Is a College Education Financially Worth It — Or Is It a Giant Scam?


Is it smarter to go to college or jump into real estate to invest full-time?

Has college in America become one of the biggest financial scams in world history? Or is it still a smart step on the path to financial security?

While college can be a great way to find your life’s passion, I also believe it ultimately should not be one of the select few options pushed upon young adults.

Of course, this opinion may be a little biased, considering I grew up uninterested in school. I was far more excited about the periods between classes. That was my time to come alive and hustle. One day, you might be buying Pokemon cards from me on your lunch break. Another day, it might be candy or CDs for sale.


How to Analyze a Real Estate Deal

Deal analysis is one of the best ways to learn real estate investing and it comes down to fundamental comfort in estimating expenses, rents, and cash flow. This guide will give you the knowledge you need to begin analyzing properties with confidence.

Click Here For Your Free eBook

How Many College Students Are Simply Following the Herd?

However, I think that I also have a unique point of view on this — an educated view that entitles me to portray the options fairly. This debate is often waged between the schools and their sales machines versus real estate elites who never went to college. Sometimes I feel like I may be one of the few who went to college but has also become a real estate entrepreneur.

Related: How I Used Real Estate to Pay for My Newborn Daughter’s College Education

I lasted 4 years in college studying for a degree that absolutely could not be applied to my everyday life. Period.

In deciding to go to college, I simply followed the herd without a second thought. That, of course, is always a mistake. Today, this is a mistake being made in every type of community in America, from the most privileged to those who have never had a family member attend college. Fortunately, during my stay in college, I found my interest in the real estate world.

College is Big Business

Obviously, I do believe certain occupations require a college degree. Few of us would want to find out our doctors or lawyers had never been to school. Yet other than that, I believe it’s a big business. From the universities’ perspective, it’s all about business. We’ve all heard of the student loan crisis — the crisis that could next cripple our economy and that is the primary reason many Millennials cannot buy homes. Yet tuition keeps going up. Thankfully, there is student “aid” and financing, right? Of course, although tuition keeps going up, students keep coming out of school to find their degree doesn’t help them get a job.

Education is important, no question about that. However, considering our ever-changing world and new technology, there are many learning options. There are options that won’t leave you with a big lump of debt for the rest of your life. College can be great. We’ve heard billionaire Peter Thiel pays people $100k to quit college and that many successful entrepreneurs have dropped out to build prosperous companies. But at the same time, the connections that are made in school can be very influential in any venture.

Related: How to Pay for College Using Real Estate: A Definitive Guide

What’s the Right Choice for You?

So college or entrepreneurial investor? I recommend taking some time to think about it up front. What do you really want? What do you enjoy doing? What are you good at? Avoid following the herd. Think for yourself now, and choose the path that will fast track you to where you want to be and provide you an enjoyable journey there. You shouldn’t feel obligated to burn years of your life and to take on the stress of mountains of debt just to figure out something you could with a few hours of devoted thought now.

What do YOU think?

Let me know your opinion with a comment!

About Author

Sterling White

Sterling White started in the real estate industry at a early age back in 2009. The company he co-founded Holdfolio is a real estate crowdfunding platform based in the Indianapolis market. Before founding Holdfolio Sterling and partner Jacob Blackett were involved in the purchasing and selling of 100+ single family homes nationwide. In his free-time he trains for a World Record


  1. Carl Randal

    Sterling, this is the precise reason I’m not a “Rich Dad Poor Dad” fan….at all. Whether he meant to or not, I believe Mr. Kiyosaki spent an entire book disrespecting his father as well as infecting a lot of other people’s psyche with the notion that you are a sucker for going to college. If education is so useless, what’s next? Skip High School? I get it on the cost of education, but we can blame the Federal Government for that one. When I was in college, 18 hours cost $285….yes….$285. This was 1981. There was this cottage industry called “student loans” that “local” banks offered at a nominal interest rate. Then we had the Savings and Loan Crisis, other issues and the Federal Government got more involved with student loans and all of a sudden college tuition shot through the roof. Sterling et al, there is no substitution for a college education. Everyone isn’t made to be a Real Estate Entrepreneur, and there is only one Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. I wish people in the entrepreneurial space would stop denigrating higher education. It is not about a particular degree translating into a particular job. It’s about having a higher degree of educational development and the ability to apply that “educational dexterity” to improve one’s life and the world around them. And while Zuckerberg, Gates, and Jobs pioneered their industries, trust me, the organizations they started would still be in garages if they had not been funded by, and surrounded by college educated individuals who “really” made their dreams take off. The internet, which we are so dependent on, was created by college educated people working at the Defense Department’s DARPA. Sterling, I appreciate your content contributions to the BP community, but please don’t go down the “oft traveled” path of putting down college. Higher education is absolutely essential to what makes this country the greatest in the world… none! Sorry for the rant!

    • It does shock me how many people down college because they didn’t do research in what kind of jobs they could get with their major before making the financial commitment. Bottom line is college is an investment in yourself so spend the time and do the research. Don’t just think that a degree will pay you a ton of money because it won’t. Also college was a great experience! I met my wife in college after the military, made a ton of friends/connections, and just plain out had a great time.

    • Like Sterling, I attended college and I later became an entrepreneur and a real estate investor. I flipped many houses and duplexes. I have invested many thousands in real estate seminars. But I tend to agree more with Carl’s comment above. Although I would not go so far as to say that everyone is cut out to take full advantage of what college has to offer, I do think the world would be far worse off if college were eliminated.

