Tag Archives: Education

Education: Return On Investment


A New Age

There was a time in history when a college degree would guarantee you a successful and profitable career. If you had a degree you enjoyed a nice big paycheck to go along with it. It was easy; a degree meant more money plain and simple.

That time has passed.


This is a new era. It is the age of college graduates who work at Arby’s. This is the age of graduate students who live in their parent’s basement. This is age of realization. It is a rude awakening. People are starting to realize that a degree isn’t the magic ingredient it used to be. A lot of the time it is necessary, but it is not enough. You can no longer flash a degree at an employer and expect money to be thrown at your feet.

A degree is a tool to help you shape your future. It’s a very expensive tool, but a tool nonetheless. Now, more than ever, it’s important to look at a degree as an investment in your future. When you look at an investment the one thing that simply cannot be ignored is the return on that investment.

What is ROI?

ROI (Return on Investment) is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. Or more simply put, it’s what you’ll gain or lose from an investment.

An Example

If you look at a degree as an investment (which it is) then obviously some will yield a higher ROI then others. Let’s use the teaching profession as an example.

Two students from rural Indiana decided to follow their passions and become teachers. They both planned on returning to their home town to teach kindergarten in one of the local schools. They both got exceptional grades in high school and got great ACT and SAT scores. They had nearly every college and university available to them.

The first student applied to as many prestigious schools as she could.  She decided to go to a very competitive out of state college. She did not receive nearly as much financial aid or scholarship money attending this university. The degree was exceptionally expensive, but because she was accepted by such a prestigious school she thought she would be cheating herself if she didn’t go there.

The second student decided to go to a local community college. The college was small and fairly inexpensive. Because of her grades she was able to get some decent scholarships from the school. The school was not very well known, but she didn’t mind. The campus was close enough that she could live at home and because of that and her scholarships she didn’t need to take on any student loan debt to get her degree.

Upon graduation both student graduated with honors and were able to return to their home town and easily get a job teaching kindergarten in one of the local elementary schools.

Which student had the best return on investment from their degree?

Obviously the second student had the best return on investment. She was able to graduate without debt and start at the same salary as the first student who took on massive student loan debt to do the same thing. Both are going to be making about the same amount of money. Both are going to be kindergarten teachers. Both ended up in the same place, one just spent a lot more to get there. A quality education is important, but you shouldn’t be bankrupting your future to get it.

Earning Potential

You have to think about the earning potential of a degree. Why would a local elementary school in rural Indiana pay significantly more to hire an Ivy League grad than someone else with the same degree from a local college? Answer: they won’t.

There are a lot of noble and humanitarian careers that pay horribly. I would (almost) never discourage you from pursuing a career in one of those fields. They’re good jobs, but spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a job making $30,000 a year just doesn’t make sense. If you want to be a teacher, social worker, or some other equally underpaid profession, then you need to be realistic about how much you should invest in your degree (hint: less is better).

On the other hand, if you really want to impress people with you’re really expensive and prestigious degree then by all means ignore everything I’ve just written. I’m sure your co-workers won’t be able to get enough of your stories about how you went to an expensive Ivy League school.

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Stupid Degrees

Benjamin Franklin once said “The only thing that is more expensive than education is ignorance.” The thing is, Ben probably wasn’t talking about a degree in puppetry. You see, not all education is equal. 


The University of Connecticut offers both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Puppetry.

Just because you spend tens of thousands of dollars earning a degree doesn’t mean you are instantly valuable in the marketplace. I’m sorry but the only thing you’re going to be able to do with a degree in European medieval history is teach European medieval history, that or work at Starbucks.

It’s unbelievable the majors some colleges offer, for example:

Pop culture – Bowling Green State University (Hipsters need not apply-too mainstream)

Adventure Education – Plymouth State University (wha!?)

Canadian Studies
– Duke (again… wha!?)

Floral Management
– Mississippi State University (pretty flowers go in the vase 101)

The Beatles
– Liverpool Hope University (I love the Beatles, and now I’ve got a degree to prove it…)

– University of Connecticut (Sesame Street here I come! Wait, your not hiring… uh oh.)

– Humber College (either you got it or you don’t…have you ever asked to see a comedians resume?)

– Sullivan University (with an average annual income of $19,190 in the state of Indiana i’m thinking a degree might not be necessary)

Before you spend a fortune on a degree you need to have an economic model in place to earn an income. Make sure that economic model fits your life plan as well.

