For decades I've been carrying a message from John Holt that has really come home to roost now that my children are college age: Our oldest has graduated college; our middle child hated college, left, and is working instead; our youngest starts college this fall. Plus I've been advising and consulting parents about how to get their nontraditionally educated children into college since the eighties. A popular speech of mine that we turned into booklet in the early nineties was titled: "Teenage Homeschoolers: College or Not?" wherein I argued against going to college just because you are 18 and can do so. I argued there must be better reasons for going than "because I can." But the message of John's that echoes more today than ever for me is this: college is among the chief enslaving institutions of America.
When Holt said this I believe he was thinking about graduates who spent time and money on degrees to work in fields they no longer enjoy but are now trapped by their mortgages and loans into staying. Now this critique is gaining traction outside the circle of alternative schooling, probably because the cost of higher education is so out of alignment with its benefits. Nonetheless, the conventional wisdom is we must send our kids to college so they can make more money than high school graduates do. James Altucher, a Wall Street Journal writer, claims: "in my view, the entire college degree industry is a scam, a self-perpetuating Ponzi scheme that needs to stop right now." Here are two of the seven reasons not to go to college that Altucher makes that take the money argument on directly:
3. The differential in lifetime income between a college graduate and a non-college graduate over a 45 year career is approximately $800,000 (read on).
4. If I put that $200,000 that I would've spent per child to cover tuition costs, living expenses, books, etc. into bonds yielding just 3% (any muni bonds) and let it compound for 49 years (adding back in the 4 years of college), I get $851,000. So my kids can avoid college and still end up with the same amount in the worst case.