3 Good Reasons to Never Go to College

There's something to gain from a college degree -- and a whole lot to lose.

Justin Loiseau
Justin Loiseau
Apr 27, 2014 at 12:03PM
Investment Planning

Sarah Lawrence College. Source: Wikimedia Commons, user Djrobgordon.

Two-thirds of recent high school grads are currently enrolled in college -- but being in the majority doesn't mean you're right. Here are three excellent reasons to never go to college.

1. It's insanely expensive
A college education can be an opportunity, but it can also be a cash crunch. In the past 15 years, student debt is up more than 500%. Today, a whopping 40 million Americans hold student debt -- and it's easy to understand why.

According to College Board data, the collective inflation-adjusted cost of tuition, fees, room, and board has tripled over the past 40 years. In the past five years alone, private nonprofit universities' costs are up 14% to $40,917, while public four-year institutions' price tags soared 20% to hit $18,391.

Tuition, Fees, and Room and Board in 2013 Dollars


Private Nonprofit


Five-Year Change

Public Four-Year

Five-Year Change














































Source: Collegeboard.org 

2. You don't know what you're missing


Source: Flickr user Joi Ito

A lot of folks go to college because, well, it's what they think they're supposed to do. It's a safe, stable opportunity with a predictable path. While that's commendable, it disregards the possibility: What would happen if you didn't go to college?

While the opportunities of a college education are great, the opportunity costs can be enormous. Four years of the prime of your life isn't just an opportunity to party -- it's an opportunity to excel. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell notes that it takes around 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. If you worked 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, for four years, you'd already have notched 8,000 hours.

This fact wasn't lost on other college dropouts who considered their personal aspirations to be much more meaningful than an institutional education. To name a few: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks, James Cameron, Lady Gaga, and Tiger Woods. All of them are experts at something -- and there's not a single college degree between them.

3. Correlation versus causation
We can't all be Steve Jobs, and statistics don't lie: Full-time workers over age 25 who lack a GED can expect to bring home $480 per week. High school alumni manage to pull in $660, but those with a college degree rake in a solid $1,199.

According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau data, over an American's entire working life, a high school graduate will earn an average of $1.4 million, while a college grad bags $2.4 million. A master's degree will get you an extra $400,000 on top of that, while a Ph.D. tops it off with another $600,000.

But the jury's out on whether it's the degree itself that brings in the big bucks. Certain types of people pursue higher education. Those most inclined to keep studying can often be described as: wealthy, socially supported, and/or inherently talented. These attributes enable individual success, degree or not. If college is nothing more than a stamp of approval, then it comes at an exorbitant price.

Don't count on college
A university education may be right for some -- but it's not for everyone. A college degree is only a piece of paper. It's the time and energy devoted to learning that adds intellectual and monetary value to your life. And whether you get that in an academic institution or elsewhere is something you'll ultimately need to decide for yourself.