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Is College Worth It? A Comprehensive Return on Investment Analysis

Is College Worth It? A Comprehensive Return on Investment Analysis

BespokeDebtor

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GeneralMe21

I wonder if the US goes to 100% tax payer funded college, I wonder if there will be more of a limit of the number of people who can be going for the low ROI majors because the funding would be a lot more limited capacity if you can pay and pass entry exams, you can get in.


coke_and_coffee

Of course. This is how almost every nation with "free college" does it. They have limited seats with attendance determined by stringent testing and a primary focus on STEM.


LiberalAspergers

Or there is the French model, where top schools has limited seats, and the others rely on massive lecture hall classes for the first year or two until the lousy students flunk out.


raouldukesaccomplice

The reputation gap between the top schools and everyplace else is still much narrower in Europe than it is in the US. Which is part of the reason Europeans find it so odd that Americans are so obsessed with where they went to college to the point that it's a significant part of one's personality/personal identity for some people.


LiberalAspergers

France and England are exceptions to that. Oxford and Cambridge are in a class all their own in England, and ENA in France was notorious for producing seemingly the entire political and business elite. Sciences Po is head and shoulders above other STEM schools in France as well.


AynRandPaulKrugman

Grande Ecoles in France. There is certainly an element of elitism in French higher education.


johnniewelker

Not in France. Additionally as the commenter above said, average students don’t finish university over there. The culling process is actually intentional; not everyone will be graduating by design


[deleted]

Wooooo boy. If you think Americans are obsessed, don't look at South Korea or Japan. It's not uncommon for parents to have children start preparing to 'get into a good college' when they first start walking and talking.


76before84

That would make sense right except the people here think Free college for all would be they could continue to major in basket weaving and have the government pay for it. If the government pays for it, then they get a say in it as well.


luke-juryous

I would hate this tbh. I'm terrible at school cuz of pretty shitty learning disabilities that make it very hard for me to read and write. But I'm a great engineer and have found a lot of success in my career with my disability having almost no impact. If I had to pass some tests to get accepted into a STEM program, then I dont think I woulda gotten in


czechyerself

There’s a precedent for this: the USSR. They steered their college students away from the humanities and towards Math and Science. This is why when Russians all came to America they were all computer programmers, mathematicians or scientists.


newpua_bie

I don't think you need to pick USSR (seems a bit random, honestly) given that there are ton of currently existing countries that have 100% tax payer funded universities. The way it works in the country I'm from (Finland) is that you apply directly to majors rather than universities, and each major has a set number of slots available. So you might pick physics in university A as your first pick, CS in university A as your second pick, and physics in university B as your third pick, and then if you are good enough to get into the first option you go there, if not they check for the second option, etc. It's a bit more nuanced (you get some extra points depending on the priority, so you're encouraged to choose your top picks where you're competitive and not super long reach) but that's the basic idea.


badluckbrians

> you apply directly to majors rather than universities, and each major has a set number of slots available. This is actually how every US university I'm familiar with works too. They also regularly shut down majors and add new ones. And it's not just about demand. A lot is about private funding and public grant funding. Put it this way, I'm not aware of a school in which History and Anthropology etc. are not shrinking or gone. Most Geography Departments are gone. But there are plenty new kinds of degrees in pharma and med and software.


blablahblah

There are a number of universities in the US with open admissions, where you're admitted to the school as a whole and can change majors on a whim. Just not the giant schools and not the ones that are super high in the rankings for a specific subject.


AntonyBenedictCamus

Switched from accounting to general business to math education to theoretical math to theoretical math with applied research in economics.


tamspawn

Changing majors is easy. Of the 3 schools my kids went to (MIT, PITT and RIT), I liked the PITT approach the best. My daughter could study Engineering, but couldn’t pick a specific field until after freshman year. But to the OP question…. I love that you’re engaged and thinking about it. Let’s get closer to implementation, or at least serious consideration of better public college options, before we start looking for any weaknesses in a process that hasn’t really started.


badluckbrians

Yeah, a lot of times they let you switch majors. Usually you have to pick something starting out. I'm sure there are exceptions. But regardless, US universities decide which majors to have and roughly how many majors they can accept in the hiring process. You can't have 400 majors for something they only hired one or two professors to teach. They can pad it with adjuncts, but in the end of the day, more students means more specialties and more professors, which is a totally centrally-planned decision in which student demand might be one factor, but it's certainly not the only nor even the primary factor. Put it this way, if Pfizer's donating a new Pharmacy building, they're gonna hire a bunch of new PharmD professors. If there's no money in History, they're not replacing Dr. Boomerold when he retires. This is America. Universities are first and foremost a business. For better or worse. This populist idea on the right that all they're trying to do is train you in trans-interpretive underwater basket dancing is cute, but it's not the reality. Go onto any campus and look at all the investments in new buildings and staff. It's all healthcare and software. Exactly the two fields where all the capital is at. These aren't institutions that exist outside capitalism. Take UMass Boston. Business is the most popular major. Then Nursing. Then Psych. Then Criminal Justice and Corrections. Then Health Professions. Then Computer and Information Science. Then Engineering. Then Social Sciences. It's not exactly an orgy of fine art degrees.


manova

I'm a professor. For most universities, it is the other way around. Hiring decisions are based on number of majors. When you need to hire a new professor, you provide lots of justifications about the needs based current student trends. If a bunch of new majors show up, you increase class sizes, force faculty to teach overloads, hire adjuncts, or hire a visiting (ie temp) faculty to hold you over to the next fall when you can hire new full time faculty. This can bite you when the students stop coming because of the nature of faculty contracts. CS was super popular at my university. We could not hire faculty fast enough. Then, students from India stopped coming to our school and all of the sudden have have a crap ton of CS tenure track faculty with barely enough students for their classes to make. So now we need to do things like create a video game degree and grad certificate programs to try to attract students for them to teach.


johannthegoatman

That's super interesting I never heard that side of things


blablahblah

I went to a top 50 US university that did not require you to declare a major going in and in fact would not let freshmen declare their majors until November. It did bite them when all the sudden everyone wanted to study computer science, but they dealt with it by increasing class sizes until they could hire more professors.


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FlJohnnyBlue2

Actually you are very wrong. The university of Florida Is the 5th ranked public university. You are admitted to the university as a freshman. By the time you reach a certain number of credits, you must be admitted to a particular college where you can pursue a particular major. E.g. business college and finance major.. There are numerous highly ranked programs. To my knowledge this is how it works in almost every major university.


kriophoros

Can they change their major afterwards though? I went to UBC (which is in Canada but I think it's similar enough for the purpose of this topic) and people can change their major whenever they want, and even the school/faculty too. I mean, why should the university care if you are going to waste tens of thousands of dollars on credits that won't count towards your degree?


SirJelly

This is a nitpick in your comment, but Geography programs have actually grown in the last Decade. In the past it has been an accessory to natural resource disciplines like geological, mining, or ecological sciences. Now, there is a growing emphasis on software, economics, and math components of geography. It may not be a common primary major, but more students of other primary disciplines are finding a need for geography and geography-technology classes.


