- Is an elite college education worth it?
- Annual tuition at a top college hovers around $US60,000, and the average student who takes out loans has $US30,000 in debt.
- Data indicates that not every expensive college produces high-earning graduates.
- Still, a high salary isn’t the only benefit of a college education.
In fact, many wealthy people believe that formal education isn’t a critical component of the success formula.
“Many world-class performers have little formal education, and have amassed their wealth through the acquisition and subsequent sale of specific knowledge,”Steve Siebold, a self-made millionaire who has spent his career studying over 1,200 of the world’s wealthiest people, writes in “How Rich People Think.”
“Meanwhile, the masses are convinced that master’s degrees and doctorates are the way to wealth,” he continues. “The wealthy aren’t interested in the means, only the end.”
With college tuition skyrocketing – many of today’s top colleges ask for nearly $US60,000 a year – and student debt at a record high of about $US30,000 per borrower, the question of college value is becoming more and more relevant.
Data from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard program indicates that students who graduate from the priciest schools (including only four-year colleges and universities with at least 500 undergrads) generally go on to earn the highest salaries 10 years after enrolling in college. But median salary and average cost of attendance don’t match up perfectly.
For example, the University of Chicago has the highest cost of attendance: $US70,100. But its graduates go on to earn $US68,100 a decade after setting foot on campus, meaning they rank 59th on the list of highest salaries. And students at Occidental College pay $US67,046 a year, but only earn $US50,600 a decade later, meaning the school is one of the most expensive – and graduates’ salaries are some of the lowest.
College may yield benefits other than high salaries
Still, salary potential is far from the only factor to consider when college hunting: In addition to a degree, college can offer a vibrant social scene, competitive athletics, and a strong, diverse alumni network, all of which can affect your career path and opportunities.
For many, the benefits of attending college will outweigh the costs, even with the debt load.
The important thing to keep in mind is that even after completing your formal education – if that’s the path you choose – you’re never done learning.
The wealthiest, most successful people appreciate the power of learning and challenging their minds long after college is over. It’s an idea that journalist Napoleon Hill preached nearly a century ago after studying hundreds of millionaires: “Successful men, in all callings, never stop acquiring specialised knowledge related to their major purpose, business, or profession,” he writes in his best-seller “Think and Grow Rich.”
The idea still holds true today. As Siebold explains, “Walk into a wealthy person’s home and one of the first things you’ll see is an extensive library of books they have used to educate themselves on how to become more successful.”
Kathleen Elkins and Mike Nudelman contributed to an earlier version of this post.