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My Question for Readers – is College a bad Investment?

I usually wait for you guys to ask me questions, but I am going to turn the tables on you here.  Now, I am a huge proponent of investing in yourself.  And education is one of the very best ways to go about this.  But I was reading this CNN interview transcript from Mike Rowe (the Dirty Jobs guy) and he makes a compelling point for not going to college in some cases:

“Since 1985, college tuition has increased at nearly 500 times the rate of inflation. (See: College tuition has jumped by 500% since 1985) Can you imagine the same jump in any other area? Food, housing, medicine, energy? If everything we need to live increased in price at the same rate as college tuition, there would be a national riot in about 10 minutes. So what really happened in the marketplace to allow college to get so expensive? Is it really all because Republicans want to raise the rates on student loans?

Think about it. Universities get to decide how much money to charge their students. Likewise, parents and students decide if they can afford to pay it. It’s a pretty simple proposition. But when the government suddenly makes hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans readily available — under the popular (and voter-friendly) theory that “everyone should go to college” — we see an unintended consequence. We see colleges suddenly motivated to charge more money. A lot more. And so they embark on their own PR campaigns to boost enrollment. They hire ad agencies and publicists and lobbyists and go about the business of persuading people to “invest in their future.” And most importantly, they provide an admissions department to help arrange for an affordable student loan. This is what’s been happening for the last 40 years.

If blame is your thing, there’s plenty to go around. Republicans and Democrats have both allowed a trillion dollars of public money to flow freely between students and colleges with no real accountability for the results. And millions of well-intended parents and guidance counselors are still pushing the idea that a four-year degree is the only viable path to happiness. This in spite of the fact that the vast majority of available jobs no longer require a diploma — they require the willingness to learn a useful skill. And that kind of training does not demand the type of massive borrowing that has put college graduates a trillion dollars in the hole.

To be clear, I’m not anti-college; I’m anti-debt. If you can afford it, by all means go for it. But I reject the idea that a four-year school is the best path for the most people. I went on Piers Morgan Live because I have a scholarship fund that trains people for jobs that actually exist, while rewarding the kind of work ethic I think we need to encourage. I want to spread the word.”

I’ve always wondered about this and can’t seem to find convincing answers.  So my question is – 1) why has the cost of tuition soared so dramatically?;  and 2) when does this just become a bad investment for some people?   I’d love to hear any thoughts on this.  I haven’t read a great answer out there so maybe one of you has some thoughts.  Thanks in advance.

A few resources:



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