Pollymath

I went to school for Geography with an interest in either Land Use Planning in Real Estate or Private Industry (Architectural/Engineering Firms) or on the Public Side. Actually briefly worked as a Planner in local and county level positions, before switching into GIS side of things within public utilities. Ironically enough, my wife and I both received the same small scholarship ($6000) from a donor local to our college, but my wife was a far better student who double majored in Human Geography and International Studies, but she hated GIS and the "statistics and data science" of Geography. She just like learning about different cultures and their history, and went on to manage two different refugee resettlement programs. Of my fellow classmates, it was about a 3/4 chance that they'd stay in a geography related field after college. My general thought is that every college degree should have some "technical" skill taught alongside it, whether it be a digital-oriented skill, or a skill that is marketable in the workplace. An art degree should teach people not only marketing skills, but digital art creation, web design, and to some extent, retail management. Luckily, I picked up some technical skills during my Geography program, because had I not, I would've been pretty worthless employee. My wife, alternatively, is an awesome employee and would excel no matter what industry she was employed.


nothingcleversince11

I agree I work for counties. We have a stack of GIS people. Land records, engineering, regional planning, election precinct maps and all sorts of stuff. It adds a spatial component to data. It is super useful and expanding field. All of our local universities and vocational schools offer programs in it. Super weird to say geography is not a useful field.


Rand_alThor_

Most top or liberal arts universities don’t have any restricted majors, or just 1-2. I went to an Ivy League school and did astrophysics but I could have just decided I want to do Middle East North African studies major. Probably would have made more money actually, what the fuck. Somebody slap college me. The only restricted major was financial econometrics or whatever it was called (wrong major name, I’m blanking). But it required major level courses in math, finance, econ and computer science. My physics buddy who did that earned 250k starting out of college while I was scraping g money during my PhD. He developed algos on Wall Street as a fucking intern. Anyway it needed A’s roughly in most of these classes in your first year or two to make it in, as well as demonstrated interest and competency. Edit: I think the major was called quantitative finance.


newpua_bie

The biggest regret in my life (as a physics student) was not taking the quant finance classes offered by my very department via guest lecturers. Why the fuck did I choose advanced quantum mechanics over that.


raouldukesaccomplice

The USSR had its own incentives for doing this: By creating a glut of skilled technical professionals, they could fill their hospitals with doctors, their factories and public works departments with engineers, and their military research programs with physicists and mathematicians, and not have to pay them a lot. STEM programs are competitive and time-consuming and ideally leave students with little time to do things like get into discussions about current events or debates about the relationship of individuals to society. If you let them study history or literature or philosophy, they might start asking inconvenient questions.


errorclerical

The United States also had a substantial interest in STEM at the time and was pushing kids to be better at science and math. You can probably guess why both the USA and USSR were particularly interested in that.


das_thorn

Also a lot less incentive for a Russian literature PhD to immigrate to the US... less market for it and less transferable than CS.


wiking85

The US did a similar thing in the 1960s when they started giving out total scholarships for engineering and maths to compete in the space race.


fuzzy_whale

I would jokingly add that it makes sense for the USSR to not support their citizens majoring in political science or history... Duh... But at the same time, the US college system has a problem of encouraging more people into STEM while bloating up their admin costs, unrelated graduation requirements such as humanities electives, and handling students like an adult daycare for "safe spaces"


Megalocerus

US universities frequently feature STEM because they atttract foreign students at a high tuition. They are a profit center, and often are short of US natives.


Judas_Feast

This might be a good argument FOR liberal arts.


cdurgin

I don't think you're making the argument you think you're making. They were allowed to come to the US because of their valuable degrees. That's like saying "we should have more people have liberal art degrees because if America goes to shit, no one else would want them and they will be stuck in the USA"


xennope

There's going to be a limit on how many can get in no matter what. So many on reddit think free college will mean everyone can get a college degree when in reality that won't be the case. This is besides 40% of the US population already has a college degree. And people on reddit don't get that the more college degrees out there in the labor market the lower value degrees in general have. The rate we are going McDonald's will require a college degree to work for them.


dwntwnleroybrwn

Rationing is a very real thing. I had a friend in Austria who's daughter was put on the no university track in 5th grade. She was a normal kid not developmentally challenged or anything.


JustLTU

That's a bit of an extreme example. My country has a system where government funds a certain amount of university spots each year in each field, depending on demand and supply for certain specialists. To get in, you compete with others, your score being based on your grades in the last two years of high school and your final exams. Hyper competitive specialties with limited spots, like medicine, might need you to have near perfect scores to get a free ride, but other specialties that are in short supply, like software development, has so many free spots available that you can get a free ride with a near - minimum score. Now, not getting a free spot does not mean that you can't study, it'll just cost you, which is still not that expensive (my specialty is about 3k/year). At the end of each year a rotation happens where students that got a free ride, but have poor results (most often you need to actually fail a class, altough in some schools it might just be poor grades), can lose their free ride, if there's a paying student that's doing better than them - they get the free spot instead.


bobertskey

How do you figure out ahead of time where the ROI will be? My current job didn't exist yet (at least not in any way that I could have majored in it) when I went to undergrad. I learned a lot of the skills that I needed in undergrad but more of them were just learned during previous jobs or in grad school. The higher education market is slow to adjust to changing needs in education and is more concerned about staying solvent and producing research/publications than it is about producing students with relevant skills. It's easy to look back at 2005 and say "we need more statistics majors" but I can tell you for sure that we didn't know that we needed more statistics majors in 2005.


GeneralMe21

I get what you are saying, but you can only do estimates off of the data you have today and if we need STEM grads vs art majors (for example) in the next 5 to 10 years, then that is we’re the focus goes. Not saying good or bad, just saying we have limited funding that needs directed properly. Planned economics are not easy. Just ask the USSR.


Megalocerus

Some STEM fields are not particularly rewarding; you can starve with a BA in biology. Meanwhile, the art field CGI may be about to take off as a way to keep actors from shooting the cinematographer and assistant director. Not to mention make fake incriminating videos. However, how much should college be vocational, and if it is vocational, is the 4 year program necessary for all end points? I know there is a big apprenticeship effect in comp sci as it is.


bobertskey

How do we know we'll need stem vs art though? Also, why do they have to be taught separately? Is it possible that the educational industrial complex doesn't adequately produce skills that the economy needs to function and it's generally a waste of all of our collective money in it's current form? I'm not saying there's much the sub can do specifically but if we're going to talk about the government paying for post-secondary education (which is a pipe dream at the moment) and instituting quotas (which would be a political non-starter), we may as well talk about structural changes to the system at large. It might help to teach people to be life long learners and not just crank out undergrads as a way of subsidizing research and sports via FAFSA loans with the students footing the bill in the long run and everyone else getting paid at their expense.


twittalessrudy

I think you're right on the money, and changing the structure of college to focus on helping teach people to be lifelong learners will help people realize that college isn't for them. Not to sound harsh, but most of the country looks at learning like a chore, and that's generally okay, but we don't need to waste those peoples' time and money getting a degree


bobertskey

It starts as early as pre k. Parents and legislatures are focused on measurable results. This means we care what kids learn without caring how kids learn. Goodhart's law is right on: when something becomes a target it ceases to be a useful measure. Our school system is designed to raise test scores and grades as efficiently as possible. It is generally more efficient to get kids to say the right answers than it is for them to understand concepts. It's also inefficient to pay teachers rates that would compete with what a good teacher can make doing something in the private sector in a lot of the "highest ROI fields". Low wages help you select teacher who do it because they love it (which is great) but it's not like high wages would weed those people out. Instead you get a lot of teachers, especially at the elementary level who dislike math, which leads to students who aren't encouraged to love math (which, imho, is not good). It's all a big complex problem that is easier to diagnose than fix but I'll Monday morning quarterback it all day. I do think we got ourselves into this mess my trying to "manage" a system that is hugely complex in basically total isolation. I don't think trying to further micromanage the system to determine which career tracks are most valuable (when wages are probably the best metrics we have to measure that and they're woefully insufficient) is going to help much.


