And Thus Began My Education

A lot of parents are going to be mad at me for saying this but someone needs to say it. So here goes: not every kid should go to a four year college. My rule of thumb would be if you have to borrow money to attend a university DON’T DO IT! I know a lot of millenials who are currently in debt $200,000 for their college degrees, who are now bartenders or telemarketers and living at home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you don’t need an education to be successful, all I’m saying is there are plenty of other places to get a cheaper and better education than in the ivy-covered halls of a name brand university.

We have placed far too much emphasis on college degrees and not near enough on education and hard work. Many young men and women who have no idea what they want to be when they grow up would be better off attending a trade school, junior college or joining the military and letting the government help pay for their education. I know many prosperous entrepreneurs who never set foot in a college class.

I’d like to tell you about four young brothers I’m close to. My young friend Eric worked in a pump shop during high school and went to work for Exxon straight out of high school. He worked offshore as a mechanic on the west coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. The company loves him and he loves the company. He’s got a job for life making more money per year than I ever did.

One of Eric’s younger twin brothers was a little lost after high school and I remember a discussion we had in which I urged him to join the military. This made his wonderful mother mad at me but now that he’s a Marine in charge of 30 other Marines and doing extremely well, you’ve never seen a prouder mother. College was the right path for the other twin who graduated with a petroleum engineering degree from the University of Wyoming and he too is doing extremely well. A fourth brother is following in his father’s giant footsteps.

I never had such options after high school. My parents said my brother went to college and I would too. Period. Of course they never gave me a dime to do so. I think the only reason my brother went to West Point, and later MIT, was because he didn’t have any money saved after high school like I did. It would have been a huge waste of his genius had he not gone to college.

I had to augment my savings with work in the oilfields every summer to get me through college and I had to do it in three years because that’s all the money I had. When I graduated I was flat broke and desperate so I got a job as a cowboy making $300 less per month than I was making in the oilfields. I’ve made my living mainly as a writer and never took a class in journalism or creative writing in my life. I began my formal education AFTER I graduated from university.

The best thing I got out of college was my wonderful wife who I probably would not have met otherwise, so you could say my college years years were worth every penny. But if colleges and universities are just going to be useful as dating sites then we need to rethink the entire concept.

Sometimes I get the feeling that colleges are more proud of their new football stadiums and basketball players than they are their most recent graduates. And far too many college professors are putting more emphasis on indoctrination than they are on education.

College expenses have always out-paced inflation. I got a good taste of this when I went to college. The college I chose was undergoing a change from a “college” to a “university” and I remember asking a previous graduate what was the difference between a college and a university?

“About $500 per year,” he replied.

The major I chose was also undergoing a name change from “animal husbandry” to “animal science.” Again I asked my friend. “What’s the difference?”

“Ah, he replied, “now you’re talking about a huge difference. That’s about a thousand per year.”