In this article I intend to give the prepper some Christian perspective on what is valuable in an education.
First, a couple of quotes:
“Youth is wasted on the young.” – George Bernard Shaw
“Education is wasted on the youth.” – Michelle Hanson
Many people are considering college and advanced education this year, especially with the unemployment at record highs. They believe that having a college degree will help them get out of the economic slump they find themselves in. They imagine a high-paying job in a new field, and economic prosperity.
Unfortunately, college is not what it used to be. Since our public education system has made grammar school an intellectual joke, employers have a skewed concept of what makes a good employee, and college degrees are now mandated in most jobs. At the same time, undergraduate four-year degrees teach the average student almost nothing.
The government and private banks are more than willing to loan you money to go to college. Thanks to subsidy programs, unless you are quite stupid, you can probably get funding to go to college. But how does a Christian prepper view the opportunities for education?
I read recently that half of student loans are currently in deferment. It is a huge financial bubble that will burst very soon, predicated on people with college degrees finding employment that does not exist. Almost everyone has a college degree now, and they are almost worthless on the free market.
Combine those easy student loans with state-sponsored universities which create fluffy degrees in order to attract more debt-leveraged students, and you have a job market that will never recover. The student loan bubble will burst. And it will burst on the backs of young families just trying to survive.
As an example of this, you must realize that many colleges were created only to get free Federal money, which students have to pay back. “Trade colleges” like DeVry, University of Phoenix, and all sorts of art schools are only there to take students’ money which is “free” to them through student loans. If a school advertises on television ,then it probably offers junk diplomas.
Accredited universities do similar things. They create degree programs in Golf Course Management and Hotel Hospitality, attempting to take advantage of ignorant students with an open checkbook from the government. The result is a degree with decreased market value. While a four-year degree used to be a legitimate signaling device to an employer that you were an educated person, now it is not. It simply means you know how to borrow money to buy a college degree.
I am 30 years old, and my wife is 28. We got married last year, and the best man at my wedding gave us Dave Ramsey’s book on debt. We immediately realized how bad debt is for long-term finances, and set about destroying our debt. Thank you, Mr. Ramsey!
Unfortunately, I had $23,000 in student loan debt from an undergrad degree from a state university. And even worse, my wife "Drank the Koolaid” of cheap student loan money in 2006 and decided to go to law school. She came out with a degree from a prestigious school into the worst job market since the Great Depression. Altogether, we are $185,000 in debt to the government for our educations.
Paying off this debt will be our lives’ work. We have an aggressive plan to tackle this monster, but it will be a full decade before we defeat it. There will be no dinners out, and very few fun things for most of the next 10 years until it the debt is gone.
Oh, and that law degree? It’s not very valuable. It took my wonderful wife, who is quite brilliant, 18 months to find full-time employment. Her new job is also 150 miles away, and requires commuting there most of the week.
Higher education is a scam!
In the mean time, we are working on getting prepped. We read your books and your blog and are working on getting a modicum of beans, bullets and Band-Aids. Unfortunately, having debt the equivalent of a mortgage keeps us from really being prepared. We take a little money each month and move it toward something that will hedge against a full collapse in the next 10 years. But it is hardly enough. We are fully on board with the prepping concepts, but handicapped by our stupid decisions.
For those deciding whether to take on student loans, please consider the following: You cannot walk away from it. Unlike a house which you could simply move out of if you cannot make the payments, there are no ways to get out of it. You must pay it back. There are no bankruptcies. You are their slave.
No other industry has so little consumer protection. Even a car loan puts the consumer in a better bargaining position than student loans – you can always sell the car. And since almost all student loans are subsidized by the government, most of them are serviced by banks in bed with the government. It’s not like a credit card – you owe the United States Treasury for your education. And they will get their money.
Every young person, whether they think it or not, plans on having a family. They plan to eventually get married, have children, and hopefully they plan to raise them in the Christian faith. Unfortunately, our $185,000 in debt (I call it a “mortgage without a house”) means we will be cutting it pretty close (biologically, and financially). We are trusting in God that he puts us in a position eventually to do that, and helps us get fully prepped and ditch this debt.
For us, prepping is primarily a financial concern. While we are still learning many preparedness basics, we can’t move forward until we find the money. I love my wife very much. And God elected her before the beginning of time to be his child, and to be my wife. But if I could have met her five years ago, and rescued her from the idea of investing in a career that precludes having children or a family for a decade or more, we would be much better off. We would have only my university debt to pay off, and could be building preps at a retreat in our area.
I repeat, higher education is a scam.
So how do you decide if the college you are looking at is worth it? How do you know you won’t be scammed like my wife and I were?
