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Author Topic: Higher Education Pros/Cons  (Read 2449 times)

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Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Higher Education Pros/Cons
« on: October 18, 2013, 07:21:22 AM »
Edit:  Please see the post at the bottom of this page.  This is a very inaccurate model, but only intended to start a discussion on the merit of college for a specific segment of students.



The return on investment in a 4-year degree has often been associated with earning, "nearly an estimated one million dollars more [than high school graduates]." over a lifetime.  Source This figure includes super-income individuals, such as guys graduating from Standford or NYU Stern Business School who earn multi-million dollars a year.

If you view college like an investment, it's actually not a very good one.  Two different scenarios below:

Person 1
Guy with no college, starting salary of $16,000 after taxes, and lifetime income peak of $30,000 at the peak of his career.  Every month he saves 5% of his income, and puts it into his retirement fund.

Let's assume this person in any one of the following jobs:  real estate broker, air traffic controller, dental hygienist, online web developer, medical secretary, paralegal assistant, secretary, insurance sales rep, hair stylist, optician, commercial pilot (requires limited flight school), teacher's aide, radiation therapist, respiratory therapist, nurses aide, electrician, police officer, etc. 

Person 2
Guy goes to college.  He and his family spend $34,000 on tuition and fees after graduating (not including room and board, since living expenses are necessary whether in school or not).  However, his parents are able to help out, and when when he graduates, he only has $17,500 in student loans at a 5% interest rate.

Let's assume Person 2 starts out with salary of $24,000 after taxes, and a lifetime peak salary of $56,000 after taxes.  He also saves 5% of his monthly income and puts it into a portfolio (the same retirement fund as Person 1). 

Accounting for the fact that it will take about 10-12 years to repay the debt first, Person 1 will have over $1,000,000 by age 65 at such a savings rate, while Person 2 (the college graduate), will have about $400,000.  If you guys want the math, I can provide it, but it is essentially compounding interest.

This is the type of stuff they don't teach in high school, and that they should, and I'm sure if more people were aware, they would not go to college.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2013, 07:38:40 PM by ValthazarElite »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2013, 07:48:58 AM »
Your maths is definitely wrong. Earning thirty thousand a year for fifty years only gives one and a half million, there's no way on earth they can have a million in savings. Could you show the numbers you used.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2013, 08:02:22 AM »
Not to mention you've utterly ignored inflation at, what, three per cent

Offline Torch

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2013, 08:12:23 AM »
Without seeing your calculations, I can see you have assumed that Person B does not make any contributions to a retirement fund until after their student loan debt is retired.

If Person B made their retirement contributions starting after graduation at age 22 and paid off their loans in the time frame you suggested, the numbers you dictated would be vastly different.

Also, while these are standard investment calculations, you and I (and everyone else) reading this thread knows that real life behavior will not reflect those returns. I can't fathom an 18 year old with an after tax income of $16,000 (barely above poverty level) who has the wherewithal, insight and fiscal responsibility to invest $80 per month into a retirement fund. The real-life incidence of that occurring is probably zero.

There are adults with families (many of them on this board) who cannot invest $80 per month into a retirement fund.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 10:48:18 AM by Torch »

Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2013, 09:00:32 AM »
Sorry, I left out a very important aspect.  It is given that Person 1 has a family contribution of $16,500 for his schooling (which is what allows him to only have $17000 in loans).  As a result, I am being fair, and assuming that Person 1 also has an equivalent sum as principal for his portfolio at age 18.  If I don't include that, this analysis would be skewed from the start in favor of Person 2.  Is this an unrealistic family contribution in this economy?  Perhaps it is, and feel free to set a realistic bar if you wish. But if you criticize this analysis because I am not assuming that Person 1 has $0 to start, then you should also assume Person 2 has $34,000 in loans.  My apologies for this confusion.

I did factor in inflation.  I assume a steady growth rate of 7% (obviously not ideal), but given that any fluctuations in the market would impact both individuals equally, it is a moot point in this comparison between scenarios, and would correspondingly affect the values of both their portfolios.  Also, 5% of his after-tax income is on target with the nation's current average savings rate.

I did assume that Person 2 does not make contributions to the retirement fund until after their student loans were paid.  While I am aware of the advantages of contributing to an employer-matched retirement plan during repayment, I am not a financial aid expert, so I do not know the pros/cons of saving for retirement during repayment, versus the accruing interest on the student loans as a result of lower payments.  In addition, if you are criticizing Person 1 for lacking fiscal responsibility, what makes you think that Person 2 would have the fiscal responsibility to contribute to retirement on top of paying loans? 