One of the podcast I listen to from time to time is the Dave Ramesy Show. The following clip is from his radio show and it is about this exact subject. Sometimes Dave gets a little worked up and this is one of those times.


Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

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How Do You Choose A Major?



Choosing a major can be an exciting and nerve wracking time, but the earlier you start thinking about it the better.   I would encourage you to think about it slightly differently than most of your fellow students.

The normal thought process:

“I know I need to go to college.  That means I need to pick a major soon, or I could just go undeclared. But, what major should I choose? Should I pick something that has a lot of options so I can figure it out later? There’s no way that I’m going to know now what I want to do for the rest of my life so I probably should go general and focus on something later when I have a better idea of what I want to do. By the time I graduate college I should have a good idea of what that is.”  

The weird thought process:

“Where do I want to be in 5 years? What job do I want to have or what business do I want to be running? What do I what my life to look like? How much money do I want to be making? What do I need to do to get there?  Is spending money on college absolutely necessary for me to get there? Will the return on investment be worth it? If it is then what do I need to know or what degree is required for that position?”

The fundamental difference between the two thought processes is that one starts with where you are and looks forward. The other starts with where you want to be and looks backwards. The latter is significantly more effective. Hindsight is 20/20 after all; and though you are not actually looking in hindsight you are effectively doing the same thing.

Colleges are a lot like car lots.  Some people go without knowing what they want. They see a lot of pretty shiny cars and after a little time with a good salesman they find themselves in a brand new sports car. It’s fun and exciting at first, but usually ends with buyer’s remorse. It all happened so quickly! They realize about 6 months, and 6 car payments later, that maybe they should have researched a little better.

The people who leave the car lot the happiest are those who knew what they wanted before they ever got there. It’s simple for them. They walk on the lot; look and see if the dealer has the car they want within the price range they set, if not they leave. If it does, then they buy it. Simple. Smart. Weird.

You need to know beforehand what you want.  The colleges you apply for should be based on what major you have chosen and the major you have chosen should be based on what your career is going to be.  Start with the end goal in mind and work backwards looking at everything you need to do along the way to get there.

Passion, Talent, and Economic Model:

The major you choose should absolutely be something you are passionate about, have some level of talent at, and have a clear plan to make money with.  It has to be all three. I’ll say that again. It has to be all three.  It doesn’t matter how much you love art history, if you don’t a have a legitimate plan in place to make money with it don’t major in it.  If you stink at math going into college, don’t major in accounting hoping you’ll get better; and no matter what you do, don’t choose a major based on what you think will be most profitable unless you really like the respective field.


A fulfilling and profitable vocation is made up of three things: passion, talent, and an economic model. Before you even think about choosing a major, you need to have a plan for your future career path that addresses all three of those areas.

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SAT or ACT: Which Test Should I Take?

It’s that time of the year. Fall has finally come. School is in full swing and it’s time to get to work planning your life after graduation. If you’ve decided that going to college after high school is going to be a part of your plan, then you need to consider which college admission exam to take. The two big ones are the SAT and the ACT.

What are the SAT and ACT?

The SAT and ACT are nationally administered standardized tests. These tests are designed to help colleges evaluate potential students. Your scores on these tests are often a prerequisite for college acceptance.

Which test do I need to take?

Most colleges accept either test’s scores but it is always important to check with the colleges you are applying for to make sure of their specific requirements. You can typically find this on their website under admission requirements.

Which should I choose?

If after looking up the requirements of your potential colleges you find that you have the option of taking either exam, then the choice is yours. There are a lot of differences between the two exams and the choice is mostly a matter of preference.  The SAT is more of an aptitude test whereas the ACT is an achievement based test. Here are some specifics about each test to help you make a more informed decision.


As I mentioned above, the SAT is an aptitude test. It measures reasoning and vocabulary much more heavily than the ACT.

The Content:

The SAT has three major components which include: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and Writing.  It is then broken down into 10 smaller sections which require you to rotate back and forth between math, writing, and reading. If you choose to take this exam you have to be comfortable with switching between content a lot. This exam also has a lot of reading comprehension and sentence completion, so if you enjoy vocabulary and language is your thing then this test might be your first choice.


The SAT also scores differently than the ACT.  The SAT has no room for luck. That’s right, no guessing; ¼ of a point is subtracted from your raw score for each wrong answer. Colleges will look at the results from each individual section with the SAT.


