Why Did Georgetown University Call Me Out?


You can’t make this up. Georgetown University just put out a study called “The College Payoff” to explain why going to college pays off. I’m laughing so hard I can barely type. And then in the middle of this highly academic report they bashed me personally.

This is not going to be my usual post. My usual post contains something embarrassing about me which I turn into a life lesson. Like, “I abandoned my baby as a child and now am making up for it with increased father time” (true story).

($70,000 a year for…here)

But none of that here! Instead, I’m going to specifically make fun of the hard work and effort put into this magnificent report by (one second while I look it up)….Anthony Carnevale, Stephen Rose, and Ban Cheah.

They do a very thorough study. They divide it up by race, gender, years of education and I guess they come to the conclusion that highly educated white men make the most money. I don’t know. I didn’t even read the whole thing.

First off, Georgetown University costs $41,000 a year. Why don’t you add in room and board. Do you think Georgetown is a cheap place to live? I called up my business partner, Dan, who went to Georgetown and actually played on their famous basketball team (if you call sitting on the bench for every single game until Allen Iverson joined the team, then Allen demanded your specific number, and then you quit, “played”)

“Are you kidding me?” he said, “I’d say the average apartment that you share with five other guys in Georgetown will cost you $1000 a month. All in, Georgetown is probably $70,000 a year.”  And then there’s books . And don’t forget people need to eat. Not to mention due to the high amount of senators and representatives per square foot in the nation’s capital, the cost of high-priced hookers is through the roof.

So at Georgetown you’ll be spending about $400,000 pre-taxes, give or take. The other day I heard about another 47 year old dying of a heart attack. “The guy ran a marathon every year,” my friend told me and showed me a picture. The spitting image of health. Two daughters, just like me. You know why everyone is dying of heart attacks? Because they feel they have to spend $400,000 on sending their kids to Georgetown.

(Allen Iverson went to Georgetown)

Or else their kids won’t have good lives. Or else their kids will die homeless and sad. And studies like this Georgetown study are brainwashing you into believing that. Misinformed studies filled with lies are basically killing you.

How biased can you be?

So ok, back to the report: they did show how the more years of education you have, the higher you make. Now, we all know college is not about the money but I have to dispute this one “statistic”.

Any college Freshman who takes Statistics 101 (and I know I’ve said this before so I wish these Georgetown people would let me teach their Statistics classes) will have heard of something called “Selection bias” which this report is littered with.

In other words, they did not just select people with many years of education. They inadvertently also selected “the type of upper middle class person who is intelligent, ambitious, aggressive” who chose twenty years ago to go to college. That type of person will certainly make more money than his peers twenty years later.

But what if he didn’t go to college? Let’s not forget 20 years ago, college costs, college debt (student loan debt now at it’s highest levels ever) were much lower. So now smart, aggressive people can reasonably choose NOT to go to college. Will their income levels suffer 20 years later?

Will they be less happy? Maybe even sad or suicidal?

I highly doubt it. In fact, my guess is they, and their parents, will have more money in the bank. How come? Five year head start over their college-bound peers and five extra years to make money and, at the end of those five years, NO DEBT. I like no debt.

(the SATs)

Anthony Carnevale is Director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Do you think he’s going to put out a report saying smart kids will make more money, have less stress, less debt, and be happier people if they don’t go to college? Guess where he was before he was at Georgetown. He worked at the Educational Testing Service! The scam monopoly  that forces your kids to take multiple choice exams that will make or break their college careers. That will MAKE OR BREAK THEIR LIVES, according to this report.

Seriously, you can’t make this up.

Then they call me out in the middle of their report and say, well…I’ll let you read it. They claim I have made a bunch of errors in a blog post. Oh my gosh! A blogger said something. Who knows? All I know is, they still have not tested the right thing, they don’t admit selection bias, and they are trying to scam kids and parents into taking on more debt to go to their little school so their kids can become either diplomats or lobbyists, both very noble professions involving lots of fancy dinners, funerals, and high-priced escorts.

But what about learning?

I’m going to tell you a business idea you should go ahead and do. I’d do it but I’m a little bit lazy.

For every subject, English, History, Math, Physics, etc. find all of the courses that are being delivered online by higher education sources. Coursera.com seems like they are taking a crack at this but I bet they/you can do even better. Put it all together as one “curriculum”. Now you can get a college  education by paying nothing.

But what about socialization? Are you kidding me? Does it cost $400,000 to learn how to make friends? In my case it probably does cost that, even now, but what about for you or your kids? What about networking? I’ve solved that problem for you over here.

What about sex? Don’t you have a lot of sex in college so you get that over with? Sowing your wild oats, as they say. I sort of feel that’s like learning how to read. When I was five years old my mom threw a book open in front of me and said, “Read!” She was disappointed I didn’t already know how. But by the time I was 18 I knew how. And so did every other kid. Same with sex. (odd to include mother, reading, and sex all in one paragraph. I will promptly erase this from my memory).

Did James just write another post about college education? Is this, I don’t know, the eighth one he’s written?

Here’s the problem: Everyone is lying to you. And maybe three people are telling you the truth. DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY.

At the end of the day we want to be happy. There are a million ways to get educated. To enjoy life. To enjoy your passions. To do the work on this planet that you were destined to do. God is not a high school guidance counselor. College is not a mandatory step to happiness. But it will give you debt, stress, indentured servitude (to pay down the debt), and ultimately limit your choices (because you will feel required to do what you majored in college).

Don’t limit your choices. And don’t die young.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/raveeshbhalla90 Raveesh Bhalla

    I’m just a couple of months away from graduating in Computer Science, and I must say all that I’ve learnt (and that’s quite a bit) has come from resources on the Internet. College? That was simply a waste of time. A fun waste of time, but still, a waste of time.

    EDIT: I must add that I’m studying in India, and my fees are highly negligible, so I’m not too concerned about that aspect. But, if I had to pay $400,000 (heck, even a $100,000) knowing what I know now, I’d never ever have joined

  • Dave

    Well you know you are doing something right when you start pissing people off.

    • rollingdancefloor

       It’s better to be pissed off than pissed on.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ed.yoder Ed Yoder

       Especially when you start pissing off the establishment.

    • nahuelmartin

      Earn up to $100
      a day uploading videos in youtube: tinyurl.com/mggum5l
      , take a look and see for yourself.

  • http://twitter.com/mrlofthus Kai Lofthus

    Perhaps they’re scared, and you/technology liberate/educate people.

  • http://twitter.com/MiamiMess Mess

    James, do you think any corporations will move into the “college space”. Give students a 2-3 year rotation, find out what they excel at, and then place them? Provide them with housing, food, and transportation in exchange for 3 years of real world training.

    • Haley

      God, this is such an excellent idea. What I would give to not have those student loans hanging over my head for a good chunk of my life… :(    My debt will even be much smaller than most, but even just trying to get the loans is stressful sometimes! And it brings with it this fear… I break out into a cold sweat when the realization fully hits me that I’m borrowing money I DON’T HAVE. A LOT OF IT. With no guarantee I will be able to pay it back in the time requested… That’s terrifying. At LEAST offer us interest-free loans (but then of course there would be no profit made… can’t have that…)

      If instead we had a system like the one you mentioned, everyone would be able to figure out what they do best, virtually stress-free! And come on, how much would it really cost corporations, if in the end they received a slew of highly skilled new employees eager to begin work? It sounds perfect in theory… I can dream.

      • Matt W

        General Electric (operating under a subsidiary named Granite Services) runs a nuclear technician trainee program in partnership with a local community college in Wilmington, NC.  The program is 2 years of schooling, hands on and classroom.  The school is paid for and you get a living wage in the mean time.  After graduation, you work as a travelling nuclear technician for 3 years at what amounts to a lower pay rate to “work off” your schooling costs.  At the end of your 3 year “indentured servitude” you can join any number of nuclear staffing companies and realistically make 6 figures.  I am currently in the servitude portion of this program, working towards paying off my loans for my useless liberal arts degree.  Nuclear energy is going to be big, and it’s not just men who do it.  Westinghouse offers a welding specific program somewhere in SC.  Hope this helps!

    • John

       I TOTALLY agree with this one.  Indentured Servitude (with a much nicer name of course).  Wanna major in say, Biology?  XYZ Pharma will pay your way for 4 years and place you with a job.  You must stay with XYZ Pharma for N number of years.  Leave early?  Pay back (pro-rated) the $ for college.

    • http://twitter.com/GregHora Greg Hora

      The military already does this.  I know a few doctors who got everything paid for and are now working for ~6 years in the Navy and Air Force.  Not only do they get a free education but they get a resume with 6 years of prestigious experience.

    • Randy Bentz

      Can you say “Military Academies”? That’s exactly their model. Fully funded bachelor degree in exchange for 4-6 years of your life (if it doesn’t end prematurely in some god-forsaken backwater)j.

  • http://twitter.com/mstmorris Teri Morris

    Ha ha … loved this.  James, it sounds like you really enjoyed writing this post.  Well done!

  • Dan

    I have to say that I I agree with this for the most part. No way I’d ever pay $41k a year for my kid to go to school. I wish that I’d known what I know now 10 years ago. But I don’t think it is necessary to throw schooling under the bus as a whole. There are plenty of good schools out there that will provide a great education for a lower cost. State schools with in-state tuition, for the most part.

    My advice to teenagers gearing up for college would be to spend less time stressing over which college you’re going to get into and more time doing practical shit while you are still young. Then, when it comes time to choose a school (or not), choose one that fulfills your need to be trained in a subject or subjects that help you achieve what you want. Education is useful, so long as it is used to teach people a skill. The minute you decouple an education from its primary purpose, and begin to attach a secondary value (prestige, help in getting a job you probably don’t want, etc.), you are making a mistake, and falling into the trap that James is describing here.

    As a last point, I would dispute the additional cost of room and board, as this is a cost that has to be paid whether you are in college or not, so I’m not sure it is accurate to just add that onto the cost of college and pretend that it doesn’t exist elsewhere.

    • Anonymous

      My advice to teenagers gearing up for college would be to spend less time stressing over which college you’re going to get into and more time doing practical shit while you are still young. 

      Dan, therein lies the rub. Kids go thru 13 years of indoctrination and training in primary and high school and then they don’t know how to focus their energy after graduation. College for most people is just more handing-holding, lectures, and delayed reality. So I think that the problem is much deeper than just the costs of college.

      • http://jobtalknj.com Suzanne Kaplan

        Yes, Mikeyhell, you are right. I spent some time teaching HS English, which in many ways, I really love doing. What I don’t love is the system – one that makes teachers have to disregard the real world and not truly able to help students learn – and figure out what they like learning about. On top of it, as a teacher in a public school you get in trouble from parents if you encourage kids to think about other options besides college. 