There are so many factors involved that benefit both sides.  For example, if someone in a trade starts working full-time at age 20, they will be able to contribute to an employer-matched plan sooner than the college graduate.  We can make this calculation as complex as we'd like, but there are several legitimate factors involved that benefit both Person 1 and Person 2.

As far as having a family and children, I think it is almost assumed nowadays that both parents will be working.  The days of stay-at-home parents are pretty much over due to cultural factors and economic factors, so a two-income household will certainly be needed.

edit:  Person 1 is Person A and Person 2 is Person B.... sorry gets confusing, I tried to edit my post with corrections.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 09:09:02 AM by ValthazarElite »

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2013, 09:45:27 AM »
The problem is that you are calculating success in this game by how much is set into a retirement account.  This favors the highschool graduate simply because this person is able to, on paper, save over a longer period of time.  Investment wise the long run makes more money at the end.  The student is certainly starting out at disadvantage because the student is not making retirement investments during loan repayments in this model and is also not making those payments during school.  This model does fail to recognize that most companies hiring entry level college graduates automatically put money into a 401k as a benefits package and do tend to match the contribution (such as mine does).

 Also the model does not take into account a realistic ability of someone on 16,000 dollars a year to make a 5% contribution of their money to investment.  While 5% doesn’t sound like much, coming out to about 30 dollars a biweekly paycheck, when dollars matter that is quite a bit of money to lose per paycheck.  A person with a college degree making a larger paycheck and making regular loan payments will also have more purchasing power along with a higher credit score.  This should translate into a mortgage, adding a house into their assets at the end.  This would then lend toward reverse mortgages and such for retirement. 

There is also a failure to factor in job stability.  While the recession has left a bad taste in people’s mouths about the stability of a college degree, by and large highschool diploma holders have higher job turn over.  Also the highschool diploma holder tends to work in more physically demanding jobs that will have higher injuries and require more sick time.  A college degree holder will likely have some sort of sick leave and vacation time to use, the highschool diploma holder will not.  Unemployment, missed work time and so on will more adversely affect the highschool diploma holder than the one with a college degree.

This equation fails to account for quite a few variables that have lasting and profound effects on the end result.

Offline Torch

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2013, 09:47:02 AM »
VE, the only thing you have illustrated with these examples is the beauty of compounding interest. That's it.

Interest compounded over 47 years (from age 18 to 65) will most certainly yield a greater return on investment than interest compounded over 32 years (from age 33 to age 65). Whether one is a college graduate, a high school graduate or a beauty school dropout is irrelevant. It's basic math. *shrug*

These examples in no way shape or form address the intrinsic value of a college education.

Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2013, 10:12:59 AM »
Look, take my advice for what it is worth.  This is not suggesting that college is worthless - far from it actually!  But I'm simply saying, that if I'm chatting with someone who is struggling in this economy, and he or she has a kid who is an average student, I would suggest to them to pursue a non-college training process, rather than jump into college as a ticket for the American Dream.

There is also a failure to factor in job stability.  While the recession has left a bad taste in people’s mouths about the stability of a college degree, by and large highschool diploma holders have higher job turn over.

As I mentioned in my original post, I am not referring to simple high school diploma holders, I am referring to skilled professionals of non-college training (usually the result of a 1-2 year certificate programs).  I indicated these careers under Person 1's category in my initial post.  Due to this being less rigorous than a 4-year school, usually students are able to pay for these certificate programs entirely out of pocket working a couple of part-time jobs.

I will be the first to agree that there is an intrinsic academic and spiritual value associated with college education.  However, most students in this economy are enrolling in college because they feel it will elevate their future economic potentials.  In other words, money is a huge factor in going to college.  No longer are people going to college purely for "intellectual development."  In all honesty, the intelligent discussions on this sub-forum provide far more interaction on meaningful issues than the interaction in your average college classroom.  Information about the world is easily accessible through a litany of online materials, video lectures, TED talks, etc. 

Also the model does not take into account a realistic ability of someone on 16,000 dollars a year to make a 5% contribution of their money to investment.... This model does fail to recognize that most companies hiring entry level college graduates automatically put money into a 401k as a benefits package and do tend to match the contribution (such as mine does).

