Is The Cost Worth It?

Diploma

This post may be controversial and based on conversations with friends and coworkers, many will not agree with me.  I was always a good student and placed huge value on education.  That being said, I never liked the idea of owing money to anybody.  Our only debts are three mortgages (our primary residence and two rental properties) and we cannot wait to pay them off.

When you read about millennials graduating from college and starting their working lives, you often hear about the hefty student loans they carry.  I know many will argue that student loans are a “good debt” since you are investing in your own future.  For me, it’s tough to call any debt good because until it is repaid, you are its prisoner.

It seems that oftentimes, people don’t put much consideration into the cost of schools they’re thinking of attending before they apply.  Instead, more importance is placed on perceived prestige, location, quality of sports teams, or where their friends are going.  One of my coworkers, who I would consider a frugal and money-conscience type, even chose her school primarily because it had the “college feel” she was looking for, along with a $32K/year price tag.

On another occasion during in my senior year of high school (1999-2000), I asked a good friend of mine what college he planned on attending the next fall.  He excitedly replied the University of Pennsylvania.  I was absolutely stunned and confused.

DTG:  “Dude, what the hell?”

Friend:  “It’s Ivy League!”

DTG:  “Isn’t it expensive?  Did you get a scholarship?”

Friend:  “Don’t worry, I’ll get loans.  Can you believe I got accepted into an Ivy League?”

Of course I could believe he got into a great school like Penn.  After all, he was the valedictorian of our graduating class.  I was confused for a different reason.  You see, he had a full academic scholarship to any public university in the state of Florida, as did I, and he was turning this down just to attend a school across the country, and subsequently incur a mountain of debt, solely for the prestige of attending an Ivy League university.

A couple years later after our sophomore year of college, I met up with him again.  He seemed to be doing well and was enjoying life at Penn studying history or something similar.  To pay for school and living expenses, he was taking on about $30K a year in student loans.  We lost touch after that so I don’t know how things turned out for him.  Assuming he maintained the same level of borrowing, he would’ve been $120K in the hole by the time he graduated.  Holy shit, that’s a mortgage!

Meanwhile, I was accepted into Illinois Institute of Technology and Penn State, but since they did not offer me a full ride, I chose to attend a local state university in Florida and studied electrical engineering at no cost.  To save more money, I lived at home the first couple years.  Even though it ended up taking me a little longer to graduate (5.5 years), I was on a full scholarship the entire time and graduated without any student loans.  Besides, the life of a college student was pretty fun, so I didn’t mind the extra year!

Although my bank account was severely depleted by the time I graduated, it quickly grew as I started working full time.  Not having any debt really boosted my savings rate.  Even on my single income, Mrs. DTG and I (we were newlyweds at the time) were living comfortably and saving a substantial amount while she finished her last two years of school.

If you or one of your children will be entering college soon (or if you’re currently a student), do whatever you can to limit student loan debt.  For me, this included scholarships (academic and later ROTC) and part time employment (various jobs on campus, local restaurants, tutoring, and a two-semester cooperative education position).  Similarly, Mrs. DTG received a 4-year ROTC scholarship straight out of high school to pay her way through undergraduate study, and she also graduated with zero student loans.  I have since gotten two Master’s degrees and the Mrs. is a year away from graduating with a Doctorate, all of which the military has sponsored/paid for.  In total, we’ll have completed five degrees easily worth a total of $250K without paying tuition, while others are taking out mortgages for just their undergraduate degrees.  It’s no wonder that even those with higher education and decent jobs are still struggling.

I’ll admit, Mrs. DTG and I grew up in privileged households when you consider our parents supported our decisions, stressed the importance of education, and gave us a good foundation to be successful.  Even with this, we both had a very middle class upbringing.  We didn’t have millionaire parents who paid for our education.  We applied ourselves in school, earned scholarships, and made decisions (and some sacrifices) that resulted in free education.  We just want others to understand that going to college doesn’t have to mean leaving with a heavy burden of student loans.  Not everyone is fit for the military, and we understand that, but anyone can find ways to minimize costs.

Coming out of school without any debt really accelerated our savings and helped put us in the position we’re in today to retire decades before our peers.  It may be tempting to attend the “best” school you’re accepted to; however, what really matters is how you apply yourself once you’re there.  If you’re driven, you will find opportunities in any situation.  Is the premium you’ll pay for attending a prestigious and/or out-of-state school worth jeopardizing your financial future?

