Is college really worth it?
December 23, 2009 8:45 AM   Subscribe

This infographic crunches post-graduation debt, alcohol-related injuries, and starting salaries to see if college is really worth the cash.
posted by bizwiz2 (61 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: I don't know if there's anything untoward going on with the link itself, but this is pretty meh in any case. -- cortex



 
From the comments:

That graphic attempts to compensate for its complete lack of objectivity with bright colors and attractive clip art.
posted by ob at 8:51 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


If they measure alchohol-related injuries, what about alchohol related fun?
posted by delmoi at 8:51 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you are going to college for monetary gain you are already impoverished.
posted by DU at 8:54 AM on December 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


It warms the cockles of my heart to see snobbery as a two-way street.
posted by ob at 8:54 AM on December 23, 2009


I'm not sure if taking a year of college and not graduating is necessarily "wasting" the money. With this and the dubious anecdotes about class titles the author doesn't think are appropriate, the whole poster seems too based upon the idea that you shouldn't go to college unless you're training to be a doctor or engineer.

Check out this abstract for the Maple Syrup course:
"Wanted: Someone with a background in meteorology, chemistry, botany, forestry, art, and cookery who is also a nature lover with lots of patience. Must enjoy long hours of hard work in the snow, cold, and mud." Even though this is an accurate description of a maple syrup producer, don't let it scare you! The method of producing maple syrup is one of the things in our society that has endured even in today's culture of constant change; fundamentally it's the same process Native Americans used centuries ago. This class will explore the history of maple syrup production, discover the ins and outs of making syrup, create (and eat) some sweet confections, and take field trips to local producers, restaurants and festivals. No prior experience expected.
Sign me up!
posted by demiurge at 8:55 AM on December 23, 2009


One of their points was that it takes 17 years to earn back the difference between the tuition of an ivy-league school (Yale) and a regular one (CT State). But their analysis assumes that salary will increase at a constant rate, not even proportionally/linearly.

Also the chart doesn't really ask "is it worth it" it's just a jumble of random factoids.
posted by delmoi at 8:56 AM on December 23, 2009


"Ha ha WINEMAKING! What kind of job could you possibly get when you study how to make wine? har har!"
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 AM on December 23, 2009 [10 favorites]


It will be interesting to know if the author of this piece will encourage her children to go to college.....I know that at least in my case a college degree was extremely valuable and it has more than paid off. In fact, I tried getting a job with my associates degrees in liberal arts and could barely make any more money than a lot of people working at McDonalds. I would have loved to open up my own restaurant/grocery-store/etc but I simply did not have the funds needed to open up that kind of venture and even if I would have I just was not born with the knowledge to make it succeed...The four years I did spend in school helped me become that type of person, allowed me to get accustomed to the culture in the US (I am an international student)...and yes allowed me to get a job that would have allowed me to paid of my loans in one year if I had wanted to (I havent but thats another issue).....

Though I dont completely disagree with the points made by the author of this piece she should have made a better effort to discuss the advantages of having an education.
posted by The1andonly at 8:57 AM on December 23, 2009


I think if you can afford to go to Sarah Lawrence, you can probably also afford the Ferrari.

Student loan debt is pernicious, though, and I'm bound and determined my son is not going to get sucked into it the way I was (credit card debt too). Just wish I had a time machine to go back and tell my clueless younger self :(
posted by emjaybee at 8:57 AM on December 23, 2009


It is hardly unreasonable to look at the monetary returns when you are spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are cheaper ways to learn how to make maple syrup.
posted by enn at 8:58 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Comparing the raw tuition differences between UConn and Yale and then looking at the difference in median salary of their respective grads obscures the fact that Yale will offer massive amounts of financial aid, quite possibly resulting in a lower overall student debt. And, if your focus is simply on maximizing the amount of money you make, Yale will provide entry to Investment Banking and other finance jobs.

