Whenever your going to make a huge life changing decision such as getting married, buying a house, or deciding where or if to go to college, there are two questions that you should ask first. The first is “What am I trying to accomplish?”, and the second is “What alternatives are there to accomplishing my goals?”.
As a man who has a four year degree, more and more I see going to college as a very bad life choice.
The reasons that I went to school honestly had more to do with the expectation in my family that I would do so than anything else. But if you had asked me at the time, I would have said something about it forming me into a more well rounded person and getting me a better job. Ultimately, I went for a degree in computer science, because the area was something of a mystery to me, so for the whole well rounded person thing, it seemed like a good choice.
So now that I'm five years out of college, lets take a look at how well I met those objectives. Do I have a better job than I would otherwise? Perhaps. I do have a job skill now, and it does open doors for me in the job market that would not be there if I was not a programmer. But is college the only way to open those doors? Absolutely not. In my last job, half the people in my department did not have anything beyond high school education. Sure they had taken a class here and there because they wanted to learn something specific, but in the end they paid around $4,000 on post high school education whereas I paid over $100,000 on mine. And to top it off, if you compare actual earnings, at my last job I made less than my friend of the same age who simply went into retail and has been promoted to manager.
So can you make more money with a college degree? In some limited number of cases yes, but for the most part a degree will not do anything more for you than self education and job experience. In some cases it will do less.
So how about the well rounded part? Again, I would say that objective was met. But not for the reasons that it was supposed to be. My general education courses were a joke. They did not go beyond where my high school education went in some cases. In others, such as my American literature course, they fell laughably short of what I have simply gotten out of just reading for myself. So really, what I got was the same as an AA degree with a bunch a pretence tacked on. To be fair, I did not attend an Ivy League school. But my school certainly would be considered better than most state schools.
The real reason that I would say it made me a more well rounded person, is because of the social aspect. Going from a high school, where I was smarter than almost everyone (including the teachers) to a college were I merely had middle of the road intelligence, was a pretty big shock. In high school I was never challenged by anyone. It was a small christian high school, and most everyone that was as smart as me agreed with me on all my religion and politics. This lead to absurd levels of arrogance for an 18 year old, and a fairly warped world view. I truly thought that anyone who was liberal was not only foolish but very dumb, in terms of IQ. Going to college was a real eye opener in that way.
But again, was going to college the only way I could have achieved this eye opening goal? Of course not. The truth is, it would have happened sooner or later no matter what I did. Probably not as fast, but just as surely.
So in my case, college did met my goals, but I'm pretty sure if I had it to do over again, I could met those some goals just as effectively but with a lot less money spent.