I have about a week and a half until I graduate college and as I stand on the edge of this portion of my life I think I ought to reflect back and share my experiences and go over the whole “college thing” since that seems to be a hot topic nowadays. Let’s get some background out of the way first, I graduated high school in 2014 with above average grades and above average ACT score and all that stuff. I was smart and I went to good schools and I had all of that going for me. I went to Missouri University of Science and Technology for Mechanical Engineering and then I later added Engineering Management (exactly what it sounds like) to my curriculum as well. It took my 5 years to get both of those degrees and I took a co-op as well (I was ahead of schedule it would normally take 5.5 years to do that). I also failed a class during my time here (differential equations which is after Calculus 3) and I took 12 hours of summer class throughout my time here as well. So that’s a little bit about my college background academically so I’ll give you my hot take on college now.
There’s a lot of debate surrounding colleges these days for instance we probably all heard about the various college admission scandals and how parents are paying their kid’s way to prestigious colleges. We’ve heard of some of the larger tech companies no longer requiring 4-year degrees. We’ve heard about the overqualified Starbucks barista that has a 4-year degree in humanities and can’t find a job and is in lots of student debt. There is lots to be heard so let’s jump into some of the issues.
First off, your decision to go to college or not. There is an old school style of thinking from our parents that I believe pressures often, too many people to go to college. I think that’s fair to say that our parents want us to succeed and believe a college degree is the golden ticket to get us there. There’s also a mentality that college is unnecessary in the world of instant limitless information and with the internet and the ability to become an entrepreneur or start your own business overnight sways people that they don’t need to go to college and that it is a waste of money. To me that seems to be the two mentalities in each corner of the ring.
From my perspective if I want to do what I am doing I had to go to college. Sure, you can learn all there is to know about engineering from buying books and doing all of that on your own, but you need documentation and proof and a degree to get a job anywhere. I think having the college qualifications is necessary for my career path, it would be hard to convince a company that you should work for them and build bridges, buildings, roads, cars etc. that must be built safely when you have no official qualifications. I can clearly see the other perspective as well, if you want to be an entrepreneur you don’t need to get a business degree, one of my best friends has built out a 6-figure dropshipping store and built programs and what not around that and he dropped out of college his sophomore year. For some things you don’t need a college degree, for others I think it would be next to impossible to get a job without it. I know there are a lot of people in one camp or the other and refuse to see the other side and I think it is frustrating to hear, as a successful college student, with a job walking out of here that college is a big scam and isn’t worth it when I can clearly proof otherwise and will do so in the following paragraphs.
Another factor that should contribute to a decision to go to college or not is a simple cost benefit analysis. It’s very simple what is the benefit of the degree, the job, the opportunities, etc. of going to college vs. the cost of college. To give you an example I will take my personal numbers into account and demonstrate the cost benefit of the education I have received for what I paid. I should note that I am very fortunate to have parent’s that have worked hard all of their lives and have paid for my college almost in its entirety and due to this I am not all that familiar with student loans or how that affects cost but I will continue with the numbers I have at hand and go from there.
I pulled for 2017-2018 rates for both freshman and as a sophomore -senior the rates for tuition for the year. (https://futurestudents.mst.edu/costs/cost-estimates/) For your average freshman including room and board, books, classes, fees, tuition, everything it would cost $25,000 for a year at S&T. For a sophomore through senior, that cost is $23,0000 a year. As I mentioned before I went to school for 5 years, (really 4.5 but I’ll count 5 for easier math) which would equate to a total cost of $117,000 for attending here the last 5 years. There are however a lot of discrepancies so let’s discuss those. That number does not count for scholarships so that would lead to $3,000 a year off that price so down to $102,000. There have also been dramatic price increases to my college since I’ve been here, but I won’t factor that in (I believe my estimated freshman cost was $19,000 vs the $25,000 now suggested). I haven’t bought $800 in books like they have suggested since my freshman year so knock off $2000 over 5 years would seem reasonable putting us at $100,000 even. They have suggested $10,400 for room and board a year for sophomore through senior and I paid $3,000 a semester for room, board, dues food and all for my fraternity and we’ll throw in $500 of extra play money in for whatever else I spent money on college related for those 3 years. Altogether my fraternity costs saved me about $3,400 a year x 3 years + my current living situation saved me about $2000 off the suggested price ultimately saving me about $12,000. This brings my college cost down to $88,000. I also worked internships and co-ops throughout my time at school, factoring in taxes and what not I walked away from those jobs with $56,000 earned, I did not factor the cost of living into that number. If you factor the money, I earned throughout my time here I am only down $32,000 for 5 years and walked away with two degrees and had a great time doing it. All the above really focuses on the cost portion of the analysis, looking at the benefit side we see my schools average starting salary is $62,000 and my respective majors have a starting bachelor’s salary of $62,600 for engineering management and $63,800 for mechanical engineering. My starting salary is about $63,000 a year with obvious potential to go up with commissions so I will use the $63,000 as my benefit portion.