And while Sarah Lawrence might not seem like a good deal at first, sending your child there will result in a greater likelihood that he or she will marry someone with a large trust fund.
posted by deanc at 8:59 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"So here I am, professional blogger, media company owner, restauranteur, and a college drop out."

If you had stayed in college a bit longer, you would have learned the danger of generalizing from an n of 1.
posted by googly at 8:59 AM on December 23, 2009 [13 favorites]


From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

--Among the major occupational groups, persons employed full time in
management, professional, and related occupations had the highest
median weekly earnings--$1,259 for men and $913 for women. Persons
in service jobs earned the least. (See table 3.)

--Full-time workers age 25 and over without a high school diploma had
median weekly earnings of $448, compared with $621 for high school
graduates (no college) and $1,145 for those holding at least a bach-
elor's degree. Among college graduates with advanced degrees (pro-
fessional or master's degree and above), the highest earning 10 per-
cent of male workers made $3,260 or more per week, compared with
$2,252 or more for their female counterparts. (See table 4.)
posted by rtha at 8:59 AM on December 23, 2009


This feels like it has a certain bitterness to it. There's nothing particularly wrong with "partying," for example. That's how you meet people, make friends, find future significant others. There's also nothing wrong with majoring in something that seems esoteric to other people. Why is studying maple syrup, winemaking, or Canada invalid? Just because you don't give a shit about those things?

Also: An education has more value than the job you get afterwards. There's much to be said for personal edification and expanding one's worldview, even if you "just" wind up getting a job as a retail store manager. Certainly there are all sorts of very interesting jobs that you will *never* be considered for without a degree. It's also nice to have a period of time to pursue your own passions before getting tied down to a longer-term job.

So no one has to go to college, for sure, but it's not an utter waste of time. And I really dislike that attitude...
posted by chasing at 9:00 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


How many people going to Yale actually pay the sticker price?
posted by Jacqueline at 9:00 AM on December 23, 2009


Additional note for infographic: winemaking is lucrative, and you need education to get that job (plus you get to work in some rather nice parts of the world). Retail managers don't do so poorly either, and I don't think they'd hire someone straight out of highschool for that position. You could go probably go to a community college for a couple years and get there, but if it's a couple years of community college vs. a 4 year undergrad, I think the undergrad would get the job.

Also, owning a Ferrari won't make you money, unless you plan on renting it out for events. Even then, the cost of maintenance and insurance is probably pretty high.

A friend of mine says that college teaches you to learn, and I agree with him. High school gets you prepared for test-taking (at least, that's the current route in the US, with standardized testing running so much of the curriculum). If you can graduate from college with an undergrad degree, that shows you can manage your life and time well enough to party, socialize, AND pass your classes.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:01 AM on December 23, 2009


you don't have to go to college to get drunk
posted by pyramid termite at 9:02 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Ha ha WINEMAKING! What kind of job could you possibly get when you study how to make wine? har har!"

Especially funny because he picked this major at Cornell, which is (a) part and parcel of the agriculture school's curriculum and research, and (b) the agriculture school at Cornell is a public university, with lower tuition.
posted by deanc at 9:04 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Note to those not yet in college: AP courses and community college for a year or two will greatly cut back your costs, and could make you more appealing to a college that you thought was out of your reach. Plus, you could realize that your original profession of choice isn't what you thought it would be, and you could change your path for a fraction of the cost.

Also: the fun classes at college make the experience more enjoyable. College shouldn't be 4-6 years of constant grind.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:06 AM on December 23, 2009


I really don't understand the breakdown by race and gender at the end of the graphic. Is the author saying: "look, only 1 out of 6 black people get a bachelors degree, and look how great they're doing!"? Or "6 out of 10 bachelor's degrees are earned by women, but on average they make 10k less than their male counterparts - ergo, women are wasting their time in college!"

It seems like she just compiled a bunch of problems with the current US post-grad system: uneven distribution, massive debt, chronic drinking, poor economy - and used them to draw a massively incorrect conclusion
posted by Think_Long at 9:06 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: There are cheaper ways to learn how to make maple syrup.
posted by emjaybee at 9:07 AM on December 23, 2009


"So here I am, professional blogger, media company owner, restauranteur, and a college drop out."

