A bunch of people e-mailed me about the Drop Out and Grow Rich article I posted yesterday. A friend of mine pointed out a few things, most importantly that I failed to give the college grad interest on his money. Fixing that (and making him pay interest if he was negative, but only after the first 4 years of college) put him very close to the high school grad with private school money. Never charging him interest for being negative got him slightly above that same person.
Then it was pointed out that the difference in earnings wasn't 900k as the college-mongers claimed. It was more like 1.3mil. I had no good data on salary increases, so I assumed the inflation rate. I guess it stands to reason that after a while job experience means more than the degree, so the gap gets smaller.
If I fudged the grad's income to equal a 900k lifetime earnings difference, the Dropout with Private School money is again the winner, but is still followed closely by the grad. If I fudge the dropout's starting income (to $29,692) to get the 900k difference, the grad still beats the dropout with public level money, but only by 300k. Also, the dropout would be beating him until age 58.
People also pointed out that college loans and such reduce the cost of school, and that most people who don't go to college aren't going to have 22k a year to play with.
What does this all mean? Mainly that the experiment is flawed. It's impossible to get accurate data. I was trying to get more and more info to make it more and more accurate, but there are too many conflicting sources. There are also far too many individual factors to make this an accurate representation of YOUR experience.
The reason I wrote the article was to get people thinking, and to realize that college is not NECESSARILY going to get you more money. The 900k figure always bothered me because it makes it seem like college is a guaranteed ticket.
And in truth, I think everyone should go to college for a year or two. It's a fun time and is an important experience. Not the school, but the social life. I had some of the best times in my life there, and I'm very glad I went for a year and a half. I'm also very glad I dropped out.
What prompted me to write the article is that I see a lot of people who have no intention of even using their degree for a profession. They stay in because of parents, apathy, or because it's "the thing to do". I also see a lot of budding entrepreneurs who are just waiting to get out of college and have no interest of ever getting a real job. I firmly believe that all of those people should drop out immediately.
On the other hand, if you don't want to be an entrepreneur and are still trying to figure out what you want to do, staying in school is probably a better idea. It's easy to get exposed to a lot of different subjects there.
When I was in school, I was there because it was very important to my parents that I stay in. No one in my father's family had ever gone to a four year university until his generation. The same was true of my mother's family. My mother was the first in her family to go to college, and she had gone to Columbia. Her parents were very poor when they were young, but they worked very hard and built their own business (after working up to four jobs at a time) which was very successful. Rather than amass their money and distribute it when they died, they invested a portion of it for every child in the family when he was born. That money was intended to pay for college.
My mother's dream was for her children to go to college. After Columbia she went back to school at UT to get a Master's degree. Needless to say, education was very important to her. When I called her to tell her that I was dropping out of school, she was FURIOUS. I knew this was the case, and was the main thing holding me back.
But I knew I had to drop out - I would have considered myself a huge failure if I ended up at a typical 9-5 job. I wasn't learning anything that would help me with my own business, and I just didn't like doing the work. I felt like it was a waste of time for me to do most of it, so often times I would refuse to complete assignments or study for tests.
For two months my mother barely spoke to or acknowledged me. I hated hurting her, but I knew that it was what was best for me, and that ultimately that's what she really wanted. As time went on she started talking to me... mainly along the lines of "When are you going back to school?"
The irony is that now our relationship is better than ever. All of the arguments over school, report cards, and majors are gone. She's seen that I can support myself without a degree, and that I really am very happy. My parents even let me use their house as collateral when I bought my house - a testament to their faith in me now that I've proved myself.
My grandparents were also understanding - I was worried they'd be angry I used the money they gave me for business, but they were very supportive.
So take a look at your situation. What benefits is your degree going to get you? Why are you in school? What would you do if you weren't in school? Money is important, but what's most important is your happiness. Which will lead to greater happiness down the line?
I just want to make two observations.
