College vs No College (Pros and Cons + Statistics)

college vs no college

Not sure if college is worth it for you? Check out the statistics as we discuss the pros and cons of college vs no college!

Before we start, you should note that statistics and facts will be shared in this post. However, I will also share my own opinion throughout the article.

Why Do We Go to College? – Employment Rates and Salary

Before figuring out if it’s worth it or not, we first have to understand why we even attend college in the first place.

Short answer… a degree. People are hungry for that degree so that they can supposedly get higher paying jobs.

The average salary for a college graduate is around $44,000. The average salary for a high school graduate (no college) is around $30,000.

The employment rates show some interesting information on the likelihood of getting hired straight out of college vs no college.

Let’s look at the statistics…

According to a study on employment rates for college graduates, we find the following information:

employment rates for college vs no college

As you can see, there is a difference in employment between college graduates and those who just completed high school.

That percentage difference is around 13%, or 6% from “high school completion” to “some college”.

The question is… is that percentage large enough to care?

Let’s take a look…

The Cost of College vs No College

According to an education report, the average cost of college in the United States is $35,720 per year.

The average cost for community college within your own district is $3,340.

The cost for no college at all = $0.00 (that’s a big difference in price)!

Keep in mind, paying an average of $142,880 for 4 years of college to get your bachelors degree is separating you from high school graduates by only 13%!

The employment rate for 25-35 year olds is already high for high school graduates (around 75%).

College debt is the second largest debt in America (right after mortgages). Even if you land that job you want, you still have to pay back thousands of dollars in debt!

The Average Cost of College Textbooks

Fun Fact: Your textbook costs are not covered by your tuition.

A student spends an average of $1,200 on textbooks per year. This number is much larger for certain STEM fields.

First of all, many textbooks are not even required to pass the course. They are “required” on the syllabus, but many students say otherwise.

Second, the average cost to make a college textbook is under $10. Why are we charging students so much to learn?

Third, as the years go by, moving our textbooks to digital formats is scaring universities. However, it’s way more cost efficient and convenient for students.

Fourth, do your best to get free textbooks online if you do decide to go to college. I personally saved over $3000!

How Many People Use Their College Degree for Work?

The statistics on this aren’t clear, but the average ball park is between 45-75%.

Meaning, 45-75% of college graduates didn’t even need their degree (with their specific major) for the jobs that they worked at!

Not only do college students pay nearly $150,000 to get their degree, but there is also no guarantee that they’ll even get a job (let alone a job in their major).

Average Net Worth of College Graduates

According to an estimated study, the average net worth of college graduates is -$39,915.

The negative in front of the dollar sign is no mistake. The average millennials net worth is actually in the negatives until the age of 31.

This number accounts for the accumulated debt after attending college along with average salaries, saving percentages, and necessary expenses for adulthood.

The numbers are truly sad to see, which makes you question if you should go the route of college vs no college in 2021.

When Should You Go to College?

You should go to college if your passion requires a degree in order to work in that profession.

For example, if you want to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, nurse, coder, etc., then you absolutely must go to college.

As long as that profession is truly your passion and you believe that you will see the results pay off in your future, then definitely go to college.

Another reason you should go to college is if you are an athlete of high caliber that is pushing for success in a professional sport.

Make sure you’re also doing it for the right reasons. Now is not the time to be living someone else’s life (such as your parents’).

When Shouldn’t You Go to College?

You shouldn’t go to college if your passion does NOT require a degree or you don’t know your passion yet.

There is a grey area in this part of the conversation that needs to be addressed…

If you don’t know what you want to do in life, that doesn’t mean you can slack off and stay out of college.

This is exactly when you need to be working harder than the average college student to try new things, become an apprentice, and take risks to find your success!

Some of the most successful people in the world dropped out of college or didn’t go at all. Conversely, some of the least successful people didn’t go to college either.

That’s why success truly lies in your hands if you choose not to go to college!

Changes in Employment Over the Recent Years

Work Moving to Online College vs No College

If you’re on the younger side, you’d know that the internet and social media has taken over many sectors of the world, including work.

There are 14 year olds living happier and making more money than the average adult because they’ve found work online.

Many adults have even taken advantage of freelance work and digital businesses that require no degree at all.

Large companies such as McDonald’s, Google, Apple, and Amazon have implemented their own version of “school” where you no longer need a college degree.

They’ve realized that they’re better off teaching you everything you need to know instead of all the extra stuff you learn in college for no reason.

