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
This is such a great point, Shannon. Mr. FW and I both went to the inexpensive (but awesome) University of Kansas and were able to graduate with no debt thanks to scholarships and cheap tuition. Interestingly, now that we live in the Northeast, many of our colleagues have Ivy League degrees that they’re still struggling to pay for. It’s astounding how much college costs now. I agree with you that it shouldn’t be an automatic assumption that every high school senior should go straight to “the best” school they’re accepted into.
And you are just proving my point Mrs. FW, look at how well you two are doing compared to your Northeastern neighbors. Good for you!
Natalie @ Financegirl
I completely agree that cost of tuition / college should be a huge factor in making the decision of where to go. I don’t think it should be a factor in deciding whether to go, however. I think it’s really hard to get ahead if you don’t have a degree at all. But you can go to a community college for two years at little cost, and then transfer to 4 year program near where you live, only paying for two years at a nearby school (tuition and books). I think the cost of education is outrageous. But this just means you have to find a way to get creative and plan plan plan. Sending someone to college is not a last minute sort of thing.
I’ll agree for many jobs, but others only need minimal trade school to get ahead. If you DON’T go it should be because, like this woman, you’ve found a quicker path.