For some, going to college feels like the inevitable next step after high school but every year this option becomes more and more expensive and seemingly less and less of a sure bet on the road to gainful employment, leaving some to wonder how the money might be better spent. Those with obscure or artistic majors are repeatedly mocked by the media for their frivolous waste of time and money, and a high proportion of America’s millionaires either dropped out or never attended college (including billionaires Bill Gates and media mogul Haim Saban).
Many students may argue that what's learnt at university extends far beyond their studies, teaching valuable life-skills in a safe environment after they fly the nest. At college you could meet your future employer, your best friend or the love of your life. And of course, without academics committed to a university career, countless advancements and contributions to our society and culture would be impossible.
However, last year a “moderate” budget for an in-state public college was estimated at $22,826 per year and the annual cost of going to a private college averaged $44,750. For a 4 year degree, this means that American students are looking at spending $90-$120k on a college education. There may be financial aid for some, and student loans help to spread the cost, but this whopping figure leaves us with the question of how else it could be spent.
Some may cite the value of a graduate salary as the trade-off for debt; payscale.com estimates that graduates for top universities can expect a starting salary of in excess of $50k. However, many have proved that by starting at the bottom and climbing the corporate ladder out of high school this salary can be surpassed in the 4 years it takes your classmates to graduate.
In a competitive workforce, the debate still rages as to the worth of a costly degree and 4 years out of the workforce after high school. And so, to shed light on the issue, we've posed the question: If high school students were given $100k at graduation to spend as they saw fit would they be willing to hand it all over for a degree? Here are ten things you could do, all with the cost of those valuable letters after your name...
10 Become a homeowner: $15,000
$100k is more than enough to buy a property, although its size may vary depending on where you live. A down payment is typically 15% of a house's price, so you could get on the property ladder with $15,000. Owning instead of renting would save you a huge amount over the course of your life and, as the housing market slowly strengthens after the economic crash, you are likely to move up the property ladder and make some money by renovating your property and adding value. If you live in an area where property is particularly cheap, or if you already own your home, buying a portfolio of apartments and becoming a landlord is a great way of making a regular income. Proving you are never too young to become a homeowner, 14 year old Willow Tufano (featured on the Ellen show) bought a property with her savings and now rents it out (making $700 a month!)
9 Buy new set of wheels: $15,000
Depending on how flash you decide to be, you could spend your money on a motorcycle, sports car or even both and still have some left over. Although the top speed-machines like the Bugatti Veyron (0-60 in 2.5 seconds, top speed of 267mph) are far more than the cost a degree, you can still get a decent brand new set of wheels for around $15,000 - an investment that can still be sold on later.
8 Start an investment portfolio $10,000
The Oscar-nominated ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ depicted a life of riches beyond our wildest dreams built around the stock market. Although the bankruptcy of firms such as the Lehman brothers in 2008 has made the stock market appear to be a risk investment, investing a modest sum of money (say, $10,000) now before the market fully recovers could be a highly lucrative gamble. New investors, however, should exercise caution; the stock price of the lucrative new online currency ‘bitcoin’ looks set to rapidly depreciate following recent scandal as over $300 million has simply gone missing during a Tokyo-based exchange on Tuesday.
7 Go on a shopping spree: $5,000
Recently it was reported that Kim Kardashian spent over $100 000 with her mother on a ‘Pretty Woman’ style shopping spree. Spending the value of 4 years of education in a single afternoon may seem like a ridiculous expense, however last year the Washington Post reported that only 27% of college graduates have a job related to their major and 48% were working a job that did not require a college degree. Although a shopping spree may not seem to hold the same value as a university education, if your degree has no bearing on your employability maybe it would be better to have a luxury wardrobe to attend interviews in rather than an irrelevant certificate? If 100k in one trip is anathema to you, and you want to have extra left over to work your way through this list, then just $5,000 of your 'college fund' can get you a celebrity hair cut, 5 pairs of designer jeans, and a couple pairs of exclusive designer shoes...
