Most students have questioned the value of a college education at one point or another during their academic careers, and NYU students are no different. In addition to the obviously high monetary costs, a college degree also requires a substantial investment of time to complete. The decision to go through college is often one that students cannot afford to take lightly. Under these precarious circumstances, students can find themselves susceptible to the temptation of dropping out of school altogether. While reasons for dropping out can differ greatly from one another, most of them are similar in that they sacrifice long term reward for short term gains. Students with their long term benefits in mind should play it safe and remain in college.
Perhaps one of the most influential advocates for students forgoing college is PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. Thiel argues that the cost of college is often not justified and the time students spend “[sitting] in a classroom” could be spent on pursuing their dreams. This is a dangerous message to send because not only is it indicative of the sort of rhetoric that students are exposed to when considering dropping out of college, but it is also very misleading.
In today’s economy, the difference in average earnings between a person with a college degree and a person without one is astronomical. A study shows that throughout one’s career, on average a college graduate can expect to earn roughly $650,000 more in their lifetime than a high school graduate. This difference is more than enough to justify the cost of college. The second part of Thiel’s message — that students should pursue their passions first and that they can always return to college if things don’t work out — is equally dangerous. Firstly, as Georgetown University professor Cal Newport points out in his book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” it is not sustainable for students to try to pursue their dreams without the prerequisite education and experience. Secondly, if students fail, returning to college doesn’t always work out for them. In fact, of all the students who re-enrolled in college between 2005 and 2008, only a third graduated. Therefore, by dropping out of college, students not only risk losing a substantial amount of money but they also risk being trapped in a scenario where they have no more dreams to follow and no degree.
While there are certainly students who have dropped out and have become very successful, these cases are few and far between. For the majority of students, it’s probably best to wait it out and watch as the college degree pays for itself in the long run.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, November 14th print edition. Email Hao Ly at [email protected]