I have a few hundred thousand dollars in 529 plans. We have been growing them for years. Although not everyone’s cup of tea, this lump of money invested in this manner suggests that not only am I prepared to drop a boatload on college education, but also feel that it is cash well spent. Although this type of thinking was self-evident a decade ago, there is a growing chorus of voices that question the voracity of educational spending. I was lucky enough to have college and medical school paid for me. I expect to do the same for my children. But should I? While some would argue that a mix of less costly community college or online education is all that is necessary today, I decided to write this post in defense of the ivory tower.
The prestigious university.
Not only for professionals like me, but many can benefit from investing in a traditional college education.
The right credentials
In defense of the ivory tower, certain career paths require traveling the traditional route. You can’t become a doctor by going to community college. No medical school will accept an online education. The same is said for many other professions like law and even accounting. The bar is set at a certain level, and there is no way to duck under or walk around it.
The fairness of this reality is not being questioned. Could a less expensive alternate educational pathway serve a student just as well? Probably.
The upside is, that for the most part, the money spent on education will most likely pale in comparison to the wealth accumulated by being a sought-after professional. Financial sacrifice at the beginning of the journey may provide lifelong dividends.
In order to be successful at whatever career or money-making venture, one must learn pragmatism. In the real world, we get very good at groveling in the muck of everyday compromise. Staunch morals often get in the way of getting the job done.
In defense of the ivory tower, the four-year academic university is still the bastion of good old, puritanical idealism. A major part of any thoughtful young person’s development, idealism will continue to serve long after the tarnish is scrubbed off this all to perfect veneer.
In all things business, money, and otherwise, pragmatism is balanced by a foundation of ethics.
The ivory tower provides this in spades.
A complete education
In defense of the ivory tower, there were many life lessons learned at college that had nothing to do with my classes. I learned how to cook, clean and take care of myself. I learned how to live on my own. This knowledge would be lacking if I spent four years holed up in my parent’s basement taking online courses.
More importantly, I rubbed shoulders with young, intelligent, motivated students who taught me about the culture of success. I shared classrooms with innovators, motivators, and leaders. These connections not only last a lifetime, but form a bridge of support into the future.
They engendered in me a way of thinking and approaching problems.
There is no substitute for hobnobbing with the best and brightest.
While college is not reasonable or affordable for everyone, I think there are many arguments in defense of the ivory tower. In my case, I would have never been accepted to medical school without acquiring the right credentials from a prestigious, costly university.
The benefits, however, are more varied than just a stepping stone to a graduate program. At university, I learned to balance pragmatism with idealism. A skill that continues to serve even today. I also learned not only how to take care of myself but also to nurture lifelong relationships with what would one day become highly successful people.
My four years in college were precious and necessary,
Money well spent.
“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.
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