Why More are Saying “No!” to College and “Yes!” to Now Careers


I thought my brand new B.S in Engineering was going to be worth something. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was three decades ago. I remember the dryness on my tongue as I sat there, mouth open in astonishment, listening to the salary they wanted to offer me.

I was on the interview circuit- off to start my career after four long years of college. I had just graduated from Arizona State University with an Aerospace Engineering Degree, I had earned all the flight certificates possible, I was one of the youngest Certified Flight Instructors in the country at the time, and I figured I was going to be getting an awesome job, making some awesome bucks.

Throughout my 4 years in Tempe I worked nights as a waiter, always at the best places in town, so my tip income was good. I probably took home $300/weekend in tips. For a part-time waiter who really was a full-time student, that was decent income! Combined with the free lobster tails and wine every night, I had a pretty good living as a starving student.

I didn’t know just HOW good I had until I graduated, and started interviewing.

I was thrilled when Lear Jet in Wichita told me they wanted me to work for them. The job had sounded awesome–I’d be flying Lear Jets for a living, I’d be with a super brand in aviation, and I thought I could figure out a way to make boring-Wichita fun. It all sounded wonderful, until they mentioned the starting salary.

“Whaaaaat?” I said fighting desperately for saliva. “I make that in a week waiting tables at the Windjammer in Tempe! You’re saying that would be my MONTHLY salary?”

“Yes,” the President of Lear Jet responded, “you’ll find that’s what recent graduates with a B.S. in Engineering get as a starting salary.”

“But I can make more money than that waiting tables part time!” I said in exasperation. “And you don’t need a college degree to be a waiter!”

“Well” he said, “after you’ve paid your dues, in a few years, you’ll start seeing some increases.”

Pay my dues? Hadn’t I already “paid my dues” for four years? So I declined the job offer, and went into real estate instead, leaving my B.S. in Engineering as a diploma only, a framed memory of what might have been the worst investment in my life.

What I discovered first hand thirty years ago, is even more true today. The University model is broken. The investment is way too high for such a low pay out. If you doubt that, ask any parent.

The cost to send just one child to a typical state University is more than the cost of buying a new car each year. If we then expanded the category to that of private Universities, it’s like buying a new condo each year. Seriously, to send just one child to a decent University for 4 ½ years (yes, the time keeps increasing along with the costs) the average family will have to come up with over $125,000*. If you happen to have 4 kids you’ll need a half a million dollars, not counting things the little things like food and clothing.

Over three years ago, Forbes was one of the first to suggest that the University promise was a myth, when they published their famous “5 Reasons to Skip College”, summarized here:
1. You’ll be losing four working years in college, accumulating debt;
2. You won’t necessarily make more money after you graduate;
3. You could make more money skipping college;
4. You can learn in other ways, outside the classroom;
5. Plenty of other people did fine without college.

Today it’s even worse. It’s not like there are jobs just waiting for all these college graduates in 2009. States are laying off administrators, teachers, and city planners in record numbers, while at latest count, America’s leading corporations have let over 1 million employees go. Our country has way too many lawyers per capita, (according to their own associations), way too many people with “Political Science” degrees, and way too many Vetrinarians. In today’s new socialized medicine environment, a career in medicine no longer pays, (unless you come from India), and the majority of “want ads” in the health industry are for low-level nurses willing to move and work the night shift.

Many graduates today are faced with three horrifying choices after investing over $100,000 in their future. They can:
1. Go work at a restaurant or retail store;
2. Take a professional job in their chosen field for minimum wage, in a place like Wichita;
3. Go to graduate school. (And keep spending money.)

It’s no wonder many high-school graduates today are saying “No way!” to the University Myth, and shouting “Yes!” to the immediacy of a high-paying career without the need for college.

In short, let me conclude with a question. What do the following people have in common?

• Michael Dell
• Henry Ford
• Rachel Ray
• John D. Rockefeller Sr.
• Bill Gates

You guessed it – no college!

There are many options for today’s High School graduates who want to start a career now, many of which produce significant first-year income. In Part II of this series I’ll present some of those in detail.


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About The Author: Geoffrey Thompson is an owner and founding partner of Colibri Real Estate, LLC. Since 1996 the companies under this banner have offered online real estate licensing and insurance licensing courses as well as online real estate exam prep and insurance exam prep.

*According to a recent article by “Inside Higher Ed” the average cost for a University degree in Florida was $170,831 for “multidisciplinary studies” and $259,781 for an M.D. Complete Report here (pdf):

Here’s a cool little widget that will tell you how much College costs in your state:

Here’s an article entitled: “The Four Year College Myth” by the Boston Globe:

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