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The San Francisco Herald Question:

Was College Worth It?


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Was college worth it? In the sense of getting the degree, sure. But given the "politically correct" (but intellectually dishonest) garbage I was subjected to, the cost involved, and the lack of practical experience with so much of the coursework, not really.


Nicholas Byram

Sacramento, California


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From MemeGenerator.Net


Was college worth it?

Sure. It wasn't expensive and I was able to hang out with people much smarter than myself. If I hadn't gone to college I would have been a jerk - thinking that I was the smartest guy in the room. I learned that it's not uncommon for people to be smarter than me.

Also - had a great time.


Shannon Wheeler


Too Much Coffee Man


I don't have anything terribly witty to say, perhaps I should have went to
comedian college.


Sean Quigley


Paxton Gate

San Francisco


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Was going to college worth it?


I was asked this question recently by fellow college graduate Gene Mahoney, and I didn't have to think about it very long before throwing back a resounding "Hell No".


A large portion of my life has been (wasted?) (spent?), either in preparation FOR college, IN college, or paying back the loans and bills I accrued AT college. When I look back now, and see what I'm doing these days, it would have made so much more sense if I had simply found a job somewhere and gone to a trade school or something. Here's my story.


Growing up, it was always preached to us at school that if we wanted to "succeed", we had to go to college. The guidance counselor in High School was always beating us over the head with it. Unfortunately, my parents were less than enthusiastic about it. My father was a construction worker and my mother a nurse, both made decent money and didn't see the need to spend any on college. Plus, I was one of 6 kids, and they certainly couldn't afford to send all of us, even if we did want to go.


So, in my senior year of high school, I starting to plan the rest of my life. I decided to join the Army for a few years and sign up for the GI Bill, which I thought would allow me to go to college. I signed up for six years, during which I hoped I would become more disciplined and mature which would help me in college. I only joined for the college money, but I also had a great time. I was sent to Germany as an Infantryman, and we patrolled the East German border and I saw a lot of crazy things. I was on the border in 1989 when the wall came down, and was one of the first US Soldiers a lot of East-Germans saw when they drove across in their little Trabant cars. I learned German, met a girl, had two kids, traveled all over Europe, and I don't regret a minute of it.


I got out in 1991, and immediately started looking for a school in Germany, since that's where my family was. I found the University of Maryland had an extension in Munich, so I signed up and started classes in January, 1992. However, the school was basically a dumping ground for spoiled kids of military officers and high-ranking enlisted personnel and was a major party school. It was Munich, after all.


I did three semesters in International Business, took accounting classes and German, and then at the start of the 4th semester, the school forgot to send in my finance paperwork and the GI Bill people stopped sending checks! One night I got a knock on my door in the dorm, and a school official told me I had to pay in full or leave in three days. Of course, I was living off that $800 check, as well as sending the rest to my ex and the kids, so I didn't have $1700 lying around. I had to leave and could only hope to come back and finish.

So I had to go find a job in the meantime, and in the end, due to the military leaving Germany, the University of Maryland closed both its Munich and Augsburg branches and that was that.


My relationship with my ex was pretty sour by now; she wanted me to simply get a factory job at Bosch or some other place, so I could pay for her and the kids. I was only 26 years old, and I knew if I did, that would probably be it for the rest of my life. I left Germany and headed back to the states, my plan being to get a 4-year degree in something, then get a good job and be able to pay child support, etc.


I thought I would like to work in hotel management, so I visited the University of Las Vegas, and even got a job at a local hotel, but after a few months I could see I hated it. The manager was always on call, had to live in the hotel, etc.


After a year in Vegas, I was sick of the heat and bad attitude of most everybody, so I moved to San Francisco, to the Mission District, and decided to settle down and finally get a degree.


After talking to counselors at several schools, I decided that I wanted to learn Computer Arts, which included web design, graphic art, digital video, and 3D Modeling and Animation. Stupidly, I enrolled in the Academy of Art University, which was then known as the Academy of Art College; basically a real-estate company/diploma-mill for talentless teens. Most of the kids were non-English speaking Asian kids, and I later found out the AAC advertised(s) heavily in Asia. Surprise! No portfolio is required to enroll. I also fell for their lies about their "job placement" program.