If we look at both the cost benefit ratios of the advertised price and the adjusted price, we’ll see that the real price produces:
$117,000/$63,000 = 1.857 or the cost is 1.857 times the benefit, or a ROI (return on investment) of 53.8%
For the adjusted price:
$32,000/$63,000 = 0.508 or the cost is 0.508 times the benefit, or a ROI of 197%
Now these numbers are relatively meaningless if you don’t have anything to compare them to so I will take some information I know about someone and apply it to this equation, unfortunately I don’t have their adjusted price information but nonetheless we’ll see what the real price produces.miam
Took 5.5 years of school (4 years undergrad and a year and a half grad school) undergrad at Miami Ohio in Oxford Ohio, assuming living in state https://miamioh.edu/onestop/your-money/tuition-fees/oxford-campus/undergrad-fall-2016/2018-cohort/index.html. Total price including all fees, books, room and board, tuition etc for 2018-2019 comes out to $32,800 a year or $131,200 for the duration of the 4-year degree. Again, I will make similar assumptions based on the price has gone up drastically over the last several years but will not account for that in my calculation. Then the year and a half at grad school I will be low balling this at 30 credit hours at $750 a credit hour (Fontbonne University STL, https://www.fontbonne.edu/admission-aid/scholarships-tuition/tuition-fees/) I won’t be accounting for any room and board fees since they don’t have any suggested for grad students. That adds $22,500 to the tap bring the total to $153,700. For the job being worked the average salary is about $61,200 which leads to a non-adjusted ratio of:
$153,700/$61,200= 2.511 or the cost is 2.511 times the benefit, the ROI is 39.8%
Again, I am not aware of the adjusted price including scholarships and the like however I know that the same internship and co-op opportunities do not exist to the level and the rate of what I was offered. I believe this example speaks for itself as to how this can get out of control when considering adding student loans, private colleges, and lower paying jobs into the equation.
Now I think my personal story and cost benefit analysis has more than explained that when done a certain way the college ROI can be massive. I didn’t go to any Ivy League school or get a full ride either, I had a small scholarship for academics, and I had living situations that saved me money and also gave me lots of leadership and learning opportunities and for the most part helped with my grades as well.
Ok you’ve made your decision to go to college or not. If you’re not planning on going to college you still have lots of options, there are a variety of trade schools in high demand now and most pay well and require less schooling than conventional college. There is also the route of entrepreneurship and other similar avenues that don’t require the traditional 9-5. As I mentioned before we live in a world that has more open avenues than you can count, you can do so much with a phone or a laptop to earn money without a college education of a degree. The possibilities are quite endless with this one. If you decided, you want to go to college you’ve got a couple more steps ahead of you. For one I think you would need to start off with taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses, or take an aptitude test, or both and figure out what you may be well suited at/like. I put this one in the same because I feel like for the most part people like to do what they are good at for the most part. From there I would make sure that venture is profitable and works with that cost benefit analysis. For example, there would be a lot fewer doctors if they were pad $40,000 a year and still had $300,000 in medical school debt, because that would simply not make sense.