I placed $16,000 as a very modest starting salary for anyone in one of the non-college career paths I mentioned in my original post.  This means, that at age 20, or 21, this is the income they would receive, slowly rising over their lifetime to a peak of $30,000 (which itself is quite modest for a couple of those professions).  Given that a college student is living in a dorm, and eating meal plans that is largely paid for either through their family savings, or through loans, is it unrealistic to suggest that a 21 year old may choose to live with his family while he earns $16,000 a year, and starts off his life?

As far as employer-matched contributions, this is not exclusive to white-collar college-level positions.  Most of the professions I have listed, especially those that involve large-scale businesses offer employer-matched contributions - and likely, the individual will be able to start contributing at an earlier age, as compared to his college educated counterpart.  But again, this gets really complicated, and without a concrete situation, I don't feel comfortable using this as a primary justification for this perspective.  My only point is that it is not exclusive to college-level jobs.

I can't tell you how many people I have chatted with, who cannot even qualify for a house mortgage because of their loans, so I am not sure what evidence you have that suggests college graduates are more likely to be home owners in this decade.  Most of the research I have done shows that college education seems to be adversely affecting the housing market.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/student-loans-keep-buying-home-060138508.html

What evidence do you have that suggests college graduates who took out loans have a higher credit score, versus someone who has responsibly built credit during those same 4 years?  For example, utilizing a credit card like a debit card, without interest payments.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 10:30:51 AM by ValthazarElite »

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2013, 12:01:02 PM »
Average cost of cosmetologist school – 10-20k
Average cost for air traffic controller – 10-35k
Average cost for medical secretary – 25k
Average cost for dental hygienist – 25 to 70k depending on level of education achieved
Average cost for paralegal – 14k not including pre-requisite hours.
Median loan debt for respiratory therapist – 17k
Average cost for a bachelor degree – 6-48k
Average loan debt for college graduate – 26k

I think you are mistaken about your assumption of less rigorous and cost with your first model.  These numbers also do not include cost of living.

The average starting salary for a college graduate is 44k.

I am basing an assumption of their credit score being higher due to a higher income bracket matched with, your stipulation, that they are making regular and adequate loan payments.  Once the loan is paid off their credit score would be sufficient, their debt to income ration should be sufficient and their income sufficient to purchase a home better than the person making less.  Also your article is pointing out the taking of a mortgage while a student loan is present, not afterward.  Certainly taking out a massive loan while having another large loan out is difficult.

At this point there are quite a few holes poked already in the instance given to show its incomplete nature and detachment from any semblance of reality. 
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 12:08:47 PM by Pumpkin Seeds »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2013, 12:34:37 PM »
I did factor in inflation.  I assume a steady growth rate of 7% (obviously not ideal), but given that any fluctuations in the market would impact both individuals equally, it is a moot point in this comparison between scenarios, and would correspondingly affect the values of both their portfolios.  Also, 5% of his after-tax income is on target with the nation's current average savings rate.

This is patently untrue, Valthazar.  Your entire argument is predicated on Person B beginning his savings 16 years later.  Thus, obviously, missing out on 16 years worth of inflationary decrease on his savings.

Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2013, 12:41:52 PM »
Could you please link me to where you are getting these prices?  I started this discussion with the assumption that both Person 1 and 2  would receive $16500 family contribution.

Also, where can one get a bachelor's for $6000?

Taking out loans for college are usually on a 10-15 year repayment, and given the age at which most people have kids, it creates big problems for couples and newlyweds.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2013, 12:44:29 PM »
Actually I still remain unconvinced by your maths even adding in your later addition about the starting lump sum.  Gimme ten minutes to put a spreadsheet together and check.  I'll use your growth rate of 7% and inflation at 3% (now we've presumably agreed it was missing from your analysis)

Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2013, 12:49:50 PM »
Inflation was not missing, and I am confused why you are fixated on inflation, considering that both portfolios and individuals will be negatively affected equally,, regardless of the rate.  The purpose was to consider two individuals facing equal economic realities.

I think Torch understood that this is more of a compounding interest comparison rather than an attempt to forecast a single individuals' portfolio in 40 years.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2013, 12:51:45 PM »
Read my comment Valthazar.  I quote for your convenience:

This is patently untrue, Valthazar.  Your entire argument is predicated on Person B beginning his savings 16 years later.  Thus, obviously, missing out on 16 years worth of inflationary decrease on his savings.