So for 4 years I worked as a security guard and several other odd jobs, putting myself through college, all the while racking up huge amount of loans and bills. I rented a room for $700 a month, bought groceries, and after sending what I could to my ex in Germany, was basically broke all the time.


From what I hear, none of the good firms hire anyone from AAU. They say they want real artists first, with portfolios, and very few of the students at AAU are real artists. They say training real artists on software is easier than software geeks becoming artists. (We had employees from Pixar and ILM come to the school and tell us so.) Soon I would have to start paying off my school loans, which were estimated to be around $650 a month, so that plus my rent and child-support - I was looking at $1500 a month, not counting bills and food.


The best job I could get with my new "degree" was at a copy shop/printing press company in the financial district. I was the only one there with a degree.


Well, the bills and interest got higher, and I was becoming depressed. All my sacrifices, all the money I spent, all the time away from my kids, just to get...this...worthless piece of paper? And this minimum wage job?


I was at the Irish Bank, one of my favorite watering holes, staring at myself in the mirror behind the bottles, when a guy started chatting me up. As fate would have it, he was an Army recruiter that worked at the local Recruiter station. We talked and I told him my hard-luck story, and he said maybe I should reconsider re-enlisting into the military. My school loans would be put on deferment for the length of my contract, so I wouldn't have to worry about that for awhile. Plus, I could choose a new job in the Army and maybe learn something of value. Finally, my kids could become "dependents" and have access to the local base in Germany, the PX, even medical.


Not seeing too many better options, I re-joined the Army in April 2001, and was sent to a commo-tech school, and then airborne school. Long story short, 9/11 happened, I was sent to Iraq, yada yada yada. Fast forward 4 years to 2005, I get out of the Army a veteran. I was well-trained, but still broke and still facing $65,000 in school loans.


Luckily, I kept my nose clean while in the Army and obtained a Secret Clearance with the government, which helped me become a military contractor overseas in Doha and now Afghanistan. I was well-paid, and in 4 years paid off all my loans and debt, I now have money in the bank. I met a girl in the Philippines and we have been together 6 years, I've been buying a lot of land and we are planning a business together, someday. I've traveled all over Asia, been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia; places I never thought I'd been able to visit.

So now, looking back, how many years of my life have been wasted/spent on this stupid goal of trying to obtain the oh-so-sacred "college degree"? Was it worth it? What if I had simply found a job or gone to trade school? What if I had stayed in Germany and had gotten a job at a factory? That was over 20 years ago at this point, so I'd almost be retired. I would have seen my kids grown up and I would have had a happy life in Germany, I’m sure.


But, I also had a great time in San Francisco with all the great people I've met. I got to work with Gene Mahoney and his newspaper during its heyday. I also had many great experiences in the Army the second time around. I went Airborne and became a paratrooper; I went to Iraq during the war. I'm a vet so now I get free medical care at the Veterans Administration. Best of all, for the past 6 years I've been earning six-figures, tax-free, as a military contractor. My bills are all gone and I go on great vacations. If I hadn't ever wanted a degree, none of this would have happened. I wouldn't have been introduced to the Philippines, which I love as well. So like Gene asked me: was it worth it?


We all have to make decisions in our life that affect our entire futures. I can't live my life always asking myself "what if I did this", the whole "shoulda coulda whatif" thing. Everything I've done in my life has led me to this point in my life, so even if the college education itself didn't really help me in any way, it led to where I am right now. I'd like to say that it totally wasn't worth it, and I wish I hadn't ever gone, but who knows where I'd be right now?


James Dylan

SF Herald columnist


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Invariably when people discover that I am a history major they rather rudely exclaim with a slight sneer, "What job you going to do with that?" The implication is that I should pick something sensible such as business or nursing, anything but humanities and social sciences. Something that will fast-track me into a high paying career.


It seems that universities have been thoroughly commodified in the American mind. Rather than being institutions of learning, they are investments in a job. Expectations associated with vocational, professional and trade schools have somehow become projected onto universities.


So what do people go to universities for? To borrow from the Wizard of Oz, I will say it is to become, intelligent, empathetic, courageous, cultured and to make friends. Many believe the most important reason to go to a good school is to network and make high quality friends. Jumping through all the hoops required for your Bachelors is certainly courageous. In the age of standardized testing and substandard funding for K-12, college might be the first place in which a student is taught how to write research papers, conduct lab experiments, program computers and to think critically about anything regardless of their background knowledge on the subject. Many young children care about animals, children, the injured, the environment and people who speak other languages, but usually we all require a brush up on those skills in college.