Now I know if you are that 18 year old reading this, it’s a lot to take in, you’re probably not judging your college decision off the criteria I stated above, you’re probably basing it off the football team, and the campus, and the cool rec center etc. I would challenge you to take a deeper look than that, its alright to not know what you want to do, in fact I’m aware I am the odd ball that had it all figured out before I was 16. Your teens and 20’s are valuable times in your life, it would not be wise to waste valuable time and money if the progress you’re making is not moving you forward in some way shape or form. Your happiness is valuable as well, if you hate every minute of what you’re studying and don’t like it then it might not pan out for you as a career. After all, assuming you go into that field that will be what you’ll be doing for a long time.
I think a lot of mistakes can be prevented from some simple due diligence and basic understanding of the world (aka common sense that isn’t all that common anymore). Like it boggles my mind how some people end up in these crazy situations with $200k in college debt from a liberal arts college with a useless degree that has no jobs and adds no real value. Like its supply and demand that drives a lot of the issues some people have with wages and jobs, and YOU LEARN THAT IN A FUNDAMENTAL ECON COURSE IN HIGH SCHOOL! If you didn’t learn that in high school, I bet there are 10,000 videos on YouTube explaining the same concept! As with the due diligence thing I found all the information I stated above from simple google searches, the salaries, the tuition, everything. The biggest irony of them all is we live in the era of total information and some people are too lazy to bother looking for the information.
Enough with the rant, let me finish up here and end with some advice. How I got to where I am in terms of college and all of that was, I knew I was good at Math and Science (various standardized tests), I took an aptitude test in high school and I scored pretty much dead on for being an engineer. I also loved to build and take things apart when I was younger (think Legos, Lincoln logs, bike jumps etc.) I lived in St. Louis, I didn’t have any desire to go far from home (my parents are dope, and why be further away than you need to be), I had several colleges to choose from and I went with the best value, cheapest, which also provided the best education. That’s a homerun if I have ever heard one. I joined a fraternity ( I much like many people in my fraternity had no intention of going Greek when we got to school yet that is 75% of us so I guess we’re not exactly status quo) that allowed me tons of leadership opportunities. I joined the rugby team, that gave me more perspective and more people to meet, also a great leadership opportunity. I took my classes seriously and I often pushed myself harder and harder throughout the years which developed me to be a hard-working individual that got the tasks done at all costs no matter the time or at what cost. (yea that’s some 3am nights, and 16-18-hour days, to get what I had to do done) I jumped at all internship and co-op opportunities and not only learned from them in terms of engineering knowledge but in terms of everyday life. Not many 20-year old’s live by themselves like that and have to make their own food, budget, go to work, and also get tossed into an environment where you’re the lowest on the totem pole and sometimes the youngest member on the team by 10+ years. I also worked and developed myself outside the classroom and job floor, I read books, watched YouTube videos, listened to podcasts, etc. I continually learned and improved upon myself to be the best I could be. That led to different job opportunities and added to my skill set and got me where I am today. And that is the secret to my pretty decent success.
Put yourself where opportunities will come up.
Push yourself so you grow.
Never stop learning.
A couple nuggets of wisdom before I end this,
“If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life” – I see this thrown around a lot and sure it has meaning but if you’re one of those people that get the most obscure degree or education known to man because you love it and then bitch that you can’t get a job you should take a hard look in the mirror and toughen up buttercup cause the world isn’t going to bend to your will for your stupid weird major.
Parent’s be supportive, college is tough, probably tougher than it was back in your day. There’s more outside influence and stress today than previously and it will crack some kids. If you forced you’re kid to study in high school and were a helicopter parent I can almost guarantee they will not succeed when they get away from the nest. Same with parent’s being over protective of their kids in their younger years, then they get that taste of freedom in college and go wild and crazy and end up in the hospital from alcohol poisoning, I’ve seen that shit happen.
That’s about it, like I mentioned I am almost out of here, I graduate May 17th, it’s exciting, it’s the next stage of my life and I can’t wait to show you all what I can do!