Offline Ebb

Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2013, 12:53:31 PM »
This is an interesting debate to have, but if you're going to talk about the lifetime value of a typical college education then there are models which are far more rigorous and based on real data, rather than just arbitrary numbers. Here's one done in 2012 by the Pew Research Center, which tends to be pretty highly regarded as a research institution:

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/05/15/is-college-worth-it/

And a direct link to Chapter 5 of the study, which is most relevant to the current discussion:

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/05/15/is-college-worth-it/6/#chapter-5-the-monetary-value-of-a-college-education?src=prc-number

It's not exactly an open and shut case, and there are lots of individual points worth delving into. But people have spent an awful lot of money and effort to come up with detailed answers to these questions based on real-world data. You may as well start from there.


To me the value of a college education is in the flexibility that it gives you later in life to pursue other options as they arise. For a great many white-collar professions a degree is necessary to get your foot in the door, and in many cases it doesn't even particularly matter what the subject of the degree was. It is taken as a proxy in the business world for the ability to think methodically, complete projects and learn new skills. That is not to say that these qualities can't be found in non-degree holding individuals -- far from it. But it's the simple truth that not holding a degree will bar you from consideration from a wide number of opportunities. Although it is certainly possible to attain a degree later in life, it is generally considered easiest to achieve this goal when you're young, due to a general lack of hindering responsibilities (mortgage, kids, etc.) and an assumption of parental support that might not be present later in life. Again, these are generalities and obviously do not apply to every single individual.


Offline Kythia

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2013, 12:58:15 PM »
Awesome, saves me a job.  Thanks Ebb, nice find.

Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2013, 01:00:37 PM »
Read my comment Valthazar.  I quote for your convenience:

I read your comment.  The inflation rate would also correspondingly reduce amount owed on debt and interest.  Which is why I'm not making a big deal of inflation, since it benefits and hurts the borrower.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2013, 01:03:21 PM »
I read your comment.  The inflation rate would also correspondingly reduce amount owed on debt and interest.  Which is why I'm not making a big deal of inflation, since it benefits and hurts the borrower.

Yes, but you haven't factored that into your analysis have you.  Person B's finances start being relevant once their debt is paid off, according to your analysis.  You've handwaved over the details of their debt, and focused entirely on their saving for a retirement fund.  That handwave has the effect of removing the effect of inflation on them for the first 16 years of your analysis.

Look at it again.

Edit:  Long story short, could you please provide the math I asked for before and you offered in your first post.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 01:07:19 PM by Kythia »

Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2013, 01:07:30 PM »
Show me what your findings are then, because unfortunately, I'm not at the computer right now.  I'll provide a more detailed explanation later.

Offline dragonsen

Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2013, 01:37:04 PM »
The return on investment in a 4-year degree has often been associated with earning, "nearly an estimated one million dollars more [than high school graduates]." over a lifetime.  Source This figure includes super-income individuals, such as guys graduating from Standford or NYU Stern Business School who earn multi-million dollars a year.

If you view college like an investment, it's actually not a very good one.  Two different scenarios below:

Person 1
Guy with no college, starting salary of $16,000 after taxes, and lifetime income peak of $30,000 at the peak of his career.  Every month he saves 5% of his income, and puts it into his retirement fund.

Let's assume this person in any one of the following jobs:  real estate broker, air traffic controller, dental hygienist, online web developer, medical secretary, paralegal assistant, secretary, insurance sales rep, hair stylist, optician, commercial pilot (requires limited flight school), teacher's aide, radiation therapist, respiratory therapist, nurses aide, electrician, police officer, etc. 

Person 2
Guy goes to college.  He and his family spend $34,000 on tuition and fees after graduating (not including room and board, since living expenses are necessary whether in school or not).  However, his parents are able to help out, and when when he graduates, he only has $17,500 in student loans at a 5% interest rate.

Let's assume Person 2 starts out with salary of $24,000 after taxes, and a lifetime peak salary of $56,000 after taxes.  He also saves 5% of his monthly income and puts it into a portfolio (the same retirement fund as Person 1). 

I'm going to have to disagree with your lifetime peak salary amount for a college graduate (Person 2/B). I am a Certified Managerial Accountant, accredited by the Institute of Managerial Accountants. They perform an annual survey to determine average salary for their members. The average salary for five years from 2007 to 2011 has always been just over $100,000. 99% of all those polled had a bachelor's degree at least. Average age floats around 48 to 50. For a young person starting out, yes, a trade profession may get you more money for that first job. The problem is the salary peaks well below what a college degree can get you. Another problem with most trade professions is health related. Eye sight starts to fail. Joints start to stiffen up. Those are just two small problems that can seriously affect a trade profession as you age.