    • http://444express.blogspot.com/ the444

       I completely agree with you, Dan.  But on your last point, I agree partially and disagree partially, and here is the reason:  My son is in college at a state school, and the charge for him to eat and sleep there is not quite as much as, but surprisingly close to, the amount that the other five of us (total) pay to eat and sleep here at home.  That tells me that the price of room and board is not particularly economical or at least is likely to be elevated unreasonably from some base price that represents the true cost.

  • http://twitter.com/PurviRajani Purvi Rajani

    People don’t send their kids to Georgetown to get an education. They send them to Georgetown and other brand names school for status. The commodity that these schools sell is not knowledge to students but assurance to middle class parents that they did a good job. Prestigious universities also seem to take very good care of their faculty and staff, who seem to be paid quite well while TAs and adjuncts to the dirty work of teaching. I call it dirty because of grade inflation. If you’re spending $400k to go to that school, then you damn well better be getting As and everyone knows the game. Finally, its a damn disgrace that these institution have endowments that produce multi-billion dollar annual returns (Yale and Harvard made $2B+ last year) completely tax free while putting our nation’s greatest asset – its young people – in crippling debt. These fancy colleges with multi-billion dollar endowments show be taxed.

    • Eric Thinman

      my wife was a tenured sociology professor and she made peanuts.  the administration is who make the big dollars.  

    • http://444express.blogspot.com/ the444

       Purvi just explained it.  These are status-attaining and status-maintaining machines, nothing more, nothing less.  Very expensive ones.

    • Sschaloc

      IT’S NOT FAIR!!!

      The government should impound ALL private school endowments, and give them to community colleges (so those motivated, can learn what they used to teach in grade school). 

      The 1% can pay the full ride. De Po, can learn the 3 r’s

      It’s only fair…

      Think how good Harvard would FEEL about abolishing critical race!

    • Jack

      Everything you said was so good until the end where you say these institutions have lot of money and you feel the government needs to put a gun to their heads and take some of it to give to other people. Then you go on to say that these institutions are putting young people into debt.

      I disagree. People put themselves into debt because they believe they need a degree; no one is putting a gun to their head and forcing them to go.

      If these colleges are just for status and have no real value then why go? That seems to  be the real issue. Calling for a tax is basically admitting that we need these institutions to be better smarter people and that’s a load of BS.

      I’ve learned more in the last 5 years doing my own reading and studying than I ever did in college. I went to college because I believed that’s just what you’re supposed to do and I thought college was where you learned the skills needed to get a good career.

      The reality is that you don’t need to go anywhere to learn these skills; you just need to read books and think and try and believe in yourself. The hard part is finding the right books because you gotta sift through a lot of information to find the right ones but the cool thing is that once you start reading and really learning the thinking, the believing in yourself and the desire to try begin to occur naturally.

      • http://twitter.com/PurviRajani Purvi Rajani

        Don’t put words in my mouth please. I’m not advocating income redistribution. My point is that these elite colleges act like businesses and generate large revenues and profits. Yes, unlike other businesses, they pay no taxes. In addition, unlike most businesses, many of these universities are able to generate large revenues because student loans are backed by government programs. (Do you think these kids could get huge loans for cars, home or businesses? Nope. But they can get them for education because of government) Moreover, significant revenues are generated at research universities from government funded programs.
        Tuitions have risen faster than inflation or even health care costs. Elite faculty like Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren advocate higher taxes for individuals and business. Yet, Harvard is essentially a business that pays no income taxes. The US has a $15 trillion deficit and cumulative student debt of $1 trillion.
        These private, elite colleges have generated enormous institutional wealth thanks to their tax exempt status and government programs. Their ivory tower faculty and administrators want everyone else to pay more taxes. Yet, the elite universities pay none.
        Thirty-six private college president’s made over $1 million in salary. At my alma mater Yale, the Chief Investment Officer Peter Swenson made over $4.3 million in 2009 and his deputy made $2.3 million managing the tax free endowment. 
        I’m not advocating holding a gun to anyone’s head or redistributing wealth. Just tax Harvard, Yale and other elite private colleges just like we do every other business.

  • Carsten Hucho

    Ah, how wonderful! Thanks for this very, very entertaining and very, very true and very, very sad post! As an European I have some selection bias (I believe everybody has the right to education – so it should be *free*) – but let me tell you one story: I know somebody who was working as a researcher at a university somewhere in the US. She was supervising doctoral theses in some hard science. There was one guy who was especially, well, umm, not in the right field for his talents… but he had to get his degree. He thought so. His parents believed so. They tried.
    When they let him fail a crucial exam he approached his supervisor with a bunch of lawyers who tried to convince her that this guy has paid so much for his education he, sort of, ‘earned’ the degree and it would obviously be a sign of the supervisors’ inabilities if she can’t manage to make him smart enough for that.
    Obviously they tried even harder thereafter. I don’t know with which result.
    But… paying for education is no good idea.

    (and, hey, anybody coding this software? http://www.smarts-club.com/2012/02/software-that-will-earn-you-admiration.html)

    • mikeyhell

      Carsten, do you think it’s ok, in a moral sense, if your “right” comes at the expense of others who have no interest in your education?

      • Stewart

        it’s called ‘society’ 

        • Anonymous

          So, Stewart, if society is the condition that exists when one group has a monopoly power to impose taxes, debts and so on onto others, what do you call the condition that exists when goods and services are provided voluntarily through peaceful means?

           Do you even know what I’m talking about?

      • Carsten Hucho

        I am not sure I understand what you mean. I strongly believe that it is one of the important duties of a society to give people equal access to education. I happily pay taxes for that!

        • Anonymous

          I will be at attending a Merz Aesthetics national meeting in Dallas this week, returning Monday, March 12th. I will get back to you as soon as I am able–if urgent please contact customer service 1-866-862-1211. Thank you!

        • Anonymous

          You are happy with having a chunk of your paycheck taken to pay for some kid’s college. Fine. That’s the way you want to live. But I hope you realize what this means. It means that the state is bringing your “free” education to the masses through the barrel of a gun. The reason is because people who do NOT want their money taken from them for this purpose and who in turn resist taxation are considered criminals and locked up by the state. In other words, the price of your free education is your liberty, which is the condition where one is free of coercive influences. Free state education = violence. 

          • Carsten Hucho

             I completely disagree. We call this ‘social’. I happily pay taxes for health-insurance (even though I haven’t seen a doctor or bought medication in over 10 years), I am glad to pay taxes for social security – even though I hope never to be unemployed (and so I hope never to get that money back). I live in a social society where the strong (I, for example) support the weak. I am happy to pay taxes so that every kid gets the chance to the same, high quality, education (and there you may very well compare the quality of US-colleges with European Schools – to say it bluntly: colleges are a disaster in comparison).
            Being surrounded by people who have comparable chances, whos education does not depend on the wealth of their parents, makes my world just so much better! Knowing that everybody, independent of race, gender, income,… get’s adequate medical support – even if their medical condition is horrible and by that horribly expensive to treat, is what I happily invest my money for.
            The society are *we*. The state is not ‘the others’. I enjoy enormous liberty – because I am embedded in a social society. I would not want to live in an egoistic world (as you describe it) for very long.

          • Anonymous

            You are missing the point, Carsten. The question rephrased is this: What do you think is right and proper for the state to do to individuals who withhold their payments (taxes) because they do not agree with a system of state schooling (or state insurance, or state war, and so on)? If you say that these people are criminals and should be locked up, then you acknowledge that the price of “free” stuff is the loss of freedom to disagree. Just saying that one disagrees, like people do when they vote, is not enough. One must be able to act according to one’s beliefs otherwise there is no freedom to disagree. The relationship between the state and individuals today is like that of an abusive spouse who threatens violence if the partner wants to break up. Every sane person knows it’s wrong to beat someone up, but when it comes to the state, such violence is not only legal but is now widely seen as being morally correct. Is there any wonder there is so much political and economic turmoil these days? Moral contradictions are very damaging to the spirit, not to mention the effects on productive activity. 

            So, again, you might love being taxed today but what if you change your mind one day? You will then feel the price of so-called free state services. 

          • clark

            I doubt he will even get it then, mikeyhell.

            Also, wow, there are Clovers on every blog.

          • Anonymous

            LOL, Clark.

          • Andrew

            What do you think individuals owe the state (ie their fellow citizens) for providing that individual a civilized environment in which they can earn the money that is being taxed?  Nothing?  If you were born in this country you won the lottery at the moment of your birth.  You inherited a society built by all those who came before you, and being part of that society has enabled you to accomplish things you could not dream of had you been born many other parts of the world.  You are just entitled to that instant grant of massive wealth in exchange for nothing at all?

            You can be free from taxes and have all the liberty you want to act according to your beliefs as long as you completely divorce yourself from society.  Go live in the wilderness, use no dollars, be completely self-sufficient, defend yourself from would-be attackers.  Maybe you can get some other John Galt’s to join you in the gulch.  I wonder how you would decide who would pay for the things that would benefit you collectively.  Do you think you might all agree that everyone needed to kick in for the cost of defending your gulch?

            Oh, you would rather be part of the society that makes it possible for you to trade with others, to not worry that you will be invaded or captured and sold into slavery, to use the roads and be protected by the police, and buy cheap gasoline, and participate in the greatest, most efficient economy the planet has ever known?  Well, then you have to pay your share if you want to be part of that group.

          • Anonymous

            Andrew, I think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are immoral. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of innocents who are dead because of these conflicts. My tax dollars are helping to pay for this. Let’s pretend that only 10 percent of the Federal budget pays for this sad immoral series of state sanctioned murders. I’d like to withhold 10% of my taxes so I could sleep at night with a clean conscience. That money, instead of sending it to the IRS, will be donated to a charity that benefits war orphans.

            Sadly Andrew, if I do this, I’ll be sent to jail. The government, with your permission and approval, will put me in a cage because I refuse to contribute to this cluster****.

            Please tell me you don’t actually approve of this sad state of affairs.

            My alternatives are as follows: financially contribute to the murder of innocent human beings or be tossed in a cage. (please don’t tell me to move to Somalia)

          • Andrew

            David, that’s not really a complete description of the situation or of your alternatives.  