      People who discount the value of college usually do not understand that four year colleges are not mainly intended to teach vocational skills. That is what community “vo-tech” schools and post-graduate schools are for. Technology and vocations are changing so fast that by the time a students graduate their “hard skills” are mostly obsolete. The remaining value of their “soft skills,” like wisdom and logical thinking, and social and emotional intelligence, plus the relationships they had developed with other intelligent future leaders, is what makes college worthwhile.

      There is much more to Life than being trained to work at a job. Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Even though i had to work full-time nights to attend full-time college, I believe the courses in philosophy, psychology, sociology, history, and English (writing and literature) help to prepare for a better life — even financially.

    • Susan Maneck

      Hi Carl,

      Speaking as a college professor, I think you are wrong about why college tuition went through the roof. It wasn’t the easy availability of student loans it was the fact that state legislators decided to stop giving significant funding to state universities and colleges. Community colleges were free when I was young and living in California, even state universities there were tuition free until Reagan became governor. But every year the states decide to fund education less and less, therefore more and more of the burden falls on students. I can assure you that neither the universities or the professors benefit from these tuition hikes. All they do is partially replace the state monies we are losing. There will always be some young people who can make in business on their own without a formal education but most do not. The average college graduate will make 2 million dollars more during the life time than those without a college education. Having said, a lot of young people may need to join the work force for a few years before college. In my experience they will appreciate it a lot more. But a college education is worthwhile even if the immediate financial gains are not immediately apparent. My bachelor’s was in Religious Studies, the degree I got when I was 19. Do you know what a 19 year old with a degree in Religious Studies can do? Bless hamburgers at McDonalds! But then there was graduate school and I eventually got my dream job of teaching college. But granted, I’m one of the few who loved college so much I never wanted to leave it. I got in real estate investing only because the recession shocked me into realizing just how vulnerable my mutual funds were just as I was nearing retirement. I knew I needed an additional stream of income, and I lived in a state where buying investment properties was dirt cheap.

      • Chris Ayers

        He’s actually spot on with the reason tuition is so high. Don’t want to get into all the numbers here, but Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell explains it pretty well. Basically, anytime the government tries to “help” they wind up making things 10x worse.

        • Brian Pleshek

          Chris is right. Any time you reduce the number of payors prices will go up. This is one of the reasons that there were so many against the single-payer health care option.

          I get what the OP is saying. He isn’t denigrating a university education. He’s saying that it isn’t for everyone and that you shouldn’t do it just because everyone else is. He agrees education is important. Many fields require university education, but many don’t.
          One could say that the MBA is meant for the CEO types, but it is equally important for entrepreneurs. On the other hand, there is the possibility that getting a job as a management type in retail out of high school and with the right moves within that company could give you the same education as practical experience. You’d have to hustle if you went that route though.
          There are also plenty of jobs that pay well that don’t require college education, but rather a trade school or an apprenticeship. Plumbing, electrical, HVAC, carpentry and so on don’t require a degree, but do require education. And we make use of these highly skilled experts in what we do.

    • Chris Ayers

      Spot on Carl. While I don’t use much of my engineering degree these days, it doesn’t mean it was a complete waste. It definitely teaches you much more than the material presented in front of you. It’s the “education dexterity” you spoke about which makes it worth it. Now if you spend 50K a year learning basket weaving or feminist theory, then yes you might have wasted your time and money, but it’s not the college’s fault you chose that path. The finance course I took in college is the reason that I entered real estate investing in the first place.

  2. In my situation college is not a bad choice, but I didn’t choose a degree like classical arts or something like that. I choose comp sci, and have been more than happy with my choice as my industry is booming, I love my job, and while in college had a paid internship that paid $22 an hour in Denver and now making well over 6 figures from my job. Being able to invest in real estate is because of my job that I went to college for. I think education is a great thing to invest in, but you have to do research in what you will study because that piece of paper in college is only as good as you make it. It does not guarantee anything, so before you decide to major in physical education or classical Greek studies, try just doing job searches and see if it’s a good return on your investment. Disclosure: I did use my GI bill for college so student loan debt was not as bad as most coming out of college.

    • Alejandro Saenz

      Definitely agree. Although I agree with the OP that college is not the only way. I don’t think college itself is a problem. The problem are the reason and means that people use to go to college. I have several classmates who are struggling just to get by because they attended an expensive private college, using loans that they didn’t understand, and getting a degree for which there’s no demand in the job market.

      My career and my wife’s, has allowed us to invest in real estate. It’s just a matter of earning a “useful” degree and minimizing debt while doing it.

      • Katie Rogers

        President Roosevelt signed the GI bill into law in 1944. Benefits included low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend university, high school or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It was available to veterans who had been on active duty during World War II. Although it has been modified over the years, it still exists today. During its most generous periods, it has fully funded university education through the PhD level.

