How much does your degree cost?

By Mpho Brown


Recently I have come across a lot of people who, like me, get feelings of anxiety when they think about their futures or where they want to end up in life.

This is because of the result of a really bad habit of our society to envision a future of failure a lot easier than we do one of success (we actually do not have an easily accessible word that is the exact opposite of Anxiety), and also the fear that all that time and money spent on getting our degrees may have been a waste of time/money because we feel underemployed or are not sure where we’ll be in a few years.

The Anxiety issue is easy, just stop doing it. Thinking about and amplifying all sorts of ways in which your plans are going to fail does you no good, and at worst, invites failure, you approach your goals with less and less conviction the more you think that way, deliver sub-par work and effort, making failure more likely.

The fear that 4 years of college or university may have been a waste of money/time however, I believe is a real one. I think that it is ok, even necessary for us to think critically about the investment we make when we enroll in a degree program, whether undergrad or grad school.

Not only is it costly in terms of the actual money that you spend (anywhere between $150,000 to $250,000), but also in terms of the income you are foregoing by not working and sitting in a classroom for four years (if you would make, conservatively, $20,000 a year, that is another $80,000 in forgone income on top of the tuition cost).

A third opportunity cost to look at is the work experience you forego by being in the classroom. A lot of your 30 under 30 lists of young and exceedingly successful multi-millionaire entrepreneurs or athletes are made up not of genius whizzes who were smarter than everybody else; they are made up mostly of people who knew, at a much younger age, what they wanted to do, and they put aside formal high school/college education, and started racking up the experience that most of us only begin to get at age 22/24 when we finish with college or grad school, at which point that person who dropped out at 16 and started learning how to program has about 8 years experience.

Now, I’m not saying that getting a formal education is a bad thing, we all know it exponentially increases one’s chances of leading a comfortable life; however, what I’m saying is that before you do make the decision to go the formal education route, ask yourself this: “Do I NEED to have a degree in this field in order to be successful in it?” If the answer to that question is no, you may want to consider otherwise.


This post was originally published on Medium and shared with permission by Mpho Brown.