            Your description assumes that both your obligation to pay taxes, and the money you will use to pay them, came to you out of nowhere.  But that’s not the case.  You extracted your income from the same society that is conducting the wars.  You choose to belong to that society so you can make money.  You (and I) look the other way while part of the wealth we create for this society is used to do things we think are immoral.  You (and I) both have another choice that you did not list: we can choose to take nothing from this society, and then we would owe nothing to it.  We can live off the land in the boonies somewhere and no one will come collect taxes from us.  It is only our desire to interact with the war-conducting society that creates the obligation – and ability – to pay any taxes at all.     Without this society that is doing immoral things, neither you nor I would have any income to be taxed in the first place.   
            Disassociating from the society does not seem to you like a real alternative, but that is only because when it comes right down to it, as much as you despise the wars, you aren’t willing to give up what you’d have to give up to avoid contributing to them.  What that shows is how valuable membership in the society is.  You’re willing to associate yourself with warmongerers to live the life you can lead by doing so.  So am I.   That’s the price we pay.  And if the society chooses to provide education in addition to bombs, that too gets added to the price we pay to live the lifestyle we live instead of the lifestyle of perhaps 90% of all the human beings that have ever lived. 

            As an aside, I do not think it is true that if you refuse to pay your taxes you will be put in jail.  Filing a fraudulent return will get you thrown in jail.  Filing an accurate return and failing to pay will get you liens and wage garnishment and a whole host of other bad consequences, but not a prison cell.  So there’s something to think about.  You could give up everything you own and then not contribute to the immoral war.  Deal or no deal?

          • Anonymous


            Your comment makes me sad.

            You are part of the problem.  You seem to think that state sanctioned murders are an acceptable price to pay for a state provided educational system.  Unless you are a sociopath, I don’t know how you can feel that way.  Maybe I misunderstood you.

            The people who made the decision to go to war, and the individuals who are currently prosecuting it, along with the individuals who maintain the apparatus of the state such as tax collectors and petty bureaucrats are not part of my ‘society’. .  My personal prosperity is in spite of, not as a result of, their actions.  They are parasites on my hard work.  I owe them nothing.

            You seem to think that there an entity called society, that owns the productive output of my labor.  You seem to think that unless I disconnect from society and live like my great grandparents (who were forcibly marched from eastern Tennessee to the Oklahoma territory by Andrew Jackson and those under his command) that I should happily pay up my dues to “society” regardless of how foul some of “its” actions are.  That is not true.  I can, and will, continue to make myself prosperous by engaging in voluntary trade and exchange with others, by engaging in productive labor, and by avoiding the warmongers and statists.

            I would encourage you to disconnect yourself from those that commit violent acts in your name.  Andrew, at the very least have the courage to speak out against it.  Don’t smugly assume that because I avail myself of the fruits of my labor, I owe you anything. 

            You said, “You (and I) look the other way while part of the wealth we create for this society is used to do things we think are immoral.” 

            That’s not true.  You might be able to look away, but I’m too horrified to.

          • Andrew

            Douglas, you don’t owe anything to society unless you take something from it. You are taking plenty, including the fruits of the war you are helping to finance in exchange for the opportunity to prosperously trade with your fellow citizens.

            Do tell what courageous thing you are doing in opposition to the war, besides calling me smug in the same post where you claim moral superiority to me.

          • Anonymous

            Andrew, I think my biggest obstacle to understanding you is the way you use the term society.  It seems like you define society as a group of people that all live under the same government, and on the same tax farm.  Most of my toys and clothes came from Asia.  Yours probably did to, but I don’t owe the folks that made my iPod anything more than the price I paid for it.  I used to own a music store, and I would buy and sell guitars and other instruments.  A lot of the instruments were made in China, some were made in Mexico, and others were made in the United States.  Every time I bought one that was made outside of my tax farm, I paid what I owed for it.  I don’t understand why you think I owe more than what I paid.  Whenever I sold one of the guitars, I got paid for it.  I lived in a state that charged sales tax, so I collected it and turned it over to the state, but that didn’t benefit the people that made the guitar.  It’s possible that you think the concept of society only extends to the people who are subject to the same rulers that I am.

            I disagree with you.  You said, “You are taking plenty, including the fruits of the war you are helping to finance in exchange for the opportunity to prosperously trade with your fellow citizens.”  That statement is provably wrong.  The current wars that are being conducted without my approval or support don’t benefit me at all.  There are no good fruits that are harvested from them.  I have been made less prosperous as a result of them.  You have too, I’d imagine, unless you are a military contractor or in the armed forces.

            You said, “Do tell what courageous thing you are doing in opposition to the war, besides calling me smug in the same post where you claim moral superiority to me.”  Taking a stand against something that is popular requires some courage.  I regularly try to undermine the support for these ridiculous, immoral military nightmares.  Every opportunity I get, I try and discourage young people from joining the military.  If I was drafted, I would refuse to serve.  Thankfully, it hasn’t come to that.  I don’t know what else you would have me do.  I refuse to act violently in opposition to this sorry state of affairs, but I will fight against it with words and ideas.  That’s not entirely without risk.  Especially since legislation has been passed to allow the president to indefinitely detain people that he deems enemies of the state.  

            I don’t know if you realize it, but while my stand makes me unpopular, it is morally superior to yours.  Your writings lead me to believe that you literally view the deaths of innocents thousands of miles away as an acceptable price to pay for having a substandard, government mandated educational system.  In my opinion, that is a morally bankrupt view.

            Andrew, you identify yourself as a barbarian when you profess these beliefs.  You exclude yourself from the very civilized society you claim to support when you advocate pointless violence.  It’s possible that I’m wrong about you.  Maybe you don’t like these military mistakes anymore than I do.  Maybe you wish you lived in a society that let you pay for the thing you take from it, instead of one that commits evil acts and then sends you the bill.  I hope you do.  I feel bad for you.  I wish there was something I could say that would get you to reexamine your worldview.  There has to be something.  When I was younger, I used to think that the excesses of the state were acceptable.  I used to look down on people who thought that taxation was the moral equivalent of theft.  Something changed.  I’m not sure what it was.  Maybe I learned more about the way the world works.  Maybe it’s because I studied economic theory, read philosophy, and spoke with people wiser than me.  

            Maybe you have made the same intellectual journey that I did, but you just came a different conclusion.  If that’s true, I hope we never meet in person.  Because what you have written here on this blog makes me think that you are the sort of guy who would use violence when you disagree with someone.  Your government does, and it seems to have your full support.

          • Anonymous

            Andrew says: “As an aside, I do not think it is true that if you refuse to pay your taxes you will be put in jail. ”

            Just as you have never bothered to question your statism, you have obviously never bothered to put the terms “tax resister” into your google machine.

          • Anonymous

            Clover? Is that you?

          • Andrew

            Free state education = violence? Really?
            I thought “War in Afghanistan and Iraq= violence”.Murder = violence
            Rape = violence.
            So free state education = rape = murder = war?Can you think of any other ways one’s liberty might be stolen other than being taxed?  I can.

          • Anonymous

            Those are of course the obvious forms of state violence. I am pointing out to Carsten a less-than-obvious but no less real form of state violence.

          • Andrew

            Yes but can you think of any ways that living in a civilized society might actually enhance one’s liberty even if the price of admission to that society is to pay some taxes?  I bet taxes are pretty low in Sudan and Bangladesh.  Would you want to live there and be free?

          • Anonymous

            Andrew, I suggest you study what liberty means and get back to us. 

          • Andrew

            That’s a nice smug and insulting answer that says nothing.  You are the one equating liberty with freedom from taxation, and ignoring all its other sources and aspects.  I guess one of us needs to study the definition of the word, but I don’t think it’s me.

          • Andrew

            And seriously: you think free education is a “no less real” form of state violence than, say, dropping bombs on people?  They seem pretty different to me, and I would guess to most people.

            Still, let’s not forget that the bombs have to be paid for somehow.  Perhaps if you would like to be freed from the tyranny of taxation you should support a reduction in defense spending

          • R L

            Don’t feed the libertarian trolls. They keep multiplying.

  • Eric Thinman

    There should be a report on how Student Loan debt ruins lives.  Please post if there is one already.

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisRossini ChrisRossini

    With the Internet & budding online education (like the Khan Academy), the educational establishment will be turned on its head…It’s inevitable. 

    The world will be a much better place without the top-down and centralized educational gatekeepers. 

    Decentralization & Specialization in education is on the march. It can’t get here soon enough.

  • Matt Case


    As a recent college graduate myself I can’t AGREE with you more. I would however not generalize the subject that a higher education is not for everyone. Such degrees are required for Dr’s Lawyers etc. In the business world a degree is not required to create a business, run a company, and make a million dollars but instead these skills can be developed on your own. Like you mentioned in your post, use the internet as your online education, read books, talk to people in the industry you want to enter.
    Thank you for your contrarian points of views and ability to exploit how the world really works.

    • clark

      “Such degrees are required for Dr’s Lawyers etc.”

      HAHA, that’s funny. Required does not mean able.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=732244537 Priscilla Paredes Wood

    I sense fear in that report. There’s a blogger, and people are reading him.

  • Demian Farnworth

    Here’s the line I like: “But what about socialization? Are you kidding me? Does it cost $400,000 to learn how to make friends?” This is the question we get asked every time we mention to someone that we home school. As if hanging out in overcrowded classrooms is healthy socialization. Sadly, the researchers are clinging tightly to their positions and pay checks, so you can hardly blame them, right? Good post, James. 

    • Chris Youra

      I did a couple of years in community college part-time, but more importantly I also lived close to a much larger (private) college.. It’s really easy to find a social group you can blend in with if you do a little homework on local hangouts or have similar passions. I have plenty of ‘college’ connections and *zero* debt because of it.

    • Anonymous

      Demian, I hear that one all the time and I don’t even have kids! Most parents are products of the same system of indoctrination so it follows that they will defend it to the last. It’s an kind of intellectual laziness that I find appalling. A few parents understand the system but they feel trapped by circumstances into having no other choice but to put their kids in a minimun-security prison five days a week. It’s sad but I get it.

  • https://www.coldhardcode.com/ Jay Shirley

    I had to cheat and went to the report where they were talking about you. I’m actually annoyed, not at their mention of you but their assertion that “it is absurd to suggest that people with a high school education are likely to leave their investments untouched”.

    Such a statement shows their disdain for people just like me.

    Well, I guess I get the last laugh. In my close social and family circle, there is not a single college degree, yet we all have savings from our 20s (or earlier) that have accrued.

    It’s not absurd to suggest that people without a college degree will leave investments untouched. It’s absurd to suggest such superiority exists by those foolish enough to think college is the answer to a comfortable life.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I agree, the arrogance in this report is astonishing and there is no sense at all that they are capable of understanding that. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/anders.mikkelsen Anders Mikkelsen

      Selection bias. People more likely to be fiscally responsible are more likely to go to college (and afford it and know how to get someone else to pay for it.) (And of course lots of irresponsible ones go too.)