The SAT takes 3 hours and 45 minutes.



The ACT measures what you have learned in school. It focuses more on content and what you know in specific subjects.

The Content:

The ACT has five sections: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing. The writing section of this test is optional but may be required by the colleges you are applying to, so make sure you find out before skipping it! This exam moves through the five sections without jumping around. It also focuses on more advanced mathematical concepts than the SAT (think basic trigonometry). The ACT is unique in that has a science section which requires reasoning skills and the ability to interpret data.


The ACT has no penalty for guessing and only scores the questions you answer correctly. It also has a composite score which shows potential colleges how your combined scores measured up against others. With ACT tests, colleges are more concerned with your overall score and less with how you did in a specific section.


The ACT takes 3 hours and 25 minutes.


Don’t put off taking your test. Sometimes life happens and you get sick, nervous, or have family issues and you tank your test. You need to leave yourself enough time to get the scores back look at them and decide if you need to take the test again. Charles Baudelaire says it best “In putting off what one has to do, one runs the risk of never being able to do it.”  Don’t procrastinate.

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments about the SAT or ACT I’d love to hear from you.

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You Can’t Go Further

I was driving to the store the other day to return a Redbox movie and saw this sign on a massive billboard down town. “You Can’t Go Further Without A Degree.”

You Can't

I drove past it and thought to myself, “Wow. That is a really bold and really depressing statement.” I returned the movie and drove back the way I came, but this time I stopped. The billboard was in the parking lot of a fairly busy Little Caesar’s Pizza place and a video rental store. I got out of the car and stood their looking at the sign. I took my picture and thought of all those poor people who are trapped and can’t go further without a degree. Then I thought about all those poor people who have a degree and work at Starbucks. Then I smiled, got back in my car, and went home.

The really sad thing is that there are actually people that believe this sign. They believe that if only they could get a degree they could be successful. It doesn’t matter what the degree is. Somehow if I get that piece of paper, businesses will flock to me and throw job offers at my feet. I’ll be rich and famous and run faster and look better if only I had a degree.  The fact is; degrees aren’t holding you back.  You are the only thing that can hold you back. Don’t be a victim. You can be successful without a degree. You just have to have a plan and be intentionally about it. If your idea of success is lots of money; I have a lot of friends without degrees who are making way more than those with them.  If you think success is job security and freedom, I also have a lot of friends with degrees who have been waiting for years to find a job that actually uses their degree.

I’m not trying to discourage you from going to college at all. It is a very important part of a lot of people’s plans for success. What I’m trying to say is that it is not essential in everybody’s plan for success.

The point is, you need to have a plan and you need to know what success means to you.  The sign would be more accurate if it said “You Can’t Go Further Without A Plan.”


Identify your passions, understand your talents, and create a profitable economic model that serves others. Do this and you can’t go wrong.

I would love to hear from you. What do you think about this sign? Is it true? Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

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Run! (from normal)

 adjective \ˈnȯr-məl\
: usual or ordinary : not strange

Usual, ordinary, not strange; that’s the definition of normal according to the Merriam Webster dictionary. Normal could also be defined as the common accepted behaviors among a group of people. Or simply put, normal is what everybody is doing. Usual, ordinary, not strange, is that how you want to be defined? If it is, please disregard the rest of this post. If not, keep reading.

Still here? Great!

Let’s take a look at what normal people are saying about planning your future and choosing a major. This excerpt comes from a popular college resource site.

“Realize that you definitely do not need to know what you want to be doing ten years from now. College is a time of exploration and discovery. Many prospective college students have not yet been introduced to the fields that will define their future careers. The majority of students will change majors before they graduate. Many students will have careers that aren’t directly connected to their undergraduate majors.”

Hmm, it sounds good but what kind of advice is that really? All I hear is:College

“That’s right folks; don’t come to college with a plan…please. You can figure that out once we get you on the conveyor belt.  As a high school student you can’t possibly know what jobs are out there nor have any information on them without going to college and taking exploratory classes. Plus, you’re probably not even going to be getting a job in the field that you just spent four years and a ton of money to study.”

Let’s look at the advice the colleges are giving. This excerpt comes from a universities’ website.