Most Americans now associate class with income and not culture. College is the best place to get a crash course on appreciating and creating literature, art, music, film, poetry, drama and dance. But sadly these things are not as valued. Which brings me to the second question that people invariably ask me when they discover that I am a musician, "Can you make a living do that?" I usually respond with W.E.B. Dubois', "The purpose of life is not simply to earn bread, but to know the meaning of the life that bread sustains."


I am however, surrounded by a country of Booker T. Washingtons.



Kim Nalley

Jazz Singer



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I never even had the luxury to attend college, my parents had no money and could care less if I went. I had to leave out on my own from a group home in my mid-teens because I couldn't stand my parents and got tired of sleeping on the living room floor at either of my parents' apartments. I worked since age 12 to cover my own basic needs and already had a full-time job while going to independent study in my high school years, so leaving in my teens was a liberating experience. I finally had my own space. I tried to go to college but had no money and was too exhausted from my 2 full-time jobs to complete classes at night. I have had some classes in later years but no degree. Didn't stop me from being a published writer or working in jobs I wanted, which were fulfilling. But I love learning and am envious of those who got to go. I resent kids in college who complain about it. I am an autodidact, so I've taught myself everything through books from the library and now I have the Internet. I never stop learning. I do feel that education should be a basic right and not a privilege. Knowledge and higher education should not be a commodity or have a price tag that can be bought. It seems educational institutions in this country are run as a business, which is a travesty to both the human experience and the country as a whole. Grants are scarce and the outrageous costs of student loans are a scam. The requirements for a college degree to qualify for specific jobs creates a monopoly in employment by those with means. It almost seems like a classist pyramid scheme. Though if you know you've earned that degree and not simply had it paid for, I can imagine it must be a really satisfying achievement. 


Lana Alaterra

SF Herald columnist



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In my case, it was. I am an actuary and I really like my job. I would not have been able to become an actuary since one of the requirements to be a credentialed actuary was to have a math-related 4 year degree. I didn't know this when I was in college. Of course, you also need a degree if you know you want to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc. But I know people with high paying important jobs that don't have college degrees.

I think a college degree is a waste of time and money for many people. This seems to be the case for a lot of the younger people I know today who have loans and do not use their degrees because they can't find a job in their field or they make much more money as a waiter or something like that.

I'm hard pressed to think of a good reason to go to college unless you think it makes financial sense or is the only way to get into a career that you want. Sure, it was a good experience to get out of the house and be able to party but that alone is not a good reason to spend 4 years of your life and a huge stack of money on college.

This is an especially important question for me since I have three little kids that will need to make a decision about college soon enough. I'm afraid that I won't have a definite answer by then.


Ken Vollmer

San Diego, California



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Absolutely not. One of my mother's dying wishes was that I go to college, so I stuck it out and eventually got the degree not just for me, but for her. She passed away in 1984, and in those days the universal mantra was “Go to college”.


An encouraging development lately has been skepticism regarding the value of many college diplomas. To put it simply, most degrees aren't worth the time, effort, and money required to get them.


Personally, I am A LOT more proud of myself for starting a newspaper out of thin air and having kept it going as a profitable business for ten years - despite the collapse of the newspaper industry - than I am for getting an art degree from San Jose State.


I remember being excited about switching my major from Graphic Art to plain old Art. Not because I thought it would get me further career-wise, but because I would be graduating college sooner. I felt like a convict who was just told that he was getting a year off his sentence for good behavior. (As I recall, many fellow students of mine, realizing they had been wasting their time at an Institute of “Higher” Learning, changed their majors just to graduate sooner, too.) It was around 1988 and I figured out on my own what no art instructor there would tell me (even though we were in Silicon Valley). That computers were taking over the commercial art field, so those jobs you hoped you might get were becoming obsolete.


Besides, I never wanted (or had the aptitude) for those commercial art jobs anyway. I didn't want to design paper towel ads my whole life. Starting a publication was more me. Which brings me to another point.


