Steve Olsher: College Is The Single Worst Investment A Parent Can Make

Jamie Grill | Iconica | Getty Images

For decades, we have often heard that the journey to career success requires a college degree. While we all want the best for our children, as parents, it is imperative that we pause to examine the educational myth that permeates society and choose whether or not to perpetuate this mentality.

Yes, college has its place for those who know the EXACT career path they wish to pursue. For everyone else, and with rare exception, it's a social experiment.

If you send your child to college expecting a solid return on your investment, start playing the Lotto. You have a better chance of winning.

To be clear, secondary education has its benefits. There is a proven correlation between knowledge and income. That said, we can no longer ignore the disturbing facts and objectively explore alternative options towards reaching the same destination.

Consider the following:

1) According to a recent Rutgers University study, 53% of students who graduated between 2006 and 2010 are currently working full-time.

It has become increasingly evident that a college degree does not equate to job security. Further, 50% of those employed full-time work in positions where a Bachelor’s degree is not required. Scary.

2) Within 5 years, 87% of college graduates do NOT work in their field of study.

Is it really a mystery that the result of attending college straight from high school is often that Mom and Dad are broke and junior has a degree in art history with a minor in pre-unemployment?

3) Outdated mindsets continue to drive the educational system.

When was the last time you used biology, chemistry, algebra, statistics, calculus, or philosophy? Unless you're an engineer, scientist or teacher, odds are good it’s been awhile.

Students spend 60 - 70% of their time, energy, and your hard-earned cash on classes they will never use. General education courses were originally created to expose students to multiple subjects so they could then choose which major to pick. This course of action is wasteful on many levels and must be reversed.

So, what are the alternatives?

1) Send your child off into the world before sending them off to college.

Don't spend $21,500 this year on tuition (the average annual cost). Give ‘em $5,000 and a swift kick. Your child will learn significantly more about life, their options, and opportunities being on their own than being at home or in school. Both are sheltered environments. The world is harsh. Teach them this lesson early.

2) Encourage them to volunteer, join the peace corps, work, enlist in the military, apprentice, intern, and network.

The time to begin exploring options is when you have zero responsibilities. Dare your child to soar and cut the rope. As long as they’re holding on to you or the current belief system, they’ll never attain their desired heights or forge their own path.

3) If they gain clarity on their WHAT - that is, the ONE thing they were born to do - have them research education alternatives and come to you with a game plan.

There are more options for creating an outstanding career than ever before. From trade schools, to seminars, books on tape, work/study programs, getting a job, and the internet – students no longer need to be in a classroom to gain the knowledge required to propel their life forward.

And, once options are presented, have them pay it (or at least a solid chunk of the cost). People inherently value what they spend their own money on.

Ultimately, as parents, it is our responsibility to raise adults who make a positive contribution to our world. College is not a prerequisite.

Therefore, we must teach our children how to tap into their inherent blueprint and heed their natural gifts. Then, and only then, will you realize a meaningful return on your investment.

After all, one in every four college graduates still lives with their parents. Odds are good, that’s not the return most parents had in mind…

Steve Olsher is the father of three, author of the 2010 Self-Help Book of the Year, "Journey To You: A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming Who You Were Born to Be", founder of The Reinvention Workshop, host of Reinvention Radio, Co-Founder and Chairman of San Francisco-based and President of Chicago-based real estate development firm, Bold Development. For more information, please visit And, for a free copy of Journey To You, please visit