Many of our most successful and richest people in this country seem to have been successful despite not having completed a college degree (e.g., Bill Gates). Further, even those who did complete their degrees are having difficulty finding appropriate work. But, these are correlations, which do not necessarily provide a cause and effect relationship. Yes, there are several well-known college dropouts who have made fortunes, but there are a lot of college graduates who have made fortunes, too (e.g., Larry Page). When we dig deeper into the data, it is clear that having a college education is generally financially more rewarding than not having one. But I believe these arguments miss the point.
There are benefits to a college education that are not easily measured. For example, learning how to be tolerant of other people’s views is probably the most important. Although my specialty is mathematics, my most memorable courses in college were from the social sciences. My favorite course was a
World Religions course I completed as an undergraduate. The professor
focused on the similarities between the major world religions – instead of the
differences as the Media do today. Another benefit that we don’t hear much about are the connections and social networking that is done at the colleges and universities – especially for fulltime students at prestigious universities. That is, if we look at that list of who's who for rich college dropouts, we find that Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, where he had met Paul Allen. Without this open source of networking available at colleges, the technology revolution may have never happened.
Finally, there should be enormous pride in the accomplishment of completing four years of college. In the USA, approximately 30% of us have earned a BS or higher degree. Only about 7% of the world population has earned a college degree. So, “Is it worth it?” I tell my students that in life you can lose almost everything, but the one thing they can never take from you is your education.
Ergo, yes, I believe that having a formal education is still worth the time and money it takes to earn it.