In 1970, the year I entered Kindergarten, the US military invented the Internet. In 1985, the year I started college in California, the Macintosh personal computer was invented by Apple. In 1989, the year I graduated college, the World Wide Web was invented by some English guy. So my disillusionment with college is misplaced anger at my incredible bad luck; that the career I chose was done away with thanks to modern technology, right?


Well, get this: According to the Labor Department, 69 percent of jobs in 2010 didn't require a college degree.

As Robert Samuelson wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece, “It's Time to Drop the College-for-all Crusade”, the government started promoting college with the GI Bill in 1944. From 1947 to 1980 college enrollment increased from 2.3 million to 12.1 million. He explains the dark side of this in the next three paragraphs:


College became the ticket to the middle class, the be-all-and-end-all of K-12 education. If you didn’t go to college, you’d failed. Improving “access” — having more students go to college — drove public policy.

We overdid it. The obsessive faith in college has backfired.

For starters, we’ve dumbed down college. The easiest way to enroll and retain more students is to lower requirements. Even so, dropout rates are high; at four-year schools, fewer than 60 percent of freshmen graduate within six years. Many others aren’t learning much.

And here's some plain truth from James E. Rosenbaum's 2004 essay in American Educator, “It's Time To Tell the Kids: If You Don't Do Well in High School, You Won't Do Well in College (or on the Job)”:

Consider the following: Seventy-one percent of the class of 1982 planned to get

a college degree. Ten years later, 63.9 percent of those with A averages had

attained an A.A. degree or higher, but only 13.9 percent of those with C averages

(or lower) had done so.

I think Rosenbaum should have left out the last four words in the title of his essay. If you work hard and perhaps, think outside the box (which most American Educators don't do) you can do well for yourself.

I think I've had this nightmare twice over the past two years: I'm about to graduate San Jose State University, but as it turns out I need one more class, but I can't get it, so I have to keep going to college. Then I wake up and realize it was just a bad dream, and breath a sigh of relief. Then I realize I wasted all those years in college and that my reality is worse than the dream I just had. Scary.

It's also scary to think about how immature I was when I graduated college (and I graduated 6 months before my 25th birthday). If I had been working for all those years I would've grown up much sooner. And everything else I did after college would have happened sooner, too.

Having said that, even though college was a complete waste of time and money, actually did more harm than good, and probably ruined my life, my college years were the best time I can remember.

I wish I could go back.

Gene Mahoney

Editor/Publisher/Delivery Boy

SF Herald

P.S. This may be off the subject a little, but remember Allison Parks, the Queen of Napa Valley who wrote “Knowing Your League in High School” for the last print issue of the Herald? Well, she mentions college in her bio on the website

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Allison Parks attended Sonoma State University, where she barely graduated, only by fellating professors and janitorial staff. She is currently unemployed, living in a dirt-floor shed behind her church, and able to pass for human as long as she shaves her face two times a day.

P.S.S. Thank you, Allison. Let's end this feature with an essay that was published in the Summer 2007 issue of the Herald:


College in America


A Huge Waste of Time and Money


By John J. Hussar


We finally examine college, and that all important college degree, and discover the truth - or what we think is the truth!

Note: If you are in school pursuing a B.S. degree then most of what is written below does not apply to you. Congratulations! You may have a future!



If you think your parent(s) sent you to college because they care about you - think again...
Your parent(s) sent you to college for only one reason.

To get you out of the house.

Face facts, at this point in your parents’ life they see you as an obnoxious, arrogant, lying, drunk, dope fiend! A reminder to them that they should have used birth control. Do you think Mom and Dad, or Mom and her new ‘boyfriend’ Ramon want you lying around the house (a) telling them that they are lousy parent(s), (b) eating all the food in the refrigerator and (c) whining that you need money so you can buy Playstation 3!? Of course not. In their opinion, even though college costs a fortune and will turn you into a drug addicted, Karl Marx spouting robot, it’s worth every penny just to be rid of you for a few months!


