Forbes recently released their list of the youngest billionaires in the world and one of the more notable names is 30 year old Elizabeth Holmes. She started a $9 billion dollar blood testing company…..and she’s 30.
What’s even more remarkable about this story?
Elizabeth dropped out of college at 19, joining the ranks of other well-known billionaire dropouts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
Her success and the success of other college dropouts is a great reminder that not all billionaires need a college degree.
According to North Carolina State University, the cost of college in the USA has risen fifty percent since 2000. That’s why I’ve urged clients and friends to do the math on the value of higher education either for themselves or their kids.
A little over 20 years ago it wasn’t a matter of IF you’d go to college, it was a matter of WHERE you’d go. Families encouraged their college aged kids to shoot for the stars and attend the most prestigious school attainable for their academic level.
Harvard? Heck yeah! We’ll figure out how to pay for it later.
Fast forward 20 years, though, and those same schools cost the equivalent of a small home and now it’s time for a new conversation.
I’m thankful for my education, and enjoyed my four years at the small liberal arts school, Wake Forest University. When I attended the school, though, tuition was around $12,000 a year. Today? $45,658.
I enjoyed my time there, but I don’t think my education was worth $45,658 a year, even in today’s dollars.
I have an 8-year-old son, and I have no desire for him to follow in my footsteps, I would personally love to see him take an “alternative” route like Ms. Holmes. Make me $8 Billion dollars! I’ll come live with him in the guest suite.
What Did I Really Learn In College?
I studied business while in school and I’ve enjoyed a successful 14-year career in finance; but I’ve used precious little of what I learned in school in the “real world.”
In fact, when I remember what I learned in college, I think about discussions in philosophy class over whether or not we are “brains in a vat”, or I remember learning in psychology that a mother’s instinct is the strongest instinct in nature.
Deep thoughts? Yes. Useful when planning a debt repayment strategy? My mother’s instinct says “probably not.”
I recall reading books I would never pick myself like Their Eyes Were Watching God and discussing the leadership traits employed in 12 Angry Men; also, and I’m sure you’ll find this shocking, I’ve never had to calculate the net present value of an investment by hand while on the job.
My college education might serve me well for interesting dinner party conversation; however, I am not sure what else it supports.
The cost of an education has risen to the point where I think families need to spend quality time truly exploring the return on investment (ROI). If you have an entrepreneurial soul like Elizabeth Holmes, then maybe you need to use that college fund to be her first angel investor rather than support the next athletic field built at Stanford. If you have a child who is looking for a creative outlet, then maybe culinary school is a better bet than a four-year liberal arts college.
Before you blindly follow the masses this fall in the college application process, take a step back and assess the cost of your investment.
Is there is a better solution for the entire family that is not only good on your pockets but also a good fit for the student?
Does your kid really need to contemplate if he or she is a brain in a vat or should they get started pursuing other dreams?
What is the most irrelevant lesson you learned while in college? Do you think it’s still worth the investment?
Photo: Steve Jurvetson