I have a formula to help:
For undergraduate degrees, take the total cost of your education, and divide it by five. That is the five years you will take to pay it back. Figure that you must make enough money that your monthly payment during that 5 years is not more than half of your disposable income. If you have children in your plan, figure those in. Figure that half of most people’s disposable income is probably less than $500. It may be closer to $100. That means your bachelors degree shouldn’t cost you more than $30,000, at the high end, and $6,000 at the low end.
But you say: “After I get a degree, I will make more money!”
That’s not necessarily true. With a deflating economy and an inflating currency, you may actually come out worse. Your education is a potential risk, not just an investment.
My wife is an attorney, and one of the smartest people I know. She makes $37,000 per year. You’re probably not an attorney. How much do you make? Do the math, folks.
(For advanced degrees, I posit you replace the “five” with “ten” in the previous formula. Your mileage may vary.)
The important thing that preppers need to remember is to do the research before you go back to school. Find out how much money people in your industry are making, apply it to the previous formula, then decide. Do real research, then make a decision based in the real world.
My wife says, “If you’re college advisors are saying there are jobs if you get a degree, but you don’t see any of those jobs, you’re being lied to.”
College advisors do not have your best interest at heart. Unlike other private institutions, they do not have to adjust their prices to their customers. They can charge whatever price they want, because the government will give you “free money” to attend.
You should realize that there is risk. Realize that if you took the money you would put to toward education and bought a fully-stocked retreat in the mountains, you might have something that would save your lives, rather than just your ego at a cocktail party. “Opportunity cost” is something that all preppers should consider. And in a times of political, economic and social volatility, it may make more sense for you to avoid college and do something else with your money.
At the risk of getting on a soap box, there is also a potential moral hazard in the mainstream view of education. As “modern” Americans, we choose to extend our childhood into our 20s. We don’t become adults until we are done with our educations, often when we are 40+ years old. God’s plan of raising children takes a back seat. We worship the god of convenience and success more than the Lord’s will, which would have us support a local church and raise children in the faith. Preppers should keep these things in mind as they decide about college.
Many people are asking, should you even go to college? The answer is, a definitive “maybe.”
Keep in mind, there is still value in a college education. There will be life after the collapse. Civilization will keep going. As a matter of fact, you may find yourself competing with even more folks for the same employment in a semi-collapse. You may be among 50 percent of the population unemployed, and looking for work. A college degree and a work history will help separate you from the pack.
Higher Education The Right Way
So how do you do pick the right college?
After looking at what worked for me in my Bachelor’s, and my wife in her Juris Doctorate, I think I’ve figured out how to do it right.
First, go to community college. Start there, work a job on the side, and get straight A’s. Junior college is dumbed down to the lowest level. If you can’t pull a 4.0 grade point average there, you’re probably not meant for college. You’ll also come out of community college with no debt if you work at the same time. Live at home with mom and dad, and save the cash. I know it’s hard, but work it out. It’s better than debt.
[JWR Adds: I recommend getting as many units as possible via Advanced Placements tests, CLEP tests, "life experience" portfolio courses, and so forth. Dr. Gary North has some great advice on how to do so.]
Get as many internships as possible. They are very valuable. While I have had only one company do a background check to see if I actually have a college degree, all of them saw my work experience. Nobody asks about my GPA, nobody asks about classes I took. They all see the internships. I worked for three businesses while in college, including an internship with a financial company. I still get calls on my resume from that experience, but not from my degree.
Transfer to the school of your choice, preferably one that you can either get through quickly to obtain your piece of paper (such as a major university), or one that will in fact give you an actual higher education, such as Hillsdale College or Grove City. (These two schools do not participate in any Federal funding for students, and have therefore maintained their level of excellence.)
While there, do internships. Do many internships. Do more internships than classes. They are worth more than the classes.
If you do choose a state university, remember that modern colleges are full of evil influences. Feminists, socialists, moral relativists and all sorts of thieves and immoral people teach classes there. Just keep your eye on the prize, hold your nose, get your degree and get out.
In all this, as in all of life, do not forget to listen to the Word of God. It is very easy, when transferring to a state university where women and men are housed on the same floor, of a dorm and alcohol stamps out your conscience, to forget the teachings of Proverbs: “Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.”
There is a vein of thinking among preppers that only trade schools and practical skills are useful. They talk about college, advanced education, the arts and humanities as being inferior to practical knowledge, such as the skill of fixing a car.
There is some truth in that. But it is not fully true. A real liberal arts degree from a real higher education institution is worth more than almost anything in the world. I would encourage readers to visit Hillsdale College in Michigan and listen to Victor Davis Hanson talk about education. There is such a thing as a liberal arts degree that sets a mind above the non-collegiate view of the world.
A truly educated person will be more successful in life, whether that is financial, personal, or moral success. I hope my essay encourages preppers to have discriminating taste in education, and to make the right decisions.