  • http://what-are-my-options.blogspot.com/ the99th

    I think teachers who earn mid-5’s could put some courses up online for $39.99 and sell a few thousand seats, blow out their previous income. Who suffers? College athletics departments, the main recipient of the inflating tuition. I always preferred reading to attending V-Tech Football games, the peacefulness of an empty town was compelling.

  • Nfamous365

    James, you are correct on all or your points but I fell that you may have gotten into the mud with the pigs on this one.  (Although I understand the temptation to refute a moron.) Keep doing what you’re doing & don’t let the haters get to you!!!

  • Anonymous

    One good counterpoint to the whole you-don’t-need-college thing is that you don’t hear people who are women or who are minorities (particularly African American) saying it.

    I don’t think it’s as true for them, no matter which population you pick them out of or how motivated they are. 

    Not going to college is still an option for white men where it isn’t for other groups. Maybe you’ve talked about this, I don’t know…but I think it’s kind of disingenuous to say something’s true for everyone when it’s pretty much true for a much smaller set.

    (I know plenty of wildly successful people who didn’t attend college or who dropped out — I’m in Silicon Valley, they’re pretty thick on the ground here. They’re also ALL white men. Every woman and minority I know has at least a bachelor’s and most have master’s.) 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1773828926 Katya Kean

      Key and Peele, so hilarious.

      You’re probably on to something there, Vendrazi.  Although, I do know a black-on-both-sides young guy who is making good money doing SEO and blogging, and doing some sales on the side, and he never went to college, and probably never will.  He just does his research and takes chances, and he’s a great networker.  But he has an inborn extroversion and resourcefulness, he’s a natural entrepreneur.  For a non-white person who just wants to be an accountant or manager, though, with a routine and a paycheck, you’ve made a valid point.
      However, I bet there are ways around that.  I know I’d rather hire someone who isn’t white but who researches what they need to know, who is self-taught, and who has fought against challenges, than some spoiled yuppie white kid with a sense of entitlement and a diploma and a college loan to pay off which will make him constantly bicker with me about his paycheck.
      As long as I see that someone is honest, responds to feedback and critique, is constantly self-learning and creative, and knows how to talk to people in a friendly, respectful, and grammatically correct way, they’re in.  Because that is so rare.  Those qualities truly belong to the “minority”, no matter what color someone is.  Market forces of supply and demand will still favor character over education, because it’s harder to find character.
      And if a potential boss will only look at whether or not a person has a degree, over more practical qualifications, then screw them, because it would be a miserable and frustrating place to work at anyway.

    • Kevin Hutto

      So you are saying that a woman or minority can’t be an entrepreneur today? I think you are wrong. It has never been easier for anyone who is smart and ambitious to make it – with or without a degree. The fact that you see less black entrepreneurs in SV is not evidence in any way. One of the smartest entrepreneurs on the planet right now is black – Shawn Carter (Jay-Z).

      • Anonymous

        Way to put words in my mouth, there, Kevin. I didn’t say that. 

        But I haven’t heard a lot of women or minorities say that college is unnecessary. If you can point me toward posts where women who don’t have college degrees are arguing that they’re further ahead than women who have them, I’d like to see it. 

        If you don’t go to college AND you don’t start your own business, the road is different (and in my opinion, immensely harder) for women and minorities than it is for white males. That shouldn’t stop them. That shouldn’t be the way it is. But to gloss over this as “gosh, anyone can do anything” is untrue and I wish James would address this when he talks about this topic.

        Comparing the possibilities for all black entrepreneurs to the success of Jay-Z is disingenuous and you know it.

        • Kevin Hutto

          You can argue that the playing field is biased all you want to but the world has changed and is changing more every day. 

          If you want to get any high paying JOB without a degree then it is going to be a hard road whether you are white, black, yellow or green – and man or woman. You will most likely have to go into some form of sales. Will you have a hard time if you are a woman? Not if you want to do pharmaceutical sales – If you are a good looking woman (of any color) with a big chest you are 10 times more likely to get hired than a man. 

          I am sure there is still bias in the world. I am not stupid. But just because it might be harder, doesn’t mean that it still isn’t a way better option.

          There are lots of people that should still go to college. But the lines aren’t drawn by any color or sex. The lines have more to do with initiative, drive and self-reliance or lack thereof.

          And since Jay-Z wasn’t a good choice, how about Chris Gardner… He succeeded in the ultimate white man’s world – Wall Street… without a college degree.

    • http://www.facebook.com/anders.mikkelsen Anders Mikkelsen

      I think this is a pretty valid statement. On the other hand it might just point out yet another way that women and minorities are ill served by what they’re told. Many of the opportunities for people to make money are in business and do not require skills taught in school. (One of the more successful people I know owns bars, another built half his house and owns tourist boat businesses. Neither has a college education, but they’re good with people.) What is usually key is the ability to create relationships (and the basic math to detect profits.) So maybe they aren’t saying it, but it is still true for them too. The key thing is probably their ability to create profitable relationships.
      Similarly going to college fairs I’ve noticed many minorities thinks college is expensive and they should go to an undergrad college where they’ll take ‘business,’ ‘pre-law’ or ‘pre-med’ as majors. No one has bothered to tell them that there is plenty of money for minorities at ‘expensive’ colleges (if they can handle the work) and that the best grads schools and businesses would rather get recruits from the ‘expensive’ colleges which would never dream of offering pre-professional majors.

    • Caryn Goddard

       You couldn’t be more wrong.
      First, women outnumber men at many colleges. But the same principle applies that 95% of all jobs do not require what jammed examed in college. I won’t dignify this as ‘learning.’
      Second, Blacks flunk out of college at astounding rates. That hardly helps them.

      If you can afford college and think you’ll benefit, go. But what James is attacking is the agit-prop that all people should go to college.

      I oppose all the civil wrongs laws in public accomodations, employment, housing affecting the private sector. Government is a different matter.
      But as long as we have them discrimination against non-college grads should be outlawed. Lawyers and doctors accepted. Real doctors, not pompous asses with Ph.D’s.

  • Richard

    James, you should update your Upcoming Appearances. I see August 2011 through December 2011.

  • http://jameshamlett.com/ James Hamlett

    In an economy where there are less jobs than there are applicants, why should every get into debt in order to get an education?  America needs new entrepreneurs that will create the innovations, products and companies of the future.  Knowledge is power.  You can get that in many places and not only in a high priced college.  As stated earlier if you are going to be a doctor, lawyer, dentist, etc. college will be necessary.  But following your passion may not require you to graduate from an expensive school and go into years of debt that must be repaid.  If you love education take some credible online courses or attend a smaller school you can afford.

  • Jeremy Davis

    You’ve made it, James… After I wrote an article that was trashed by Internet trolls , one of the best journalists I know, Samuel Freedman, sagely told me, “It is good to be known by one’s enemies.” And now you are!

  • Anonymous

     The other day I heard about another 47 year old dying of a heart attack. “The guy ran a marathon every year,” my friend told me and showed me a picture. The spitting image of health. Two daughters, just like me. You know why everyone is dying of heart attacks? Because they feel they have to spend $400,000 on sending their kids to Georgetown.”

    I struggle to avoid being that guy. Thanks for printing stuff like this and helping me stay sane.

    It’s realistic that my wife and I will be able to provide my kids with $400,000 each to start their lives. (Not a lock, but realistic). But even if we are that fortunate I will strongly advise them against “spending it all in one place”….

    $400K is an incredibly huge investment, and there are much, much cheaper ways to get a piece of paper, develop learning skills, and put your reputation out there.

  • John

    Hi James.  Long-time fan.  I read your column daily.

    I see your point, but I do have one concern.  You fail to mention the importance of “the degree” in the job market.  True, nothing beats experience – but how many jobs do you see posted that require (or at least STRONGLY encourage) a degree?

    When you are talking management level, you won’t even be considered without a Masters.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say “I’d apply, but I don’t have a Masters” – I could pay that $400,000 Georgetown tuition for them.

    Yes, ideally in the world of entrepreneurship – one does not ‘need’ a degree.  But not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.  Look around you.  90% of the workforce are worker drones (for better or worse).  These are not the game changers – they are the people who work for the game changers.  They are the boots on the ground workforce – the people who get the things done so that the game changers can BE successful.

    What troubles me with the current trend of ‘don’t go to college’ is….. you are telling the worker bees not to go for the very degrees that they need in order to advance themselves in the workforce.

    Sure, college isn’t for ‘everyone’ – but the inverse must also be true – college isn’t for ‘no one’!

    Don’t you find it ironic that so many of the well-to-do talking heads that you see on TV right now who are saying “don’t send your kids to college” in fact HAVE their kids in Ivy League colleges?

    • http://kymira.blogspot.com/ Chimera

       I agree with John. There are many people out there who cannot even appear for jobs if they did not have a degree. While I agree with your POV that education is an expensive waste of time.In fact I gave up going for an MBA course after I read your blog.
      How do you solve the imminent problem of jobs asking for your education qualifications?

      • Sangredulce

        I did an MBA at Pepperdine 10 years ago at $40K .. It was fund and informative, bit for $200 I could have went to the bookstore and bought the books required and read them. The profs don’t add that much more. In business, having some management responsibility over others, volunteering for unwanted work and some P&L duties are worth way more when it comes to promotions or new jobs.  Read the books and avail yourself of youtube vids to speak the lingo (trust me, just throwing out some terms is enough… no one ever goes into a deep dissertation with anyone else.. they probably just skimmed the  book the night before the test)

        • Samueldean9

           We have to move to a society where this is the norm. I think the $15 trillion in current debt and $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities may help us along that path.

        • Pulqui2

          Hey Sangredulce, I don’t think any amount of books would have done you any good if after a BA or BS and and Pepperdine MBA you wrote “I could have went”…Maybe youl should start bay getting educated on basic English grammar…

    • http://jobtalknj.com Suzanne Kaplan

      Here! Here! John. 

    • http://www.keganquimby.com Kegan Quimby
      • John

        Ahhh…. the ‘self-help’ books from the peddlers of dreams, not advice.  Buy this book and 8-minute abs and you will have your dream career AND rock-hard abs!

        I’m saying this all with tongue firmly inserted in cheek, but….. it does seem that there are a lot of these books around.

        You would think that with the sheer volume of all these books that are consumed year after year (regurgitating the same stuff) that everyone would be in their dream careers by now.

