Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Education - does it still ROI?

I promised Harold Jarche yesterday to follow up on his tweet on education

Will blog on that tomorrow > RT @hjarche "no one dares call higher education a bad investment" http://ur1.ca/44kmc

I studied Cultures and Languages of Latin-America at Leiden University from 1989-1995. Why? Because I didn't know what I wanted to do or become, had the brains to go to University and because it was more or less free. Back then, I got 670 guilders a month from the Dutch government for studying - let me label that scholarship although there are some vast differences with UK and US scholarship - although they share the fact that they're gratuitous. Tuition was somewhere around 1,400 guilders annually averaged out for the 6 years, and one could rent a room for 300-400 guilders

This was the same for every one in the Netherlands who wanted to follow University or college (although we don't really have the concept of colleges here). As long as you had the required preliminary education, you would get 6 years of "scholarship".
To no surprise, most people studied for 6 years or more, taking plenty of time to do less serious or more exiting stuff on the side

I studied for 6.5 years (I didn't finish "in time", because there was a nasty professor who thought he owned me, so I kind of double-crossed him with the rules and got my Masters degree without successfully finishing his classes and course).
Today, things are different. On a total government budget of 160 billion euro, we still spend a lot: 7 billion on higher education, and 4 billion on "scholarships" - which pays for 600,000 students, 230,000 of which have additional loans

However, the system has drastically changed: there is a maximum of four years now, compared to 6, and if you don't get enough points after a year (50% or more) you have to pay back the year: 12 months times the 266 euros you can get now - mostly not enough even to pay for your room, let alone tuition (1,600 euro this year) and food and such. Note: I'm taking the maximum amounts here in all cases. If you live at home, you'll get considerably less.
At the moment, there are 8 billion euros in student loans outstanding

Basically though, if you work a bit and don't spend too much, you can graduate with a small loan.
Compare that to the average college grad having a $24,000 loan in the US...

We have a high level of education in NL. As a result, people are quickly overqualified for a job. Our cashiers have usually followed the better level of Highschool, even though all they need these days is an arm, an eye and a smile

Studying means loss of income. It means an investment in the future. At my former employer, everyone needed to have a higher education in order to qualify for a job, even though not all the work was always as highly qualified as one would consider a logical result of that requirement.
Does it pay off? I really doubt it. Both our daughters are, as they say, "gifted" - meaning in possession of an IQ than 130. I try to teach them the difference between intelligent and smart: "Intelligent is when you know how to find the most complex answer to a question, smart is when you know how to find the easiest one"

After all the years since University, I think it's better to be smart than intelligent. Don't study hard, study smart. Don't work hard, work smart. One thing is for sure: the best education you get is on the job. No study could have prepared me for the work I do...

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