When Do People Start to Question College Tuition Costs?

I was sitting with a friend of a friend recently who had some concerns about their financial package for a state public college. Mind you, the same college that is funded with state tax dollars (Also a rabbit hole I shouldn't go down).

The estimated cost of tuition, books and room/board… drum roll please…. $32,000 per year! A whopping $128,000 for a 4 year Bachelors degree. And while some people might say that isn't bad, I am over here saying who in the heck would ever pay for that?

And that led me to ask this one question –

When will people finally start to question the cost of college tuition costs?

Pericles, leader of Athens, was often quoted for calling out men who took no action in civic responsibility. He went as far as to say that they were not harmless, but in fact worthless.

Now I am not calling anyone worthless or harmless. That is not my point. I am also not saying to write your senator or to cause a big stink about student loans (not sure but that might actually help).

What I am saying is that by just assuming that college tuition is what it is and so be it, might not be so healthy for your long term financial self.

Maybe it is finally time to start questioning the “conventional wisdom” from thirty plus years ago and start looking at alternatives.

Alternatives to the traditional college route like…

  • Community college then transfer to local university. 
  • Military or ROTC programs for college tuition. 
  • Trade schools. 
  • Online certifications. 
  • Associates degrees. 
  • Sales careers. 

And while the list can go on, my point is not to condemn people going to college, just to encourage people to be a little smarter about how they approach their path to college.

For Money Life Wax readers, you probably have a family member or friend who might be entering college in the near future!

Maybe just ask him if they really know WHY they are going to college or if they're just doing it because that is what everyone else does.

Related: 10 Careers That Make Six-Figures With No Degree

College starts in middle school… and it is kinda scary.

Josh sit down, you need to pay attention if you want to go to college. That is basically the story of my life. Or stop talking. Or maybe you are thinking stop writing.

Regardless, in middle school, students are organized into teams where they learn to punch in and punch out daily, to prepare them for the rigors of high school and to eventually qualify for college.

The middle schools have college shirt days and they're all told they are worthy of a college education, even if they have a reading level that is currently at second grade. Parents think that college is the only path to success and they are constantly reminded of this from their friends at cocktail parties. Counselors and experts tell everyone that you need to this and that in order to get into college.

And for many, this is the typical route to getting into a 4-year school to earn a 4-year degree. In fact, teaching at the high school level has become more of a struggle than ever due to the very nature of college. Students are so grade hungry that schools around the country now allow retakes.

Gone are the days of learning and in are the days of learning how to pass a test. And if students are round pegs, sometimes college is a square hole.

I sympathize with student loan debt.

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I feel really bad for the kids of today.

They're constantly bombarded with filtered lifestyles on social media and told that they HAVE to go to college to succeed. And yes, 8 times out of 10, most people who have a college degree will earn more then someone who doesn't.

However, I think that as the college tuition costs continue to increase, that number is slowly going to shift.

With the demand for high paying trades increasing, I think more and more people will look at their cell phone or trade school as a better opportunity then a debt burden called college.

In my opinion, the years of a formal college education are changing faster then we may think.

Let's face it, do you really need to go to college to be a business account manager? 

We all have those friends who got a degree in criminal justice but now they are an account manager for a tech firm. In fact, one stat said that 4 in 10 students with college degrees work in a field outside of their degree.

Read about student loan refi here – we are currently exploring options!

What does that really say about the true value of a degree?

Not to mention, there is still a common misconception that a degree is better then no degree. Well that really depends. Sure teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and numerous other degrees might land you a job right after college.

However, what about the art or history major? What path do they take? Go into a Starbucks and ask the person working there whether they went to school already or not. You might be shocked to know that people with those coveted degrees are working as baristas and waiters.

And there is nothing wrong with that at all.. except for the fact that they were probably told they NEEDED a degree to succeed.

Here is my final point on student loan debt.

I loved college. I loved every minute and fact sometimes I still miss it.

Like I said above I feel bad for the kids nowadays who all get told they have to go to college, even if it means taking out 6 figures in student loan debt.

If I was in their shoes, it would be hard to say what I would actually do because at 18 I too thought college was the only way. As did my wife. So I often speak on my behalf and hers because we were both told to go to school and get good grades.

With her good grades and degree – exercise physiology, she basically had to get a higher education degree or work as a trainer, which doesn't require a degree in the first place.

So she went and got a higher education degree!

With the conventional wisdom, she did what most of the people my age do – went back to school. As if the first time taking out debt wasn't enough, let us repeat exactly the same advice as before.

My wife loves what she does as a DPT and really likes helping people. It is just a shame that it costs close to $200,000 to be able to do that.

Was her education valuable? Absolutely.

Was she prepared? Yes and she is really good at what she does.

Could she of done it in 1.5 years instead of 3? I think so.

Could it have been cheaper? Not up to her, but the answer is yes it needs to be.

At some point being a teacher won't be worth the educational expenses. If you take out a $100,000 loan to become a teacher you are looking at $700 payments for the next 10 years.

Entering my 10th year teaching, that is roughly 20% of my take home. That is a lot of money for 10 years when I should be starting a family, saving for the future, etc.

So here is what I would recommend before going to school – college or graduate school:

  1. Is your degree worth the cost?
  2. Can you go to a community college then transfer, saving 50%?
  3. Is your degree going to actually get you the job you want?
  4. Did you look at the starting salary, not the median salary? Don't be fooled.
  5. Did you factor in that you may want to change careers at some point, and will your degree pigeon hole you?
  6. And straight up, are you college material? And do you really need a degree?

On another note – I am 100% against for-profit colleges. I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole these days. 10 years ago it was a different story.

So I feel like this article was really bold. Maybe not one of my softer pieces. But I also just cant believe what people are ultimately getting themselves into. Yes, they get bad advice. And no not everyone has to deal with 6 figures in student loans.

But it is becoming more and more common. At some point, the straw will break the camels back…

Question: Is college becoming a liability more than an asset?

P.S. Check out this real-time College Loan Debt Clock = 1.6 Trillion

Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $200,000 in student loans with his wife in less than four years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, helping others with their debt and recommend using Personal Capital to track your finances.