    • Robin Heinen

      I fully agree to this. I think everyone should ‘reconsider’ before going to college. If you already know you are going to be an entrepeneur, there are probably easier, better and cheaper ways to learn what you need to succeed. If you want to be a doctor, scientist, or whatever, you won’t get the job if all the other interested persons have a master’s degree. At least not in Europe. I do think (in my country, Holland) too many people start studying because it’s ‘normal’ to do so. In my field (Biology), a lot of people start, just because they don’t really know what to do other than studying. THOSE people should reconsider whether or not they really should start studying. I also see this in other fields(economics, architecture, design, psychology). A lot of people with a master in Biology end up working in for example IT or as a journalist… this doesn’t make sense. They learned NOTHING about that at their universities(we learn how to do research and write scientific papers and learn about some aspects from the wide array of topics within the field of Biology, nothing more, nothing less). I studied Biology to be a scientist, and now I am starting a business (in Biology field as well), I think I am one of the (guestimated) 20% that ends up working in the field they studied in.

    • http://twitter.com/danielsweb Daniel Silva

      I got my first job as a software developer without a CS degree by lying on my resume. 14 years later, I now tell the truth (I’m a college dropout) but present my experience in its place. Not only has this been a positive experience for me, it’s also a great story to tell to future employers of how you were able to teach yourself (through self-study and just being open on the job to observing and learning from others) over the years. I don’t condone lying, but if you can do the job, if you would love doing the job, and the employer would tolerate you as an employee, then I say the end justifies the means. I’m not convinced college is a bad thing, but it just wasn’t for me. I’m glad I dropped out.

    • Olaoluwa

      While I love your comment I would love to chip in this…Mr James’ Blog, presumably  is not meant for the ‘worker drones’, it is well written on his page…”Idea for a world out of balance”. So, I guess this is page is basically not a playground for the workforce, on the contrary, it is indulged for the iconoclasts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bill.corley1 Bill Corley

      A master’s degree required for management?  I disagree.  Maybe if you’re trying to transfer into management from a lateral field, but otherwise, I don’t see the connection.  The last time I was asked whether I had plans to go back to school and get an MBA, my response was “if someone wants to express an opinion on my intellect, the current rate is $75 / hour”  People want to know how you’ve handled P&L responsibility, how you’ve motivated employees, how you’ve gone about acquiring clients, how you can enhance the competitive position of your firm… not what’s on some piece of paper.  That said, I used to worry about this sort of thing, until I had a buddy at work who got an executive MBA at nights – took him three years and $80,000.  I asked him for his book lists, bought most of them and read them.  Some interesting info, to be sure, but three years in, he still hasn’t made the transition to management, because management is more about being willing to step up and take responsibility for the output of a group of people and motivating them to do their best work, and you can’t teach that in B-School.

    • Jack

       The worker bees you speak of are only worker bees because they’ve been trained to be in government indoctrination centers.

      Check out John Taylor Gatto and Charlotte Iserbyt and their research into the American educational system.

    • David

      Well what if all those worker bees didn’t need to go to college to get ahead? If everyone just refused to go to college employers would still need employees and would be forced to hire people who didn’t have college degrees. I am currently looking for jobs and I am not sure you are correct that most jobs require a degree. I am looking in the accounting field and there are a ton of jobs that only require an associates degree or just a high school degree with 2 years experience. The pay is in the range of 12-17 dollars an hour for these jobs. I only earned 16 dollars an hour as a new college graduate in the humanities. Yes you can earn a bit more with a bachelor’s in accounting maybe around 20-22 dollars an hour but is it really worth 30k in debt for such a small bump in pay. It seems like it would be a lot more efficient for people to get 2 year degrees at very low cost and then learn the more advanced skills on the job. Even people who do get a bachelor’s in accounting still have to be trained from the beginning when they start working. College does an absolutely horrible job of preparing people for the working world in almost all fields.

  • Boabdil

    Maybe the trick is to broadcast you were admitted to the school but did not attend. Anyone who is admitted to an elite institution will probably succeed in life regardless if he/she attends an elite institution. This subject may be a good topic for the Freakonomics blog.

  • http://www.preemptiveplacebo.com Preemptive Placebo

    Nostalgia bias. 

    They are defending the system they knew when they went to college.  That system has changed.  Today it is different from the one they knew and they hate it.  

    The only thing they hate more than the fact that it has changed is when someone points out the change and then gives advice counter to their nostalgic belief of what was, what is and what they believe should always be. 

    As Darwin said, “It isn’t the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

  • Anonymous

    I have a pretty short internet “loop” – email, words with friends, facebook, stock quotes, and two beloved bloggers.  On the surface the two bloggers could not be more different but I gain valuable insight from both of them.  Both bloggers talk about using limited resources ((time, energy, money) in a way that mazimizes satisfaction.  That is the common thread and it is wonderful for me to get the daily reminder in two very different ways.  Check it out.  http://www.lauravanderkam.com. 
    P.S.  This topic and the ferocity with which you seem to want to impose the “no college” solution is getting old.  While I agree with many of the points you make against college, I do not think that abstaining from an education is the only reasonable answer. I also agree with many of the points made by the proponents of a college education and I think that your insisting on completely discrediting every conclusion they reach weakens your position.  I do believe that awareness of these issues could be an enlightenment that could help a young person maximize their time, energy and money while paricipating in an appropriate higher education experience – or choosing something more appropriate.

    • http://jobtalknj.com Suzanne Kaplan

      Hey Avid Confidential Reader! I agree with you. In fact, I wrote a post last week in response to one of James’ articles (this is my post if you care to read it 
      http://jobtalknj.com/post/18858298806/what-did-james-altucher-learn-at-college-anyway)I think James could be a real forerunner of a movement if he were not as overblown – I disagreed with one of his points in an article he wrote recently that college does not teach people how to think. That said, Georgetown is taking him seriously enough!

    • Kevin Hutto

      I don’t think James is advocating abstaining from an education at all. I think he is refuting the propaganda that there is only one worthwhile conduit for education.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=718531636 Brett Stubbs


  • Lisa

    I’m a Hispanic woman who dropped out of college 15 years ago; I am very well compensated and considered a senior in my field. I’ve never been asked to participate in a study about this – and I’ve never read a study about ethnic and sex minorities who made the choice 15 years ago not to go to college and have prospered since. I hope I’m ahead of times, that this becomes the norm – that a college education doesn’t become the stick by which we measure each other or success. If anyone is doing that study I’d love to read it! Problem is, I’m not sure which corporate interest this data supports, to fund that study….

  • http://www.perfectlyturbulent.com/ Michael


    This was awesome.  I am so used to your self-deprecating, here is what did and did not work type of stories I thought it was great to see all guns firing today. 

    My university career was a waste of time, as was my time in the corporate world.  I run an online biz now, and I am moving to Mexico for two months starting in April and then to Barcelona near the end of the year.  

    Why? Because I can and life is too short not to (for me, anyways).

    My zombie friends look at me like I am a wizard, and some think I am eccentric. lol.  I think they are wasting their lives for the most part and I am opting out of their myopic thoughts and conversations.  

    As I am starting the Daily Practice (slowly), I have started looking at everyone in my life as being either a +1 or -1 to specific areas of my life (Emotional, Physical, Money/Success), and the -1’s are getting pink slips.   And speaking of Mexico, I will be sending you an email with a proposal for you to come join me in down south for a few days.   Expect it by the end of the month. Thanks again for having your blog and helping the rest of us kill the zombies trying to get us. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=78201490 Grant Miller

    Damn it, James … you inspire me. I am college-educated (although I went to the local university on scholarships and worked all throughout), married and have three children. I’m the first college graduate on either side of my family, and my kids (although young) all seem to be quite intelligent.

    Why do I share this? Because I could see each of them growing up, following the pattern, and falling for the lie you’ve eloquently addressed here (and many times before). Guess what? I’m completely unhappy with my “career”. I bought a lie from my family, and here I am. I am paid well, but obviously not well enough, because I hate it. But you have helped me turn that unhappiness around into hope. I’m currently in the process of starting a business. I think it could be a big success if executed correctly, and the skills it requires, well … those come from $75 worth of books and the WWW. The business might fail miserably, but at least I’ll come away with some skills I didn’t have before, which I can use for the next venture.

    I think I’m going to buy my oldest a Raspberry Pi for his 6th birthday. These are my thoughts.

    Thanks James.

  • Tong Sen

    I notice you always use the cost of private schools in your calculations to convince people not to attend University. What about attending in-state schools where Tuition + books, room & board, and other expenses are around $20,000/yr ($80k for 4yrs). If they got a degree in Engineering, Accounting, perhaps Business. They will surely find a job and make more than someone who didn’t go to University at all. But if they were to attend for the Arts… it may not be worth attending University.

    I do agree that it depends on the person’s drive how they will succeed. But, if someone doesn’t want to be an entrepreneur surely they will do better in a corporate environment with a “cheap” degree than without.

    You can still work while attending college as well, so wages lost by attending University aren’t necessarily 100% either.

  • http://www.amintorres.com/blog/index.php aminTorres

    hehe, James, have you seen this?

  • HH
  • http://jobtalknj.com Suzanne Kaplan

    James, you have good ideas, but it seems you exaggerate when people disagree with you; Georgetown is not bashing you, unless your definition of bash and mine are different. You should be happy to have the press. It’s only going to lead more people to your site. And if they are smart, they will understand that you make some valid arguments.

  • Jacqueline

    They are so scared it’s laughable! To end the report’s prose section the way the do, wowie!

  • Bradleyvandalen

    DAN KELLY! #3! 

  • Jan

    Great point of view as always, James.  One wrinkle is mentioned a few times in the comments section in that most companies require a degree to be considered for a job.  I know your opinion about working for corporations (don’t), so that is essentially your answer to that argument, although a lot of people probably have difficulty accepting it.  Having worked for corporations for more than 20 years, I couldn’t agree with you more. 

    Also, in the Ivy Leagues particularly, there is the issue of making the contacts that get you the jobs after you get out of school.  Another load of crap, but real, nonetheless.

    In conclusion, good friends put their son through private school in Manhattan from K-12, then paid for his B.S. at Georgetown.  They did this on a teacher’s and flight attendant’s salary, meaning they sacrificed much for his education.   Now, three years later, their son is a waiter and they are paying all his living expenses.  He is 25 years old and quite frankly, financially illiterate.  A nice guy, he has no clue how to get a job or live on his own.  

    Speaks volumes.

  • http://twitter.com/rorwhy Rory O’Rourke

    You should do more of this kind of stuff.  The bleeding is good, but all bleeding probably paints a more dour picture of your life than necessary.  We struggle, so it’s good to empathize with you but I think we’d like to empathize with some of your great days too.

