Cost Influencing Education Decisions

by Race Bannon on March 17, 2011

In recent weeks I’ve heard a lot of discussion on television, radio and social media about whether it’s worth the cost and time to attend college. What’s at the heart of these discussions and why are they becoming more prevalent? The answer is money.

As with so much in life these days, cost often becomes the factor that influences a trend. Raise the price of gas, people drive less. Raise the price of cigarettes, people smoke less. Raise the price of a college education, and more people will reconsider going to college. Alternative paths to an education and career are now rising to the top of viable education options. The price of a college education is climbing dramatically and that is putting it out of the reach of a significant number of people.

The University of California system recently raised the cost of student fees by 32%. 32%! That’s an incredible jump in cost and no one seems to think such increases are going to slow down anytime soon. The University of California is not a unique situation. Soaring costs are happening in higher educational institutions across the United States.

What this means is that alternative ways of obtaining an education are going to rise in popularity. I think this is a good thing. For too long the Holy Grail of education has been the traditional college education to the exclusion of any other seriously considered options. I think the current atmosphere of escalating college costs combined with the exponential increase in the pace of new knowledge and skills needed to remain competitive in the modern workplace is creating a perfect storm for change.

Without a doubt, a college education is the right choice for many. But when that is not a viable option for someone, or when someone’s life or professional goals don’t necessitate a college eduction, self-education can prove quite valuable.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sara Ortiz April 11, 2011 at 6:30 am

Hi Race,

I’ve just started a business called, Academy for Self Education, and while researching some stuff I came across your blog. It looks like you’ve collected a good number of resources. I look foward to reading them.

I appreciate you pointing out the higher education situation above. I can’t say whether most colleges are “too expensive”; I’ve never run a college or researched how much it costs per student. I suspect that state funded colleges are “too expensive” only because, being funded by a government entity, they don’t have much motivation to keep costs down. But I think that if private colleges and universities have raised their tuition over the last years its because of a rise in supplies and other resources needed for the school to function and probably more so, from a rise in demands from the students and their parents. With so many more Americans going to colleges today than 20 plus years ago that brings with it more expense to the school. So while I agree that this increase has caused possibly a beginning discussion about the value of alternative learning I just wanted to point out that it’s not a mystery or conspiracy why colleges have gotten more expensive (as some people would have you believe.)

I also wanted to mention that the mentality surrounding college education changed drastically which resulting in an influx of young people attending college. Parents who wanted “better lives” for their children saw college as a way to get that better life. And then it became common practice to encourage every child to go to college no matter that child’s ability. Some people are not made for a college environment. Nor is everyone in the best position to go to college. Before children stayed at home to take care of ailing parents and grand parents or to help on the farm or the family business. I’m not saying that I expect young people forgo a college education to help out at home but I think there has been so much expectation for young people to go to college that we don’t consider anymore if the child is ready or if the family can even afford it.

So I think all of these factors have resulted in people today realizing that they might not be able to afford going to college. But the other side to all of this are the businesses now who require a college education for a job that doesn’t really require one. I hope that with this rethinking of attending college comes a rethinking of the requirements demanded by employers.

I’m also thinking of this from a political perspective too. I’ve been hearing a lot about equality lately and of course I agree with equality from the standpoint of how the government treats a group of people. But equality does not mean that if someone has the ability to go to college then you have the right to go. I think we need to start recognizing that while we should all have the same freedoms to pursue the life we want we all don’t have the same talents, abilities, skills, motivation, money or luck to make those desires become a reality. And that brings me back to self education: In the end, the degree to which we have all those things I just mentioned doesn’t matter. If we have self education skills and knowledge we can create the life we want no matter where we started in life. The solution to most everything, at least for me, always comes back to self education.

Well, this post turned out quite a bit longer than I anticipated. I hope you are still with me. And I look forward to reading more on your blog.

2 Bob Rala August 26, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Last year I was in my second semester at an online graduate school, getting my MA in History (after finishing my undergrad in history at an online state school). After racking up nearly $30k in student loan debt, and with post-grad school job prospects looking rather dismal, I dropped out and used my savings to pay down my student loans.

I think decided to take my parents’ offer to step in for my dad at the family business, where I’m now making more money (with much less stress and workload than I would have as a history teacher) and will be able to retire in about 10 years. I have time to now self-study the subjects that really interest me while focusing on saving for early retirement and all without a costly degree.

I know, at least for myself, I looked at the future ROI on a college education and ultimately decided it just wasn’t worth it. I think in today’s society a college degree is a burden one must get to qualify for specific fields rather than a ticket to a better quality of life. But that’s just my opinion.

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