I went to college and earned six degrees. Would I do it again? Yes and no. After all, the return on my investment certainly hasn’t amounted to the $175,000 in student loan debt that I carry. Would I have gotten any of the degrees? Yes, but I would have taken the time to look at the numbers before doing so. More often than not, we enroll in college because it’s a societal symbol of success and productivity. But when we remove the emotional attachment, we find that many of the degrees earned don’t yield a return on the financial (or time) investment. So is it worth getting a degree after 50?
College is a lot more expensive than it used to be. According to Britannica ProCon.org, 45% of people with student loan debt say college was not worth it. A US Congress Joint Economic Committee study shows that approximately 60% of college graduates have student loan debt balances equal to 60% of their annual income. In 2019, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates (4.0%) exceeded the average for all workers, including those without a degree (3.6%). And finally, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that 44% of recent college graduates were underemployed in 2012.
Take the time to evaluate why you have the urge to go to college. Is it connected to a family tradition? Did someone tell you that you couldn’t, so you want to so that you can prove to yourself and maybe even them that you can? Will earning the degree or taking the class help you to better perform your work?
Remove all emotion and determine how that degree results in a material return on your investment. Time is invaluable. We cannot get it back or buy more of it, so we must make the best decisions when we plan to use it. Will the investment of your time be put to good use? Put a dollar amount on time based on the last salary/hourly rate that you earned. When you calculate the time it will take to complete your courses, is it worth spending that amount of money to do?
Explore other means for getting the knowledge you seek. I am a proud lifelong student of YouTube University. I promise that I’ve learned more there than in any of the classrooms that I’ve been in. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on college textbooks, I read books that are cheaper and more fulfilling. After all, I get my books on Amazon for $5-15.
If you determine that the financial and time investment will yield a return and there’s no less expensive alternative, then by all means go back to college! If the numbers just don’t add up, don’t be discouraged. There are many ways to get the knowledge that you seek. Sites like Udemy, Teachable, Thinkific, Coursera, and YouTube have very inexpensive courses that can help you become a stellar photographer, film/media expert, writer, or interior designer. Some colleges and Universities even offer free courses on sites like Coursera. I challenge you to explore all of your available options before committing to spending thousands of dollars on the traditional, but not-so-traditional, way of gaining knowledge.
Are you starting to think about a career transition? Check out these 5 flexible jobs for women over 50!