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rz2000

I think there are many roads to acquire real critical thinking skills. I also think it is nuts to discount that the liberal arts have historically been recognized for including many of the best routes. Hopefully adequate public funding wouldn't be just about be starving theoretical science research, pure math, history, anthropology and sociology, fine arts, etc in favor of engineering, statistics, communications, accounting, and web design. However, I don't see public funding of universities conducive to supporting 20 years olds in country clubs like they are eighteenth century aristocrats warehoused in Versailles. That is if you are going to get a degree in English literature you should have to be engaged enough in the subject matter that professors think you show promise and will bring good ideas from your studies to future leadership positions in your life, and not that you are just checking boxes while drinking away your four years. Public funding might even subvert the networking aspect that undermines so much of college life, making it about having a blast rather than also about learning.


ComradeJohnS

All it takes is one success story like JK rowling to cover the cost of hundreds of thousands of students not making an return on the government’s investment.


Throwawaltoodle

I know that in Italy, STEM degrees have limited admission, while humanities degrees generally do not (although there was a public debate sometime back on limiting seats in humanities courses too). It would be interesting to see the proportion of STEM majors to humanities majors in countries with a free or heavily subsidized system (thinking like France or Italy) and compare it to the US.


cballowe

I've often thought that federal financial aid eligibility should be tied to some sort of score for the school and major. If you said "university of Phoenix qualifies for no loans because you're better off doing anything else", schools that exist in a form that basically maxes out the student loan programs for profit would stop existing. Even publishing "the lifetime value of that degree is $X" somewhere would go a long way. There's tons of trade school programs that have higher ROI than those lowest ranking degrees.


krosantusk3r

The problem w college is that it’s become just a thing you are expected to do. Many of the jobs that require college degree would in the past not require them. So many I know are working outside of their degrees and learned the skills to do so on their own. In the past, before government got into the lending business, college was much much cheaper, and really people only went if they had a real interest in liberal arts or specific knowledge. You could work your way through school and come out the other end w a degree that wasn’t watered down and meant something.


ArticCircleofRandom

I feel the obvious being said about elite schools in this analysis. Stanford offers free tuition for anyone who comes from a family earning less than $75,000. Assuming since you got into Stanford you also qualified for a bunch of out of school scholarships that pay for boarding. I knew this guy from university, who paid for his entire tuition from sports and academic scholarships. He ended up making $10,000s going to school and having great internships. His ROI must be huge. Edit: u/rehtulx corrected me. The tuition at Stanford is free to anyone with a family income lower than $150,000.


rehtulx

Stanford actually offers free tuition to anyone [with family income under 150k now.](https://www.stanforddaily.com/2019/12/04/free-tuition-to-be-accessible-to-families-with-incomes-under-150000-board-of-trustees-decides/) A lot of other top tier schools like Ivy League, Univ of Chicago, Duke, and MIT have similar programs now too.


Jamalginsbergback

Rice is the same way. A few years ago found that they weren't taking any middle class kids so its free below 130K household income and half off up to 200k. My wife was working there at the time, basically they found they were losing quality students to UT or A&M because they only poor kids or really rich kids could afford to go.


BelAirGhetto

What this misses is the ROI for society as a whole to have a highly educated populace, vs a population of people who don’t understand enough about society, history, arts, and other subjects that may not have a specific ROI, but expand human growth in ways that can’t be measured monetarily.


Mikeavelli

From the article, the vast majority of students consider getting a better job and making more money to be very important factors in their decision to attend college. If the research shows that many degree programs have a negative expected ROI, then those students should be aware of this fact. This is doubly true in the US, where the majority of the cost of a student's education is borne by the students themselves. If society as a whole values the intangible ROI of having an educated population, society should bear more of the cost.


BelAirGhetto

Just as K-12 education was important in the last century, college is important to our next century.


Martian9576

Yes, and also that there’s a lot of value to education aside from economics or cash flow.


confused_coyote

While that is true, I would argue that an educated population can still be achieved at a significantly lower cost (and is achieved in many places around the world)


BelAirGhetto

It should absolutely be free! Just as Thomas Jefferson intended!


42Pockets

We don't have to go to a brick and mortar building anymore. College or a Secondary/Postsecondary Education can still be publicly funded without everyone thinking it has to be a 4 year bachelor's degree at an ivy League school. We could fund apprenticeships, formal 4 year college, vocational training, PhDs, home economics, anything we want really. Why limit ourselves to one idea of College when we are in the midst of redefining what it means to work around the globe. The purpose of Government is set forth in [The U.S. Constitution: Preamble](https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution-conan/preamble/preamble-overview) >"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." These are not Rights or Powers, but the guidelines to decide should "We the People" do this? Of these purposes of government  Promote the General Welfare, Education for All is square in the sights of this point. John Adams [wrote](https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-17-02-0232) a bit about the importance of education in a democracy. >the social science will never be much improved untill the People unanimously know and Consider themselvs as the fountain of Power and untill they Shall know how to manage it Wisely and honestly. reformation must begin with the Body of the People which can be done only, to affect, in their Educations. **the Whole People must take upon themselvs the Education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expences of it.** there should not be a district of one Mile Square without a school in it, not founded by a Charitable individual but maintained at the expence of the People themselvs they must be taught to reverence themselvs instead of adoreing their servants their Generals Admirals Bishops and Statesmen Here he makes clear the importance of the People being an integral part of the system. It gives us ownership of our own destiny together. The rest of the letter John Adams wrote to John Jeb is absolutely fantastic. He goes on to discuss why it's important to create a system that makes people like Martin Luther King jr, Susan B Anthony, Carl Sagan, and Mr Rogers, although he references others like Washington. Good leaders should not be a product of the time, but of the educational system and culture of the people. If a country doesn't make good leaders then when that leader is gone there's no one to replace them and that culture and movement dies with them. >Instead of Adoring a Washington, Mankind Should applaud the Nation which Educated him. If Thebes owes its Liberty and Glory to Epaminondas, She will loose both when he dies, and it would have been as well if She had never enjoyed a taste of either: but if the Knowledge the Principles the Virtues and Capacities of the Theban Nation produced an Epaminondas, her Liberties and Glory will remain when he is no more: and if an analogous system of Education is Established and Enjoyed by the Whole Nation, it will produce a succession of Epaminandas’s. In another short work by John Adams, [Thoughts on Government](https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Thoughts_on_Government), [YouTube Reading](https://youtu.be/XIw_BItRLfs), he wrote about the importance of a liberal education for everyone, spared no expense. >Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant. [Here](https://www.reddit.com/r/BlackPeopleTwitter/comments/pdwq01/ill_just_put_that_on_your_calendar_for_when_youre/hat7pr6?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share&context=3) is a comment I saw in response to someone complaining about having to take courses outside their area of study to get a bachelor's degree. So much of our population's perspective towards the education system is solely driven towards financial gain and not about personal growth in community alongside financial gain. >I’m now a college professor in bio, but when I was a grad student I was the teaching assistant for a basic bio course aimed at engineers. The first question I got in lab section was “Yeah, why do I have to take this course when I don’t give a shit about biology and won’t use it as an engineer.” I said, “the political discourse right now is full of discussions that center on biology, such as reproductive rights, climate change, etc. If you don’t understand the biological concepts enough to be part of that conversation, we are going to have it without you, and you will be at someone else’s mercy. But if you think being informed on decisions that affect your life is a waste of time, go ahead and phone it in.” You could’ve heard a pin drop after. >College educations should be affordable (or free) so that taking non-core classes aren’t a financial burden, but receiving a well-rounded education that exposes you to more than just your specific, narrow subject is not the villain. Then there's the [story](https://www.ucf.edu/pegasus/harris-rosen/) of Harris Rosen >Having had his own life so radically transformed by education, Rosen knew that this was an area he wanted to focus on, and Tangelo Park was the place. >Tangelo Park is built on land once used for orange groves. Originally built as housing for workers at the nearby Martin Marietta, it has become an isolated residential area. There are few services nearby for residents, and few public transit options. African Americans comprise 90 percent of the community, with many living below the poverty line. >“I fell in love with the neighborhood,” says Rosen. “I knew I wanted to do some type of scholarship program for them.” >The Tangelo Park Program, started in 1993, gives every neighborhood child age 2 to 4 access to free preschool. Parents have access to parenting classes, vocational courses and technical training. >For a program that took just one hour and four people to develop, the impact has been wide and deep. Tangelo Park Elementary is now a grade-A school. Every high school senior graduates. >But there’s more. Much more. >Every high school graduate who is accepted to a Florida public university, community or state college, or vocational school receives a full Harris Rosen Foundation scholarship, which covers tuition, living and educational expenses through graduation. >Nearly 200 students have earned Rosen scholarships, and of those, 75 percent have graduated from college—the highest rate among an ethnic group in the nation. Imagine if we did this and more on a national scale. The benefit of a promoted liberal educated society regardless of sex, orientation, ability, class, race, socioeconomic status, etc., is that it just promotes good democracy in prosperity.


