By Steve Siebold
You won’t find as many college students heading back to class this fall. That’s because enrollment is down nationwide, and rightfully so. There are 4 million fewer students in college now than there were 10 years ago. It’s certainly easy to blame things like the pandemic and a strong labor market, but I believe what it really comes down to is students just don’t want to endure hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, and it’s hard to blame them.
The average cost of college in the United States is $35,331 per student per year, according to the Education Data Initiative. Multiply that by four years, and you already owe $141,324 before you even get a job. Imagine the sinking feeling of being strapped with that kind of debt before you even have any income coming in. Keep in mind that’s the average and many students owe a lot more than that. On top of that add in living expenses like a car payment, mortgage or rent, food and more, and it’s no wonder we’re a nation drowning in debt and an up-and-coming generation who is skipping out on higher ed.
Many years ago, it wasn’t even a question. If you wanted a good job you had to go to college. For most kids across America, it was as logical as saying if you want to prevent cavities you have to brush your teeth and floss. Now we are living in a different time and a very different world. In fact, as recently as the last two years, confidence in the value of education has been declining, and college enrollment has fallen by more than 1 million students since spring 2020.
There’s no doubt that saying you are a college graduate holds some level of prestige and is necessary for certain occupations. If you want to be a doctor or lawyer, for example, it’s not even a question. On the heels of a recession, however, most high school grads would be better off either entering the workforce immediately and gaining practical real-world experience (which can take you much further than a college education), attending a specialty school geared specifically toward what you want to do with your life, and if college is a must, then considering a more affordable option like doing two years at a community college.
An even better option, and one that creates positive cash flow instead of draining it, is becoming an entrepreneur. There are 582 million entrepreneurs in the world today, and nearly 5.4 million new businesses were registered in 2021. It wasn’t until I became my own boss that I quickly became a millionaire and found true financial freedom. I can honestly say that as an entrepreneur, no one has ever asked me if I graduated college. The only thing your customers care about is if you can solve their problems. The more problems you solve, the more money you make.
Maybe you’re an incoming college freshman this year. Perhaps you are in your senior year of high school. Or, maybe you are the parent of a young child.
Whatever the situation, take a careful look and consider all the options. Maybe for you or your child college is the best choice.
For others though, it’s just not worth all that debt. Many kids would be better off not having to worry about that monthly payment for years to come for an overpriced piece of paper with little to no return.
Siebold is a certified financial educator and author of the book “How Money Works: Stop Being a Sucker!”