Is College a Waste of Money?

Melinda Miles 2011/01/19 12:00:00
Related Topics: Student, Teacher, Money, School
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When it comes to college, it seems like Americans are stuck in a Catch-22. If you don't enroll at a four-year program, forget it, you're a pariah and your prospects are limited. But if you do go -- bye bye $100,000 -- are you really getting all that much out of it?

I've long suspected that going to college isn't all it's cracked up to be. And now I have the data to back it up. According to a new book, nearly half of the nation's undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, USA Today reports.

Almost no learning gains! And your parents were saving their entire lives for this.

After two years in college, 45 percent of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36 percent showed little change.

"These are really kind of shocking, disturbing numbers," New York University professor Richard Arum, lead author of "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses," told the paper.

The book blames the embarrassing data partly on colleges, saying instructors tend to be more focused on their own faculty research than teaching younger students. But students are also to blame, for caring more about their social lives than their studies.

In fact, the research found that students spent 50 percent less time studying compared with students a few decades ago.

Again, this isn't overly surprising. When I went to college in the mid-'90s, I had such a hard time adjusting to being away from home the first two years that I didn't get that much out of school, academically speaking. That said, I can honestly say that the last two years were very beneficial to me, and I saw a lot of progress in my own breadth of knowledge and writing skills.

However, I spent a lot of time studying. Most of the people I knew did not. And while I was spoiled enough to grow up expecting my parents to give me a free ride to college, sometime freshman year I did the math and figured out what each lecture cost.

Here's the modern update: The average annual cost of tuition, room and board at private schools was $36,993 last year. So about $18,500 a semester. A semester is about 17 weeks. That's about $1,000 a week. Let's say you take four classes, as I did. Each class is then $250 a week, so $125 per lecture.

But is really worth $125 for Professor Houndstooth to come in and rehash the reading that you did the night before? I think most of us only have a few really memorable teachers -- the rest just fade into a blurred memory.

In other words, a lot of students are paying $1,000 week to fool around with other kids and not feel like a total loser four years later. I'm not saying that college isn't a good idea -- my college education shaped the person I am today, in many ways -- I'm just saying that students (and schools) should take it a lot more seriously.

Melinda Miles is a freelance writer.

Read More: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-01-18-...

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  • brunyon 2011/01/19 17:23:41
    I took college seriously, I studied and I didn't go out and party as much as it seems others here did and I got a degree that was worth it from a great school. You get what you put into it, if you went to college and feel you didn't get anything out of it besides partying and making an ass out of yourself then who is to blame?

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  • turtledove123 2011/01/21 10:22:37
    I do not think that education is ever a waste.
  • JO 2011/01/21 09:30:40
    I would advise all people to get at least a B.A. degree.

    College will allow people to get to know other people and perphaps a different place, this exposure can only increase their knowledge of our world.