Truman didn't have a college degree and he got to smite his enemies with atom bombs. Clearly the lesson here is that people who don't go to college will invariably acquire power that the kings of old could only imagine in their fever dreams.
posted by delmoi at 9:08 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Note to those not yet in college: AP courses and community college for a year or two will greatly cut back your costs, and could make you more appealing to a college that you thought was out of your reach. Plus, you could realize that your original profession of choice isn't what you thought it would be, and you could change your path for a fraction of the cost.

Also: the fun classes at college make the experience more enjoyable. College shouldn't be 4-6 years of constant grind.


Also note: you should go in undeclared, and take at least one ridiculous class that will require explaining to family and friends: "What the hell are you taking a class on paper-making for?"
posted by Think_Long at 9:09 AM on December 23, 2009


And why study Canada? Hey wiki - what do you have to say about trade between Canada & the US?
In 2005 [US-Canada trade] was more than U.S. trade with all countries in the European Union combined, and well over twice U.S. trade with all the countries of Latin America combined. Just the two-way trade that crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Michigan and Ontario equals all U.S. exports to Japan. Canada's importance to the United States is not just a border-state phenomenon: Canada is the leading export market for 35 of 50 U.S. states, and is the United States' largest foreign supplier of energy.
Oh, that's all, well that Asian studies bit is certain to be a better gig.

And the author is into "apothecary-type beauty products" which certainly is a sound investment- cause eye shadow is the best and most effective place to put medicine.
posted by zenon at 9:11 AM on December 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


to see if college is really worth the cash.

It wasn't. Can I please have my money back?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:12 AM on December 23, 2009


This is like a bad sweat-shop knock-off where people imagined what a useful infographic might do and look like.
posted by Theta States at 9:17 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, a "Manhattanite mom that can be found jet-setting off to every corner of the globe" is really telling people that they shouldn't be going to college, that it's a total waste of time? Really? I don't know why, but that bugs me a lot.

"Kids, don't bother increasing your earning potential. I didn't go to college, and it worked out fine for meeeeeeee-" *jets-sets off to another corner of the globe*
posted by Think_Long at 9:18 AM on December 23, 2009


1:5
posted by The Straightener at 9:23 AM on December 23, 2009


Is it just me, or has there recently been an epidemic of infographics? I often find myself confused as to what role they were designed to fulfill, as they generally seem like picture books for adults. Are any of the points here genuinely better made by having stick figure graphics next to them? Do I really need to see the 57% in a pie chart in order to be able to conceptualize it? To me, this just seems like a series of potshots strung together randomly and covered with a shiny coat of paint. If the author were forced to write an essay, its incoherence would be obvious.
posted by dubitoergosum at 9:23 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


The public vs. private thing really rings true for me. I've gone a lot further on my lowly state school BS-CS than many of my friends who went to Ivy League or elite liberal arts schools. My guess is that if you're on a certain track -- and are lucky enough to get your foot in the door -- a diploma from one of those fancy-ish schools may open a few doors. But otherwise, you'd be better off going to a regular state school and ACTUALLY DOING THE WORK so that you actually learn something and can impress people at your first job.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:23 AM on December 23, 2009


I didn't go to college, and it worked out fine for meeeeeeee-" *jets-sets off to another corner of the globe*

ARE YOU COLLEGE-DROPOUT UNEDUCATED STUPID THE EARTH HAS NO CORNERS IN A 24 HOUR DAY
posted by DU at 9:24 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ugh, that's from the Harpers Index school of "poorly sourced statistics taken out of context".
posted by smackfu at 9:27 AM on December 23, 2009


Yeah, easy on the Canadian Studies jokes, you cheap-ass infographic motherfucker. Get back on your lighttable.
posted by GuyZero at 9:28 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


This infographic crunches post-graduation debt

This is another thing: she points out that the average post-graduation debt is about $23,000. Well, using her Sarah-Lawrence-is-a-Lamborghini example from about, $23,000 of debt is the loan on a Toyota Camry. Looked at in those terms, if it makes sense to borrow money for a dependable car in order to get to work, it also makes sense to borrow an equivalent amount of money to get an education to get the kind of job you want. Doesn't seem like that bad of an idea, actually.

