Is university the answer?

With just over four months to go until my student loan is paid off, I can’t help but wonder – was my university education worth it? The idea of a university degree has an element of romance about it and “higher education” has an indisputable lure to it. But does it pay off?


Photo Credit: Xiaobo Song via Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/skobo/4345704586/)

The university route

I went to university straight out of high school. I got good grades and chose to enroll in a science degree because I believed that’s what ‘smart’ people did.

The costs

Not including the cost of living (rent, food etc), I paid $22,000 in tuition and fees for my degree.

The intangibles

Throughout my degree, I volunteered for UBC REC, the campus intramural program. More than my academic studies, this experience led to the transferable skills that allowed me to be an employable graduate.

The outcome

My experience as a co-op student helped me realize that I was not cut out for a research based job. Instead, I focused the last year of my education on my extracurricular activities. My event management experience in sport and recreation led me to a job with a large sport event organization. I continued in the sport and recreation field with a provincial sport association before taking my current job. Currently, I work for a company that specializes in management services for non-profit health and science associations. I earn approximately the average wage in Canada plus benefits.

While my science degree helped secure this position, I was hired for my event management experience.


A plausible alternative

If I could do it all again, I would study business.  Yes, I could do this through a high priced degree at a university, but technical schools and colleges offer numerous programs with excellent job opportunities. Here’s the breakdown for a Bachelors of Business Administration from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

The costs

Not including the cost of living, a Bachelors in Business Administration costs $15,000 for a three year program. This is broken into a two year diploma and a one year degree. For less time and money, you can be as employable, if not more as a university graduate.

The intangibles

There is nothing to suggest that opportunities to acquire transferable skills are any different through colleges and technical schools.

The outcome

BCIT cites a 2008 Government Survey in which it was determined 83% of graduates were employed with an average salary of $51,420 (slightly above the average Canadian salary).


What do YOU think

I’ve become aware that there are quite a few ‘lurkers’ out there. You know who you are. This is a topic that is pretty personal to me – I know many people with university degrees and no job prospects and I have many friends who chose college, an organizational psychology degree or technical school who are happily employed. Is this my imagination?

I don’t think that my time at university was wasted, but I wish I had considered the alternatives. Check out 8 alternatives to college, it will really get you thinking.

Do you think your university degree was worth it? Do you wish you went to university instead of college? Let me know in the comments below!

Posted in: Career and Work, Philosophy

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