1. There is a massive social conditioning in America to get rich (in a number of places I've witnessed Americans justifying life choices by finances entirely, like you are doing here. this seems far less prevalent here (new zealand) or any other place I know)
2. The American education system is sub-par (especially further education for people with financial difficulties, maybe college degrees are also handed out to easily)
However, also, The antithesis:
1. There is massive social drive in America for great entrepreneurship (you seem to be an example of this), and to live life by your own rules
2. The American education system can cater to people who strive high and far (rather than an education which i find quite restrictive here. But this changes in further education (I've just started University)), but then a lot more is up to the individual, how they use it, and how they use everything else they've been given in life.
My major point is simply that while at first I disagree with you, i think i see why this situation is very different in the US.
However as a further note, i came across an article not so long ago which compared tertiary education (think it might've been an OECD report), which found that the US was doing far better than is commonly thought. With the average American having more funding for education, better teachers, and higher increases in salaries with a degree than most other countries.
Anyway, good read, and the original article as well.
A bit of an insight to US society.
Living in the US (at least temporarily) is on my life's to-do list.
In our culture going to school is given a lot of respect. Dropouts face a sharp negative stigma. They're quitters. They're losers. They'll go nowhere in life. But is this really true? How big of a factor is college on success?
Here's a list of some of the dropouts that I personally admire :
Larry Ellison (Oracle)
Almost 1 in 5 of the US Presidents including Lincoln, Washington, Jackson, and Cleveland
John D. Rockafeller
Ray Kroc (billionaire founder of McDonalds)
Today I had an interview with a very awesome school, one that I have a slim shot of getting into. I was so happy to have it because what a nice opportunity, and it was. Even if I get a rejection letter, which won’t be heart crushing because I am expecting it, I still had such a nice time conversing with a very intelligent, wise man.
Sitting in the waiting room, I was thinking that I drank way too much coffee. I felt a little jittery, and sometimes when I drink too much coffee with nerves I get little panic attacks. I looked around me and I felt very isolated- we are all trying to get into a university that will maybe accept 1 out of the 12 people in this room. A girl sitting with her dad looked like she had just been called up to perform the end-all-be-all, most crucial moment of her existence, the way my intense cross country teammates look before a race starts. She looked at her dad and he nodded, and her dad just looked so excited and she walked off in her little business suit.
Wow. In that moment I just felt such a huge contrast between that girl and me. Although we both applied to the school, I felt like she was part of some planet of college admissions freak-outs that I was never indoctrinated to. I felt like she was meant to be here and I was an outsider. In truth, I freaked out about college my fair share…maybe more than it. I've just been very afraid of not living up to my own expectations, not ending up a place that will serve my interests, etc, but never to live up to my parents or to get in the top ten schools or whatever. I felt like her and her dad probably followed every step to prepare her to be here, practiced interview questions, had toured the school and thoroughly discussed it before applying, etc. I felt like this is her dream school and she probably has a poster of the campus above her bed. Really, it’s not unlikely that I have higher grades than her and a more impressive resume. Although I decided to apply sort of last minute and on a whim, it has become my favorite school as well. But she just looked like such an Ivy-League applicant, with all the intensity and ferocity that you would expect from an applicant pool made up of valedictorians and academic stars.
I pulled out my book and tried to read as I was waiting, barely processing the sentences and trying to suppress my anxiety. I couldn’t look at the people around me anymore. I was dressed a lot more stylishly than them in my high waisted pants and nice top; all of the other teenagers waiting looked like middle-aged business people. Scary. Fortunately, they called my name shortly, and I pulled it together. After I had some difficulty answering his first question, with stumbling on my words and feeling the anxiety blocking me, I had a sudden rush of warmth and confidence.
The conversation was fluid and casual and I fell into comfort that allowed me to actually express who I am, as I realized what a kind and like-minded person my interviewer was. We talked about unfair labor practices in developing nations in relation to the company I work at, we talked about what I want to study and what I read in my spare time, my book club, my role in my school newspaper, and his really interesting college experience and career. We talked about the weather- the California sunshine and the New England snow, how that difference took him west and how it's alluring me to the east. It was fun.