More specifically, even taking the raw example of Yale vs. UConn, if you assume that Yale will put you $23,000 in debt while UConn will allow you to graduate with no debt (which is the real tradeoff you should be thinking of: how much money you spend/borrow, not the tuition sticker prices), then the $6,400/yr salary premium you get from your Yale degree seems like the best possible deal you could make.

These are colorful infographics substituting for thoughtful analysis. Since because my instinct is to look at these arguments and actually start thinking about how you would analyze it, but knowing that the person who made this argument doesn't actually care to think about it, what it means is that these infographics are designed specifically to waste my time trying to make arguments that will fall on deaf ears.
posted by deanc at 9:29 AM on December 23, 2009


you know, a couple of months ago I had the privilege of being asked to speak in front of a bunch of disenfranchised high school students in a relatively poor school district about why I went to college and what I got out of it. at the end of the day, they were very thankful for my work, but they may not ask me to come back. here's what I told the students:
The best thing I got from my college experience was partying. Class was good and everything, but it was all about the parties. Not because parties are fun, though they are, and not because I partied instead of working. I did both. But to be totally clear: the most important thing people do in college is party. why? because you hang out with and become good friends with the people who will one day help you get a much better job than you will get by knocking on doors and giving really earnest answers in interviews. The classic saying is "it's not what you know, it's who you know." bullshit. it's both. college is an opportunity to do whatever the hell you want for 4 or more years, and if you do it right you take that opportunity to figure out what you'd love to do for 60 or more years, find other people who also want to do that, and get really good at doing it together. Every day, I do two things at work: 1. Play Halo. 2. Cut videos of the best Halo players in the world playing halo. I love my job. I love it like I love pulled pork sandwhiches. It is an unadulterated, shameless glee. I am never leaving it. I got it because my college friends pulled me into video editing on various tv shows because we're friends and because they knew I could do motion graphics and video work. We've all pulled each other from here or there, on this job or that job over the years. One of my friends works on movies. Another works for Major League Baseball. I work for MLG. We're all awesome.

Don't got to college because someone tells you you have to to make X amount of dollars. Go to college because it's a club that lets you get a job you'd actually enjoy. Go to college, figure out what you love more than anything else in the world and do it. do it like nobody's business. do the shit out of it. and party. party your ass off. make friends. etc...
posted by shmegegge at 9:31 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


A more thoughtful evaluation of this question is in Charles Murray's book Real Education , which I just read after someone mentioned it in a thread here.

One of the questions he tackles is whether college is worth it for most people, and, if not, what would be the alternative. His proposal is more certificate exams, like the CPA exam, serving as credentials instead of the BA for more vocational/professional kinds of programs. It's an interesting notion, I think.
posted by not that girl at 9:37 AM on December 23, 2009


This is another thing: she points out that the average post-graduation debt is about $23,000. Well, using her Sarah-Lawrence-is-a-Lamborghini example from about, $23,000 of debt is the loan on a Toyota Camry. Looked at in those terms, if it makes sense to borrow money for a dependable car in order to get to work, it also makes sense to borrow an equivalent amount of money to get an education to get the kind of job you want.