SirJelly

The idea of "net societal value" is of great interest to me. One could argue that a disproportionate value society extracts from its engineers is from the tiny minority of them, educated to an extreme degree, that invent new tech and move us forward as a species. If 5 of your brightest scientists invent a watershed technology, the value of that to us all could be in the *many trillions*. We get our return on engineering education from "engineers". This is in great contrast with disciplines like History or psychology, where one could argue a democracy gets it's greatest ROI by having *everyone* educated to a moderate level, so that the ethos of the public benefit from that knowledge. Things like this allow your populace to make better *group* decisions, and avoid repeating historical mistakes as often. The value of *that* can also be in the *many trillions.* We get our return in history education from people mostly NOT called "historians". We have a very individualistic economy. When the student pays for their degree, and only the value of the wages they receive are considered, an individual ROI metric will make STEM degrees look much better by comparison. This is why I generally argue in defense of "general education" requirements, though many students abhor them for delaying graduation. Maybe we're headed for a future with more STEM students, but I'd be nervous to see history, language, civics, and anthropological disciplines be pared down too much.


immibis

Note that even in engineers, you want to educate a lot of them to increase the size of the tiny minority. And then there's the less-tiny majority who go and make useful stuff but not the extremely outlying useful stuff.


liminecricket

What do historians do, then? I think they serve as a medium through which people understand history. Historians apply to history a scholarly method by which history may be rendered for public consumption. If the historian did not apply his discipline to the production of a middle school text book, the masses wouldn't benefit from that history after all. The historian's product isn't a technology or consumer good, it's the curriculum our kids learn. I'm just musing. I was a history undergrad, but chose to go to law school instead, so I know I'm full of shit before anyone decides to take the time telling me so.


BioStudent4817

I support college But do you really think 22-year olds have a well-informed opinion on art styles, history, or even basic American government upon graduation? How about 10 years later?


ungoogleable

> This isn’t to say that lower-earning majors are worthless. Society needs artists and musicians. But low incomes for these majors signal a supply-demand mismatch. Universities are producing too many art majors and too few engineering majors relative to the number of jobs available in each of these fields. As a result, employers bid up the wages of engineers while surplus artists flood the labor market. The answer is not to eliminate low-earning majors nationwide, but to reduce their scale. ... > Granted, many bachelor’s degrees have nonfinancial benefits, and students should certainly take those into account when choosing a program. There are also social benefits to some degrees. The engineers who developed the iPhone probably captured only a small fraction of the social value they created. But it’s likely that degrees which generate large social benefits also come with large private rewards. The idea that most negative-ROI programs are generating enough “social benefits” to justify themselves is doubtful. The degrees with large social benefits probably also have large private ROI.


errorclerical

Can confirm. I studied history. I definitely don’t think we “need” history majors. But everyone in society needs a substantially better understanding of history than we’re creating now. I would gladly trade history as a major for everyone having to do an associate’s worth of history/polisci/other social studies regardless of major.


CoolLordL21

People don't need college to study those things anymore.


BelAirGhetto

People don’t need college to run Goldman Sachs, or be Senators, but there’s not too many folks like that in positions of power.


johannthegoatman

Some people don't, but self directed learning takes a specific type of person and there are still a ton of pitfalls that can be easily avoided with a professor.


immibis

This.


Saintsfan_9

Depends if it’s actually education or brainwashing. Are we teaching our students how to critically think, evaluate facts, not fall victim to logical fallacies, etc.. Or, are we teaching them to agree with the professor to get a decent grade so it doesn’t mess up your resume GPA and career prospects? I’m not even talking about contemporary “you’re brainwashing them to be libtards” type, as you will see in my example below. I’ve had some really great economics professors that encouraged questioning and discourse. I can also remember a particular history teacher that’s opinion was LAW regarding certain ancient western civs. Not sour grapes either because I got a 98.7% final grade in the class by just parroting her lectures back to her in my exam essays. Let’s not pretend that was somehow forming a more “educated” populace though.


VV01313Y

I think my discussion based, forced opinion courses were helpful because if I wanted an A I had to put on a convincing lie that I believed what I was supposed to be learning. This helps a lot to get along with everyone and move up for work.


Saintsfan_9

Fair but let’s not claim this is “Better for society”.


ABobby077

The problem with this is that people attend, learn and graduate from Colleges and Universities for reasons other than just as an investment. It is also a career and life path that may provide benefits other than 100's of thousands of career wage dollars. ​ Also called the cost of things vs the value of things. This may not be the same thing (and many times isn't). Your values may not be the same as others. It doesn't make their values wrong (or your values "right") actually.


bluecifer7

Exactly this. I had two majors in college, I’ve got me the job I have now and I’ve been quite successful so far. The other was purely humanities and really shaped how I think about the world. I would never give up that education for anything, and I think people talking about ROI ignore that fact. Life is a journey and if college is a part of that, it’s worth learning about things you love or find fascinating and feeling enriched regardless of future earnings. Obviously to a degree, but that’s how people make these decisions


Op-Toe-Mus-Rim-Dong

I also don’t agree with the ROI on some of the “majors” because I’m not sure if it’s showing data that includes people who stayed in the field, went to another field, or graduated with an advanced degree and then started making money with the advanced degree. Take for instance, psychology apparently had an ROI by age 45 of 45k. I have said degree and made 60k already but moved to construction because the field pays poorly and lots of older people stand in the way of advancement of a younger populace. So do I consider myself under Psychology still or under Transportation/Construction?


DirtzMaGertz

I don't think the studies are trying to show that education is purely a ROI proposition, but the actual ROI on these degrees is still something that should be available for people considering going instead of everyone basically just lying about what college will do for them. It's pretty insane how many young adults are just pushed to go 20-40k in debt to go do this thing they have very little information on.


errorclerical

Every time I watch an American election cycle I get really scared of the fact that so few people have studied enough history to understand any of what’s going on.


8815078

Doing this exact analysis was the final paper in my high school economics class. Quite frankly it's mostly just common sense, but I still think it's good for high school seniors to see just how impactful this one decision will be on the course of their lives. I'll never stop being amazed how many people act like they never even once considered the return on their degree or even act offended at the suggestion college should be viewed as an investment. For me college was always an investment in my future and it was an investment that richly paid off. It wasn't due to luck or privilege, it was simply due to making a rational decision based on the data.


