Why is it so hard for millennials NOT to go to college?
With college tuition being literally unaffordable, stories after stories about the plight of un/underemployed college graduates, horror stories of the same with crippling student loans, and it no longer being a secret that college is a bubble, why is it so hard for 18 year olds to say, "screw this, I'm going home?"
Furthermore, why MORE SCHOOL? Didn't these millennials have enough? Aren't they SICK of school? Why are they willingly signing up by the millions for 4 years more? And they get to pay for it this time! Wouldn't you be RELIEVED you no longer have to go to college? Shouldn't you be happy this HUGE added responsibility is no longer needed? Shouldn't it be an easy decision NOT to go, and instead go find a job instead?
Yet still, there the lemmings are, lining up by the millions for their turn to jump to their financial deaths and ruin their lives.
But why? WHY?
And I finally figured it out.
The problem was, as is often the case, I was operating from a wrong premise. I was operating from the premise that the point of college, college's true economic nature was that of education. People go to college, pay for tuition, and attend classes so that they receive an education which allows them to make more money over the course of their lives. But whereas this was certainly the case before, it no longer is now, and I consciously knew this at some level because in the past I've said students treat college as a consumption good, not an investment.
Still, while I knew college was no longer an investment good, this did not explain the unique consumption good behavior of millions of college students every year. Nor did it explain the insane prices students would be willing to pay and go into debt for. Ergo, college wasn't some kind of fad consumption good like Pokemon trading cards or Beanie Babies where you'd drop maybe at most a couple hundred dollars on. It was something more. It was TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars, 4 YEARS of their youth, MIND NUMBING CLASSES, for the past TWO GENERATIONS, all in the face of mounting evidence college was a losing financial proposition. And then I asked myself a question that sent my brain down the path that would inevitably led me to discover it's true modern day economic nature.
What other consumption goods have these traits? What things in the world do people:
1. Spend 4 years of their lives investing/working on/preparing for?
2. Go into debt to pay for?
3. That have price tags from mid five-to-low-six-figures?
4. That also have a fad-like, lemming-like, sheeple like conformity about it?
and this was the key trait
5. And are pushed by all of society to purchase?
At first I was thinking sporting events. Those are consumption goods. Thousands of Minnesota's dumbest pay $100 a ticket and $100 in food and $25 in parking to see the Minnesota Vikings lose every year. They probably put it on their credit card. But it isn't a $75,000 price tag.
Then I was thinking larger sporting events, perhaps even once in a lifetime religious-like events. Say the Super Bowl, Burning Man, Sturgis, the declaration of a new pope, or pilgrimages to Mecca. Still, you may prepare years to attend, but even attending these events in luxury does not cost $100,000.
So what possible consumer good exists, that people can't afford, will go into debt for, that doesn't offer anything of tangible financial value afterwards, and has this societal push, borderline obssession to buy it regardless?
Then it hit me.
Weddings are the identical twin sibling of college.
The reason why can be summarized in one simple phrase:
"It's my day."
However, whereas "my day" is the exclusive preserve of women on their wedding day, there is a similar sense of entitlement to having "my day" FOR BOTH SEXES when it comes to college. And the reason why is that college is NOT sold to young kids today as the education it was supposed to be, but the "college experience" it is has successfully and falsely been propagated and inflated to what it is now (an industry that is more than TEN TIMES THE SIZE OF THE WEDDING INDUSTRY).
First, there is a HUUUUUGE element of Exodus and liberation philosophy and psychology that simply CAN NOT be understated. K-12 school SUCKS. IT SUUUUUUUCKS. It is so bad and so torturous that it sucks the life out of normal students and is a veritable mental prison for high IQ students. An entire artificial environment children are forced to attend that is managed and operated by the country's dumbest college graduates. This environment results in a place that at best is a prison for college-bound students, but usually is pure torture as we prevent kids (of all intelligence levels) from achieving their best. NOBODY is happy. NOBODY like their pathetic sad saps called teachers. And everybody cannot wait to leave.
However, the hope that is sold to college-bound students is that "college" is where the REAL smart people are. That when you get to "college" everything will be better. That when you go to "college" all this pain and misery will end and you will TRULY find "your people."
In short, because K-12 is so bad, college becomes a veritable second heaven, a Land of Canaan, a birthright that all intelligent kids are entitled to for enduring the hell of K-12. And because they are so young, and because they have not lived in the real world, AND BECAUSE THEY LITERALLY HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO HOPE FOR, college is not a means to an education and a better job, but the finish line to freedom and happiness. And that freedom and end to their slavery GREATLY outshines the purported educational benefits of college.
Second, nearly all authority figures lie, both consciously and unconsciously, to children about the realities of college. Parents lie to their children because they don't want to hurt their feelings or destroy their children's doomed hope. Teachers don't want to tell their students because...well...they're teachers and they NEVER LEFT the artificial environment of school. For all they know school is great and the entire economy's GDP should be "teachers." The media has no incentive to tell kids the truth about college because they need to sell good and being the bearer of bad news is poor salesmanship. Corporations CERTAINLY have no incentive to tell kids the truth because they need those kids to not only borrow $100,000 to do the training that would otherwise befall on corporate training programs, but they need students desperately in debt so they make good, loyal
The exact same cacophonous brainwashing occurs with weddings.
Nearly every economic entity has the incentive to get people hitched. Corporations, travel agencies, airlines, the government, divorce lawyers, divorce courts, day care, child care, the schools, nurseries, credit companies, pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, parents who want grandchildren, and siblings who want nephews, everybody wants to push people into marriage. Furthermore, EVERYBODY lies to women that the most important day in their life will be their wedding day. Thinking they're entitled to "their day" just like kids are entitled to the "college experience," nobody, and I mean NOBODY is going to tell them any different. GOD HIMSELF could come down from the heavens above and tell the bride to be "no, dude, this ain't the guy for you," just as the entire COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS could come out and tell all high school seniors not to go to college, it would not matter, women are going to have their day and millennials are going to borrow $100,000 to have the college experience.
And then finally, the price. To have this birthright, to have this entitlement, nobody cares about logic, reason, evidence, finances, or math. College, just like "her day," is worth any price because up to this point in these kids' lives, we as a society have given them nothing else to live for. We get divorced, we mock nuclear families, we value things over friends, we cripple the economy, we load up on debt, we hate our own country, we criminalize success - precisely, what do these kids have to look forward to after they graduate from college? As far as they're concerned life is over at 22 and then they lead the lives you do, which, sadly, for the most part is pretty pathetic in their eyes. Worse, you've made their childhoods so painful with the craptastic public
Alas, it should be no shock that college is no longer acting economically like the educational service it was meant to be. It is one, big, huge ass party. A birthright to all American teenagers. A utopia society falsely sold it as. And sadly, a lie bigger than telling American women "their day" is the most important day in their lives. It is the "college experience." And there's some Dotcom's from 1999 that have infinitely more value.
Aaron Clarey is the author of "Worthless - The Young Person's Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major." He also runs a consultancy where he advises young men and women about finances, careers, education, dating, and divorce. You may find his other books here as well as tune into his podcast here.