  • http://Www.brookefarmer.com/ Brooke Farmer

    Here is what I got out of college:

    The understanding that I did not have to work for minimum wage or the rest of my life just because I had a child right out of high school.

    Those four years were hard. I worked full time, I put myself through school, I fought two separate custody battles with my ex and I volunteered every single week in my son’s classroom. By the end of it I felt pretty strongly if I could make it through all that I could do just about anything. I finally felt like everything was going to be okay.

    And for that I have loans I may never be able to pay off. It was probably more worth it for me than it is for many others. But it has never lead to my dream job. One of my majors was economics. After four years in shool and years after that working for a small pension firm perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned is this:

    I hate math.

  • http://twitter.com/scrobTV SCROB TV

    Not the topic of this blog post but regarding the marathon man and his health, scientists have recently discovered severe scars after running a marathon. Guess where: In your heart. And they stay forever and make your heart less flexible. Maybe that killed him.

  • http://twitter.com/LishenNair Lishen Nair

    James, this mirrors many of my beliefs.  In light of this I just did a blog post, mostly in defense of your ideology but partly in defense of your honor too. 

  • aj

    ” It is a fantasy to think that starting one’s career after high school and using the money that might have been used to pay for college will lead to a gold mine later in life.”

    My mechanic is the wealthiest guy of my generation that I know. He told me he realized in high school that he was “stupid” and decided to do two things. One, become a mechanic. Two, invest all his savings for 20 years (from the age of 15) into real estate. Now he is the Multi-Millionaire Mechanic and is always pestered for stock tips and such by his clientele. He works just to keep busy and only 3 days a week as he always warns you when you try to book in. He’s a brilliant mechanic too. Exactly the kind of person this article states doesn’t exist. 

    • Kaiti

      And if the market hadn’t worked well for him, people would be laughing at his stupidity. Funny how circumstances define the person…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1597020074 Tim Gorichanaz

    You have a good point, but your sensationalism only makes it weaker. If you want more people to listen to you, then making outrageous claims won’t help you. What outrageous claims, you ask? 

    The big one that sticks out is saying that Georgetown costs $400,000 a year to attend. Where did that number come from? We started with $70,000 including room + tuition. Usually the figure for room is room + board, which includes food, but let’s say it doesn’t. If you spend $10 for every meal (most people would spend way less, obviously), then you’re talking about $11,000 per year for food. Okay. So we’re at $81,000 a year for living. Add in textbooks: The kids in hard sciences will average about $500 a semester in textbooks, but most get away with less money. Okay, so $82,000 a year. Since when does $82,000 equal $400,000? Apparently you expect the average college student spends $318,000 a year on hookers? Come on…

    You use this $400,000 a year figure throughout your argument, but if it’s based on nothing, then it gives the impression that your argument is, too. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       pre-taxes, $400,000 total.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1597020074 Tim Gorichanaz

        Gotcha, I was reading that as $400,000 per year :). But still, I suspect many (most?) people don’t pay that much. For example, I went to Marquette, which is almost as expensive as Georgetown “officially,” but they give a lot of kids a 30% scholarship off the bat. And combined with other scholarships and financial aid, I paid less than $40,000 for all four years of school. /shrug

        • Anonymous

          I will be at attending a Merz Aesthetics national meeting in Dallas this week, returning Monday, March 12th. I will get back to you as soon as I am able–if urgent please contact customer service 1-866-862-1211. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure where I stand on the the ‘screw college’ bit, but I am new to your blog and must do further research. However, I will disclose some evidence in support of your case. My sister went to Georgetown University, and her college entry coincided with my father’s massive heart attack. Luckily he survived to face the next tuition bill. I am quite certain that this piece of statistical information will now give you complete and total credibility with Georgetown. You can thank me later.FYI, my now coronarily challenged dad went to harvard and he wishes he hadn’t. His parents had decided his fate starting at hotchkiss ending at harvard…that’s what good elitists do. From a young age my dad campaigned against choosing an ivy league education because he felt he was taught more by TA’s then professors. Being published is much more important than some undergrad peon, I guess.Like any good daughter, I blame my dad for most things, but I thank him for instilling in me his allergy to all things pretentious. He was able to overcome his silver-spoony beginnings and strike out on his own (though no college debt to carry) and morph into an authentic, climber-loathing human. Unlike my disobedient sister who went to a pseudo-ivy league college, I was loyal. I maintained a C+ average and skipped school often just to ensure I had no chance to gain entrance to this axis of evaluation. I lucked into a sports scholarship at a very prestigious institution commonly referred to as “Over Dose University.” Yes, be impressed (and puzzled since you may have never heard of ODU- it is quite exclusive).I am not 100% there yet with the absence of college (I’m new here, be patient with me) But I can say that paying a half-million for a name on your resume and rights to wear “Ve Re Tas” on a sweatshirt is nuts. Or even crazier still– to wear a sweatshirt saying “GTown Hoyas” (with the back of the sweatshirt saying “what is a hoya?” followed by the definition. So ivy league!)All of the above is completely irrelevant if your name is Winthorp; then you have no choice but to limit your choices. I hope you like singing a cappella P.S. My sister is going to be pissed at me for writing this, but who cares? I’m a daddy’s girl.

  • Nillie Goldman

    Interesting article. If a person’s goal is to learn for the sake of learning and growing professionally and personally, then today’s technology has create a large number of good options to accomplish this goal and more sites will undoubtedly be developed in the future. The challenge (or at least one of them) is that the American workplace still places a lot of value on college degrees and graduate degrees, and for many professions it’s a prerequisite for entrance (medicine, law, etc).

    Entrepreneurship and technology are two areas where there’s a wealth of free resources online where you can learn a great deal for free. The quality of many of these resources is amazing. Thank you for letting me know about Coursera.com. I’ve added it to the list. For anyone who’s interested in learning more about entrepreneurship and technology online – for free (or almost for free), take a look at these links:


    Nillie Goldman
    Founder and Publisher

    • Anonymous

      Fantastic! Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/socrates1998 socrates

    Cool article, I am a high school teacher and I see the selection bias everyday. People go to college because that is what you are supposed to do. And the high achieving types ALWAYS go to college. Only a few times in my career have I seen a highly motivated and successful 18 year old choose not to go to college.
    We, as a society, push everyone towards college, so people who want success go to college.
    Thanks again James!

    • Anonymous

      I will be at attending a Merz Aesthetics national meeting in Dallas this week, returning Monday, March 12th. I will get back to you as soon as I am able–if urgent please contact customer service 1-866-862-1211. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/fzeng96 Feng

    Cost of hooker was also included? I must went to the wrong school.

    I like how you ‘unbiasedly’ select facts to back up your arguments.

    Allen Iverson was a millionaire, and now he cannot pay up his own debt.

    Good job!

    • Anonymous

      I will be at attending a Merz Aesthetics national meeting in Dallas this week, returning Monday, March 12th. I will get back to you as soon as I am able–if urgent please contact customer service 1-866-862-1211. Thank you!

  • Erin E. Redman

    Higher education is a better use of time than some stuff like surfing, movies, parties, and picnics for alot of people, although extremely painful, very difficult, and somewhat costly.

    • Anonymous

      I will be at attending a Merz Aesthetics national meeting in Dallas this week, returning Monday, March 12th. I will get back to you as soon as I am able–if urgent please contact customer service 1-866-862-1211. Thank you!

  • http://www.andrewriley.net Andrew

    What kind of jackass lets their 18 year old kid dive into decades of debt?  The only way I’d send my son to college is if I had enough CASH to pay for it.  I’m with you on this one, James.

    • Anonymous

      I will be at attending a Merz Aesthetics national meeting in Dallas this week, returning Monday, March 12th. I will get back to you as soon as I am able–if urgent please contact customer service 1-866-862-1211. Thank you!

  • Mr. Wonderful

    James, What you are saying is objectively true. But so long as majority of the employers are also indoctrinated into thinking a college degree is valuable, people will continue to incur debt and pursue college education.
     Much like the useless paper money we all use. Fiat money is completely worthless but so long as the majority believe it has value the money ‘creators’ will continue to rule the world.

    • Eli Willard

      As a company owner, I love to hear that a majority of employers suffer from the same disease as the Georgetown blowhards.  Means that I have access to deeper pool of talented people.

  • Carlos

    The education bubble is just another example of how government intervention leads to malinvestment. And now its popping –  “Millions of college students could be in for a shock this summer when the interest rate on a popular federally subsidized student loan doubles unless Congress acts.”


  • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred

    Do you think they may have mentioned you by name for extra visibility and free publicity of their chart-saturated report?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       Ha, that would certainly be a first if so.

  • Kevin Hutto

    A great comparison would be the people who went to college vs the ones who got in and quit their first year or two. Then both groups are/were motivated achievers. I believe that your hypothesis would be verified. Everyone knows the obvious examples like Gates and Jobs, etc… but what about the Thornton Mellon’s of the world?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       It just so happens I wrote about the REAL Thurston Melon (one “l”) right here: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2012/02/i-get-no-respect/

      • Kevin Hutto

        That’s why I mentioned him :) 

        Thornton Melon is the prototype for what you are talking about… A self made man who was familiar with the real world. My favorite scene in back to school was when he argued with the stuck up professor about starting a business and he explained how you had to grease the palms of the local politicians for zoning, deal with the teamsters for cement and work out the long term waste management contracts. 

        That scene is the visual representation of your point.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1773828926 Katya Kean

    Seth Godin just published an AMAZING e-book, for free, about this topic of public and college education, and how broken and harmful it is.  It lit my brain on fire, and inspired me to continue to pursue independent learning and creativity.


  • Capitalistic

    Georgetown mentioned you because they know you could affect their source of revenue…

    I do think college is overvalued, maybe except medicine. As someone that attended an “expensive” undergrad, and an uber expensive private b/school, I personally think the cost of education is relative.

    I do support higher education, but I don’t think $50k times 4 years ($200k) undergrad + $50k times 2 ($100k) for an MBA, unless you’re on a full scholarship, independently wealthy or suicidal, it’s not worth the expense.

