The Cost of School

I hear the same complaint all the time, post-secondary education is too expensive, students are drowning in debt. They want the government to come in and lend a hand to subsidize or even pay for the education completely.

I attended a university that had one of the lowest costs of any in Canada. There was still a healthy contingent of students upset at paying $1500 for 5 full-time courses for 4 months. At the same time, the buildings were in need of repair, the classrooms needed upgrades and they couldn’t attract new professors. They should have been charging twice what they were. Eventually I transferred to a University that did.

Recently I took a night course; it was $2000 for the equivalent classroom time as one university class. It was a bargain.

Education is two things.

  1. An investment – in yourself, in what you can become, in the money you will make from the knowledge you get at school. It is an enabler that has a measurable return on investment.
  2. Enjoyable – It’s fun to learn new things, be exposed to new ideas, and try to expand the greater public knowledge. There’s an emotional happiness that you get from learning new things that you’re interested in.

The problem lies in the fact that there are many people out there are not financially savvy by the time they finish high school. They cannot evaluate their choice from the financial perspective and end up in financial trouble.

To make matters worse most people I knew had no idea what they wanted to do in post-secondary. The advice was usually something along the lines of

“Well, what do you like doing, and take a course in that”
“Just take a general first year and decide later”

That is the worst advice ever.

If you’re going to spend money and many years of your life with this education thing you’d better make sure it’s worth the investment. If you like psychology, talk to some people in the program and see how easy it is to find work in the field. You’ll quickly find out that some fields are completely useless until you have a masters or doctorate. Then a 4 year program becomes a 6 or 8 year program before it is useful. Is it worth 8 years of your life just to get in? What’s the typical salary for those positions? What’s the cost of Tuition start to finish? Finally how long will it take to pay off everything?

What are your goals in life? If you’re ultimate goal in life is to have a nice home in the ‘burbs with 2.5 kids, a nice car and the occasional vacation then you’re going to need money. Make the right choice out of high school and you’ll save your self time and money and reach that goal early. The wrong choice could add years to reaching your goals, if you reach them at all.

It takes time to evaluate the options. So make the time. Don’t just jump in. Make sure that anything you do is worth the costs.