  • Kathy 2011/01/21 08:24:52
    College today is a breeding ground for the progressive liberal agenda which has nothing to do with expanding one's ability to solve problems and come to sound judgements. It is a mind destroying, sheep mentality to lead the flock into submission and death of the human spirit.
  • sailtom Kathy 2011/01/21 10:36:22 (edited)
    Yep, that fancy book lernin'll makes ya turn lib'rul, an' before ya' know it, yur'a usin' hifalootin' words that reg'lar folk can't hardly un'erstand, and ya start ta gettin' idears, la'k votin' fer a-rabs, an' nig'gra's with no birth certifi'gat, an all sorts 'a un-holy, anti-christian thangs......best ta stay home to the trailer an' git yer lernin' like we always dun.....from the tee-vee.... ta stay home trailer git yer lernin dun tee-vee ta stay home trailer git yer lernin dun tee-vee ta stay home trailer git yer lernin dun tee-vee ta stay home trailer git yer lernin dun tee-vee
  • Ripple ... Kathy 2011/01/24 15:54:47
    Ripple Effect
    Girl, if I could give you more than one thumbs up for that one I would!! Well Said!
  • anonymous 2011/01/21 07:13:57
    I don't know where these statistics were generated, but I can honestly say I have experienced "significant gains in learning." However, if you want to enrich your knowledge basket-weaving 101 or drinking 286 just won't cut it.
  • TheR 2011/01/21 06:47:11 (edited)
  • selma patel 2011/01/21 06:20:28
    selma patel
  • MasterZorro2008 2011/01/21 05:27:41
    College graduates still make a heck of a lot of more money than non-college graduates. So, you bet it is worth it, particularly if you go to engineering school, law school, or medical school.
  • sailtom 2011/01/21 05:06:24
    If someone took the money it takes to attend a 4 year college and instead learned to trade indice futures, open a brokerage account with the money and day traded, they'd be retired in 4 years and seriously wealthy. If I had known what I know now, I'd have never wasted years of my life working at a job making someone else rich while my life went on hold. You only have X number of days to live, so don't waste them in servitude to others when you can be free and independently wealthy.
    I wish I had those days back now let me tell ya......
  • Cora 2011/01/21 04:55:37
    College is not a waste of money. Think of the lasting effect in your life. College is and will be your stepping stone in whatever career you choose.
  • XX 2011/01/21 04:48:23
    It is the best we have now, but a persons knowledge can only be evaluated with testing. There is nothing wrong with studying for a test everyone can evaluate.
  • Tired BN-0 2011/01/21 04:39:02
    Tired BN-0
    College is not a waste of money. Simply put, "the times they are a changin'". In my grandfather's day - which is to say 1920 to 1970 (he had retired by then) a person could get a good, solid job with a company, give them 30 - 35 years, and retire with a full pension. In his day, the most education you needed to have was completing middle school, maybe high school. In my parent's day - 1940 to 1995(ish) you needed a MINIMUM of a high school diploma to make a life for yourslef, unless you wanted to get ahead. In which case, you got a bachelor's degree. Being college-educated meant you could go into a higher tier of work and money.

    Now, in my day, to have a chance at making a modest living as a family of four, either both parents need to have a bachelor's degree, or one of them has to have an even higher degree - a Master's or Doctorate, or something equivalent (a law degree, or an MD, DVM, etc.)

