [On a side note, in studies of the average income of college graduates, do these people factor in at $0?]

There are lots of reasons to go to college and none of them are a guarantee of anything. Graduating from a good school merely offers more options in life, which is all you can really ask for.

A better study than comparing the average incomes of college graduates and non-graduates, would be to look at the top 1 or 5 or 10 percent of income earners — how many of them have college degrees? My guess would be most. Because it’s not an option that is often open to those without a degree.

[Side note, my parents are paying my student loans right now as a gift — which has to do largely with the fact that my family had almost no money when I was growing up and now they want to give me an opportunity to have that choice. So don’t even think about making any nasty comments.]

4 thoughts on “Go to college

  1. My #1 analyst here at work has a GED. A certain person I married didn’t go to school yet ran her own ad agency and billed more than I made and bought our first 2 homes with the stock options she earned working at Microsoft for 12 years. I think high school should simply last 8 years and then you can go to college somewhere. You’re parents are awesome. BTW a nanny in Tiburon makes about $55-60k a year cash. There is no point to my comment, except I like your parents and Steve.

    1. yeah, obviously lots of people make lots of money without a degree. i was just saying it opens up options. and clearly it doesn’t guarantee shit. so yeah.

      i am so NOT becoming a nanny.

  2. Timely post, I’ve been thinking lately about exactly what a college degree means. I think it’s just a representation that the people who do have a degree are more likely to be motivated and committed to find a job and keep it. It doesn’t necessarily represent a pot of gold though… I mean there’s your profession, teachers, and other careers that are just not paid that much.

    Someone who didn’t go to college but is ambitious, clever, motivated, etc. certainly can be very successful and do better for him/herself than someone who has a diploma.

    On that note, I suffered through engineering at Illinois because I knew I’d be able to make a decent living and also, I think it is ridiculously awesome you were an example in the WSJ. How many people can say that!?

  3. I think “almost no money” is a generous characterization of your childhood… those first seven to ten years were quite literally “no money” years. Though admittedly by the time you were in grade school and aware, we were up to “almost no money” so, hey.

    I thought the WSJ article was odd – its main point is that the College Board people, among others, misrepresented the monetary advantages of going to college? Well, duh. And you are right that graduating from a good school merely provides more options. That’s the point of most things in life isn’t it? More info, more experiences, more options?

    btw, Loren thanks for the awesomeness shout-out.

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