  3. sam wilson


    I have highly conflicting views in this space. Reasons for education being so expensive aside (which at the young age of 32 I decided for the first time to go to college) it may be for some and not for others. For me, it was an abject waste of my finances and life. I hated every moment of college and wished I had never gone. I was surrounded by professors who had no real life experience. I had 15 years in business when I went to school. The “teachers”? Little to none. Made it really hard to have an adult conversation about actual relevant business. That also aside, I have hired and fired dozens and dozens of people in my own businesses. I will tell you this: My success rate with in-college or post college grads is 75% higher than those with no college experience. It does tell us something about that person and their ability to show up on time and complete a task. It also tells you just a tad about their future orientation. The less future oriented they are, generally poorer the employee. It’s a conundrum that I fight consistently. I despise school and think there absolutely must be a better way. Yet I find that if I have to choose between educated and not- I’m picking educated. It’s a tough space for me.

    • Sam,

      I agree that I would choose to hire an “educated” person, regardless of their major in college. A college degree represents many success factors that even apply to entrepreneurship: (besides ability to be accepted to college based on high school GPA and test scores and extracurricular activity) ambition, motivation, discipline and persistence, ATTENTION SPAN, reading and writing skills, and hopefully wisdom…

  4. Sterling, I get what you’re saying and I agree with you. I like learning but I realized that I only focused on the things that caught my attention, which in college made it difficult because there was a mixture of classes that interested me and didn’t. So for that my GPA suffered greatly. In 2008 I was on my third year for my BA in psychology and I actually love this field, but I realized at that moment if I wanted to make any money in that field I would need a PHD. Graduating with a BA would leave me still working as a housekeeper in the Venetian Hotel. So I joined the army. Over the years I kept telling my self I needed to go back to school to finish but I came to conclusion that unless it’s a personal interest to get a piece of paper that says you learned this amount of stuff for this amount of doubt, what was the point. Don’t get me wrong, learning is great! But I learn just as much from researching and asking questions on my own and there’s no cost in that.
    As you said which is true, professions such as doctors, lawyer, dentist and anything of that nature would need a college education. But unless the position you work gives you promotions based on your education level, it’s not mandated that you go. Now like our friend mentioned in the comment above me, I don’t think Robert ment you were a suckered for going to college in “Rich dad, Poor dad”. No offense to anyone but no one who’s one track minded (or what entrepreneur like to call consumers minded) can understand what was being said in the book. Our ancestors went to college because in their day that was the only way to get a successful career. This is 2016 people don’t only have to be a lawyer or doctor. People can actually show case their talents and get there. College is not the only place to make your dreams come true and it’s not the only place to learn. There’s a whole world to learn from. Basically what you’re tryna get people to understand is that there are options. If your personal goal is to get a degree go for it, but if not don’t rack up a debt just to please others and you’re left unhappy with a large debt. Half the stuff you learn in your major isn’t remembered anyway once it’s time to apply in the world and you get retaught when you’re in the field. So for people who see 3D there’s more than just being a sheep.

  5. Carl Leonard

    I went to college to get an Engineering degree. I worked while going to school and managed to graduate owing nothing. Now thirty years later it has proven to have been a good investment.

    It’s all about how much debt you accumulate and if your degree enables landing desirable jobs down the line. I’m not so sure that a liberal arts degree with 200k in student loans would turn out to be a good deal.

    • Totally agree, take the time and research the demand and pay for your field before you commit to going to college. Don’t blindly go to college for something and then cry about not getting paid anything when you graduate. If you had looked to see how many liberal arts degree jobs are out there paying 6 figures then you might have chosen a different route.

      • Carl Randal

        Hi Sterling, that same college charges about $4.6K per semester for 18 hours. Like I said, the government screwed that up; however, there are grants, scholarships, and student loans available to pay for college. And yes, students who want it bad enough are finding ways to pay for college. As you can see from others’ comments, there are more intangibles to be gained from going to college, then deciding to waive it off. Education is extremely important, look at the horrible news today…..more than 50% of the community ills we see today would not exist if everyone valued education a little more. Education could potentially end the cycle of poverty. At the end of the day, life is not all about chasing dollar bills…..its about being better people and having a better quality of life experience. Some people’s passions aren’t about chasing money.

  6. Joe Au

    This world needs professionals, doctor, engineer, teacher, etc… And I think we need to enhance the culture by people going into music, art, literature, history, so on. We move the world forward by creating something amazing and not by how much money we made. However, we are in the monetization world, everyone should be educated with personal finance. It doesn’t matter how much you make, if you don’t have a budget, you can still live paycheck to paycheck. So master your professional, save enough income to invest and create wealth.

      • Joe Au

        Absolutely. College will train you to be good at what you do, however, it never tells you how to manage your reward(money). However, who is going to teach the course? If the teachers themselves are poor, they are not going to convince me to listen to their poor advice.

        • Katie Rogers

          “If the teachers themselves are poor, they are not going to convince me to listen to their poor advice.” It is this misconception that causes real estate agents to lease a BMW instead of a Ford focus, or financial advisers to grandly appoint their offices.

          Sometimes the wealthy have a hard time teaching the basics of financial literacy. They often want to skip the basics entirely. If you read Rich Dad, Poor Dad carefully, you will see that Poor Dad (a Hawaii state superintendent of schools, and Poor Mom, a registered nurse) were not so poor at all.

        • Joe Au

          “Sometimes the wealthy have a hard time teaching the basics of financial literacy.” That’s an assumption of wealthy can’t teach. That assumption can apply to other profession like medicine, engineering, finance, etc…You want to learn from someone actually did it, rather than someone knows a theory of how to make it.

