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Why Post-Secondary Education is a Waste of Money

Why Post-Secondary Education is a Waste of Money

Post-secondary education, of almost every kind (and I’ll get into the exceptions), are a giant rip-off that isn’t worth even a minute of your time. Oftentimes by going to get a post-secondary certification you are actually worse off than if you had not gone at all. Making education a waste of money. Here’s why:

It Costs a Lot of Money

The cost of going to university in Canada has been growing year over year at an increasing rate. According to StatsCan the price of a single term of tuition has risen from $2,320 in 1994 to $4,966 in 2007, and again to $6,580 in 2021.

Cost of Tuition Per Semester Across Canada, 1994 to 2019
Statistics Canada. Table 37-10-0003-01 Canadian undergraduate tuition fees by field of study

That is a 283% increase in price in just over 20 years. Meanwhile, the average wage for individuals at a university level of ages 16 to 24 has only increased by 11%, from $15,100 in 1994 to $16,800 in 2019.

Average Wage of a 16 to 24 year old in canada from 1994 to 2019
Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0239-01 Income of individuals by age group, sex and income source, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas

Everyone Gets a Loan

At the same time, the amount of student loans across the country has increased, while the number of people getting these loans has remained constant.

In the year 2000, the average amount of debt owed by an individual was $20,500. 15 years later, in 2015, the average amount owed was $28,000! This larger amount of debt carried by individuals after graduation, by its very nature, causes longer and harder paths to a debt-free lifestyle.

Amount of Student Loan Debt Across Canada 200 to 2015
Statistics Canada. Table 37-10-0036-01 Student debt from all sources, by province of study and level of study

It Wastes a Lot of Time

One aspect of the education debate that is often forgotten about is the amount of time it takes to get your degree. Assuming we are talking about an undergraduate degree or trade from a school in North America it will take a minimum of 4 years to finish your schooling.

That is 4 years where you can not work full time, and rather than saving money, you are simply spending money. Over the course of a lifetime, this can add up to tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential income.

How Much Income You Really Lose Going to School

Let’s assume that instead of spending 4 years in university, you worked at minimum wage for those 4 years. During that time, similar to many in university you lived at home and owned a car. Assuming approximately $500 per month in vehicle costs, this would amount to an annual income of approximately $25,200. Even if you only invest 50% of this income (to give yourself fun money, pay taxes, etc.), that is $12,600 a year invested.

Assuming 7% interest this would lead to $56,133.27 after 4 years. So while everyone is going to school, spending $20,000+ you’re setting yourself a great foundation for future value. Even assuming you don’t contribute another penny after these 4 years, you would end up with $455,603.35 at the age of 52. That is money that will be in your pocket at the age of 52 that others won’t have access to, and can one of the largest stepping stones in life you could ever ask for.

Growth of money if you dont go to college

Everyone Has One, So No one has One

54% of Canadians have post-secondary education. That is over half of the Canadian population holding some form of a college diploma, bachelor’s degree, or similar education. With so many people having education of some form it is becoming less and less important.

A study conducted by Georgetown University found that only 35% of jobs will require a post-secondary degree. That means that while 54% of the population holds a post-secondary degree, just over half that many actually need it for their career. As time goes on and mentalities change regarding education, it is becoming less and less necessary to have a degree to get a lifetime job.

Experience is Worth More

As anyone who has applied for a job in the last ten years can tell you, experience is everything. Even Forbes has published articles showing that experience in today’s society is more valuable to employers than education. So rather than spending tens of thousands of dollars, and 4 years of your life going to school you would be better served by spending that time in the workforce.

More Education Doesn’t Mean More Value

A common misconception that has been popping up, especially with more recent graduates is that more education means more opportunity. But that simply isn’t the case in today’s day and age.

A study conducted by Georgetown University found that on average those with bachelor’s degrees make approximately $61,000 per year, while those with graduate degrees make approximately $78,00. Of course, this is across all studies and includes professions like doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc. All of which will bring this average higher.

If you take out these professions from the calculations the results are indisputable. Those with an advanced graduate degree make the same if not less money than those with a graduate degree. All while paying for an additional 2 to 4 years of schooling.

Long story short, advanced degrees just aren’t worth it.

Exceptions

As I briefly hinted at in the paragraph above there are a number of exceptions to when education is worth getting. Because there are quite a few, I have broken them down into subcategories so I can explain them further in detail.

Trades

Trades are a unique take on education. They are closer to a hands-on knowledge test than a traditional schooling program. Because of the nature of trades, it is almost always worth it to go into a trade program. not only do you get valuable knowledge with real-world applications, but it is a blended program.

This means that while you go to school for approximately a month at a time across a number of years you spend most of your time working. Taking this approach to education means that you make money to go to school. Historically, you will also graduate with a job. Making it the best and smartest way to get an education.

Professions

Professions, according to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service are industries where human capital is the primary service. This includes accountants, business consultants, finance, IT, lawyers, etc. Essentially any service where the human knowledge of the subject is the primary selling point.

Because of the knowledge required this form of education can be valuable. Typically in these industries, an education is required, regardless of experience. Largely due to the in-depth knowledge of the subject required to complete the role. As an example, who would want to hire an account that doesn’t know the tax code, or how to file taxes? Who would want to hire an IT individual who doesn’t know how a computer works?

Because of this the education path to this career is usually greeted by a job at the end and is largely worth the time spent.

Medical

The final category is medical. Whether this is doctors, dentists, nurses, radiologists, etc. To work in the medical field an enormous amount of knowledge, and therefore education is needed. Typically this means that the ridiculous amount of money spent on education in these sectors is worth it.

In addition to the requirement for the vast quantity of knowledge you have to have, the salary is also high enough to account for the large amount of education needed, unlike almost every other industry. It is also one of the most cited industries that those in favour of education cite, and for a good reason.

Overall, Education is a Waste of Money and Time

Overall, with a few exceptions noted above, education is a waste of money and time. You will spend tens of thousands of dollars, take on almost all of it as debt, and end up with a career that pays the same, if not marginally more than a career without education.

All of this while also sacrificing four-plus years of your life in the workforce, where you could have been saving money for the future, and getting a step up on those that choose education. So save yourself the trouble, the time, and the money, and avoid school. For most people, it simply isn’t worth it.

Disagree? Please let me know why in the comments! I love to learn and I look forward to hearing people’s reasoning for their belief in education.

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