By the way, I was able to get my Bachelor's in Accounting at Idaho State University and I only incurred $8,000 in total student loans. My wife just got her Bachelors as well, a Psych degree, and only incurred $6,000 in debt. We were able to secure some grants and scholarships to help offset costs.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 01:46:52 PM by dragonsen »

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #20 on: October 18, 2013, 01:40:29 PM »
I pulled the numbers from a few different sources since well..they covered different schools.  The college portion comes from this website which I did get wrong because the average is around 8k, sorry.  http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-published-undergraduate-charges-sector-2012-13

Offline Kythia

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #21 on: October 18, 2013, 01:44:16 PM »
Ebb's source confirms your 6K though, Pumpkin

Offline ValthazarTopic starter

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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #22 on: October 18, 2013, 02:54:58 PM »
Everyone here is making excellent points, and I myself am a proponent of college for students who have the smarts and work ethic to graduate college, and the work ethic to pursue internships, job opportunities, etc.  My arguments above were more for the average student who is just "gliding" by going to college, because it is "expected."

A strong student, capable of finding full time employment and responsible with their repayment plan, should have no problems with going to college.  In fact, like many of you are saying, it is a beneficial endeavor.  I am not trying to suggest that college is a bad decision - only that qualified individuals should attend college. 

To prove this side of my view, that college can be beneficial, and to show the merit in many of your perspectives, I modified my method to take into account the idealistic scenarios people here are posting, such as immediate full-time job post-graduation, stable employment for the first 10-years following college, and being able to contribute to both retirement and student loans simultaneously.  I even took into account the savings issue for Person B, and assumed no late fees.  I also included Kythia's suggestion of looking at the influence of inflation rates on salary growth, debt burden, and investments.  I took a bit of an unconventional approach to this (because this is not my field), and came up with some values.  I would appreciate a healthy discussion about this.

For the sake of fair play, I assumed both had an equal 40 year time period of working full-time - which is probably unlikely, but again, for an "ideal" scenario for a college student, I figured this would be worth doing.

Details about Person B's student loan:

$17,500 borrowed at 6.8% interest rate.
Repayment plan: 120 months at a payment of $201.39 for a total of $24,166.87

Because we are purely talking about earnings here, and the buying power of said earnings, I decided to convert all dollar values in this discussion into "today's dollars."  In other words, if I say the person has $100 in 2053, that has the same buying power as $100 today.

So what I did was calculate the pay grade increase for Person A, and Person B.  I assumed both would be working 40 years. The pay scales were 16,000 - 30,000 and 24,000 - 56000, respectively.  So what I did, was take the difference of each range, and divide by the number of years working.  So in other words, 14,000 divided by 40 = $350 assumed salary rise per year towards the peak salary.  At the same time, 32,000 divided by 40 = $800.  I then multiplied each of these derived values by 0.97 to get the "today's dollar" value of each year's pay raise, factoring in a 3% inflation rate.  Each year, 3% was essentially 'removed' from the previous year's pay bump, due to less buying power.  Obvious real life isn't this idealistic, but it is a model that starts at a starting salary towards a peak salary.  Utilizing these figures, I calculated salary per year over their 40 year work span.

I assumed that Person A was investing 5% of their yearly salary (which has already accounted for inflation).  For Person B, I took people's perspectives here into consideration, and said he/she invested 1% of their yearly salary for the first 10 years working (due to making student loan payments).  The student loan payments were decreased by 3% for each year of the 10 year repayment, since inflation was decreasing its value.  After the 10 years, Person B also continued to invest 5% of their yearly salary, just like Person A.

My calculations yielded a "today's value" of $138,834.8345 for Person B and $125,698.2272 for Person A which shows that college is absolutely a great investment if you have the smarts, and are fortune to have stable employment afterwards.  I need to go for now, but when I get time this evening, I'll try to run the opposite set of numbers for differential work spans, potential spurts of unemployment, and effects of late fees on loans.

Also, I had a stock market growth rate of 7% along with buying power depreciation of 3% for  net growth of 4%.