        • Katie Rogers

          You are missing my point. The kind of basic financial literacy needed in the schools is not dependent on the wealth of the teacher. However, it is dependent on the teacher having successfully managed their own resources, regardless of whether they are wealthy or not. Cars. clothes, and a fancy office are not indications of success. They are often indications of a “Fake it till you make it” (or not) mentality. Even Warren Buffet still lives in his modest Omaha home. One of the characteristics of genuine wealthy people is they do not necessarily turn heads.

          The most basic lessons in financial literacy are concerned with how to live within your means, how to plan for purchases, how to save an emergency fund, how to comparison shop, how to stay out of credit card debt, how to understand percentages with regard to discounts, mark-ups, interest received, and loans (and a few more topics).

          I actually taught a summer finance class to high schoolers. It did not go well. They did not want to be in the class; their parents enrolled them because it would be good for them. They would rather be anywhere else. Most of them could not even tell 10% of a given number. They should be able to do that instantly. They hated learning about percent because in their mind, that was a math topic, and “Math is for the regular school year.”

  7. College was a great value a just 15-20 years ago. Tuition was reasonable and if you picked the right field you could do very well. But it’s a numbers game in the end, and as tuition increases your return on investment is going to decrease. Maybe the college “bubble” will burst and applicants will plummet so colleges won’t have the money to keep up their expensive adventures. But until then, I feel anyone not planning to get a professional degree should think long and hard about going to college right away.

  8. Stas Volik

    The “Economist” put together interesting stats, analyzing college education strictly from ROI perspective. See for details.

    Their data show, that a degree in engineering/computer sciences results in 15-20% ROI in general. A college degree in law and economics brings 10-15% ROI. Natural sciences – 5-10% ROI (and are already highly college-dependent). Arts/humanities result in negative ROI in general. Interestingly, the data show that ROI is mainly driven by a subject matter, not by a choice of specific college.

    To me, it looks like a clear advice – if one has an aptitude for “quantitative and/or fact-driven” subjects (engineering, computer, finance, business, law), a college education is a good starting point for ensuring good income/living standards. If that is coupled with a clear understanding that job-related active income is but a part of a successful overall financial strategy, the combination becomes powerful indeed.

    Please note, I’m completely leaving out the intangibles – like a broader perspective on many matters that often comes with a good college-level degree.

  9. george p.

    it’s simple… college is a scam, but in order to get into real estate, you need the steady (large) paycheck to get into investing. you can’t get into real estate working at Home Depot at $10 per hr. only college can get you that large paycheck.

  10. Roald N.

    I hear a lot about tuition rates. I went to school got a BS and a MBA. The BA I paid for, MBA you paid for. This solution for money being a reason to not go to school is not for everyone as not all will qualify, but a majority of you will, join the military. The military has excellent education programs on all kinds of different levels. Since I joined with a degree I had the taxpayer’s pay for my MBA, about $35k for the civilian, thank you I truly appreciate being given the opportunity to get my MBA for free. Also since I got my MBA while I was active I now have the GI Bill, which is a total of another 4 yrs of education and in my area about $180k cash in my pocket. If your a budding investor who complains about not having cash, go join the military for 4 years, do your country some good, get an education and cash in on the GI bill. Not having the money to go to school or invest is a poor excuse, sorry just my two cents. And the kicker will be you will also get the use of a VA loan. Win, Win, Win.

      • Roald N.

        Why yes I am. My undergrad was in PR so I utilize that for my marketing in my endeavors and my MBA I use for everyday life. The main thing is that I have taken the skills I had before to the next level. Would I still be doing what I do with no degrees, possibly/most likely. I think the biggest advantage of having the education is that I have an advantage over most who don’t have one. Maybe it has accelerated my created luck, or maybe its hindered me from not taking enough risk. I will never know. But what I do know is that for me there is definitely no negative that I can think of in me having gone to school.

  11. Deanna Opgenort

    Interesting that Sam has better success with his college-educated employee prospects than his non-college grad employees.

    Do I think a college degree helped me? YES. Categorically I wouldn’t have the career I do without it. I had no idea my field (technical conference support) even existed. I had no technical background before college, and would have been very unlikely to discover it on my own.

    Do I think everyone needs to go to college? No.
    Is it worth racking up $100k++ in debt? Not for most people. Not for most careers.
    I was very, very lucky in that in CA the Junior College system was inexpensive, and even the UC system was reasonable (the tuition cost had almost doubled by the time my Mom graduated a few years after me).
    For what it’s worth, there ARE ways of getting a degree less-expensively, but they require some ingenuity, planning, & self-discipline.

  12. Roger Keyes

    I don’t think its so much a matter of “should you go to college or not”. It’s more a matter of “which college should you go to”. Why pay ~$40k/semester at a small, private college when you can go to a public state college for ~$4k/semester. Hell, why not go to Europe where you can pay even less and still gain the knowledge. Just like Netflix killed Blockbuster, higher education will become dominated by a simpler, cheaper, more effective alternative. #progress

  13. Fay Chen

    I start my associate engineers at about 80K/year these days. Where they went to school or how much they owe in student loans doesn’t matter. So yes, choose your major AND school wisely.

    At the same time, I appreciate the contributions made by scholars in other fields that may not benefit their personal finances. Every time I go to a museum or visit an archaeological site, I feel thankful for the work done by many researchers who “followed their passion” into a field that may not pay enough. That being said, I would still encourage someone to seriously consider the finances before going to college.