“Many new students come to college with the skills and abilities to succeed but without a clear idea about a college major. At Anonymous University, we welcome the undecided (EXPLORATORY) student.  By declaring “exploratory” as your major choice when you come to Anonymous University, you will have the opportunity to learn about different majors and minors, take self-discovery inventories, and meet faculty and students who will help to guide you toward choosing the best major for you. Students who choose Exploratory Studies receive one-on-one advisement to help with their individual needs and concerns about choosing a major.”

Again all I hear is:

“Don’t know what you want to do yet? That’s okay; we’ll take your money anyways! We don’t mind influencing your decision about your future based on courses we have available and needs we have within the university.”

That same university went on to propose:

“You can live with other exploratory students as a part of the Explore, Discover, Decide, Living, Learning Community.”

I know when I have no clue how to do something, or when I’m trying to figure something out it always helps me to surround myself with other individuals who are equally as clueless… oh wait. Never mind.

My point in all this is to simply encourage you do push past what is normal and do what is extraordinary.


adjective \ik-ˈstrȯr-də-ˌner-ē, ˌek-strə-ˈȯr-\
: very unusual : very different from what is normal or ordinary
: extremely good or impressive


Merriam Webster defines extraordinary as very unusual, and that’s what I want for you.  Be that weird student who actually knows what you want and has a plan to get it.  You don’t need to go to college to have someone tell you what you can do. Figure that out now so that you can be ahead of the masses. You don’t have to go to college and pay top dollar to intern in different fields and learn what you like and what you don’t.

Intern now.

Job shadow now.

Volunteer now.

Take the initiative and do something now.  Be extraordinary. Identify your passion, discover your talents, and create an economic model that makes you rich doing what you love.

Bottom line: Run from normal and you’re well on your way to becoming extraordinary.

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Quit college for $100,000

Quit college, get $100,000, and start a business.

That’s the deal that co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, Peter Thiel, is offering to 20 college students this year.  These students, Thiel Fellows as they are called, are given the opportunity to pursue innovative scientific and technical projects and develop the leading-edge companies of tomorrow. His gift to them: $100,000 and entrepreneurial mentorship.

Thiel has been making this deal since 2011 and continues to stir up controversy each time he does. In making this offer, Thiel is reinforcing the idea that going to college is not the only road to success.

Apparently this is a pretty touchy subject among the population at large. College is not Insurance

Yes, college graduates, on average, earn more than those who do not have a degree. But, college does not guarantee you anything. College is not an insurance policy. Let’s be honest, how many of you know a college graduate who still lives at home with mom and dad working at Starbucks?


Self-motivation and drive are much better indicators of future success. Entrepreneurship is just one of the many paths you have before you as you decide what you want to do next.



Learn more about the Thiel Fellowship program and check out some great articles about education at, http://www.thielfellowship.org/.

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So You’re a Senior…

You’ve got a lot going on to say the least. In addition to school, friends, sports, volunteering, your job, church, and any other extra-curricular activities you may having going on, you have to find some time to plan your future.

By this point I’m sure your Aunt Martha, Uncle Bob, and most of your family and friends have said something like this:

“So Timmy have you have decide to college?”

Or maybe your Aunt Martha is more direct:

 “Timmy of course you’re going to college, right… right!? So what are you going to study honey?”

 These are usually some of the first questions most juniors and seniors are forced to answer: should I go to college and if so where? What should I major in? But honestly, I think that this question is asked way too early in the planning process. College is a vehicle not a destination. Long before you decide if you want to go to college or not, you need to have an image in your mind of where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years. Let’s be honest with ourselves here; ask yourself the concrete things as well as the abstract.

What kind of car do I want to drive? (This isn’t shallow, be honest with yourself.)

What kind of house do I want to live in?

What do I want my typical day to look like?

Do I want to work for a large company, a small business, or go into business for myself?

What do I want my family life to be like?

How do I want to impact the world around me?

Who do I want to work with? What type of clients do I want to serve? (Every working adult serves somebody- choose wisely.)

How much do I want to be earning in 5 years?

When you ask yourself these things it helps you to get a better picture of what type of industry you might enjoy, what kind of salary requirements you have, and what path you need to be on to get the outcomes that you want.

You can’t say to yourself “I love working with kids, so I want to be a kindergarten teacher!” and then expect to live in a fabulous house with a BMW in the driveway (at least not without massive debt). It’s just not going to happen.

Likewise, if you say “I really want to be a stay at home mom or dad in five or six years” is it necessary to invest tens of thousands of dollars in a degree in Modern European Literature?

