Essential reading for parents (and students) considering a college education.
The bubble in college tuitions hasn’t burst yet, but this quote from the CEO of Waste Management Inc from the Wall Street Journal says it will, a giant blob of malinvestment that is ready to implode-
“We can’t hire a truck driver to drive a trash truck for $90,000, but I can hire an MBA from a small school for $60,000, and I can get them all day long.”
You heard that right. The garbage man is making $90k (and in high demand), while MBAs are a dime a dozen, competing for $60k after six years of schooling and boatloads debt.
I read this to my son, and he observed, “When I grow up, I want to be a garbage man”.
Sure, upward mobility on the trash-truck is limited, but he’s right to consider it. You can drive the truck for a few years while listening to podcasts and hatching your big idea.
Real wealth doesn’t come from a W2 anyway. It comes from starting or gaining ownership rights in a successful business early. They don’t really teach that in school.
School mostly teaches kids to be sheep.
Hell, I have an ECON degree, and they didn’t even reveal how the money system works (because fiat money is a confidence game, consolidates power, and few even see outside of that matrix).
Unlike any previous point in history, kids can now get educated online from anywhere, and at no cost. Meanwhile, the value in the piece of paper, the credentials, is also dropping like a stone.
For high schoolers and their parents considering college education, these are the most important decisions of their young lives to date, and by far-
- Should your child go to college?
- Where should they go to college?
- What should they major in?
The world has changed
The answer to question #1 has been a misplaced, forgone conclusion (of course they should!) for decades, and that’s now showing up in salaries. As wrote in 2017 (trimmed for length)-
The College Debt Bubble (and Six Rules for 529 Plans)
Teenagers are pushed out like wind-up toys to borrow tens of thousands of dollars without collateral or a discernible plan to pay any of it back. We convinced them that the ticket to success is higher education, regardless of quality or cost. We failed to introduce them to the perils of debt or marketability of skills. Off to Party School USA they went.
We created unlimited money as debt for use only on tuition, and then acted surprised when the price went up. Colleges did what any business would faced with more demand in millions of new customers flush with money to spend on their services. They raised tuition and expanded capacity.
Now, we’re turning out watered down cap-and-gowns by the boatload with increasingly useless majors. That piece of paper that once acted as a screening mechanism for employers doesn’t mean what it used to. It’s Econ 101, supply and demand. More college grads simply command lower wages.
“Congrats, Timmy. You’re in debt for life and will never use your major. Here’s a pat on the back, and a few singles from the other side of the bar. Now pour me a martini.”
Look, unless you’re wealthy and happy to spend the dough for your child to have the college ‘experience’, the answer to #1, quite simply, is that your kids should not go to college unless (a) they earned a massive scholarship, or (b) know exactly what they want to study, it aligns with their passion and purpose, and it requires credentialing. Further, and perhaps more important, the salaries and growth potential (for your college of choice and field of study) justify the cost.
Therefore, the 2nd and 3rd questions are equally important. What does that even leave? Medicine, law, accounting, science and engineering, and at only the better schools?
Focus on food and energy, including fossil fuels. The world needs it desperately.
Some majors, frankly, should be off limits. No one is hiring ‘specialists’ with these worthless degrees. Sure, employers might consider your child, but they’re not “looking” for grads with degrees in gender studies, theatre arts, communications, fashion design or anthropology (to name a few).
Do your research, and if you don’t have a plan your child is passionate about with a path to profitability, try the trash truck, sock away half their income, and experiment with business ideas on the side. They could make a YouTube channel about it, appealing to kids a few years behind them.
Kids can also learn to sell (try this book, then this one). Offer to work in commission-only sales for a local business owner, a product they believe in. Grow revenue for the owner-operator, learning their business inside and out, and become indispensable. Parlay that into stock options.
Learning a valuable trade with an apprenticeship is another good path. The world will always need plumbers and electricians, no matter what happens with Artificial Intelligence.
The best ticket to success has always been hustle. Get up early and outwork the competition.
All that said, this Fall, I am taking my ninth grader to visit University of Colorado at Boulder. We’ll go to a football game, tour the campus, and visit my favorite haunts on the Pearl Street Mall.
What can I say, CU will always have a special place in my heart.
Deion Sanders (‘Coach Prime’) is breathing new life into the football program, and it’s a great opportunity to have these conversations with Mia, to begin our own multi-year cost-benefit analysis.
She’s in a college-focused district (Eanes ISD, Austin, TX) where they don’t hear about much else. We’ll use the weekend to talk about college, college alternatives, and the opportunity-cost of each.
College is a great experience and a rite of passage for many, but it’s not without perils, primarily debt, but also a broken, woke agenda, groupthink, and rampant alcohol and drug abuse.
So, what do you pay for this privilege?
Out-of-state tuition for CU Boulder, I just looked up. My mind is blown. It’s $44,000 annually. Add schoolbooks, plus room & board, and you’ll quickly be north of $60,000 per year.
Four years of that is $240,000. Get the MBA, and you’re looking at $360,000.
Now why did I have four kids??
Look, as a finance guy myself, I can say with absolute certainty that few college degrees are worth that outlay. If we were not successful, I’d not even consider it any further.
In normal times, I could add with more certainty: don’t ever, ever borrow that kind of money without putting a hard and/or income-producing asset on your balance sheet of equal or greater value.
There is one caveat: We are not in normal times.
We are at the beginning of a great inflation that will wipe out debts both public and private (while destroying the economy and the purchasing power of the Dollar).
If your child can meet the criteria, a degree in demand where credentialing is required from a school known for being good in it, they can consider student debt to pursue their passion.
But don’t for a second overlook the opportunities in the blue-collar economy.
Your kids can gain critical experience and develop valuable skills while educating themselves online to plan something bigger, better, smarter, faster, or more fun. The gatekeepers have lost their control.
Want to raise empowered kids who know how the money system works, and how to use it? Kids who understand sound vs. fiat, debt, the business cycle, gold, Bitcoin, markets, and groupthink?
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Want more like this? Try Three things every kid should learn about debt.