  14. Sterling and Carl are both right in their own way. However, college is not for everyone and not every occupation requires it nor needed in all instances. But society today pushes this need to go to college in order to get ahead putting young people in Situation to have to make decisions, in which for most are not ready to make… what do I want to be when I grow up? I think education comes in many ways… formal or informal….Is what you do with it. There’s plenty of ways to do good and have a successful life but it’s about what choices you make to get there and what works best for you in whatever you decide to do. And this country is the best country where you can do and be whatever you choose to be.

  15. Wilson Adams

    I spent a lot of money on my undergrad degree in engineering at a state school. Significantly more than the national average, even with an athletics scholarship. I was taught that if i wanted to go to school that I needed to pay for it with loans and figure it out after…. and that line of though explains my parents current financial situation. I did not understand how money works until well after college, after the magnitude of what I spent set in.

    The technical and personal skills that I learned were some that I would not have gotten elsewhere, I have no doubt about that. And if i did not go to college, I would not have the opportunity to pursue my doctorate while getting paid to do it and discovering even more opportunities both professionally and personally.

    I am confident that I will be able to pay off my student debt eventually. I have goals and plans laid out for that through REI. But I paid way too much for my education. I wish I knew that going into it. I might have done things differently, but I would not have avoided college all together. I gained so much from college, the alternative was not even comparable.

  16. Nasar Elarabi

    Great topic this always gets every ones wheels rolling. I was fortunate to graduate from college with a B.A & only 7k in student loans. As we all know College is not needed to be successful. If I had to do it all over again would I have done better absolutely. I would have hopped in to real estate right after HS. Lets be real, proffessors dont actually own a business & only teach theory. The money spent on college a fraction of that could be used to get a Authentic Real estate coach to jump start your career. I went to college to get a GOOD job that never happened for me. I went to college right after HS so please miss me with that pick the right major stuff. The year before I was asking permission to use the bathroom. Now all of sudden you trust me to make a decision for the rest of my life. If you got to college its definitely, good to major in the right subject as well as choose a school that wont put you in major debt.

    • Sterling White

      Thank you for the perspective. I completely agree. Trying to pick a career path/major at the age of 17 or 18 is extremely difficult. On top of that having to take out hefty loans to pay for a degree you’re not exactly sure of. Slippery slope without the correct guidance.

  17. wesley c.

    College is only a scam if you are ignorant or naive enough to give it permission to be. There is no simple answer as every situation is different. I don’t have any facts or figures to back this up, but I’ve devised a rule of thumb that I made up and have used it in counseling others about their education decision. And it is this: If your starting gross salary is equal to or exceeds your entire educational cost, then you likely made a pretty good choice in your degree and the school chosen. For example, if you want to be a music teacher and the starting salary is $40K a year, then your college costs should not exceed that amount. You can control this decision by the major you select and where you go to school. In this case, if you go to school at an in state school and live at home and your yearly costs are $10K, then you can satisfy the formula. However, if you live in Pennsylvania and choose to attend a prestigious school in Manhattan for your $40K a year job, then you’ve allowed college to scam you.

    Now the reason we are even having this discussion is that my formula has admittedly become harder to satisfy over the past few years. Thus, choice of major and school is absolutely critical.

  18. Kacper Lastowiecki

    As a recent college grad (And soon to be Graduate Student) I tend to agree with this article. Many people in college should probably do some “growing up” before dropping thousands on a less-than-useful education, though obviously many others do get value out of their degree. (Try being a doctor, engineer, lawyer, or other skilled professional without a degree- for some people, this is their life’s work and passion). That being said, I think society should recognize alternative paths for adulthood, like skilled trades (electrician, plumber, welder, etc) as well as other vocational training and apprenticeship programs.

    This discussion reminds me of an article I read:

    I hope other people enjoy reading and thinking about it as much as I have.

    • Katie Rogers

      Actually college was never intended to be a job-training center. It was supposed to be the place where the citizenry was supposed to receive an education and so become well-informed in order to wisely fulfill their civic duties in a democracy. When education is the objective, the actual major does not matter very much, and so any major, even within liberal arts (this is not a political term). College has lost both its focus and its effectiveness at its original purpose to educate.

      • We’re not a democracy. We are a Republic. Let’s keep it that way.

        A democracy is a lynch mob voting whether to string someone up, or two wolves and a lamb voting on dinner. Majority rule vs. rule by law.

  19. Katie Rogers

    Every source shows that over their lifetimes, college grads earn more than high school grads, when all other variables are controlled for. This fact says absolutely nothing about any one individual’s actual experience. Everyone’s life is full of variables that studies cannot control for. In my case, due to some of those unfortunate variables, my graduate degrees helped my bottom line not at all BUT it did put me in a position to give intangible upper class philosophies, advice and opportunities to my children.

    Because I did not have the net worth my college education should have provided, my children knew that if they had any intention of going to college, they would have to earn scholarships. They have definitely materially benefited from their college educations, at least so far, but no one knows the future.

    Although it is possible to be an outlier and do extremely well without college, remember an outlier is someone on the edge of the bell curve. Having a college education will give a person a statistically better chance, all things being equal, ie when the variables are accounted for. However, in the real world all things are not equal. A college education raises your odds.

