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College BA: Worth The Price Of Admission?

Great post from Megan McArdle yesterday on the uses and disadvantages of college for life: College Bound.

It's worth a read. The key part:

"But getting a BA has an opportunity cost. For one thing, it may use up funds that could have gone for useful vocational spending. For another, those who pursue college degrees they aren't really suited for give up several years of earnings, and more importantly, experience. Early experience seems to matter; the minimum wage literature indicates that failure to get a job as a teenager can have a permanent negative impact on later earnings.

The use of a BA as a signal is helpful to those who are below-average academically only if we presume that there is no other, useful training they could undertake, or that there is no more efficient means of sorting workers. If we instead imagine that three years of desultory course-flunking could instead be spent acquiring a marketable skill, or seeking out work that suits them, it seems more costly."

For my money, the big question is who's paying? If you've got parents or grandparents who are willing to cover the cost of college, or take on the debt to pay for it, they probably aren't willing to just give you that money in a block if you decide not to pursue a higher education. In that situation, where you're choosing between free college or zilch, you'd be nuts not to go to college even if you hate academics. And who says you have to attend class to graduate anyway? I skipped every class I could, which was most of them, my Junior and Senior years, and my GPA only dropped a tenth of a point. Then again, I went to a school that's the poster-child for grade inflation.

Now, if you have to pay, that's a real decision.

Megan also assumes that going to college and working a real job or getting vocational training to acquire "a marketable skill" are mutually exclusive. Not always true, but that course really isn't for the faint of heart.

Questions? Comments? Send them to millennialmoney@cnbc.com