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Are you going to college for the wrong reason?

August 15, 2018

ROI. ROI is a nice account/business short hand for “Return on Investment”. Business people always want to assess the ROI on a business venture. A high ROI means that you will receive back whatever you have invested into the business, plus some extra. Obviously a high ROI is desirable and people who are looking for invest into a business are trying to determine whether they will have a good outcome for their investment want to see a high ROI.

In the age of constantly increasing tuition and decreasing government investment in the educational system, students and their parents are now having to do a very complicated and important calculation of ROI on investing in their college education. In a certain way, this makes sense for them to do. Why? For two reasons:

1. What are we always told as we’re growing up? Go to school and get a good job! With that mindset, they are looking at college as their ticket to job skills that they need to get a good job.

2. Students are under the impression that they are not going to be able to get their college education without taking students loans. Student loans are becoming the amount of a small mortgage and most students aren’t taking advantage of the large amount of scholarships that are available (check out websites like Scholly for more). With that being the case, they want to make sure that they are able to “get the good job” they need to pay off the student loan debt they accumulate while attending college.

So, when many students do their mental math, they look at the ROI and decide to put off or forego their college education all together. They figure that going into debt for college is not worth it and they will be better served by going to a less expensive technical school or starting an entry level job straight out of high school.
There’s a few large problems with this method of analysis, though. First, for the simple reason that college graduates have gone through the process of obtaining that little piece of paper which says they are highly employable (aka: college diploma), college graduates will make twice as much as their colleagues with only a high school diploma.

Secondly college can be more affordable than many people would presuppose. A study from NerdScholar, around $2.9 billion of federal grant money was left unclaimed after high school seniors eligible for Pell Grants — which don’t have be paid back — neglected to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the last academic year. That means overall, if you don’t think you’re eligible for government aid or other scholarships, not only may you be wrong but you’re missing out on a whole lot of benefits.

Thirdly, if you’re going to college focused on the ROI, you’re going for the wrong reasons. Yes, it is important to have skills which are going to be marketable in the job market. You should want to make yourself valuable to people looking to hire. However, if you’re only looking to attend a university for that reason, you’re missing out on the opportunities to explore different areas of interest, widening your world view through introduction to different cultures, and just general mind expansion that you get by being in the environment of an institution of higher education.

So, what it comes down to is this, GO TO COLLEGE. You’re going to get a huge ROI, if you do it right. And you CAN do it right.