  20. It seems to be an age old debate. School or investing? I’m glad so many people are willing to give their input and share their experiences. I am at that point in my life now. Do I go to school or do I get into real estate investing? I agree that one needs a good job and $10 an hour is no good, but I also don’t want to be someones employee for the rest of my life at $20 per hour either. Sterling, your article is interesting and gives us dreamers hope that if you are willing to take a calculated risk, the payoff if tremendous.

  21. John Hornof

    It’s never a bad thing to get better educated. However, most colleges do little or nothing to help graduates get a job when they graduate. I think it’s a little pathetic when a college can not or will not help students get an internship position. Most company’s would love the free labor and the student gets college credit and some experience. Bottom line though, school sets you up for a JOB, they do not set you up to become self employed. Even if you take some entrepreneur classes, they teach the bar minimum. How to start a business plan, where to start looking for financing, after you come up with at least 20% on your own first.

    Most good jobs it’s still about who you know and not what you know. So unless you know someone in the field or know someone that can help you get your foot in the door, you have to look at how much will you be in debt when you graduate, and how will you pay that back if you can not get a job quickly when you are done with school.

  22. I graduated engineering from a private university without any debt. I earned my post-graduate degree in engineering from a private university debt-free. Deep strategy (12 months plan of action), cohesive, and careful planning, applying forecast and prediction for timing made me confident in my outcome during my graduate studies. I used my GI bill while serving active duty in the US Navy. GI Bill wasn’t sufficient to pay my post-graduate credit courses at a private university. I setup my own C-corp to generate contracts, contracts that partly and jointly paid my post-graduate credit courses along with my GI Bill. Where 80% of graduate students (professional engineers) in my class dropped before the last two trimesters, I pursued hard and earned my graduate degree in 2 years time on part-time basis except for the last term.

    What a post-graduate engineering degree gets you? In my case, it ushered me into the near edge, cutting-edge, new frontier in science and technology. This new frontier were in Advanced SuperComputer Architecture where I get connected with Japan’s then early 1990’s pioneer in the field and in Nanotechnology specific to Rarefied Gas research, theories, simulation, and applications some 3 years past, where physical phenomena normally studied as part of post-graduate course curriculum no longer applies. Advanced thermodynamics, and fluidics (the crossovers of physics and chemistry) was no longer valid as well. New mathematics must be used, and I must say, that in order to be confident about a scientific investigation, one has to write mathematical models that now combines advanced statistics, multivariable calculus, numerical analytics, integro-differential equations, BGK model, Knudsen number, (and many others), and solving 10 or more unknowns simultaneously in a given model that requires advanced knowledge combining aeronautics, electrical, mechanical, chemical, and structural engineering at nano metrics scale. These scientific works today in nanotechnology and nano fluidics are going to be applied and will see its manufacture of products 100 years in the future, in the same way Crooke, Boltzmann, Maxwell, Knudsen, Einstein, Navier, Stokes, Bhatnagar, Gross, Krook, Runge-Kutta, Galerkin laid the foundation to the studies and investigation of rarefied gas and its dynamics some 300 and 50 years back. The future of transportation, (ocean vessels, space vehicles, land and air transports), food, water, electrical power and energy, medicine, and many other fields will have major driving components whose origin comes from nanotechnology and its related field.

    So, why is college studies specific to S&T utmost important? Because all humanity depended its survival to these continuing scientific investigations. No amount of money can sustain the survivable of humankind without these continuing scientific investigations.

    • I agree with you Abe. Science and technology is extremely important to the progress of our world. I went the 4 year engineering route plus grad school. Now I work on the most advanced rocket engines in the world and ensure satellites are sent into space precisely to where they need to be in order to conduct their missions. Without a college degree, there’s almost no way I could have entered into this field.

      Luckily, I went to a public university where the majority of the costs were taken care of through scholarships and only took out a small amount of loans. I worked through college as well to help pay for other living expenses. Then when I got my first engineering position, like many engineering companies, they paid for my grad school while I continued to work. So if you’re interested in a high-tech engineering field, then college is a must.

      • Abe Gonzales

        Well said and couldn’t agree more.

        Speaking of advanced rocket engines, I believed Andrew Ketsdever, PhD (US Airforce, Colorado) has been actively working on rarefied gas at nano level and E.P. Munz, PhD (CalTech) and his team have already produced mechanical parts at nano scale for space and Mars applications.

        Many engineers and scientists including those from the “Skunk” group (you probably knew the group) have been scratching their heads over repeat failures on deployed blimps’ screws (propeller’s overheated bearings) at space’s freezing temperature for satellites.

        Researches I have conducted and in agreement with DiMarco, PhD (MIT) who locked in on several patents on rarefied gas some 15 years back and who came up with brilliant ideas on how to eventually replace engines as catapult to space, earth’s surface, and undersea navigation without the use of hydrocarbons came to some challenges in real life lab failures. Postdocs before me saw failures in the lab as well. At nano scale, no known instruments can measure phenomena deep down the nano space, hence, theories, assumptions, and mathematical model. The idea of using the uplift and thrust forces created by pressure and temperature differentials (much like the rocket engine) produced at nanoscale indeed is real. My research is now focused in nano geometries and mathematical models that hopefully will solve structural deficiencies and to eventually setup nano fabrication facility. At the moment, Livermore lab (Berkely) has the facility to conduct these investigations.

        What are the ramifications into progress in these area of research?

        1. Satellites can loiter in space forever.
        2. We no longer need hydrocarbons to power transports, to power electrical power plants, water treatment plants, farming, etc.
        3. We can create space colonies (space real estates), space shelters, space food production.
        4. Many other applications to include health and medicines.