It only makes sense in a world in which it's not possible to get a dependable car for less than $23,000, just like all these arguments about how maple-syrup-making and drinking are too awesome only make sense in a world in which you cannot go to the maple syrup festival where they will teach you how to make maple syrup for free and in which alcohol is only sold on college campuses. This is not any of those worlds.
posted by enn at 9:38 AM on December 23, 2009


At least it's nice to know I am above average at something, debt!
posted by sundri at 9:38 AM on December 23, 2009


Hm that's odd, this infographic reassured me of the value of my college education, yet the comments and framing imply that it was meant to do the opposite. The 17 years thing, in particular, seems like a pretty good deal to me. Most people work for at least 40 years, so you get at least 23 years of financial benefit, which is pretty good. And taking into account the financial aid and nonlinear salary increase aspects of things, the win increases substantially.
posted by breath at 9:38 AM on December 23, 2009


We may have been had: the site/blog is a front for a marketing company - IntenCity Global- who apparently launched and are the regeistrant for the above site. The point of the site? promoing the blogger behind it.

The author/blogger is another example of one of those gross self promoter (looking to do a reality show) and this link serves as another ad to her site.

I am curious about how bizwiz2 came across this article - with only got a relative few number of comments & recently joined mefi, bizwiz2 could be cool, or it could be SEO action, which is not cool.
posted by zenon at 9:40 AM on December 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


erm: that should be registrant...
posted by zenon at 9:41 AM on December 23, 2009


Bryce’s aim is to do to luxury what Elton John did to being gay.

I'm not sure where to start with that one...
posted by ob at 9:46 AM on December 23, 2009


bizwiz2 could be cool, or it could be SEO action

They have a 5:1 posting ratio. hmmmmm, real classy
posted by Think_Long at 9:47 AM on December 23, 2009


I find it interesting that when I read arguments against going to college made by people who did not go to college, that the thinking skills I learned in college help me understand why it's a specious argument. I suspect it's a bit of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

(Of course, going or not going to college can be a reasonable choice depending on lots of things, and anyone who strikes a dogmatic position one way or the other is being willfully ignorant.)
posted by LooseFilter at 9:47 AM on December 23, 2009


One thing that seldom seems to get mentioned is where high-school is in this mix. Currently, most high-schools have essentially a college-prep curriculum, with courses like home economics and shop relegated to electives or cut entirely. Therefore, a high-school diploma is nearly useless for anything but getting into college.

The real comparison should be:

High School -> College -> (1 year internship?) -> paying Job, loaded with student loans
versus:
Vocational High School -> 4 years working/apprenticing -> paying Job with 4-5 years seniority and no student loans

Of course, you learn a lot of other things in college that are not strictly related to getting a job, but from a strictly financial standpoint, the break-even point between a vocational track and a college track is far, far off, if not "never."

Comparing highly motivated college graduates to limped-through-high-school graduates isn't really enlightening. Compare instead to a highly motivated electrician or construction worker.
posted by explosion at 9:51 AM on December 23, 2009


So here I am, professional blogger, media company owner, restauranteur, and a college drop out.

Ten years ago I didn't even know how to spell restaurateur, and now I is one.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:52 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


That graphic attempts to compensate for its complete lack of objectivity with bright colors and attractive clip art.

Wow, that blogger would be a boardroom genius in Powerpoint. College is a waste of time!
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:55 AM on December 23, 2009


I'd like to see a graphic on the benefit to society when a person goes to college. And then using that graphic to argue for universal (college) education. Also, a pony.
posted by DU at 9:57 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, do they not have co-op programs anywhere in the US? I graduated with a degree, 5 4-month work terms of industry experience and cash in hand. Plus I get to brag about having written code for a shipping product that ran on Windows 2. PURE GOLD THAT IS.
posted by GuyZero at 10:02 AM on December 23, 2009


If that is the metric by which all economic choices should be judged, how much does owning a Ferrari contribute to your future earnings?
posted by grouse at 10:02 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have most of an engineering degree. When I was in school I did not drink, partied very little, and was very earnest. I left school with 96 hours credit and a 3.49 GPA, at the age of 19. For extra bonus credit my father was a Ph.D. physicist who taught physics and I came of age in his lab.

I had to leave because the school cut my scholarship for not maintaining a 3.5. This was 1984 and nobody had any money. I never returned because once I had a job I never had any inclination to look back.

