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A college degree is not a guarantee of the good life

Author of “Gross National Happiness” Arthur C. Brooks wrote a column about how college is not a guarantee of a good life. He is an expert on good lives, having done much research on and written about good lives in multiple best-selling books.

In my book, “Say No! To College Debt”, I started off with the question about whether college is right for someone. After years of teaching, I’ve met many students who didn’t really belong in college. Their hearts weren’t there, and they seemed to be just marking time until they could go do what they wanted to do. That is not only a waste of their time, my time, and someone’s money (hopefully not using debt), but it’s a shame to spend all that effort on something that isn’t right for them.

Brooks said that college is often regarded as an investment in the future. The statistics show that those with a college degree will earn more in their lifetimes. Of course, that data is historical. Things are changing quickly, and many with college degrees are unable to find jobs in their degree field, or anywhere else. Brooks pointed out in 2019, only 66% of college graduates were in jobs that required a college degree.

On the flip side of the earnings is the debt that is more-often-than-not built up. It’s hard to enjoy those extra earning if they are mostly being paid out in school loan payments. That 66% above leaves 34% in jobs that really didn’t require them to spend 4-5 years in college building up debt. And to top that off, many don’t graduate. That runs to the tune of 36 million Americans who started college and didn’t finish.

Brooks writes about happiness and says that college graduates do tend to be happier. He also indicated that if there is college debt, happiness goes down. He said, “The happiness benefits of college is mixed.”

Brooks was writing about his own experience. His son didn’t go to college and got involved in a community of “honest, hard-working people.” The son loved it.

I also dropped out of college. I did so to become a musician. I loved it and did it for a decade. At the end of that decade, I felt that there was more to life and went back to college as a wiser, more disciplined person. I earned an AA, a BA, an MBA, and a Ph.D. through the many years following my musical career. And by doing those degrees in a less-than-traditional manner, I graduated with each of those degrees with zero debt. My happiness was not marred by payments.

Author and podcast host Ken Coleman often says that your sweet spot is the intersection of your greatest strength and your greatest passion. If that requires college, go for it. But don’t do debt. The debt could easily force you away from pursuing that passion. Take your time and do it without debt. Source: A College Degree Is No Guarantee of a Good Life The Atlantic. July 2, 2020 https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/07/will-going-college-make-you-happier/613729/

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