First, watch this this 5-minute video that explains why college is so expensive:
This video clearly makes two points:
- College costs more because of government subsidies
- Only STEM degrees are worth taking out loans for, because there is a demand for STEM-degree holders
Now, in a previous post, I explained more about what’s in the video, and linked to appropriate sources (the New York Times) for support.
But this time, I want to get some advice from a friend of mine, the famous Lindsay. She has a BS and MS in biology, was admitted to a PhD program in biology, but then decided to become a stay-at-home wife, and the best homeschooling mom in the whole world.
It is possible to go to college and get a degree that will prepare you for a job and to do it without drowning yourself in debt. I did it. I graduated with a Master’s degree in Biology, with a 4.0 GPA throughout, with no debt, and got a job right out of college. But I’m the exception. You can’t just do what everyone else is doing and expect things to work out well for you. You have to be smart and informed or you’re likely to end up an unhappy statistic, paying down enormous debt on a degree you never use.
She has 5 pieces of advice for you young people.
Here’s my favorite:
5) Remember that the proper amount of student loans is zero and any non-zero amount must be justified by careful study and number-crunching to make sure it is worth it. Your future is at stake. In my experience, the only time student loans are an acceptable investment is when you’re going into a high paying field (think doctor, lawyer, or engineer), have very high graduation and employment potential (good grades and some work experience), and your realistic (not idealistic) future income will be sufficient to pay for your total student loans in less than 10 years while also allowing you to cover all your living expenses. You have to crunch the numbers and make sure the investment, including the interest you will pay, is worth it in better job prospects and pay than you could achieve without the degree. You can’t rely on the system to check this for you. They are all too happy to mortgage your future for a degree you can’t afford and that won’t get you a job.
Straight talk from the Lindsay.
I guess I should say something about me. It’s hard for me to remember the numbers exactly, but I think I finished my Bachelor of Computer Science with $9,000 in the black, and then graduated with a Masters of Computer Science with $16,000 in the black. As Lindsay advises in her point #4, I worked in the summers and took two semesters off (in my BS) to work full time. I went to a very ordinary school in my home town for both degrees, and chose all programming courses as much as I could. I stayed away from anything theoretical, and even niche courses. (At least until graduate school – then I went crazy and audited 5 theoretical courses in addition to my programming courses and thesis). I do recommend working in some work related to your degree, at least in the summer, even if you don’t get paid. However, if you can’t find paid work in the summer related to your degree, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re not in a program that is going to pay for itself.
I mentor a lot of young Christian men and women about their educations and careers. Of all the other young Christians I mentor, everyone is in a STEM program, except for these two girls in California who just started working on. One got a job on Monday night, and the other one (who is shy) is investigating getting a promotion at her current job, as well as adjusting the courses she is taking now. Parents really need to be on top of the education and career situation of their children. And older Christians like me, well we need to be taking an interest in young Christians… making sure they study apologetics, apply themselves in school, study for jobs that pay – either in vocational training or in a STEM college program. Something where they can find a job that pays. This is especially important for men, because they are tasked with the role of primary provider.
By the way, college is not for everyone. Previously, I blogged about the specialty welder who has struck it rich. There are many advantages to being in a field like that where you get to work as much or as little as you want, instead of working 40 hours a week regardless of money requirements. If you don’t like welding, here’s a list of blue-collar jobs that pay well.