I am really tired of hearing how college teaches you to learn. In my experience there are people who care enough to learn and people who don't. College does not convert one into the other. What college does teach you is to see the world through a certain lens, which can be useful in certain situations but is not the end-all and be-all of either existence or competence, and it can in fact hinder you in a lot of real life situations.

There are some things you absolutely must go to college for. If you want to design buildings or bridges or complex high-frequency electronics or search for exotic fundamental particles you will need the math skills you aren't likely to pick up on your own and the certification that you're trustworthy to people who are trusting you with millions of dollars and their safety. But only a vanishingly small minority of college students ever find such jobs. You may also, as in the comment upthread, embed yourself in a network of acquaintances which will be mutually beneficial, but you neither need college to do that nor are guaranteed to do that if you go to college.

There are other things which I've observed college does not teach you which are as important, if not more important, than the things it does. Things like making your documentation understandable to the operator with a 6th grade education, making user interfaces that aren't confusing, making sure there is always a clear way for an operator to realize he's made a mistake and correct it, making sure that displays and diagnostics are available and access is possible to critical signals for troubleshooting, and not putting a support strut where it blocks access to a bolt that has to be loosened to perform frequent maintenance.

And you learn that money is not the measure of all things. There is enjoying your job and job security or maybe the freedom of not having a job. College prepares you, very deliberately and consciously, to function in a particular type of environment. If you want to work in that kind of environment for the kind of people who like to hire college graduates, college will probably work out well for you. I found out quickly that I hate both that kind of boss and that kind of job and am only glad that I didn't waste more of my time working toward that goal.
posted by localroger at 10:12 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Who the hell is this vapid ignoramus blogger and why should we care about her inane anti-education stance?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:15 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are cheaper ways to learn how to make maple syrup.

Given that the illustration for that course is a bottle of Mrs. Butterworths, it appears you will learn how to fake maple syrup. And we all know knock-offs are where the real money is!
posted by TedW at 10:17 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


If it hadn't been for college (or, well, university as it's called in the UK) I would never have gotten the job I have now. A week before I graduated my friend's boyfriend helped me get a temporary job to tide me over the summer months before I found something related to what I studied. I am now almost 5 years into a (hopefully life-long) career in a field completely unrelated to my degree, with all my debts paid off and zero interest to return to my original field of study.

All thanks to the boyfriend of a friend I met in university. Thanks higher education!
posted by slimepuppy at 10:17 AM on December 23, 2009


*shrug* It beat working for four years.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:19 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dunno, this feels like linkspam to me.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:21 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, good lord is that author a douchenozzle.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:25 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dropped the mods a note. And flagged it.
posted by grouse at 10:27 AM on December 23, 2009


I just wanted to step in for a moment to lambaste the "community college will save you money" canard. At best, this is only true occasionally. Three ways community college can screw you:

a) monopoly market: community colleges often hold geographic monopolies or monopolies over a certain class of student. in those situations, price inflation occurs, minimizing the savings between the community college and a traditional college. the total cost of attendance at northwestern michigan (community) college is approx. $14,000 per year; TCA at michigan state is $18,000 per year.

b) fake value: many classes at many community colleges feature subpar instruction, and often do not count for credit at the four-year colleges people end up attending. expending even a lower cost in return for zero value is never a good deal.

c) hidden costs: four-year colleges often offer merit scholarships, but those scholarships are usually only available to entering freshmen
posted by jock@law at 10:28 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


From the comment Burhanistan links: If you check the fine print at the bottom of the infographic, you’ll see all the cited sources, most of which are government.

In grey text on a grey background rendered as an image (preventing direct linking) not only into a raster format, but a raster format designed for photographs that performs poorly for displaying text (JPEG), which has then been dynamically resized (distorting the image further) so that the cap height of each line of text is less than 4 pixels tall.

"Fine print" doesn't do it justice.
posted by grouse at 10:38 AM on December 23, 2009


Metafilter: Who the hell is this vapid ignoramus blogger
posted by fire&wings at 10:40 AM on December 23, 2009


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