    Is it a waste of money? How can it be? If a student attends college and chooses not to study, THAT is a waste of money. I have returned to school to obtain a Master's degree ( I am what they call "non-traditional") and the young people around me most certainly ARE learning. I am learning. Yes, I have accumulated debt to pay for my education, but it most certainly is worth it. I will be able to enter a career which will pay five to six times what I was making before! How is this not worth it?
  • Irish little 2011/01/21 04:10:03
    Irish little
    A good friend of mine told me befor he retired, he looked first to tech grads befor he would concider a college grad .
  • Todd_I 2011/01/21 03:59:09
    I'm surprised by the map. I would have expected the manufacturing states and the northwest to vote 'no'. College is about seeing a problem from multiple angles and then deriving working solutions. I think it is a good idea for everyone. If someone is not 'academically inclined' trade school is a good idea. Either way, obtaining specialized training is a good thing.
  • FumbDuck 2011/01/21 03:57:33
    For some people college is a good thing, I for one am glad my doctor went to college. Yet for some it is nothing but a waste of time and money.
  • Lugiafan2010 2011/01/21 03:22:14
    BIg, waste of money, and time, would be better if the jobs would train them personaly and not rely on stupid degrees, they dont help for the real world.
  • gidianedwards97 2011/01/21 03:12:02
    It is for those who want to do more than sit and wait for something to happen. there are ways to fund any type of education to evolve into a better class of being in human nature.
  • Stan Kapusta 2011/01/21 02:58:11
    Stan Kapusta
    At least you will be able to stay employed with a sheepskin. It's better to be underemployed than no job at all. Our government won't even report the real statistics of those out of work. A toilet cleaner with a diploma is better than sleeping in the stall.
  • Everarianas 2011/01/21 02:30:11
    It is on the expensive side which I think is a little too much money, but college is so valuable in today's world that it's total worth the thousands of dollars. Many countries have passed America in education, and we need to invest money and more time into our education because we are already being left behind by countries such as China, Japan, and India.
  • Arthur Palm 2011/01/21 02:25:34
    Arthur Palm
    When the era of good feelings and no one fails was introduced in many of our primary and high schools it naturally followed into most institutions of higher learning, and so began the dumbing down of America, this combined with "open enrollment" completed the LIBERAL educational
    efforts at producing mush headed democrat voters.
  • Torchmanner ~PWCM~JLA 2011/01/21 01:23:13
    Torchmanner ~PWCM~JLA
    Not if you put forth the effort and do your own research. Never accept the prof.s social views. Sociology should only be an elective.
  • babygirl 2011/01/21 01:22:59
    Education, knowledge and experiences are never a waste of time. It can never be taken away from you.
  • Hank babygirl 2011/01/21 01:32:35
    The question at hand is do we need to pay fortunes to get those things you mention? I joined the Navy before going to college, and I learned more in the Navy than college by far, and the Navy paid me!!
  • babygirl Hank 2011/01/21 21:17:51
    Consider yourself very fortunate. Not everybody can join a branch of military and travel all over and get paid well for it.
  • Kimberly 2011/01/21 01:14:23
    NO. It is worth it and will make your life SO musch easier.
  • T 2011/01/21 01:14:13
    College can be a waste of money, but it can be a great investment (ex: medical or law school). Before anyone goes, they should do a cost-benefit analysis to make sure what they want to go to school for will make them enough money to be worth it.
  • angel face 2011/01/21 00:59:05
    angel face
    in my opinion, no its not because it gives you the education that you need; you get a higher paying job; can get rich way faster. some people, college isn't for them but that doesnt meant that it is a waste for someone else
  • Denis B 2011/01/21 00:57:31 (edited)
    Denis B
    Only if the student never graduates. The social education in any event that is derived from trying to graduate is priceless.
  • Sherri 2011/01/21 00:53:08
    Going to college isn't going to make your life perfect. It isn't guaranteed that you will make alot of money. People who go to college aren't smarter than people who don't go to college. College gives you choices. The more education you have the more choices you have.
  • Jack Lakeman 2011/01/21 00:47:50
    Jack Lakeman
    It's not if you have the money to waste. - http://duhprogressive.com/
  • kelly-lourdes 2011/01/21 00:45:29 (edited)
    even if your career ends up nothing like what you planned or studied for, the experience and knowledge is worth it
  • hasher 2011/01/21 00:39:39
    not all are. i think technical schools are better in many ways mainly because youre going to learn one specific skill and can get there quicker than a 4 year college program. and usually cheaper too.
  • nikko96 2011/01/21 00:32:01 (edited)
    Yes, it is a waste of money because, colleges make you take unnecessary courses that have nothing to do with your major or job. Placing you in a financial sinkhole. Also, what I learned at work was not the same as in the classroom. Then, the school takes advantage of you by charging all these different fees for computer lab, late enrollment fee, etc. Then the loan increases that you may never pay off with interest rates included. Lastly, some people don't need college for example Bill Gates and Donald Trump. They had lots of work experience, great ideas and critical thinking skills. The "just graduated" college students at my job got the shock of their lives. They start off at the very bottom, entry level. They have no work experience or life experiences, college can't teach that. However, everyone needs to learn new skills. There are a lot of great trade schools out there.

  • Werewolf 2011/01/21 00:26:06
    Having taught at the college level, I answered yes because most of the curriculum and courses were outdated and not representative of what the students will encounter when they graduate.

    Some schools are very good at preparing students for their chosen profession, but most do not
  • FrederichJosephDeVaney 2011/01/21 00:06:34
    Without my degree - I'm just another high school grad. It opened many doors that certainly would not be opened without. Another thing, college isn't all about the degree, it's an eye opening, socially enlightening experience I will always cherish.
  • HAITHEM 2011/01/21 00:03:30
    If we believed that the college is a waste of money, the food shop is also a waste of money,we pay t money to buy food to feed our bodies, we pay money for science to feed our brains , and that science is an invaluable.
  • Hank HAITHEM 2011/01/21 00:26:03 (edited)
    We pay money for food to feed our bodies because we have relegated the duty of growing, picking, and often cooking our food to someone else. Your analogy is very American in that you think you need to also 'pay' for knowledge rather than go get it yourself. I suppose that is most of the problem here, that even in this internet age we find ourselves in, we still feel the need to physically sit in front of someone to learn, and then regurgitate back to them this newly gotten knowledge. Never mind that most of this knowledge is useless to us! But hey, we have our degree, and this will prove our 'usefullness' to others in some sort of mutual understanding that we should all be paid more for this newly found knowledge. Pay us more please, as we have mounds of debt to repay to those who own us! INSANITY!
  • Thea 2011/01/20 23:56:36
    If you are NOT taking a technical, science or mathematics major, and you don't have money for grad school it sure is!
  • Gilead_Roland 2011/01/20 23:42:31
    Depends on the college

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