On the flip side of that coin, if you have a passion to serve cancer victims as an oncologist, you had better be figuring out which schools best suit your needs and start getting applications ready for a few different universities.

It seems pretty simple right?

Enter the gray area.


Let’s say you know without a shadow of a doubt that you were wired and created to make music, this is your passion. Should you go to college? These types of career paths and situations are actually more common than not. Here you need to decide what exactly you want to do in the music field. Don’t go to college to figure that out.  I repeat; do not go to college to figure out what you want to be when you grow up! You need to figure that out now. You need to develop an economic model: what are you selling and who are you selling it to. Once you have that figured out, then you can determine if a college degree is necessary to get you to that point. College can often help in these types of situations but it is not always necessary and of course you have to plan for opportunity costs.

Let’s stick with the music illustration.

Alicia Keys, Bob Dylan, and Jon Bon Jovi have all done pretty well in the music industry despite not having a degree. That’s right no degree at all. Now let’s look at Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney. They both have degrees in advertising, not music. Advertising was the path and part of the foundation that helped get these two country music sensations get to where they are today. Rapper Ludacris chose a degree in business. All of these individuals took very different paths to become the music superstars they are.

Do the planning now. Look inward. Best-selling author and one of today’s leading vocational thinkers, Dan Miller, states in his book 48Days to the Work You Love, “…that 85 percent of the process of having the confidence of proper direction is to look inward. Fifteen percent is the application…”

Figure out where you want to be, who you want to be, and how you are going to get there.

Then you can answer Aunt Martha about going to college.

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The Future of Online Education: Part 2


I recently listened in on a teleseminar between Dan Miller and Dinesh Thiru of Udemy.com about the future of online education. Here are some things that I got out of it that I thought you might be interested in.


Online education is coming. Actually it’s here and it’s transforming rapidly. A lot of colleges offer online courses and even entire degrees, but typically taking those courses require you becoming a student, handing over a big chunk of money and getting an entire degree complete with a bunch of courses you may or may not really care about.

Enter the new guys.

Udemy.com is different type of online education. They offer specific courses that are fairly inexpensive or even free.  Their self-proclaimed goals are to democratize education and dramatically lower the price of receiving a high quality education from the world’s top experts in all types of industries.

Udemy Screenshot

Udemy allows you to choose specific skills that you want to learn. The site has courses on a variety of subjects ranging from graphic design to project management. It allows you to choose what you want to learn without having to take a bunch of classes that you don’t really want or need. Udemy has a few classes that offer certification but the majority of them only offer certificates of completions. The goal of these courses is not to give you a piece of paper in which to place your confidence but to give you actual knowledge in which to place your confidence.

The fact is, more industries are placing value on your real world work experience, the projects you’ve led, and if you can show continual growth and an improving skill set.

Dinesh Thiru of Udemy gave the scenario of an employer looking at two potential candidates applying for an entry level marketing position:

Candidate 1: A traditional college graduate with a degree from a well-known university.

Candidate 2: A person who did not graduate college but who has taken several online courses in marketing and who has created an innovative website that has gotten a couple thousand visitors.

He states that his company and employers in general are shifting away from hiring the more traditional college graduate to the one who is self-driven and has developed marketable skills and can demonstrate those skills through specific projects.

Having a degree will remain a must for certain jobs such as nursing and other medical fields where employees have to know that you proficient in certain areas. But in a lot of other fields employers are starting to care less and less about the letters behind your name. They want to know what you can do to add value to their company.

I find this shift very exciting.

It opens up even greater possibilities to you; if you have the drive and motivation to succeed.

What do you think? Have you ever taken an online course? Did you like it? Do you think it will become the new normal? Share your thoughts on the future of education.

As a side note, I am not getting paid in any way to advertise for Udemy. I just really like and support the idea of taking your education into your own hands.

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The Future of Online Education: Part 1

Online classes are changing the game in the world of education.  They are opening up opportunities and providing pathways to success for a lot of people.  The days of students listening to a professor in an enormous lecture hall may be less and less common as online education continues to evolve and improve.

I would encourage anyone interested in learning more about the future of education, particularly online education, to sit in on this free teleseminar hosted by 48Days.net and Udemy.com.

You can listen in here: http://www.48days.com/udemy/ on Thursday August 22 @ 7:00 pm Central. The teleseminar is will only be about one hour long so take advantage of this opportunity to learn and grow. If you take part in this event, share you thoughts here, I would love to hear from you.

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