  23. Del Hiestand

    I’m in nursing school so that I can have a wonderful fall-back in case RE investing doesn’t work out as well as I want it. Plus, it will give me a nice cash flow to work 3-4 12 hour shifts a week while I pursue RE in my time off.

    College isn’t for everyone nor should it be for everyone. There are so many BS degrees that are just money sinks, I’m looking at you liberal arts. College, at least in the US, is almost a scam nowadays. A lot of people in college would be MUCH better off learning a trade, but the “college experience” has become ingrained in our society and, in my opinion, that’s a very bad thing.

    I’ll leave it at that and read the other comments.

  24. Cliff Odom

    College is not 13th grade. What you have to do is decide if you want to go to college for a reason. You go to college to make something of yourself or because you are a rich kid just looking for something to do. That is how I define the 2 reasons you go to college. When I say make something of yourself I mean you are something that you can’t be without going to college. For example if you get a degree in engineering you are an engineer. You are not going to be that unless you go to college. If you get a degree in French art history you are not a French Artian so you did not make anything of yourself with that degree. So if you make something of yourself you find the market pays you accordingly, accountants, engineers, pharmacists doctors etc change who you are and are paid as such. History, English, art, etc don’t change who you are and are paid as such. The problem is that those advising kids on college don’t have this criteria in their tool box.

  25. Tanja Davidson

    well, I got a BS in Computer Science in 1986 and it served me well. But the one thing that really bugs me and I’ve seen it my whole career, is that I didn’t ‘need’ the degree. I work at a major university and I can’t get over just how many people work in IT who either don’t have a degree or just have a business degree or something similarly non-technical. But here they are with the same title as myself and making as much or more money than me. I think back to how in debt I was and how my college experience wasn’t the best because I had to work so much to pay for it (at least I do appreciate it) and I wish I’d known then what I know now. I would have gotten some easy degree and then taken 9 hrs of computer science and then gotten an IT job. I also wish I had known about real estate investing back then or about how little time and money was required to become a realtor. I got my license last year and am waiting for retirement to begin working as a realtor and can’t wait! I can’t get over how many people (closest to you most of the time too) can be so discouraging about doing either REI or being a realtor.

  26. Ian Ray

    I have to say, I am loving this well rounded debate going on! I have a mixed view on the subject, personally. I feel like the formal institution of college is rather obsolete as a model, but that higher education is totally essential for personal growth and development. I would argue that the college graduates that benefit most from college would not *need* college in this day and age if the prior education of that student was up to par with today’s global standards.

    For example, the day I graduated from high school, I had 45 college credits to my name through a combination of AP classes, where I scored 4s and 5s (out of 5) on my exams, as well as taking college courses at the local community college during my senior year. Ironically, no school would accept more than 20 of them. They all said some variation of “The reason for this is we believe our course to be more rigorous than what you took”. And maybe that belief was accurate. But when I enrolled, refusing to take the same remedial caliber gen eds that everyone seems to offer, I went the route of taking the C.L.E.P. exams for as many classes as I could. Ironically, the C.L.E.P. exams are offered by College Board, the same company that runs the High School A.P. program. I passed every exam I took with the appropriate score to earn the 3 credit hours in the class. I tested out of 2 years worth of classes before I ever did one assignment for the semester. All of the classes I already took in the course of my A.P. studies. So I saved myself 2 years of my life.

    At this point I was questioning what I needed college for. But I pressed on, hoping business school would be more rigorous. And it was. And I LOVED it. But I was PISSED when I found out that all of the information and lessons and outlines and case studies I just went through were available for free, through a company called Coursera, which offers college level classes on an online platform that you can use at your leisure. So I asked myself, what did I just pay for? Was it worth it? My answer:Not at all.

    I say this for me personally, and only me, because I cannot comment on others. Outside of the time spent in the military, I never planned to work for someone else. I was always going into business for myself. I knew this from the time I was young. And I understood the power of education. But I lost faith in the VALUE of a college education. Even with the government paying for it. Everything I picked up in school, I (me personally) feel like I would have learned on my own, because I would have saught it out. I still to this day make it a point to daily research my field and my craft and take any intellectual lessons being put forth and take them into the real world and see if they are valid or not.

    Yes, on average people with college degrees earn more over their lives. But that is including the number of people who choose to be employees. I, never having used or leveraged my degree, by far out earn my peers , even those with advanced degrees, who leverage their education to go out and seek a job. And the reason, in my opinion, is simple. Especially when it comes to millennials. That reason is hustle. You have it, or you don’t. I don’t care how educated you are. If you can’t come down from the ivory tower of academia and outwork the next person, your brains don’t matter. Now, the person in my generation who is educated (college or not), who has a fire in their belly you can’t put out, will own this world. Period.

    There is a generational bias to the concept of structured higher learning that needs to die in this country. Most of the industries that people who graduated from college between ’75 to ’95 work in will have a shortage of workers who are “qualified” by calcified corporate standards. Why? Because the candidates that you REALLY want to come work for you figured out its a bad ROI to pay for something you can literally find on the internet (for free), digest, and then go do. You can skip the college fluff, try, fail, tryfailtryfail and then succeed in the space it takes an *uncommitted* student to figure out what they want out of their education and then go sit in someones office and hope their credentials get them somewhere.

