Is College Worth It?

$100. The typical college student pays $100 per lecture. As a professor, I feel this burden every time I walk into a classroom: what am I going to do in class on a random Monday in November that gives 160 people their money’s worth?

There is a difference between an expense and an investment.

Expenses are a one-way flow of money. You hand over cash in exchange for a product or service. You’ll be a satisfied customer if you perceive that the product or service added value to your life equal to the money you gave up. College as an “in the moment” experience is an expense.

Investments come with a greater expectation: you’re wanting MORE money back than you put in. It’s not free: you’re being paid for patience (among other things). You are letting someone else use your money now, which means you can’t. College as a focused time to grow skills and mindsets is an investment.

It’s easy for me, as a professor, to become obsessed with improving my courses (and I am!). But it would be incredibly short-sighted to think that everyone taking my course would see a return on investment, if only I did a better job as a teacher. If that were true, we would all go watch the Feinman lectures and be expert physicists. No need for someone like me at every university on the planet to deliver the same content.

So why do we professors have jobs? What changes from one school to the next, one semester to the next?


You get to decide whether college is an expense or an investment. You get to decide if the $100 you spent on my lecture today becomes more than $100 in the future.

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