9 thoughts on “Is The Cost Worth It?

  1. Mrs SSC says:

    I am not sure the cost is worth it. If I could do it again, I would’ve gone to a state school instead of my college for $25k/yr. Luckily, I had realized at the time that it was extremely pricey, and to cut down on my loans I took non-major required courses during the summers at my state school, and managed to graduate in 3 years. We are currently saving for our kids college, but we don’t plan to pressure them to go to college. Honestly, when I see people going to state school or community college for the first year or so to then later transfer credits to another university – I think that they are quite wise!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ditching the Grind says:

      I don’t want to pressure our kids into going to college either. If they do, the majority will be paid through Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits both Mrs. DTG and I have transferred to them. As they get older, we’ll give them some suggestions on what they might want to do based on their interests. In the meantime, I’m introducing our boys (5 and 7) to basic coding techniques through apps and other tools designed for kids. They seem to like it and who knows, maybe they’ll create something amazing one of these days!

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  2. our next life says:

    When you said the post was controversial, I thought you were going to say that not everyone should go to college because it’s so expensive. While certainly not everyone needs a degree, more and more jobs require it, and we should be focused on the real problem: how expensive college is, how rapidly costs are escalating, and how government is basically walking away from funding education. BUT, that’s not your point. 🙂 We completely agree with you on price. I got into a few Ivy schools, but went to a public school that gave me a full ride (albeit a top-notch public school — my high school senior self was still on too much of an ego trip!). And the Mr. went to a state school that gave him a 50% ride as well (and he was lucky that his parents could pay for the rest — I didn’t get a dime). And I’ve never for a second regretted not going to an Ivy. I learned to be more self-sufficient at a state school, and after that very first job, no one cares where you went to school. It’s crazy to think that people will graduate with $200K in debt just to get one job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ditching the Grind says:

      I originally wrote this a couple months ago and the original versions were more harsh than the final product, but I never changed the intro. I’m all about going to state schools and community colleges. When I hear coworkers talking about student loans, I think it’s insane. For many people, learning a technical skill from a community college is probably the way to go. As you pointed out though, more and more jobs are requiring a bachelor’s just to get your foot in the door when it’s probably not necessary.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. smallivy says:

    Really, if you just look at the return on the money you spend, college is not worth the cost. If you were to invest that $100,000 spent on even a public college in growth mutual funds for 50 years, you’d come out with more than $50 M. That is way more than you would get in additional income from going to college. It is really more about what you can afford and what you want to do as a career in your life. Certainly you can afford to spend some money on things you want if you have the money, but if you need to take out loans to get something you want, certainly you should minimize what you spend. It is ridiculous when people take out loans to go to Ivy league schools. If you have $500,000 to drop on college, go for it. If you need to get a loan from the bank, public is the way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ditching the Grind says:

      It really is a tradeoff. I’m all about getting a practical education at a good price. For that, I think it’s worth it. Paying $50K/yr to have fun and find yourself is probably not the best way to set yourself up for success.

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  4. Lisa says:

    I just found your post today. Our daughter just graduated from a state school debt free because we offered to pay for a state school, or she could pay the difference for a private or out-of-state school. She chose the state school. What I most want to stress to parents is that it didn’t take us much effort to save the money to pay her way (dorm room included) versus the struggle she would have to pay it post-college.

    Don’t forget the stress of having to pay for it. I had my schooling paid for while my husband struggled to get loans, work study and grants to pay for school. He did well with work and grants, so his loans were minimal, but he was always stressed trying to find a way to pay for it. This convinced him to pay for our own children’s schooling. Our son has the same deal, but he is more a tech ed kid and has decided to work and maybe approach companies who offer a job with paid training.

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    • Ditching the Grind says:

      Great points and thanks for stopping by. We’ve both transferred our GI Bills to the kids which should cover the majority of their undergrad educations. If there are additional costs, I’m sure we’ll cover them. At the same time, we want to help them make a wise decision when it comes down to choosing a school. It sounds like you’ve given your kids great guidance and support for each of their situations.

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      • Lisa says:

        Responsibility is important also. Our son toured a couple 4 year schools and we told him that if he flunked out of any classes (a concern we never had with our daughter) he would have to pay us back the tuition for those classes. That made him think a little 🙂

        Like

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