According to a survey, over 50% of companies are performing online training and over 70% of businesses are moving/have moved to a digital environment.

Pros and Cons of College vs No College

To summarize everything into an easy-to-read format, here is a quick pros and cons list of going to college vs not going to college:

Pros of Going to College

  • 87% employment rate
  • Higher paying salary on average
  • Networking opportunities
  • Make more friends 
  • Larger pool of job options
  • Potential careers for athletes

Cons of Going to College

  • High debt out of college
  • No job guarantee
  • Start life at an older age
  • Degrees are becoming less valuable
  • Limited real world experience
  • Lower net worth than high school graduates
  • 20% of students don’t even graduate

Pros of No College

  • Debt free
  • Start life 4 years earlier
  • Increasing employment for high school graduates
  • Gain real world experience
  • Live at home
  • Independence and self teaching

Cons of No College

  • 74% employment rate
  • Limited networking
  • Less admirable for higher positions
  • Lower paying salary on average
  • Cannot work in STEM fields

Does College Make You Successful?

Well… that depends. What do you define as success?

Success (by definition) is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Do you think college will aid you in accomplishing your purpose in life? If you answer yes, then college will likely make you successful (or at least account for part of it).

If you answered no, then there is no shame in saying that college won’t do anything for you. The truth is, it probably isn’t going to do anything for the majority of people.

Success is not solely based on money. Success is more or less based on your own happiness and well-being.

That question is really for you to answer. You know yourself best and should take all the information in this post to come up with your own opinion.

Conclusion – Is College Worth It?

College is subjective in the sense that it’s worth is based on the person who is deciding whether or not they should go.

This whole college vs no college debate is only solvable as an individual. I can only go so far as to provide you with statistics, facts, and a few opinionated observations.

The rest is up to you. Here’s what I will say though…

College is worth it if deep down in your heart, you truly believe that becoming a doctor, nurse, lawyer, engineer, software developer, coder, etc. is your passion.

College is not worth it if you want to start your own business or work in hundreds of majors that, quite frankly, aren’t necessary at all.

However, you best believe that you’ll have to bust your ass working harder than everyone else in order to succeed without a degree.

The world is slowly moving towards a workplace with less degrees needed, but more self educated people in many important fields.

I highly recommend you read through the stats one more time to see if all that debt, extra 4 years, and negative net worth is worth it for you!

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions leave them down below. Thanks for reading!

  1. Hello Daniel. Thank you for your article. I am a secondary educator with a 24 year old, intelligent, son that has chosen not to go to college. I had a different agenda upon reading this article. Needless to say, I was looking for a read that would support my belief that you need to go to college to gain financial security. I have to say, however, that your emphasis on “passion” towards a certain path did resonate with me, although I feel conflicted by it as well. While I do believe that passion is necessary, I think it partially so. One’s passion upon entering college may completely change and lead to a totally different passion by the end of someone’s academic experience. That’s what college does; it opens up doors, albeit expensive ones.
    Here, though, is where I land every time I think of my son not going to college:
    -Not having paid health insurance
    -Forced into choosing a job, unrelated to any “passion”, in order to make ends meet, and/or to support unexpected familial obligations
    -No savings plan
    -No home ownership
    -No solid credit history
    -No extra money to enjoy vacations/ hobbies
    -No extra money to pay for unexpected costs/repairs for home or auto.
    -Lowered self-esteem, over time, by not being able to meet all above

    I have not expressed all of the above concerns to my son. My husband and I have allowed him to make his own choices regarding college, despite having a solid 529 plan ready and waiting. But I can’t help thinking he is going to regret it someday.

  2. Hey Dineen, do me a favor and pat yourself on the back for being such a caring and supportive parent!

    You bring up a lot of amazing points, especially the fact that it “can” open a lot of doors (albeit expensive ones). However, something I always preach to teenagers and college students is that you MUST be willing to do something as equally difficult or more than college when looking for a job/business to get into if you decide not to go.

    And I think a lot of the topics on your bullet list can simply be a result of a lack of discipline or a low income situation (which is completely understandable, but can be learned or adapted over time). You’re a great parent for allowing him to make his own decision on college, but I would give him a gentle reminder that he should do something equally or more difficult than college to prove his dedication to working hard on something he cares about.

    Either way, you and your family seem to be taking a smart step in the right direction with your decision making and I hope everything works out for the best! Let me know if there’s anything I can help answer in the future!

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