6 Start a business: $4,000
Becoming an entrepreneur requires no qualifications, so if you have a great idea and want to start your own business why waste time and money on a degree? From Coco Chanel to Dave Thomas (the founder of Wendy’s) history has proved that qualifications are unnecessary for success when you have a great idea. By the time your friends have graduated and are trying to find a job, you could have built a successful business and be the one they come to looking for a job. The costs of starting a business vary greatly depending on the industry, but for a small start-up $4,000 will allow you to put the initial payment on the lease a small office, purchase basic supplies and seek legal and accounting advice.
5 Travel the world: $40,000
Whilst your ex-classmates sweat it out over dissertations and deadlines, you could see the world with $40,000. Many budget travellers have reported being able to see as many as 11 countries on this budget. And a plus; travel has been shown to make you more employable by: expanding your awareness; broadening your perspective; building problem-solving skills as you face real challenges; and widening your skill-set as you learn new languages and interact with a variety of cultures. If you can prove that your travels were more than an extended holiday, they can be a huge asset to your CV and be a great conversation-starter with potential employers.
4 Invest in potential collector’s items: $1,000
Recently a used iPhone with the app ‘flappy bird’ installed (originally worth less than $1000) sold on Ebay for almost $100 00 and a super rare Nintendo NES game was purchased for a similar price. Perhaps a strange use of your money, collector’s items (from celebrity memorabilia to antiques and works of art) hold their value and can often be sold later for an inflated price as their worth increases with age. However, a good eye for an investment is key as spending such an extortionate price on rare items is only it worth it if they are sought after by other collectors. Kyle MacDonald famously took advantage of a collector’s item during his ‘one red paper clip’ swapping initiative when he swapped an afternoon with Alice Cooper for a KISS motorized snow globe (knowing there was a collector who desperately needed this item he was able to swop it for a role in a film, which he then used in his final swop to acquire his ultimate goal, a house).
3 Party like a celebrity: $10,000
It might be inconceivable to us mere mortals that you could drink your way through a $100, 000 bar tab on a night out, however that is exactly what Beyoncé and Jay-Z managed in Atlanta recently. Students will scour the internet for cheap club deals and use pre-drinks to consume their body weight in cut-price beer. For many, nightlife is a key component to the university experience and studies often take a back-seat to a kick-ass party. For those whose main ambition for college is invested in the club-scene it may make more sense to blow the money they spend on academics instead on partying like a celebrity (after all, you're unlikely to graduate with a useful degree if all if your class-schedule is structured around your ability to attend every frat-party). If you'd rather have some money to spare of your 100k, though, $10,000 will buy you a VIP place in one of Las Vegas's biggest clubs and a hefty supply of VIP alcohol to your table.
2 Build your career: + $80,000
Many sectors value experience over qualifications so if you know what you want to do it may be advantageous to work your way up in a company instead of waiting to go into graduate schemes once you finish college. If you have spent four years working in an organisation and know its inner workings you are likely to be in a better position than someone fresh out of college whose understanding of the business is based on paper instead of personal experience. Also, unlike a recent student, you will have had a salary for four years whilst they will have 4 years’ worth of debt. The average starting salary for someone who left education after high school is over $20,000 which, it's true, doesn't compare to the starter salaries for graduates - but over 4 years, you'll be making money (around $80k in total) rather than spending, and getting on the career ladder before your university-going classmates.
1 Give it to charity: + Karma!
Raising money for worthy causes, be it through a sorority bake-sale or buying a ticket to the charity ball, is the new vogue at college. Students harass their friends and family for sponsorship as they climb mountains and jump out of planes all in the interest of helping to make the world better through charitable donations. However, imagine the difference that could be made with the money spent on a university education. Put into context, it costs $30 a month to sponsor a child with feed the children (meaning that for the 4 years of your degree you could sponsor almost 70 children through the scheme), food for thought for those going to university to pass the time.