Should Preparing Kids for a Four Year Degree be the Default?

Question from Emily from Homeroom. It’s a great question, common question. Thank you for asking, Emily. And essentially it’s should preparing kids for a four year degree be the default or be just the assumed position of families and their kids. And Emily asked in a longer way, “From what I gathered from piecing it together stories I’ve heard from Jeremy and April over the year. It seems like the two oldest Pryors’ are not enrolled in a typical four year college or university, maybe I’m wrong on this. I was always taught to believe that a four year degree was the only best path for success, but now I have young kids and I’m thinking about their future. I’m really fascinated to learn more about other paths, especially about your philosophy on post high school, higher education. Thanks.”

Good question, Emily. I’m interested to see what Jeremy says. I’m pretty, what’s the word … is it bullish or whatever, on this question where I just think college is crap.

I think it’s a waste of time. I think it’s a waste of money. I think it’s not important. And even for the people who say, “But, but,” and they give reasons on the arguing for, I agree with those, but I’m not going to pay $250,000 ever for those, you know what I mean?

Like do I think, “But you learn how to kind of grow up a little. But you kind of make friends or you learn how to be on your own or study or any of that stuff.” Yeah, I’m game for that, that has nothing to do with a quarter of a million dollars wanting to leave my bank account or not my bank account, but get that subsidized by the federal government. Yeah, here’s the thing guys. In all honesty I’m somewhat joking, somewhat being serious and I’d love to hear what Jeremy thinks.

But for me I’m thinking about it from like, you are spending on average, I think it’s about 200,000 or 250,000. It’s usually about 40-ish thousand, 50-ish thousand dollars now. But at least by the age our kids are now, if it keeps going with the same growth, college will be about 80 grand a year at private institutions when our kids are in college in 15 years for if you have toddlers like us.


That’s insane, right?


So then you have to think of it as just pure math. It’s an investment. Is the investment worth it? Because here’s the thing, it’s so logically not at most levels, right? Meaning the price is growing like crazy, faster than any inflation, faster than any investment, faster than anything it used to cost before. But yet the actual ROI on that is diminishing every year, right? Getting less and less jobs for less and less money, more and more unemployment right out of college.

If your investment and the math on it is just ludicrous. Here’s what I would say. I do make one distinction between hard sciences and soft sciences. I do think it’s still very clear with chemistry, biology, people in the medical field, pharmaceuticals, you know what I’m talking about, right? The hard sciences is what they call it.

That is yes, you do need those degrees to go into that. If we’re talking you’re just going to go get a humanities degree because you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Then you’re just setting yourself up for 30 years of bondage, right?


And so, yeah, that’s one thing I would say. Here’s another way I like to think about it. I’m not sure for sure on this, but we’ve already kind of started allocating some resources where I want to be able to bless our kids when they’re older, specifically, right when they’re entering maybe young adult college stage, maybe when they’re first getting married if they do get married.

But I want to bless them with some seed money for their life. And so we’re kind of saving aside, putting aside money and investments so that it hopefully grows so that we can give them that. But I’m not just going to give them probably cash. The way I’m seeing it is that that money is theirs the minute that they can think of an asset that they want to use it for. So if they want to buy a house, they can have that seed money. If they want to start a business, they can have that seed money.

At least currently, if they want to use that money to go to college, no. You can do whatever, you can do what you want with it, you can go to college if you want or whatever, but I’m not … that money is for kind of getting them ahead, building assets for them. And I don’t think I would really set money for college, but that’s just me. But yeah, what do you think Jeremy?

Oh man. There’s some people that are just really like, “What are you talking about Jeff?” Well the reason why this is such an interesting conversation, I think is … I’ve been geeking out on a World War II and the thing that they keep saying about it is the generals that … like the French, everyone’s army is perfectly prepared to fight the last war. And the reason why this is so hard for people is that when you were going into college, the equation might’ve worked.

Jeff just laid out a really clear equation, which is the cost versus the ROI. There was a time where it was almost obvious that it was valuable. It didn’t cost that much and there was a lot of ROI. If you could just get to college, you get away way better job, way better wage-

The median income soared, college was only 10 grand, people can work and pay for it as they went.

Yes. And so that equation has just flipped while many of us have been in the workforce and we didn’t realize it flipped. And of course the colleges and universities assume that we’re not paying that close attention, they just keep pumping up the costs. And so just to Emily’s question, for our family we look at each of our kids and what they’re into and whether or not this will make sense, but I would definitely say it’s not a default for our family. And so Kelsey has really pursued internships and she works with me and family teams. And with April at the sewing studio, Jackson’s getting into a trade HVAC. He wants to invest in real estate. He’s got two amazing apprenticeships-

I would distinguish between trade school and college. Trade, yeah, I think those are different.

Yeah, Jackson, literally after one year of trade school, his hourly rate on average goes from about $15 to about $70 an hour. So we just did the math-

That’s that ROI I like to hear.

Yeah, the ROI was there, so let’s do it. Let’s invest a year and the money it costs to get this. And then it’s not just $70 an hour that he can get, he can start a trade, he can start a business, he can invest in his own properties and there’s all kinds of other advantages.

And so you just have to really be realistic and do the calculation for your kids and as a family, and don’t give into a narrative default. That’s so dangerous, you guys. You really are at the mercy of other much more powerful forces that have a reason for you to be in that rut and to think in those ways. And again, I don’t think that the answer here for me isn’t that college is bad for everyone. I just think that as a default, that’s a dangerous default. You need to really think about the return on investment and what your kids are actually getting into.

Latest Episode

Listen To Our Latest Podcast



Start Building a
Multigenerational Family Team

Live events







Family scouting report