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Is A University Degree A Waste Of Money?

I was a really indecisive kid coming out of high school. Like a lot of kids who just graduated high school, I had no idea what I wanted to “be” or do with my life. The thing my parents, especially my father, persistently drilled into my head growing up was “aim for a higher education!”. My parents both immigrated to Canada from Portugal and both had the mindset that going to college or university was a very important and prestigious thing.

I understood why they both had their firm beliefs about post-secondary education because they never had the opportunity or money to do it themselves.

After high school, I went to college to study business. There was no particular major that I was interested in so I thought business seemed like the most neutral and general major I could study. Even though I eventually became drawn to business, I still wasn’t sure. I dabbled in a few entrepreneurial ventures after I graduated college but I also worked every odd-job imaginable while trying to figure out just what the hell I should do for a living.

Eventually, I went back to school… many times. I went back and studied graphic design, English, and Civil Engineering, each for brief stints. I liked all those majors and found them all interesting but I eventually realized I couldn’t see myself doing them in a 9-5 setting.

The tuition and loans racked up and I decided school wasn’t for me. I still have my business diploma and while I did lose a few years and quite a bit of money, I learned something really important from those years of education. A 9-5 job just isn’t for me. Whenever I got home from school, I was busy making money online and developing websites for clients.

I realized the way I was going to make money was sitting in my bedroom this entire time: my laptop.

So then… is a university degree a waste of money? Let’s take a look at some statistics before I make up my mind:

  • 70 percent of the class of 2013 is graduating with college-related debt averaging $35,200
  • It has been estimated that about half of all recent college graduates are working jobs that do not even require a college degree
  • One survey found that 70% of all college graduates wish that they had spent more time preparing for the “real world” while they were still in college
  • In America today, there are more than 300,000 waitresses that have college degrees
  • close to three out of every ten adults in the United States under the age of 35 are still living at home with Mom and Dad

What this data would suggest is that yes, university is a waste of money. But with all the experiences I had during my education and the amount of lessons I’ve learned about the world and myself, I’m unsure I can put a price on that.

At the same time, if I just started as an entrepreneur right out of college the first time instead of going back to school 3 more times, I would be further along in my journey than where I am now… maybe.

Yet, I do not regret my expensive stints in all of these different courses. Business gave me the savvy and knowledge to be an entrepreneur. Graphic design gave me the practical and hands-on skills I needed to be a laptop entrepreneur. English taught me how to write (decently) which is crucial when writing sales copy or even a blog post like this one. Engineering taught me to think logically, a really important trait all entrepreneurs need.

However, there are a lot of people working jobs they hate, like I did, and are currently living with crippling debt as I am. I really don’t think it’s practical anymore to think that university is the first option for everyone right out of high school. I think it should only be an option if you’re looking to become a doctor, lawyer or even an engineer where a degree is necessary to pursue those careers. For people who want to be photographers, business owners, or are even unsure what they want to do, I think it’s really important to not consider university right out of the gate especially since today jobs are no longer guaranteed for graduates.

What do you guys think? Is university a waste of money? Would you tell your kids an education is important? Or would you let them decide whether or not it’s something they should pursue?


Published in Entrepreneurship Personal

  • This is a spot on post Corey! I’m a staunch advocate of owning my time and controlling my wellbeing, so entrepreneurship is the only way I want to live my life. I too have about 30 grand that I’m on the hook for and I have yet to graduate. I stopped the “bleeding” after my sophomore year in 2012 when I experienced my first 1000.00 month on the internet. I just knew this was something worth giving more of my energy to, because I started in 2008 making pennies in the ppc and internet marketing arenas, and I built it up to an income that I used to pay for real life expenses.

    My last string of 9 to 5’s where all in retail and my last gig was the “best of the bunch” when I started working for the Apple Store, but at that point I was earning more money online whilst juggling that job and I felt that if I could work for “Apple”, I could take the leap into embracing my creativity as a means to fuel a career on my terms. It was time for me to ditch the training wheels and take the full on leap into being a full time web vigilante.

    As you well know, the learning curve online is a steep one, but if you stick with it and keep planning you can build a reliable career that obliterates bureaucracy, and spans the globe whilst allowing you to work remotely and autonomously. I do believe in the value of education, but that word means something totally different today than it did in yesteryear. I’ve focused on self education which is the means to a fortune whereas a formal education is the means to make a living. I’m not a gazillionaire (yet), but fortune in the sense that I earn enough money online to support myself and family whilst controlling my time and well being in the process. To position this in a different light, a university degree today is more a waste of TIME if what you truly desire is freedom from the conventional flow of “things”.

    • Corey Ferreira

      Hey Dion, thanks for the comment and checking me out!

      I relate completely. I desire financial freedom not trading my time during the week for money just for a few hours of fun only on weekends. I myself have about 18 grand left in tuition loans to pay back, it was a lot more before, close to the amount you owe now.

      You articulated it beautifully: “I do believe in the value of education, but that word means something totally different today than it did in yesteryear.” That also sums up how the Western education system has changed. It’s more of a business now and I’m not trying to sound cynical. I think that’s perfectly fine it is like that as long as more people make themselves aware of that and stop believing a degree is worth as much as it used to be worth.

      The great thing about being a laptop entrepreneur is that you don’t have to try to be a gazillionaire. You don’t have to run in that hamster wheel trying to save for a retirement so you can do the fun stuff when you’re 65. With the financial freedom and time freedom I have now that I’m NOT doing the 9-5, I feel like a millionaire. Doing millionaire-esque things is not as expensive as people think may think, too.

      You’re right though, it is a waste of time. But I was naive at 18 so I did what everybody else did and that was take out a stupidly expensive loan to go learn something that isn’t very practical for a piece of paper I cannot get a job for in today’s economy. But that was 10 years ago. I’ve grown a lot since then and funny enough, I have no regrets because I am pretty happy with how things turned out!

      Good luck with your ventures, Dion.

  • BIG fan of taking the positive out of each moment Corey ;)….so no way, for me. I learned how to think critically, interact with adults, schedule my time while either being an athlete, or working part time, and these skills taught me well now, as an entrepreneur.

    We cash in on each experience in life, when we decide to 🙂 Thanks dude!

  • Corey, I had this conversation with my mom once and IT DID NOT GO WELL. I think for generations a college-level education and higher has always been associated with a higher income and better living. And yet I have come across PhD holders who don’t have jobs long after they have graduated.

    These days I tell my younger friends who are planning on entering college to pursue college degrees that will give them an actual marketable skill when they get out. As for school loans ?? I just heard President Obama give a speech about making the first two years of community college being free for students who keep a GPA above 2.5.

    We’ll see about that. But until then, I fell school loans will always be a part of the college education equation. Is it worth it ? It depends on how you see it but when it comes to jobs, I think it is becoming more and more obvious that a college education is not necessarily a requirement for becoming financially successful

    • Hey Gertrude,

      My parents are the same way. They still have the mentality that college is everything.

      I actually just read about Obama’s speech. I’m not into politics, but I think that’s a good idea on paper. I just wonder how much it might cost tax payers?

      The college education system is too much like a business, and now that I reread my blog post, it’s not something I never really touched upon. This system of putting people into debt and promising them well-paying careers, it’s like a big scheme.

      Thanks for checking out the blog!

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