Is it Worth It?

by Jeff C. Johnson

College students in a lecture hall

“Tommy” from my previous post, still stinging from writing his first college tuition check, asked me, “Is this worth it?”

He said, “C’mon, what do you think? You know a lot of people and their situations.” You, the reader, might have had the same thoughts.

Well, this is a tough one to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer, but here’s my thinking:

In general, attending a prestigious private university is a valuable experience, but more valuable for some than others. For example, attending a big-name or national university with a strong reputation offers the potential for a great education and perhaps an even better opportunity for making future business and social connections with highly successful people who are part of your college network.

If the student in your life wants to be a Wall Street investment banker, attending an elite university will probably establish contacts with more future colleagues and clients than some financial types meet in an entire working career.

Determine if your student’s college education will really help them realize life and career goals or merely give them a “fun ride” for four or five years while they grow up a little more. If it’s the latter, are you prepared to support them if they discover they can’t earn a decent living?

Consider this: Plumbers can earn more than English teachers. I’m not suggesting that one vocation is better than another, but don’t make the mistake of equating every college education with higher earning potential. Understand that if your student wants to attend an expensive, big-name school and become a high school English teacher, the costs of that education might not end for you on commencement day. You may have to supply financial support for many years after graduation while your student struggles to earn a living wage and pay off college loans.

With this in mind, matching the right education, at the right price, with the hoped-for vocation or career is pretty important to both the student and the parent, grandparent, or other sponsor.

Funding a valuable education is an important financial topic and is included as a chapter in my book, The Eight Points of Financial Confidence.