Breaking Down the Numbers

James Altucher does some provocative number crunching on a Wall Street Journal blog:

[Y]ou would think with these increasing costs [of attending college] that the income potential must be there. Someone who goes to college can be expected to earn about $800,000 more than their peer who didn’t go to college.

My thoughts on this: who cares? The average tuition + living costs, books, expenses, etc. is about $26,000 per year. Let’s assume for a second that everyone graduates in four years, making total expenses $104,000 on average. This is a huge assumption, by the way, since only 54% of the people who enter a four-year program graduate within six years, according to the Department of Education. I could take that $104,000 I was going to spend on my kid’s college education and by the time she finishes her career 50 years out I’d have $1.4 million if I put it in a savings account earning just 5% per year. Handily beating the spread she would’ve made if she had gotten a college degree. Not to mention saving the debt she’d probably have as a burden once she graduated college (average debt for college students now is $23,000 when they graduate).

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.