ZerexTheCool

>offended at the suggestion college should be viewed as an investment Monetary return in investment is only one part of the overall decision. But, like, it's definitely a big part. A lot of people underestimate the value of getting a job you actually enjoy and can do long term. My degree 100% increased my income from what I would likely have done instead. But I could earn more right now if I switched to Truck Driving. I would be earning more had I skipped school and went straight into truck driving. And there are at least a half dozen other jobs just like that that I could have picked from. But I definitely like my current work more. And when I finish my masters and hopefully get a different job, I'll like that one even more. It's not just maximizing ones direct compensation, but building a life you want to live.


Alar44

Depends on how you want to live your life though. I saw too many people just follow the tracks, then wake up at 55, have a crisis, and wonder wtf they did with their life. I skipped out on college and was a musician for a decade. Kept up with tech/IT as plan B and switched over about 8 years ago when I was tired of that. Just landed a massive raise + promotion. I think when I was growing up, ALL they pushed was the investment side and it really turned me off. There's more to life than making 6 figures, running the rat race, and being able to retire young. I'd rather do what I like doing and not have to retire because it's not work. Ymmv.


abrandis

But isn't a bit odd that we need expensive informal training only to go into a technical professional career with more expensive formal training, couldn't we just skip the first part? Realistically any MD, JD or engineer , if they spent four years studying and practicing their profession, then gain accreditation seems that would make.more sense. To me college is a product of a bygone era. Back then the wealthy and established went to college to actually gain academic knowledge in pursuit of their interests. Today everyone going to college is usually because they've been told it's the only path to be wealthy and accomplished.. my point is education really needs to be re-structred.from the ground up and not stuck to turn of the 15th model.


dwhite195

Well this kinda gets at the core of the debate behind a liberal arts education. In the current model what a liberal arts education does in theory is teach you how to think and approach issues with a broad mindset. A training course may get you the specific skillset to do a job, but does not necessarily give you much else, or give you a lot of flexibility to pivot to something new should something change. But the value of a liberal arts degree is something that has been debated for decades at least.


Lankonk

Especially for doctors and engineers, learning the theoretical underpinnings behind the practice is crucial. Sure, they could just plug and chug commonly used solutions to the problems they face, but those jobs are fundamentally problem solving ones, and knowing the underlying mechanisms of your field is essential for solving a problem that doesn't already have a clear answer. Addendum Edit: College as it is is currently a better way to teach the principles than on-the-job training. Problem solving necessitates those fundamental principles, which are better learned in a classroom setting.


noveler7

I teach in higher-ed and no offense to that demographic, but believe me, we don't want 95% of these 18-21 year-olds doing any significant or complicated work in the majority of these fields at that age. The Fords, Boeings, Raytheons, and Eli Lillys of the world wouldn't want to invest in training them, as the majority wouldn't pan out, and it'd take years for them to see a return on their investment. We have to face the fact that education and training is expensive, risky, and time consuming, but increasingly necessary in a globalized world. We can definitely revise our current system, but the ideas in this thread proposing that we eliminate all the progress we've made to make college more accessible to all classes and demographics makes me worried about our future. The future generation is an invaluable resource, but it needs to be refined before it's productive.


SgtSmackdaddy

As an MD, before you're allowed to even lay hands on a patient you must master basic science (physiology, anatomy, physics, etc). You cannot truly understand complex pathophysiology without a background in non clinical sciences. The other pieces that you need to learn how to learn effectively, and doing that in medical school is like trying to drink from a open fire hydrant. You develop skills and maturity in undergrad before medical school.


theubernoob

I disagree as an engineer. There's a lot of factors to consider and it will largely depend on the job, but there are plenty of engineering jobs that really just require a good mentor and a diligent student. My degree gave me a basic engineering background that could translate to a lot of engineering positions, but wasn't at all necessary for the career path I've taken. I suppose the system we have is currently "good enough" but in a world where we maximize the efficiency of everything, we could make vast improvements to the education system.


GalaXion24

I think this is because many people upon hearing that will think of investment as purely monetary, which will come off as wrong to them if their reasoning was not (purely) monetary. Of course, in economics this is no issue, we understand that people value a variety of things, such as knowledge and learning itself, or having a job in a field you're interested in, or wanting to altruistically contribute to society in some way. We could even study an individual's monetary valuation of these things by ascertaining how much more they would need to get paid to give up these things. But in everyday speech it sounds like saying you should just care about money. To people who only care about money, they already think this way, to the rest, it is going to be an affront. It may be worthwhile to elaborate that an investment in your future can take into account things like your happiness, your passions, goals, etc. If that's making more money, that's ok, and if it's something else, that is also 100% ok. Making investments is not about changing your priorities, but about making the best decisions for your priorities.


GeneralMe21

I think you could fix the whole system with having the college/university itself being the issuer of the loan and having the borrower being able to shed the loans via bankruptcy after 10 years with the university eating the loss. Priorities will change if it’s the university’s finance is on the line. Less letting everyone in to low ROI majors and more focus on high ROI majors.


Matt1234567899

That's how you get only richer families with good credit going to college. If the university is on the hook they aren't going to loan money to a poor minority with little assets to claim in bankruptcy.


GeneralMe21

Only if they drop the current quota systems. Plus you could still charge a higher rate to the wealthy. Again. Not saying good or bad just an idea.


percykins

Why would they charge a higher rate to the wealthy, where the loans are less risky?


prqd112

I agree with making loan dischargeable. But What about just letting it be a free market? And getting the federal govt out of the student loan business? Rather than making new rules to fix side effects of the old rules. They’ll inevitably have unintended side effects as well.


kittenTakeover

Kind of. In such system you would want to subsidize education beneficial to operating a healthy democracy so it doesn't get pushed out in favor of exclusively things relevant to individual corporations and businesses.


GeneralMe21

True. But you can still pay your own way and have scholarships. I am just putting the burden on the school so they are not over building nice “playgrounds” for students vs what is really needed. I think this will go more to controlling costs because colleges now own the cost.


Captain_Quark

That still creates bad incentives, though - the only people who can afford a liberal arts education are the already rich. But I guess that's kind of how things already are.


jackj1995

Monopoly of culture


lacrotch

this is a great idea, colleges as a whole would start acting more like grad schools and would focus on helping alumni find employment opportunities a lot more, as opposed to stacking on value added but ultimately wasteful admin bureaucracy and superfluous student services


Frunk2

This will never happen because the US decided equal demographic access, regardless of ability to pay, was more important than ROI or outcome. Of course it’s disproportionately the first generation college grads who are bearing the brunt of this poor policy


Captain_Quark

It's not necessarily a poor policy, it's just a particular set of priorities that's in conflict with other priorities.


Ernst_and_winnie

Sounds like a great idea until you have like 20% of the adult population going through bankruptcy proceedings because they can’t pay off their loans in 10 years. Then they aren’t going to have any access to credit, and any assets they have at the time will also go through bankruptcy. Government just needs to change how they issue loans and to whom they issue loans. Also, a major issue is that these loans are like 6-8%. Rates should be much lower, like 1-3%.