    Unfortunately, quality of education is a barrier to entry for most positions in the work force.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tracy.lovett Tracy Lovett

    I think the point of all of this is that all education, in the format we have now, does NOT create people who know how to utilize their natural talents that bring them great joy in a way that will enable them to support themselves.  Many times, public education is more a case of pounding the joy of learning and imagination right out of a child’s head rather than producing a well-rounded person, and I believe it is geared specifically to build wonderful cubical robots.  Then, after 12 years of mind-numbing boredom, kids just follow the leader right into college, and into debt for an education that often-times does not bring them any joy.  So, while college is guilty for exploiting people’s fears of being a complete and total failure, the problem begins with public school education.  There needs to be a paradigm shift in education (hopefully it is beginning) at all levels that celebrates natural talents, encourages think-outside-the-box problem solving, and allows children to learn at their own pace.  I am a college dropout, have been running a variety of businesses since high school (I happen to be the same age as James) and am now a professional photographer who is publishing (today) my 6th book.  I have four kids, and I am homeschooling 2 of them.  The other two are in public school, with one nearing graduation.  The youngest will be pulled from public school in a couple years to start following her dreams in homeschool.  The oldest wishes she HAD been homeschooled, but I did not wake up to the issues of public school stagnation until she was nearly finished.  I see a definite lack of problem solving skills in her, even though she has a 4.0 gpa.  I agree with James on the ridiculousness of a college education in today’s times, but I think he doesn’t go far enough.  We condition our kids from a very early age to be perfect little followers and NOT determiners of their own fates.  Big mistake.  Huge.  Amazing post, James.  Phenomenal.

  • Anonymous

    “What about sex? Don’t you have a lot of sex in college”… man, I wish I went to college:)

  • Anonymous

    But what about socialization?  

    The socialization argument is total BS.  It’s saying that the only way people can develop social skills is by being forced to associate with people you would normally steer clear of.

    My socialization experiences during college were fine, but before then, I was picked on, made fun of, bullied, etc.  I also picked up bad habits from this socialization.  It is why I am so withdrawn and shy today and have had to fight hard for any sort of self-esteem.

    Of course, it’s my responsibility to move beyond this and not place blame—and for the most part I have–but when I look back to my school days, there was so much wasted time, so many social problems that didnt have to be.

    Getting a job was probably the best way I found to develop social skills.

  • Capo Regime

    Brilliant!  Your good insight was pointing out that as time goes on things change.  Not so long ago when I went to college to a top tier state university tuition and fees as $400.00 per semester an apartment shared with three guys and my share was $76.00 and a meal plan for 19 meals at the cafeteria was like $80.per month.   It was Austin Texas so the music was good and there were a lot of girls and pot.  It was the 80’s.  It was a good deal at what turned out all told to be $10,000.00 for four years, probably $14,000.0 pre tax.  Plus the economy was different and you could actually get a part time job that covered a decent part of the freight–part time and summer earnings paid for about half the cost and scholarships the other half.  I learned skills and had fun. It made sense at that time.  Now would it be worth it at $400k?  No, not even half of that or $200k.

  • Tom

    It’s amazing to me you can make such an out of the mainstream argument and get virtually no descent on your blog. 
    How do you know they cherry picked their survey (i.e. selection bias)?  Me thinks you’re just guessing and nobody is calling you on it.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I can see how they structured it. Its clear selection bias. There was no cherry picking as far as I can tell. they used all the population. 

  • Jason

    James – 

    A couple of thoughts — first, on Georgetown specifically.  As a graduate of the Naval ROTC program at GW — a consortium ROTC unit hosted by GW and accepting students from Georgetown, GW, University of Maryland, and Howard — I had the opportunity to see toe-to-toe comparisons of a relatively large number of students.  Georgetown students didn’t particularly impress as more bright or talented than students drawn from UMD, Howard, or GW (and there were studs and duds from each).  Several Georgetown students, but not all, did impress me as being exceptionally status seeking and we regularly joked about the students with the upturned collars on their polo shirts from Georgetown.

    The good news is that most of us were not wasting our own money to go to college, we were using the U.S. Navy’s (aka taxpayer’s).  We weren’t paying $200,000-400,000 for four years of school…in the interest of full disclosure, most of us still paid something — but more likely $15,000-50,000 of our own money.  

    As a additional note in this regard, at least as Naval ROTC students, we were forced to take a broad and technical program — as an international affairs major, I took my major’s full load, plus another 27 credits of math, science, and engineering.  This experience, combined with a series of jobs in stock brokerages and military experiences, made me keep a pretty open mind as to my talents and the talents of others — college major and college experiences were not necessarily an indicator of talent, potential success, or potential competency.  I watched as many of my civilian peers pigeon-holed themselves as an early age, being defined by their majors, and curious that the university didn’t compel students to go beyond a very fundamental level in english composition, foreign languages, math, science, or business management.  The lack of accountability ensured that there was a typical proportion of civilian undergraduates who blew the opportunity chasing coeds and drinking on their parents’ dime.  In the end, for me, college was four good years of development and exploration, but it was beneficial the very aspect that both my academic and work experience in those years was varied and useful.  

    Basically, I can see the merits of a college education — after all, you don’t learn everything you need in high school if you’re moving on to a technical field.  For some, it’s an opportunity to learn what path to take, as it can certainly perform a function of bringing young people into contact with potential avenues of professional pursuit.  

    Having done some time in the military, I have plenty of examples of successes who never finished college — many of our enlisted members ‘got there’ through self-study of technical fields, leveraging experience into education, and education into experience.  Several of the most intelligent people I’ve met and worked with lacked a degree, but didn’t lack for a home library and a ton of life experience.  On the other hand, I also went through ROTC with prior-enlisted personnel who went to college like it was their job: they knew that the taxpayer was investing $100-300K in them and, showing up to college with a bit more maturity, they took advantage of upper-level courses, aggressively sought out legit credentials, and applied themselves to acquire a good education – not just a degree.

    Like so much else in life, it boils down to what you do with it.  

  • Jeffrey

    You may be interested in this:


    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       Great site!

  • http://statspotting.com/ Statspotting


    you can argue this forever, but you cannot run away from stats proving otherwise. as they say, profit is an opinion but cashflow is a fact. education equals employment, period.


    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       Well, I don’t argue any of their charts or facts at all, actually, Just they they (and you) are engaging in selection bias. You can’t draw any conclusions from their facts. They do not prove that education equals employment.

  • Andrew

    Jonathan, I have a question about your position.  Is it your contention that bright, motivated people who skip college will still be able to find conventional jobs at salaries that, as they work their way up, will allow them to outearn, over their lifetimes, what they would have earned had they gone to college?  Or is it your contention that those birght, motivated people ought to forgo what most of us think of as “regular job” and become entrepreneurs, and that’s what will enable them to be better off?

    • Andrew

      Oops, that was supposed to say “James”, not “Jonathan”

  • Eugene

    James, take any fortune 100 company. Absolute majority of people who make more than average in any of these companies do have degrees. This would not be a selection bias. The people who got or did not get hired had equal (according to you) opportunities. Taking all the factors that you listed as a prerequisite (energy, motivation, etc), majority of people who get hired for high paying jobs do have a degree. Besides, you might have to be disqualified from being able to judge wheather college is a prerequisite for a success in life. You did go to college, so your thinking could have been shaped by being in college. So, selection bias comes here against your reasoning.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       Well, no on all counts. The study wasn’t testing for people who work at Fortune 100 companies so we don’t know if that’s the best route for a higher paying job or not. Second, selection bias has nothing to do with whether or not I went to college. It has to do with the assumptions you are making when sampling a large population. I didn’t do the test or the sample.

  • Mike Bravo

    I’m with you James, but it does feel to me as of there is something of a “network value”.  By that I do not mean the value of networking with others, but the value of having done something that a large part of the population have done. 

    Just as the value of a telephone is proportionate to the number of other people who have a telephone.  I can’t practice as a lawyer, accountant, doctor or nurse without having gone to college for instance.  Not going to university is slowly becoming less and less of an option I believe.  Probably as a result of certain fields becoming restricted by those already in the field soliciting state protection of entry into those occupations.

    What we are seeing (by growing school fees) is a result of the increase in the demand by consumers to exhibit (i) exclusivity and (ii) competence.

    I love your work mate.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QAQZQ63L26FNAGYSOUBIL6XXIQ kjp712

    1.Freshman Year – Go to Dorm Parties and learn Campus layout. 2.Sophomore Year – Go to more Dorm parties and memorize young woman’s names. 3. Junior year – Attend Frat parties and inquire about professors. 4. Senior Year – Start to attend Classes.

  • Igor Asselbergs

    “For every subject, English, History, Math, Physics, etc. find all of the courses that are being delivered online by higher education sources. Coursera.com seems like they are taking a crack at this but I bet they/you can do even better. Put it all together as one “curriculum”. Now you can get a college  education by paying nothing.”
    Done.  :-)

  • Paul Hakel

    “The College Payoff” looks like propaganda/marketing. Whatever happened to Pink Floyd’s mantra, “We don’t need ‘no’ education”? Luke 6:40, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” John 14:12 – “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have
    been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am
    going to the Father.” Christian homeschoolers probably believe they can surpass their teachers’ talent because it’s in the Scripture.

    Schooling has a monopoly in the job market, a kind of un-earned prestige that stinks of oligarchy. Just going to a school is no indication that a person is going to be a better ANYTHING, it’s no guarantee that they’re going to be somebody or something. Why don’t we just open up the free market, allow people to open up their own schools without accreditation? We don’t allow competing currencies and have the Federal Reserve, we don’t allow competing education systems and have the universities. Would we just allow free schools to exist, with their own class of new degree certification? Instead of calling it a Bachelor’s, call it an “Experimental Degree” E.D. – and see who hires who and what the real value of a Bachelor’s is, then.

    The value of a college degree is saved only by societal attitude and legal sanction. Monopolies only come about through government interference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.mcclinsey Jason Voluntaryist McClinsey

    Their days are numbered. Khan academy (and others that will follow his path) will kill them all. My son was struggling with division. I had him watch one of Khan’s videos on the subject, and five minutes later, his mental block was gone. It will be fun to watch these institutions wither away and die.

  • JJ Gunne

    My mother had a fifth grade education and my father completed 7th grade. She was one of five children being raised by a poor widow. He was one of ten children being raised by a brick mason and his wife in a row house in Baltimore. They married in the midst of the depression and worked very hard for what they had.
    When my dad died, they owned two grocery stores, 15 rental properties, a water front vacation home and a comfortable home where they lived. My mother lived another 20 years supported by their investmenst and savings.
    I chose not to attend college, and probably made all the same mistakes every college kid makes. The difference was, I was earning money, learning life skills, and establishing myself in the workforce. Forty years later, my wife and I own our home, have a nest egg and live a comfortable life. I work at a “white collar” profession and enjoy both my work and my life. Like you, I have always maintained that degrees do not guarantee success, but at best, situate one to pursue a career path.  

