August 5, 2015
Conventional wisdom tells you that a university degree is the best investment you can make for your career.
Invest the time and money now, they say, and you’ll make heaps more in the future.
The thing is, that’s not really happening anymore.
Tuition costs have skyrocketed, meaning a far higher initial investment, while potential returns have slumped.
From baristas to janitors, some 43% of graduates don’t even need a degree for the jobs they have.
This basically means that they are four years behind and $50,000-$100,000 worse off than if they’d just gotten that job straight out of high school.
There are better uses of one’s time and money than getting a degree.
But, if you feel like you absolutely HAVE to have a degree, at least do it smartly.
Treat education like an investment. Think about both the capital and opportunity costs, and calculate the expected returns.
The costs are the time and money that could be spent doing other things; while the potential returns are the knowledge, connections, and opportunities you stand to gain.
Then, look for great deals, where you can maximize your returns.
As is the case with most investments, many of the best deals are found overseas.
Peking University is the most prestigious in China; yet tuition runs less than $5,000 per year.
Here you would be rubbing elbows with China’s elite business circles, providing invaluable connections for doing business in the country later in life.
Meanwhile, you’d be saving on living costs and building up fluency in one of the world’s most important emerging business languages.
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, where you’d be studying at one of the finest universities in the world—in ENGLISH—for less than $1,500 a year.
Even if you just want to drop in, EPFL lets you attend classes without being awarded a degree for about 50 bucks per course.
This is a steal given that EPFL ranks higher than Cornell, Brown, Northwestern, Rice, Carnegie Mellon, Dartmouth, UC Berkley, BU, Duke, McGill, NYU, and many other top-ranked US schools.
Technical University of Munich, one of the most highly regarded universities in Europe, where you can get an advanced degree for a whopping $120 a semester.
AND that includes a free bus pass. I mean, it’s like being paid to go to school.
My favorite investment deals are always the ones where I can get something for nothing.
I love a great real estate deal, for example, where I can buy a high quality home for less than the cost of its construction. Or buying a company (stocks) for less than the amount of cash that it has in the bank.
Getting something for nothing is almost always a great deal. And they’re out there, whether you’re talking about traditional investments, or the investment you make in yourself (like education).
What stuns me is how few people take advantage of this, especially when they come from high cost countries like the United States.
In fact, only about 4,600 American students are enrolled in all of Germany, where tuition costs throughout the country are uniformly low.
Just think about it– imagine spending next to nothing while graduating debt-free, with international experience, and possibly even another language under your belt?
Now that is how you make going to university profitable.