GeneralMe21

I think you may be missing the factor that schools are inflating costs higher than any national inflation average. Schools need to be held accountable for the expense, so if they own the loans, then they own the cost control issue


Cypher1388

They will just securitize the loans and sell them on wall street as investments, like all other financial institutions do with their loans. The really impactful part of your suggestion is making them both a) private loans, and b) dischargeable through bankruptcy Unfortunately, that does mean they will be harder to get, not based on financial need, and most likely much higher interest rates. Whether that is good or bad is debatable


RaisinTheRedline

I'm personally really intrigued by the "Back a Boiler" program at Purdue that was implemented by the former Indiana governor, now Purdue President Mitch Daniels. I believe I heard about it on a Freakonomics podcast. The key is that under that program, a student isn't taking a loan, they are making an income share agreement that last for a certain number of years regardless off their ultimate income. Think 6% of income for the first 6 years out of college, or something to that effect. The end result is that students that fall on hard times for one reason or another aren't saddled with crippling debt, and nobody ends up in a position where their job can't support their student loan payments.


saudiaramcoshill

Think this is a great idea, too. I was talking with other people on another thread about just this. I think the share of income and length of time should be higher. 10% for 10 years. If you come out of college making $60k for 10 years, you'll pay $60k for that degree. Essentially pay your average income over a 10 year period once in total.


RaisinTheRedline

To clarify, I pulled those numbers straight out of my ass. They weren't meant to be specific, they were just random numbers I was using to illustrate the concept. I should have been more clear about that


saudiaramcoshill

Ah lmao. No harm taken, mine are out of my ass too. Looking at Purdue's program, they have gone into way more detail than i wouldve, and it looks like they hired actuaries to model out risk and cost. Percentages and lengths vary by major. So, for example, the accounting one is ~4% for 13 years and 4 months.


GeneralMe21

Just like banks do now, but I would say make the college own the loans for the life of the loan. You can always regulate. If the college owns the cost, then they be more warranted to control costs.


Beachdaddybravo

Also cut out the bullshit waste of sports. Sports should be in clubs not associated with the school. They serve zero academic purpose, add nothing to a person’s learning experience, and create a shitload of cost which increases the price of tuition for every student on campus. Any money they bring doesn’t go towards academics whatsoever.


lacrotch

highest paid public employees in at least 45 states are head coaches (which sport depends largely on region)


saudiaramcoshill

>create a shitload of cost Men's football and basketball do not. They are hugely profitable. But title ix makes athletics programs as a whole unprofitable. >Any money they bring doesn’t go towards academics whatsoever. Again, not true. Athletics programs often donate profits to the academics side. Also, i see you're ignoring the softer side of the benefit - all the donations that come in as a result of engaged alumni because of athletics.


domonx

If you invest the cost of college into an index fund and started working right after high school, I wonder what the comparison would be like. 4 years of potential income alone is 80k even at $10/hr. I personally know a few people that wouldn't need to work anymore if they just put that 200k their parents gave them for college into VOO 10 years ago. The value of a college education is more than the degree and the skill you learn, but the reality is that a lot of people aren't prepared for academics after high school.


TheLittleGinge

>I personally know a few people that wouldn't need to work anymore if they just put that 200k their parents gave them for college That's quite the hurdle for most, though. If your parents can pay off your college ($200k?!? Feck me, US education is premium), then your last problem is ROI. (Disclaimer: I'm British, so our higher education experiences and costs will differ greatly) >The value of a college education is more than the degree and the skill you learn I think this is a very important point. University can be what you make of it, even looking past the degree. I studied Econ, but there were several other aspects of Uni that I feel provided a unique benefit. Benefits that I wouldn't have experienced by entering the workforce at 18. >but the reality is that a lot of people aren't prepared for academics after high school. Yep. Even though I said about the benefits exclusive to the degree itself, you do need to obtain one at the end of it all.


westsound_bestsound

$200k is a lot, I didn’t pay anywhere near that for tuition, 4 years where I went was like $55k


TheLittleGinge

What's with the disparity? Public vs Private?


dwhite195

There are generally four levels of tuition cost in the US: Community College - Cheapest (Associates Degree only) Public In State - Cheapest for four year Public Out of State - Middle for four year Private - Most expensive If you get yourself into the 200k of debt you have a number of probably avoidable things have happened. You probably went to a private school with little savings or you went well beyond 4 years to graduate. I would say, assuming COL isnt crazy where you went to school, an in-state education graduating in 4 years rarely will cost more than $80,000.


TheLittleGinge

Thank you for this explanation. I can see the hyperbole of $200k now. Not impossible, but also not probable.


dwntwnleroybrwn

Don't believe the outrage. The US national average for a bachelor's degree is ~$30,000, not the $200,000 people are led to believe. $30k for an average lifetime earning potential of $1MM, I happily paid 3%.


Stryker7200

It is pretty typical for any type of medical doctor degree though, MD, dentist, etc


nick_olas_89

Another big one is unsubsidized loans, and not paying the interest while in school. With unsubsidized loans, interest would accrue *and compound* while you were still in school. Especially with rates pre-2008, where 8% loans were not unheard-of, it was easy to rack-up a lot of debt, especially if you took 5 or 6 years to finish a Bachelors degree, assuming graduation- which is not guaranteed. If you had unsubsidized loans and merely paid the interest on them while in school, it dramatically reduces your debt total years later.


dwhite195

>If you had unsubsidized loans and merely paid the interest on them while in school, it dramatically reduces your debt total years later. This is exactly what happened for me actually. My parents weren't in a position to pay my way through school and my paycheck was going mostly for food and whatnot. So the way they did chip in was pay the interest on the loans while I was still in school.


westsound_bestsound

The other commenter nailed it, my buddy had zero state or parental help and ended up around 73k in debt, though he did work some. If you’re anywhere near $200k for a simple bachelors you’ve made some very avoidable cost decisions.


Backwoods-Boody

Who the fuck has 200k to give their kid for college?


Lankonk

The article pins it at around $28k per year, or $112k in total. The article adjusts for inflation, and an accurate comparison would also factor in regular withdrawals to make up for the difference in income. It becomes really difficult to both withdraw AND build wealth. With everything inflation adjusted, at 4% withdrawals per year, which gives you an extra 5k per year at the beginning and grows to $12k at the end, you end up with $285k in your nest egg. The extra average of $9k per year adds up to about $360k over the course of the 40 years, bringing the average up over $600k. However, this doesn't account for margin rates, which are higher than student loans. Related to this, the risk is actually pretty high. Despite the long time frame, you get a pretty high chance of not even coming close to the $600k mark. https://www.portfoliovisualizer.com/monte-carlo-simulation?s=y&fullHistory=true&adjustmentType=3&smoothingRate=75&historicalVolatility=true&volatility=12.0&investmentHorizon=1&endYear=2020&years=40&frequency=4&mode=1&inflationAdjusted=true&inflationVolatility=3.0&sequenceStressTest=0&inflationMean=4.0&startYear=1972&bootstrapModel=1&inflationModel=1&taxTreatment=false&customIntervals=false&adjustmentPercentage=4&incomeTax=37.0&rebalanceType=1&capitalGainsTax=20.0&dof=30&adjustmentAmount=45000&allocation1_1=100&circularBootstrap=true&stateTax=0.0&simulationModel=1&distribution=1¤tAge=70&timeSeries=1&bootstrapMaxYears=20&asset1=TotalStockMarket&historicalCorrelations=true÷ndTax=20.0&returnList=0%2C+2.5%2C+5%2C+7.5%2C+10%2C+12.5&affordableCareActTax=3.8&lifeExpectancyModel=0&bootstrapMinYears=1&meanReturn=7.0&percentileList=10%2C+25%2C+50%2C+75%2C+90&rollingAveragePeriods=3&initialAmount=112000


whiskey_bud

Interesting thought experiment, but remember that literally nobody on planet earth is going to loan an 18 year old kid $200k to put into an index fund. Ultimately the real decision for people (who need loans) is simply - do I take out a loan, and assume that future ROI with make it worth it? Or should I start out with $0 and try to make a go that way?