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/466ZTZK2LDIA3GSB2XYOPPL27U Gregory

    Colleges, especially ones like Georgetown and Harvard are “Overbought”, like stocks whose actual, or book-value, doesn’t match the hype. Yes, I went to college, and it helped me get my job. I retired from it where I was making 120-130k in salary and benefits. But any bright kid could have done the same job, college degree or not.  Nearly 2/3 of our nation’s self-made millionaires are not college grads. Gates and Zuchermann both dropped out of Harvard. I realize that these are extreme examples (billionaires), but many others (millionaires) are also doing  very well without that “sheepskin”.  We have in this nation, some very educated people working in retail and service industries that have nothing to do with their fields of study. These poor kids will be wage slaves for years trying to pay off their school loans.  The world economy is still slowly impoding and as it continues to shrink, things become more and more local.  This means smaller businesses and fewer “Info” jobs. The economy of the next couple of decades will favor those who can build or repair things with their hands. College will become what it was a century ago: a place for the elite to send their children.   

  • clark

    Altucher, your college comments are kick ass.
    Thanks for creating them.

  • Rob

    I have empirical evidence to support your point.  A friend of mine is exactly the same age.  He skipped college, and went right into programming.  He has 4 years of experience on me, and is making about $15k more per year.  Back in ’95, figure he was making $40k.  There’s $160k in the bank.  From the time I went in, figure he average about $10k more.  There’s another $100k+.  Add in my college costs of about $40k, figure he’s nearly $300k ahead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnakeller John Keller

    “(odd to include mother, reading, and sex all in one paragraph. I will promptly erase this from my memory” – BEST. LINE. EVER.  

    James, love the column. I learned more about business playing Railroad Tycoon on the computer than my wife did at B-school. I helped her undestand the business cycle (represented in the game!) as pointed her and her classmates to Mises.org for a good Austrian foundation. I did dual enrollment in high school, got a free associates degree, and worked my way to an engineering bachelors. No debt.

    Then I worked in a series of dotcoms, made some $$$, and realized that my EE degree, which took me 4 years (due to working) could have been learned in about 6 months of on the job training. Now I don’t use it at all…

  • Anonymous

    I am a self-taught software developer.  I been working in the industry for 15 years (Had my first job at 18 just out of high school).  I been self-employed for 5 years now and to this day I still get job offers from firms who stumble on my long outdated resume on head hunter sites.

    I was a C/D student in high school with no college education at all and the last place I worked they paid me $80,000 a year and offered 100K if I would relocate to Texas.  In my experience the best way to get good at something is invest your personal time in doing it and get a job in that field once you feel comfortable doing it (intern or lower waged).

    The few times I was tasked with hiring for firms I always skipped past resumes for people just getting out of college… in my opinion 1 year of real world experience and a few good references far outstrips 4 years in school.

    College is useless unless you are trying to get into one of the state licensed fields which a degree is required.

  • Anonymous

    These schools are done and they know it.  The writing is not just on the wall, it is everywhere.  How to keep people paying college tuition who are losing their homes is the problem.  It won’t matter what their study says, at some point they will all have to admit it is over.

  • http://twitter.com/DoktorJeep D. Jeep

    I started out programming Airforce countermeasures systems in the field all in hex code, so I went to night school and took some computer courses. Got an AA degree in “computer studies” and managed to get a job in the computer field after the service. My first boss was like me, someone who started out in electronics, saw that I could solve problems with computers, and hired me.
    Later on, I would go for other jobs, as I relocated, and lo and behold, I didn’t have “the degree”. The people doing the hiring, they paid the money and went into debt for it, and had “the degree”. I’ve been sneered at, like a criminal, a cheat.
    It all amounts to a modern guild system. The icing on the cake is, it’s a guild system that is worse than the old system with indoctrination mixed in that the victim pays for. The old guild system? I went to a medieval festival once and got some free candles from a candlemaker because the candles were not up to standards, and he said ” in the old days, if your work was not up to standards in the guild system, you got in trouble”.
    How many “standards” does the modern guild system have? None. I work in a field where I have to help clients who have “the degree” and most of them can’t think their way out of a paper bag with an open end. They got the all expense paid trip to drinking school, thanks to cheap govt loans, and when some guy from India who crashed coursed English to get a IT job runs circles around them, they are surprised.
    I hope to see a day when all colleges become low income housing.

  • http://twitter.com/ThomasGBrown Tom Brown

    Another great post James.

  • couldbewhoknows

    James, you didn’t even talk about the cost of time off of the job market while going to University…

  • Billy


    Great post as always. Here is my take on college in America and advice for the 17/18 year old 

    – If  you’re parents are mega rich and can afford 7-8 years of school go for it.
    – If you are very poor and the government will pay the whole way go for it
    – If you get a “full ride” academic or athletic scholarship and can afford books, room and board go for it

    Now if you are the rest of us in the middle, you should follow the following rules:  
     – do not attend a private or expensive public school
    – go to the cheapest public school you can afford and do not take out loans (go to the local community college, than transfer to the cheapest in state college)
    – take the mininimum credits required for your future career (for example you want to be a NYC police officer all you need is 60 credits)
    – Put the private schools and Sallie Mae out of business, the less people that apply for financial aid the cheaper tuition will be long term
    – Universities will be forced to reign in spending, put real tuition costs out there stop living off the government tit

    Or do what James says do not go, take that $5000 and start your own business become self educated etc.

    Just my 2 cents 


  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MJZB5ZFZWAMSFNOIQCJJESMR6M C

    Look up on YouTube:

    The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto

    The truth is that “school” is designed to destroy your capacity for independent thought and critical thinking. Your mind survives in spite of “school”, not because of it. “School” is literally a purpose-built, indoctrination mind-control program, with much of its modern origins stemming from the Prussian elite in the 1800’s. The history of this mind-control program goes back even further, however, to the philosophy of Plato espoused in his “The Republic” and “Laws”.

    The ideal is to construct a class based society composed of sanctified haves and the unholy have-nots that serve them. You can’t do that without social strata and a hatred for independent thought. It’s no coincidence that middle class upward mobility has actually diminished under the modern “education” regime. You’re supposed to go to college, learn a narrow band of knowledge, and then slave away in your “rightful” position for the rest of your life without question. In other words, be an indoctrinated robot.

    JT Gatto once asked one of his friends who was a professor at a major university, “Surely you know about this, right? So why don’t professors tell the truth about this system?”

    The professor replied, “Not a good way to get tenure.”

  • Roy

    I agree with you james….i took business in university and it was all theory

    they never taught me “how to make money”….which is what i thought i would learn

    But james….what if you want to work as an engineer….yes there are many who are self taught geniuses in various subjects….but many are not that passionate to be self taught….but still want to go into professions such as engineering or medicine

    how do we solve that problem?

  • Sob76

    I have a public school education followed by 6 years in the navy.  I work hard, study hard and prove my worth.  I’ve moved from the blue collar floor worker to lower management and am working my way into the corporate world, all without a degree. 

    I currenlty make what that report says you need at least a BS to make.  My bosses are doing everything they can to keep me from leaving.  I did it by hard work and by sticking to what I know no matter what.  Only once has standing up for what is right cost me a job.  

    I believe that most people stop growing by becoming complacent in their job.  If you want to succeed in any career, step outside the box and keep learning and keep accepting new challenges.  

    last, treat every day as if it could be your last.  Fear is a horrible deterent to success.  I’ve found that being fired is often the best thing that can happen to a career.   

  • Anonymous

    The purpose of school is to allow wise men and women to share their wisdom with the young.
    Their is no bigger waste than the waste of a cultivated mind. I don’t believe that you can become a truly educated person by yourself, just by reading. You need educators.One of the oldest models of schooling was Plato’s Academy (Hekademeia). It was the embodiment of one of the basic necessities of the human mind: to know, hence to be educated. Throughout the millennia, this basic desiderate was perverted, money got involved and we arrived at the “modern” education system and the most perverted manifestation of all: the notion of “tenure”.Of course, nowadays it is construed by some that the Academy was a center of indoctrination. But no matter what a group of people do, it is inevitably bound to be interpreted as cabal, conspiracy, indoctrination.
    I don’t think the thirst for knowledge will ever go away, it needs to be satisfied somehow, so there will always be schools. And colleges. And diplomas.

  • http://twitter.com/ellie_zheleva Elina Zheleva

    Hi there, I usually stay out of the discussions, but after every article on the topic I felt like writing an article myself. So at the end, I did. Just to say that I agree and tell out my own humble story. I called it “Why James Altucher is right about not going to school” and you can read it here: http://www.socialeast.eu/why-james-altucher-is-right-about-not-going-t

  • Uneducated

    Diplomats and lobbyists are not noble professions. They are professional liars! While hookers may lie. It’s a good sort of lay!

  • Sam

    As a student at Georgetown who will be graduating with over $250,000 of student loans, I agree that college is overpriced. I would like to be paying less and I do not think that the information that I am learning is worth the money but that is not what I am here for. I am here for two things, a prestigious degree and networking. With a degree from a 
    prestigious institution which requires a lot of work to be admitted to and even more work once enrolled helps employers recognize a job applicant’s potential value. Even more important than the degree is the networking at these institutions. Not only do the students have access to a large network of powerful and influential alumni but many of the students themselves either come from influential families or will go on to achieve great things. This large and close network of influential people creates many opportunities that one would not necessarily have if they did not attend these pricey institutions. 

    • Ghost of Jam Master Jay

      Why don’t you save $200,000 and instead spend $50,000 on a membership to some swanky club where all these alumnis and power-brokers hang out?

  • Anonymous

    interesting post. i, indeed, go to georgetown university and while I do think that many of the points you make are somewhat valid, your argument as a whole is misinformed. the georgetown curriculum is demanding, and the workload is intense. professors expect more from their students at georgetown (this i’ve heard from talking to my friends who go to many other “less status oriented” – as you would put it – schools.) Just take a look at a syllabus at georgetown and then a syllabus from another school, and see how much more reading/writing is assigned for students. or take a look at the rigor of the tests that students take compared to other schools. or look at the quality of writing that is required to get an A on a paper.

    it bothers me when people get all worked up about how more “rigorous private schools” are that only in name, and are just a waste of money. whether or not a degree from georgetown will provide me with a higher income when i am older is not something that concerns me. being in an academic environment – around professors at the pinnacle of their career, and around students who actually care about learning and the world around them and not just partying – is not something that i can  replicate. thats why i chose to go to georgetown and not a public school. i don’t only care about my level of income when i grow up – that seems way too materialistic.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Well, the point of the article is how the Georgetown report fails Statistics 101. 

  • fuqdisqus

    “. . . limit your choices (because you will feel required to do what you majored in college).”

    Oh, man, oh, man, that’s where I went wrong.

  • John Wilson

    As a University of Michigan out of state undergrad, all I have to say is…SHIT