With the economy's presently unstable condition and the cost of college education rapidly inflating, an interesting question has recently arisen - are the benefits of a college education worth the required investment of both time and money?
Many individuals view the economy's poor health as a warning sign to remain a student for as long as possible. The problem that accompanies this decision is that although a student will be able to delay joining the work force, and will also become highly educated, that student will also drastically increase his or her total debt load.
Even if an individual is able to delay his job search for an extra 5 years by earning a master's degree and a doctorate degree, the end of his educational journey will be accompanied by a long list of debts, which can oftentimes total over $200,000. Starting a career with a financial burden of this magnitude can be overwhelming, and it can therefore be dangerous to continue pursuing education simply to avoid job searching and financial uncertainty.
An extremely less popular view of the economy's poor health status, but one that is held by many successful entrepreneurs, is that a hurting economy presents just as much financial opportunity, if not more, than a thriving one. These people would argue that you simply need to know how to find the best investment opportunities and business deals.
Upon first glance, many individuals will scoff at this entrepreneurial outlook. It is a fact that in today's society, individuals with college educations and advanced degrees receive higher salaries and better job opportunities than those who do not complete their post secondary education.
Entrepreneurs would argue that they are not searching for jobs, but instead looking to create them. They also do not want to find interesting businesses to work for, but instead start businesses that others would like to work for. This differing outlook is difficult for the typical student to grasp, as once again he thinks, "it is not possible".
Similarly, entrepreneurs argue that the characteristics necessary to succeed in the working world, such as networking and communication skills, financial savvy, and a strong work ethic, are not taught by the educational system.
Despite the benefits of higher education, which college definitely does offer, it is also important to note that many extremely successful individuals do not possess college degrees.
Bill gates, founder of Microsoft, Michael Dell, founder of Dell Inc., and Ralph Lauren, founder of Polo Ralph Lauren, are just a few of the most significant businessmen of today that never completed a college education. All of these individuals started extremely successful businesses without the so-called "necessary" college diploma.
These individuals obviously do not reflect what the normal population can expect, yet many individuals believe that this type of success is impossible for someone "normal" to achieve. They believe that financial and professional success are only achievable after a degree from a highly acclaimed university has been earned.
As previously noted, this is not the case. At some point during their lives, Bill, Michael, and Ralph were all "normal" people, and today they still are - they just have pockets with much more padding.
The set of "impossible" beliefs that many people exhibit promotes a negative style of thinking. These people tend to make excuses, like the aforementioned, "it's not possible".
They do not push themselves to learn about business or investment opportunities, and therefore do not live up to their full potential for success. Instead, college consumes the majority of their time and energy for 4 years, and many of the things that they learn during that time will either be forgotten or outdated by the time graduation approaches.
These individuals graduate, find a job, and then settle into a routine of working 9-5 all week long. They live for the weekends and make excuses for why they do not push themselves to learn more about opportunities to advance their careers and improve their income levels.
If Bill Gates had dedicated 4 years of his life to college education alone, Microsoft would have been developed 4 years later, and by then may not have had a chance to succeed in the software market.
If a student willing to dedicate 4 years of his life to college instead dedicated 4 years to educating himself in business and finance and researching his competition (much like Bill Gates), his chances of failure when starting a business would be extremely limited, as he would be overwhelmingly knowledgeable in regards to his market, competition, and desired business structure.
Students believe that walking across the stage during commencement and being handed a "golden ticket" diploma guarantees their success.
Unfortunately, graduation guarantees students nothing. In the end, college essentially consists of paying a significant amount, sometimes over $100,000, for a slip of paper that reveals to potential employers the student's capability of passing numerous classes that may not have taught skills even remotely related to the position he is applying for.
The major problem with college educations is that they overemphasize theory, and underestimate the value of application. Numerous professors have never worked in any field outside of academia and therein lies the "educational disconnect".
For years these professors have learned and taught theory from textbooks that, in a perfect world, reflects exactly how the systems of business, finance, and economics would work; however, as we are all well aware, this world is not perfect.
It turns out Theory A falls apart when applied to real world conditions, and Theory B rarely appears. When it does, it is only in very unique real world settings. The list goes on and on.
What about learning things that are practical and essential for everyday living, such as how to set up a financial statement and follow cash flow as it moves into and out of a business? These things are taught, but not usually as in-depth as they need to be. These are also the things that individuals can teach themselves, increasing the likelihood of their financial and professional success.
Is college still a necessity? Yes. For individuals that are not ready to immerse themselves in the world of business and entrepreneurship, college is a greatly beneficial choice. Even those individuals with a strong entrepreneurial drive can greatly benefit from a college education.
College is a period in which learning, self-discovery, interpersonal communication, and personal development occur. What it ultimately comes down to is the personal desire and drive of the individual to take risks, do research, and set out on their own.
If an individual is willing to take learning into his own hands, he can become extremely successful without a college education; after all, if he starts his own business, what are the chances that he won't be able to find a job?
Will college continue to be a staple of students' lives in years to come? For some students, yes, college will be essential for them to discover who they are and what their "calling" in life is. For others with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, no, college will simply be a waste of time and money that could be spent on developing their true potential.