Philooflarissa

I suspect that the use of medians biases the conclusions against high-risk high-reward majors. Artists are unlikely to make a lot of money, but when they do, they make A LOT of money. Would be interesting to see how the conclusions are changed if mean instead of median earnings is used.


ungoogleable

The article covers this point repeatedly and visualizes the distribution in more than one way.


Saintsfan_9

Probably primarily to just get rid of athletes that HAD to go to school tbh and then went professional.


einstein1202

I say give each person that earns a degree a 5 year window post graduation to pay down $10k debt tax and interest free annually. From years 5-10 they pay interest and get a reduced tax deduction. After 10 years no breaks and any remaining federal debts are garnished from wages until paid off.


gengengis

It's nearly impossible to do this analysis without at least somewhat confusing cause and effect, and most analyses (including apparently this one) don't even try to control for it. When someone finds themselves at MIT, Yale, the Wharton School, or wherever else, there is a massive selection bias in essentially every case. These kids are already the top-performers in their classes. They're already smart, driven. Very often, they're also well-supported by their parents, and family networks. So if you take a kid with parents present throughout their life, with high incomes, with supports and extracurricular activities, early education, high-performing schools, and you send that kid to Harvard, *of course* they are going to have higher incomes than a kid that dropped out of high school. But the question is how much of the benefit is related to their *Harvard* education compared to their preschool. In other words, it's not enough to just compare college graduates vs non-graduates. If we want real data, we would need to follow students in similar cohorts selected by some kind of lottery.


percykins

> most analyses (including apparently this one) don't even try to control for it. Out of curiosity, how did you determine that this study didn't even try to control for socio-economic background or native ability?


Various_Mobile4767

Are you sure most studies don't try to control for this effect? I learned about this back when I was in university and pretty much every study we covered in the module explicitly focused on this problem and developed ways to work around it.


kit19771978

I hear a lot of talk about fixing/funding higher education. I’ve got two master’s degrees. Perhaps the right focus is fixing the K-12 education system first. The Department of education was established in the 1960’s under LBJ’s Great Society. How has that worked out for us? Before we pursue rapidly expanding federal funding for higher education, shouldn’t we be discussing the declines in the American education system for K-12 first? Has our return on investment for K-12/increasing federal control been worth all the tax dollars with declining outcomes? Perhaps the ROI on a college degree would be less if a high school diploma was worth more? Why can’t American school systems educate young adults in 13 years without a college degree to earn a decent living? We used to do it very well. 13 years should be more than enough time to train anyone to do just about anything.


johannthegoatman

I'm not disagreeing and I think this is a great point. But what is your source for "we used to do it very well"?


thekingofcrash7

“The good old days” duh


PaidByPutinBot123

It took me 4 years after graduation to get a job in Accounting after applying across Canada. It's really hard to quantify future income vs cost of education using previous data when life throws 2 "once in a lifetime" recessions at you in a decade. It comes down to even if it's 'worth' it in $ terms, does the risk of taking on that much debt justify it? I could buy a house at 15x my income, and it might be cheaper than renting, but is the risk of going bankrupt if rates rise to 3% worth it? No.


MuffintopWeightliftr

I would have not gone to college unless it was paid for. (GI Bill) I sit in class sometimes and think “there is no fucking way I would pay for this shit”. I feel bad for my young classmates sometimes.


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Spiritual_Support_38

Same. That’s why I dropped out my last semester freshmen year at a 4 year pricate school. I feel worthless. I don’t know what to do next besides trade school.


Mr_Kittlesworth

Undergraduate degrees are not vocational programs. Outside of a handful of STEM degree courses, bachelors degrees are specifically designed to create a general base of knowledge, not impart workforce training. This is the weirdest thing about the way we talk about college.


TheWiseGrasshopper

Sure, and the workforce training happens mostly on the job. The problem though is that even though a lot of these jobs don’t really require degrees per say, I challenge you to find one that will actually hire someone without one. Furthermore, no one really wants to hire someone without job training and absorb the cost of training them… and of course no one coming out of college really has job training. Unfortunately this means that salaries (at least from the perspective of employers) are often a race to the bottom.


thekingofcrash7

I really disagree with this.. 3rd and 4th year classes are absolutely geared toward specific careers. Also colleges open doors to internships, which are very specific vocational training and lead to a fulltime job offer at a ridiculously high rate.


rinkydinkis

Since the average person is average, then on average a lot of things aren’t worth it. If you know you are above average, don’t listen to any of this shite and just shoot the shot.


TheWiseGrasshopper

The problem with that statement is that a majority of people consider themselves to be above average.


rinkydinkis

It’s not a problem, they will find out one day


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Sixty-nine percent of engineering programs deliver a lifetime payoff of $1 million or more, and 97% have ROI of at least $500,000. Others, including art, music, religion, and psychology, often have a zero or even negative net financial value.ne 68 percent of programs in visual arts and music have negative ROI, meaning graduates are worse off financially for having received their degree. A surprisingly high 31% of programs in life sciences and biology have negative ROI.


[deleted]

I think the lifetime payoff for engineering needs updated. Most engineers, even back when I graduated, started at $75k. After a year or two, it was over $100k. A million is like 10 years of earnings. Lifetime earnings is probably in the 6-8 million, assuming you have an average career. If you have an above average, it’s probably in the 10 mil plus. My cohort, 10 years in, was in the 130-150 per year range. Guys in their 50s (so like 30 years in) were in the 275k range.


Flashmode1

Sauce?


Malkovtheclown

If we had a good primary education that didn't require the first year of college to basically teach people all the stuff they didn't learn already, I'd be more inclined to say yes. At this point unless you want to be an engineer, doctor or lawyer, I'd say it's a waste. Business degrees get you interviews but most of the training is on the job. The problem is we haven't separated academic from work placement. Good students don't always make good employees.


thekingofcrash7

If you do not have a degree you will not get an entry level interview today. Its that simple.


michellejcw77

I’m a college dropout who just landed a position as CMO. The lack of a degree has always fostered an imposter syndrome feeling in me yet I’ve made a successful career for myself. I’ve proven myself by having a good work ethic, I stay current on trends and I listen to my gut. So far it’s working. The areas that I lack experience in, I educate myself with online courses. Having a successful career IS possible without a degree.


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killwatch

A problem that many of these studies fail to address is the happiness of a student that graduates from a program at 25, 35, and 45 years. Sure a Bachelors in Photagraphy may only make $45k a year max but the real question is do they like what they are doing? Some people I know (anecdotal, I know!) chased the $$$ and ended up leaving their field of study in college entirely because they were miserable.


Stratose

The number one contributor to happiness is being able to afford to live comfortably. You may not need to chase the money in order to accomplish this, but knowing ahead of time that investing $80,000 into an art degree that will not pay you back is not a good investment. Maybe consider an alternative method to pursuing a degree in art that isn't a 4-year degree from an expensive college.


Judas_Feast

So many unhappy lawyers


thekingofcrash7

There are a lot of unhappy broke people


killwatch

Thanks for the replies! I guess I should be expand a little more. I completely agree that quality of life usually goes up with income, I just wanted to point out a contradicting viewpoint that has some merit. Having an occupation that fulfills you, not in a monetary sense, has wide-ranging and significant impacts on your happiness and health. In economics, in my opinion, there is too often a focus on only on easily and reliably collected data such as tax returns, debt, and income. Happiness is extremely hard to quantify and is therefore more often overlooked and ignored. Happiness is an integral metric to an accurate interpretation of the collegiate experience as well as the financial burdens the system places on its victims.


