Why you shouldn’t pay for your higher education

By March 8, 2021No Comments

Higher education is glamorized to a disgusting level sometimes and at one point or another, we’ve all been a victim of it. If you’re from a developing country and not privileged, going abroad for higher education is one of the best options on the table for you to achieve your dreams.

In 2016, when I was looking into studying abroad, all my peers were competing to get into the top universities in the US/UK and so it made sense for me to get into that pool. Fortunately, after getting accepted to Carnegie Mellon and Trinity College with scholarships, I still wasn’t able to afford their tuition. “Fuck that”, I said and made my way to Germany where I’ve been since, and if you’ve been living under a rock, Higher education in Germany is free – for everyone.

Turns out, I made a fucking great decision that I wasn’t aware of at the time and learned my biggest life lesson:

"You shouldn't pay for your higher education"

And here’s why.

It’s not worth the money

Historical data points are interesting to look at. If you went to a private school where your parents had to pay for your schooling, take a step back and think of all the years of schooling you went through. Stack that money on one side and then honestly evaluate if what you learned at school was worth all that money?

If the answer is yes, you’re a lucky one and you shouldn’t read further but if you’re anything like me that money was not worth it. Not to say that schooling is not important, but is it really worth paying for out of your pocket?

I’m all for having a system where government education is above-average. Unfortunately for the majority of South Asia, that is not the case. We end up believing that good education is always secured at the expense of huge wealth. For most of our lives, we thrive to get into good private high schools and reputable private universities because we believe that holds a better future for us – sad story – one equivalent to the Santa Claus story.

You start out as believing that “if I get into x university, I’ll have a higher chance of getting a highly paid job”. Then you graduate to “if I get into x university, it will lead me to get into a better university abroad that will then increase my chances of getting a highly paid job”. Your debt keeps increasing, your sunk costs rise significantly and you still only get an okay paying job hating your life. Not an ideal place to be.

Better education does not correlate to how much money you make

From the dawn of the industrial revolution, people have been accumulating massive wealth and they haven’t been doing it in one structured and specific manner – there is no single road to making money. Google “millionaire kids” in 2021 and tell me to fuck off.

Formalized education, just like most things, is a capitalistic play and it has been for a while. If you were an Oxbridge graduate in the 18th or 19th century, you accumulated specific knowledge and prestige in return for your time and money. In 2021, an Oxbridge graduate is just another person who’s written more essays than he/she needed to. Today, any knowledge that is taught at any university in the form of a formal lecture can be accessed on the internet (likely for free).

Let me refer to something that is truly fundamental and I find to be the strongest data point to infer someone’s chances of being rich – Dwayne Johnson’s life story and two-hand philosophy. This person is an ideal example (and one of many) of someone who came from rock bottom, has been through thick and thin, and is now one of the most influential people in the entire world.

Your degree does not matter

Here’s the secret – Your education/degree doesn’t matter in 2021. This is a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of people but if it’s bitter, it’s probably true. It’s also true that you’re considered a major weirdo if you don’t have a degree of any sort but speaking from experience, being a weirdo mostly plays in your favor. I’ve repeated this time & time again that unless you’re going down a highly specialized career path, e.g., pilot, doctor, lawyer etc. your degree plays a minimal role in shaping how you will sustain yourself and make money.

Having said that, it doesn’t mean you should go on to make ridiculous TikTok videos and hope to get viral one day. Neither does it mean that you should fuck all and just sit around because Junaid said getting a degree doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where not having an undergraduate degree is radical behavior – in some cultures, you can even get disenfranchised for such an act. 10 points for those who correctly guess the culture.

I’ve seen economics Ph.D. work as data scientists, biologists working as filmmakers, consultants working as influencers telling other people how to become consultants. Do you think they stopped for a second and thought “oh I shouldn’t do this because this is not what I studied” – I don’t know, maybe they did but remember that we’re all on a journey of figuring it out.

Now having ranted like I’m living a miserable life, I’m going to circle back to how keeping all the above-mentioned arguments in mind, it is not justified to pay a ridiculous amount of money for your higher education. Yet, I said, most people coming from South Asia who are not on the same playing field as the western world NEED an undergraduate degree so what the fuck should we do? Great question.

The Answer: Study in Germany or literally any other country that recognizes the value of education and employs some socialistic characteristics in its democratic system. This is now the part where I pretend to be a missionary sent out by the German government to lure in all the brownness from South Asia. Little do they know I brought it all with myself.

Junaid Cheema

About Junaid Cheema

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