    EDUCATION is key. College? Rather extraneous in most fields that are emerging in the new economy. Why do I feel that way?

    Simple. Lions are lions and sheep are sheep. You don’t need to tell a self aware person what they are or how to become themselves. A person who recognizes their needs in life, and can fathom how to meet them will not be stopped if they have the motivation. They can take whatever road they choose to get there.

    • Katie Rogers

      Now out of college, my computer scientist kid has become a voracious reader of history, psychology, sociology, and pretty much all so-called liberal arts subjects. He had zero interest in these topics during his school days, but he has discovered that such knowledge gives him deep insight into the world. He especially enjoys analyzing these topics in light of game theory. He discusses these insights with his friends and with me. He ended up with job-training while in college. Now he is getting his education on his own.

  27. If you’re going to go to college or send your children to college, be picky! With four of mine in school or recently graduated, I’m shocked at the level of *&^$ that many colleges are indoctrinating them with. They all made their own choices, but if I had it to do over again, I would have protested some of them. I would have encouraged trade schools for two. For the other two, a dual enrollment for their last two years of high school. CLEP exams ( has a lot of info on testing out), inexpensive junior colleges (like, and then just the senior year at the university. A lot of good universities only require the last 30 units taken there. BS degrees only; no BA degrees (largely worthless). Because today’s college degree is what a high school diploma was 50 years ago, it is sometimes just the foot in the door, so unfortunately sometimes necessary. It doesn’t have to break the bank, though. Mine have loans ranging from $2,000 to $60,000. Guess which ones listen more to their elders.

    • Katie Rogers

      A dirty secret about academic advising in the universities is that the adviser is not there to guide the student. The adviser is there to promote whatever the university wants to promote at the time.

      You (and others) gave several good tips for minimizing college costs. The kicker is most of the tips require a level of self-motivation and self-discipline that a lot of college students people do not possess.

      A lot of what passes for a college education comes down to demonstrating via a final exam that you read the textbook. You might as well do that via a CLEP or DANTES exam.

  28. Heloisa J.

    As the old saying goes: “knowledge is power” and I rather have a degree. Financial exploit exists as much as there is solution for it or wars would have finished with us.
    Beyond a shadow of doubt… if we were not taught the advanced knowledge that we have today, we would be still sleeping best in caves, roaming around with monkeys and worshiping gold cows or fearing invisible gods like fools. And unfortunately, lack of advance knowledge is exactly what holds nations down as third worlds ridden with poverty and modern slavery. Give them food to thought.

  29. Monique Rene Coates

    I went to school in my late 20’s and finished Graduate school in my early 30’s. I spent about $100k in

    Federal student loans, too much! I just haven’t seen the ROI I thought I would, due to a few different

    factors I won’t get into. I have only held 2 positions since grad school, and only one was a major corporate

    position. I have held some on & off part-time work, I have been looking for employment nationally, both

    online / offline, in and out of state, for years.

    I am currently in poverty and have been with unsustainable income for almost 10 years. This has been a

    slow torture. Although there are many people “post-recession” that have been without work, most have

    NOT gone more than 6 months – 2 years without a job according to economic statistics. Many people are

    also holding down more than 1 job.

    I haven’t even been able to get a job at a burger joint . . . . so NO, so far, I do NOT feel my GRAD MBA

    DEGREE was WORTH it Post-graduation.

    NOW . . . .was my Graduate Degree worth it DURING the Education? YES!! It was a WONDERFUL

    Experience! I made very good friends that I still have world wide. They also have not been able to help me

    with my employment firewall going on in my life.

    Too bad Federal Student Loans don’t get paid off as a REWARD for finding post-Graduation employment! At

    least that $172,000 would have been done with by now! God Bless

  30. eric pinter

    I finished my first bachelors degree (history) in 2003, and I have been a full-time real estate investor since I finished my MBA in 2004. I have since earned another bachelor’s degree (accounting in 2011) and a law degree (2015) while a full-time real estate investor. The information & confidence gained from the MBA, accounting degree, & law degree have been very useful for my real estate investing. Those 3 degrees have more than paid for themselves already. Granted, my original history degree has not been very applicable to my real estate investing, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
    I think everybody should go to college.
    It’s a great way to build relationships, meet lifelong friends, and give yourself both the confidence to see things through, as well as a “backup plan” if your real estate investing doesn’t work so well. That being said, I am speaking only of useful degrees (accounting, engineering, info sys, any degree in the medical field, etc), and not useless things like history, sociology, english, yada yada.

  31. Andrew Syrios

    I gotta agree Sterling, college is overrated (for most people) and has become a big business/bureaucracy although much of it lies with the obsession for “credentialism” that many employers demand out of prospective employees. All the more reason to be an entrepreneur.

  32. Sarah Lorenz

    Not everyone has to go to a private university where room, board and tuition are 50K a year. For those with financial need, a Pell grant can provide $5775 per year. At our local community college, you can take 32 credits for just over $3000. Do that for the first two years, then transfer to the state university, where tuition will run just over $10,000 per year. The Pell grant should cover half of that, leaving about $10,000-15,000 total costs for a 4 year degree for a student to cover with part-time and summer work. Live at home with family, house-hack, or live free with an elderly or disabled person to cover housing costs, and graduate debt-free. Then go on to start your real estate empire or anything else you want, with the backing of a college degree behind you.

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account


Log In Here