5 Reasons Not to Go to College

Ginger Abbot

Feb 20, 2023
reasons not to go to college

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You’ll find no shortage of people advising you that a college education is the ticket to success. Everyone from your teachers to your parents to strangers in the community continues to echo this siren song. However, is starting your adult life tens of thousands of dollars in debt worth it, especially if you end up laboring in a field you don’t genuinely love? 

The pressure from others can be intense, especially when you’re young and you count on older and wiser folks for advice. Still, you should listen to your heart. Here are five reasons not to go to college. 

1. The Expense 

Here’s the conundrum: the cost of college has soared while a degree has become more essential. According to a new report from Georgetown University, two out of three jobs today require post-high school education. Compare this to 1970, when you only needed a diploma for three out of every four. That’s why so many people advise you to go to school. 

However, fully 40% of student loan borrowers don’t earn a degree to go with their wounded credit report. Many people attend only to find the ongoing expense too onerous, or family matters intervene requiring them to drop out and join the workforce. The minimum wage isn’t enough to live on even with two full-time positions nearly anywhere in the county. While income-based repayment plans run as low as $0 a month, interest continues accruing, leaving these individuals trapped in a lifetime of debt. 

It costs nearly $30,000 a year to attend school during the 2019-2020 school year. Over four years, you’ll pay well over $100,000 on education. That’s more than a hefty downpayment on a home or fully paying off a host of new vehicles. It also equates to over $400 a month in repayments — that’s a sizable portion of nearly any budget.

2. Future Homeownership Concerns

Despite scores of happy articles detailing how it’s possible to get a mortgage with student loan debt, most borrowers find it downright impossible. The problem? Today’s wages, mixed with a pesky requirement known as the debt-to-income ratio

Mortgage lenders want your housing costs to equal less than 28% of your monthly income and your total debt be less than 36%. If you start life with over $100,000 in debt, it could be next to impossible to find a home that fits your budget. Considering the average home price in many major cities tops $500,000, there simply aren’t many properties you can realistically afford unless you go way off the grid — which makes commuting to work problematic. 

3. Future Income Projections Are Often Wrong

“That’s alright,” you think. “I’ll make so much money with my shiny new degree that it will all even out in the wash.” Please don’t be so sure about that. Job boards abound with listings offering a woeful $15 to $20 an hour — for a master’s degree. 

According to one recent survey, 90% of college students overestimate what their income will be — by $50,000 or more. That’s a considerable disparity, and one that will drive many young graduates into the depths of despair. They’ll be burdened with student loan debt that prevents them from buying a home or starting a family and still earning poverty wages. 

4. You Aren’t Sure What You Want to Do

Maybe you aren’t altogether opposed to the idea of college — but you aren’t certain you want to go, either. Considering the financial ramifications, you do well to take a year to decide. Doing so can give you insight in various ways. 

For example, unless money is no concern, you’ll probably have to work. Can you find something you’re passionate about without a degree? Perhaps you adore the hustle and bustle of the kitchen and decide working your way up to a chef career — and attending culinary school down the road — is your true calling. 

If you can afford to travel, do so. It can open your eyes to new places — and possible avenues to get your degree without going into a lifetime of debt. Many countries around the globe value education so highly, that they’ll allow foreign students to attend for no or low tuition fees. Of course, you still have to find a way over there and pay for living expenses, but if you can afford that cost, you could save a bundle on the back end. 

5. You Don’t Have a Burning Passion for It 

Perhaps the best reason not to go to college is that you simply don’t want to go. One woman drowning in student loan debt laments, “I never wanted to become an educator. My parents said it was the right path for me, and I was too timid to stand up to my father.” Said dad isn’t helping with the more than $100,000 in loans she now carries, and she no longer works as a teacher. “Nothing could convince me to go back, especially not after COVID.” 

Folks may have your best interests at heart. That doesn’t mean they can crawl inside your body and live your life for you. Ultimately, you’re the one who will have to do the work day after day —  do you want to take on a life sentence to fulfill someone else’s dream? Or would you prefer to follow your own? 

Reasons Not to Go to College 

Throughout your high school career, you’ll encounter countless people who try to convince you that college is the only way to go. However, it isn’t your sole option. 

Consider the above five reasons not to go to college. If you fall into one or more of these categories, think twice before submitting your FAFSA. 

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