I have an Excel spreadsheet, but obviously I can't post it here.  Great discussion so far.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 03:27:10 PM by ValthazarElite »

Offline Ebb

Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #23 on: October 18, 2013, 03:33:16 PM »
It seems that you're putting a lot of effort into fine-tuning a model that ultimately is only going to be as good as the data that you plug into it. The computation of compounded interest in a retirement account over time is a mechanical procedure that's pretty much straightforward. If you want a comparison between your two cases that sheds light on the main question, then you need to have data about those two cases derived from the real world. Your initial assumptions of salary range for your college-goer and your non-college-goer are critical, but as far as I can tell (and I might have missed something) these are numbers that you just made up out of thin air.

Here's one chart from the Pew research report that I linked to earlier:



The average values shown here aren't even close to the ones you're using in your model. Moreover, just by eyeballing it, it doesn't look to me like your assumption of a linear growth in salary over time is accurate.

There's nothing wrong at all with putting together a model in order to better understand a phenomenon and to draw judgment about it. It just seems to me that you're focusing on the wrong bits here.

For what it's worth, I agree with a great deal of your initial premise. For example, it can clearly be shown that the person who attends college for a number of years but who doesn't graduate ends up much further behind financially then either the person who graduates or the person who doesn't attend in the first place. I think it's very true that there is a population of people who would be better served by taking a route other than a traditional four-year college, and I would also agree that some proportion of that group is being "pushed" into college by a societal expectation. But all of this touches only tangentially on what you're getting at with your model, so I don't think it ends up shedding much light on the conversation. For that you'd want to look at graduation rates, cost/benefit analysis of trade schools and certification programs, and probably a host of other factors.



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Re: Higher Education Pros/Cons
« Reply #24 on: October 18, 2013, 08:39:14 PM »
Ebb, thanks for the feedback. 

I realize this hypothetical model is far from accurate, but I was hoping to get a discussion going on ways we can measure the "quality of the product" of college - since so many people define the ultimate purpose and value of a college education differently.  I absolutely agree that for people willing to work hard in their studies, and looking for opportunities, college is a great investment.  However, my original post was attempting to highlight how there are different "academic groups" among college graduates themselves.  Obviously there are many, as I'm sure many of us are - who worked hard in college, and see its value.  However, like you said, there is a prominent segment of C average students who are simply cruising their way through college.  I still am not sure how to "define" this segment of students, and it is difficult to find post-graduation data on how this segment performs.  I have seen the graph you posted in other forms in the past, but because that represented the average income for all college graduates, regardless of grades or approach, I didn't want to use that data.  If I had data on the average income for that particular segment of students, I would have used that, but I decided to take a very modest estimate (which obviously makes that model very un-scientific).

I think both of us largely feel the same way about this.  What I'm going to describe here will be purely anecdotal, pertaining to one perspective, but I think it will add some insight into this issue.  At a particular institution - and from what I have heard tends to happen at many institutions - is that quite a large number of freshman students majoring in the very objective "hard" sciences (such as engineering, chemistry, biology, mathematics, economics, etc.) tend to do extremely poorly, and many of them get frustrated, and end up switching their major to stereotypically "easier" subjects (such as humanities or the liberal arts).  I am not at all suggesting that these fields are any lesser - only that they do not have a definitive right and wrong answer, and are much more subjective disciplines.  Because the administration is hyper-conscious about freshmen retention rates, I am aware that there is a lot of pressure on certain faculty to "somehow" get these students to pass.  Basically, these students had a poor work ethic, and flunked out of the more objective fields.  But now, they are continuing their poor work ethic, and yet, somehow sliding from one course to another with C/C+ grades... somehow.  To be honest, I think it should be seen as a violation of teaching ethics to artificially give a student a barely passing grade, when they have not earned it, simply due to administrative pressure.  But I suspect this is the hidden reality in many institutions of higher education.  Ultimately, it ends up hurting the students who are producing quality work, because it slowly and steadily de-values that effort.

It is this segment of students that I am speaking about.  While I certainly agree based on that graph that the starting salary of a B.S. or B.A. holder is $42,000, I am quite confident that these particular students will be on the lower end of that average (just like I am quite confident that the go-getters will be on the on the higher end of that average, if that is what they so desire).  Because right now, what's happening is that academic counselors and guidance counselors are showing that exact same graph to high school seniors, and giving some false hopes to students who may not be so academically inclined.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 08:51:06 PM by ValthazarElite »