Frunk2

Ok but you can’t pay your loans back with job satisfaction, so it makes sense to analyze income after taking debt for college. Also all studies point to higher job satisfaction and happiness as being perfectly correlated with higher income (with no upper bound limit). You can be just as dissatisfied in a 30k a year job as a 300k a year job


seridos

Right but it's an important factor in quality of life, which is what we truly care about, even if we can only quantize and calculate standard of living, quality of life is stand of living + so much more, a big one being job satisfaction.


StillSilentMajority7

We should use this study to put limits on the debt schools can let kids assume for degrees. Want to study nuclear engineering? Skies the limit in terms of scholarships. Want to study interpretive dance, or gender studies? You're capped at $10,000 in debt, and the rest is shared with the school - they'll take the hit when you default on your loans. As you read this, there are kids at Harvard or Stanford projected to graduate in the Spring with worthless degrees, six figure student loans, and no prospect of repaying those loans.


raouldukesaccomplice

Can we please stop with this myth that there is a massive number of people majoring in "interpretive dance or gender studies?" The most common major for US college students is actually "business" with nearly one in five degrees being business degrees. There is no such thing as a "worthless degree" from Harvard or Stanford. You could major in something like medieval French literature and still get offered a job at Goldman Sachs or McKinsey because ultimately the brand is what they're hiring.


Juswantedtono

Just let people default on their student loans, and private lenders will immediately become pickier about what students they lend to.


ineed_that

Private lenders are already picky about who they choose.. that’s exactly why student loans became federalized


naren_pradhan

At this point, college is basically the entry fee for the country club that is the upper middle class. I'd like to believe that if it wasn't for the country's education system shoving students into college, businesses would take the expense of training workers themselves. But they instead demand that students go into debt to get expensive degrees just for the most basic of white collar jobs- they're like parasites leeching off the country's education system. This is the problem I have with wealth inequality- the few people who run companies get to decide who comes through the door, merit or no merit.


UNITERD

I know a lot of people who's company either helped pay, or 100% paid for their education.


CMD-ZZZ

College isn’t even the source of knowledge anymore… you know how many teachers I had direct us to watch YouTube videos or read readily available articles online? College educators are merely curators of all the info anyone can access. College teaches you how to teach yourself with the tools at everyone’s disposal. No one needs to pay for what they’re selling today


PharmaCoMajor

My question is: why study economics when you can study econometrics. I study this as a undergraduate in Europe and while we do learn some economic theory, the hardcore statistics and programming is much more valuable in the long run.


bmm_3

they’re not mutually exclusive? Every undergraduate program I know of in the US takes econometrics and eco statistics after you take some Econ theory in your first and second year. Most people I know also either minor in CS/math or take it as a double major if they’re planning on pursuing academia


DeltaUltra

Not going to diss, but, college free level of education puts people at a 1/3 advantage to college educated people in work competition. Just do it. To many people think they are going to be the exception to the rule. They aren't.


Any_Monitor5224

Depends on what you study and what it costs you. Just did this analysis with my son. It made sense for him thanks to good grades/scholarships and his interest in an in demand, high paying field. But if you need to go deep into debt for something that isn’t guaranteed to pay off - hell no. There are benefits to a higher education that go far beyond income. Sadly most non rich people cannot afford it solely for personal development.


JonotanVII

Really interesting how biology majors have a higher percentage of negative ROI compared to the other sciences. Is it because of too many premed dropouts?


Loose-Construction13

We need way more plumbers and electricians, really need to start offering subsidy’s to take this route. Or open up immigration for these trades.


MoonBatsRule

I was watching "This Old House" from the early 80s, and I noticed that the caliber of people who were working as tradesmen back then was different than now. A lot of the carpenters were almost nerdy, they were really into the new technology. Many were also immigrants who beamed with pride at their work. Most of the tradesmen I encounter these days do not seem to be like that at all. The apprentices seem like they hate their work. The people in charge are "bros" who like their big trucks with their thin blue line flags on them. Many don't seem to have the chops to even understand how to run a business - like calling people back, or showing up to a job. That is probably due to laws like No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001, or state-level "accountability" laws (Massachusetts passed a mandatory testing law in 1993, you had to pass the MCAA in order to graduate). Everything became laser-focused on college education, and ranking schools and districts based on the percentage of kids who went to college or who passed college-preparatory tests. You won't find anything remotely related to the trades in high schools in so-called "good" school districts, at least not in Massachusetts, where I am, so most kids aren't even exposed to that kind of thing, they might enjoy it or be good at it, but it is seen as "not worthy" of people whose parents "care about education" and buy an expensive house in a "good" school district.


DeltaUltra

If everyone understood what 4 years in college was like, the level of misunderstanding between us all would disappear. The basics don't matter. It's the stuff that changes our way of thinking like, stuff that goes against our mindset. Imagine you knew so much that communication with your best friends is difficult. They have a way of thinking that is so raw, it just doesn't resonate with you anymore. You go home and realize how alien you are and think. You switch modes. You operate at the level of those around you. The few people from school that inspired you are experiencing the same thing. You see each other and you feel that sense of life and living again. They leave and you are faced with your raw reality. You congeal knowing you aren't going to feel that with the people around you. You emerge to fit it. Your mind adjusts to them. They aren't the outcast. You are.


Asangkt358

Or we could just stop with subsidizes entirely. I mean, public subsidies of colleges probably the single biggest reason people have been shying away from trade schools. Perhaps if we just stop trying to social engineer the outcomes we think are preferable, we'll stop having so many unintended consequences that wind up being worse than the original problem.


DigiQuip

People point to trades like going to a trade school isn’t the equivalent of going to a community college. The argument of “find a trade” in opposition to student loans has been a bad take for at least ten years. Regulations have required trade professions to have accreditations/certifications for a long while now. Businesses since passed that responsibility off to tech schools and community colleges. There’s only a handful of schools that will teach you trade and they all have tuition, multiple classes you have to take, and those classes are offered during a fixed, rotating schedule. Sounds a lot like a college to me. Granted, the cost isn’t *as* high, but it’s still a few thousand to finish and it over the course of at least a year, sometimes two depending on what you’re looking for.


GovsForPres

I’m an apprentice plumber in my third of five years. Average cost is about $1000 per year of classes. I pay that up front but I am reimbursed by my employer once I complete the course. I tried going to college but it just wasn’t for me and luckily I only have about $3000 in loans which I have just about paid off.


nick_olas_89

>really need to start offering subsidy’s to take this route. Or open up immigration for these trades. Why? The "free hand" seems to be handling this just fine. Wages for these types of jobs will increase; wages for "less necessary work" will lose value through inflation.


MaiohaTawa

"Some degrees are worth millions of dollars, while others have no net financial value at all." So true... One of my friends graduated with a Bachelor in Computer Science and landed an 80k job fresh out of uni. Other friends seem to be less fortunate with their job searches.


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Squeak-Beans

Even though I ended up in education, my (unrelated) college degrees and names of the institutions have given me leverage and job security. Not raking it in, but I value being able to quit my job and know I can find something that offers more. The benefits and reliable raises have been nice, 6 years in and I’m finally feeling more comfortable. Financially, I earned almost twice my father’s income day 1 my first year since we were poor. The first in my family to study beyond elementary school. It’s possible you don’t need a college degree to get a good job, but my only options were college or manual labor at minimum wage. Access to knowledge/information asymmetry may play a role. I didn’t know of any other options nor where to look for any.


Shapen360

Yes, I guess, but college is getting more and more expensive while starting to salaries stay the same, and so many people have degrees that you have to do some sort of graduate program which costs just as much. The ROI is getting worse.