Saying college is the thirteenth grade is an insult to thirteenth grade. College is actually more like re-taking ninth grade and paying attention. Be honest (at least with yourself), college nowadays is just an excuse to do nothing for four years (which we are completely for). It has become a motley assortment of make-believe majors and self-righteous idiocy. It is a mental hospital staffed by insane, enraged, wimpy, loser, ex-hippie, baby boomers who could never face the real world themselves. Most of these ‘Professors’ were college students who in 1972, with the ending of the Vietnam War (and the protesting they so loved), found they had to find some way to make a living without doing anything. These baby boomers couldn’t actually stand up to the rigors of ‘real’ college (which used to be hard – and we mean ‘really, really’ hard - which of course is why so few people used to get in). Nor were they willing to get a real job. So what they did is protest for more ‘socially relevant’ courses (i.e. lame-ass courses) so that they could get a degree while stoned (again, we aren’t actually against this). Eventually they found a way to get a PhD/Masters in these newly created, obscure, pointless fields so they could then teach you their stupid ‘discipline’ and get tenured (salaried for life for doing nothing). Which leads us to today where you now pay an institution close to $20,000.00 (repeat: twenty thousand dollars!) a year to teach you something that you could learn from a $10.00 book, stoned, and/or drunk, in your spare time.

COLLEGES- Which ones are better?

Here is a simple test. Is your school an Ivy League school?

If you said “yes,” you are in luck! You might actually parley this into money! Most people will be impressed that you were able to get into a good school and might be stupid enough to hire you. Unless, that is, you got a BFA, in which case your answer should now be changed to a ‘no.’

If your answer was “no”: Forget it, you are in the realm of the generic “any school.” No one is impressed at all - unless maybe the person hiring you also went to that school. In which case it might help - but then (if they went there) they will know what a sad, pathetic school it is, and will probably not hire you anyway!


An accurate breakdown of what your degree really means.

B.S. (Bachelor of Science) – Actually, this is a real degree, and guarantees some sort of work, somewhere. Note: this is true so long as you didn’t study something like environmental engineering or agriculture...
RESUME VALUE: An actual degree! Will open doors. You are actually not a loser!

B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) - You have insignificant knowledge and vague general suppositions about obscure authors with half-baked ideas, conjured up by losers. This is the ultimate nebulous, non-degree. It literally means that you know nothing.
RESUME VALUE: Just slightly better than getting a B.A. from a community college.

B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Arts) - You are more than likely permanently damaged as a human being. A BFA actually guarantees that you cannot ever get a high paying job. Ever.
RESUME VALUE: It would probably be better not mention you got this degree, not if you want a job, that is.


This is a valid point. What is the real reason? To learn? No. If you are motivated to learn you do not need college for this. There are more than enough resources, libraries, the Internet, etc. Learning is about you wanting to know something. This is not a talent that can be taught. You either have the desire to learn - or you don’t. There are many successful people who never went to college. In fact most highly successful people didn’t go there. So don’t fool yourself. Besides, within a few months of graduating you will have forgotten what little you crammed into your head all those nights you took crystal-meth and stayed up to study for finals.


When you boil it down the only point of going to college are a.) to party, and b.) to get away from you parent(s).
If you are honest and realize why you went to college, good for you. Though it is a huge waste of money, it really doesn’t matter. As long as you aren’t paying for it… who the fuck cares!


“Those who can do. Those who can’t... teach!”

That is why your professors are on your campus teaching, because they failed the real test, which is being successful in the real world. Because they have lived in or around colleges for most of their lives they have built up vast stores of theoretical knowledge of how the real world works. The ultimate truth is that theoretical knowledge is just that – theoretical – and on the whole, almost completely incorrect.

To learn from people like this is dangerous. This is really not a joke. It literally takes years of your life (and we speak from experience) to get their stupid, disturbing ideas out of your head so that you can even begin to succeed at life. Which means you are virtually guaranteed to be screwed until the age of thirty-five!

Let us make an additional comment about teachers. For the past few years the “media” has started bitching about how ‘undervalued’ teachers are. This is utter bullshit that comes from the publicity arm of the teachers’ unions. In our opinion teachers are so overpaid for what they do it is criminal.

So what does a ‘Teacher (Professor) do?


Work in the College World

Professors only work about half of the year at best, and most of that time only a half of an actual day. Summer is completely off, as are any holidays, as well as a long stretch in the winter, plus additional break periods. Basically they get paid full time wages for part time work.


Work in the Real World

It is a deadly 9-5 grind. 5 days a week with only a few weeks of vacation.


Pressure in the College World

College professors are never questioned about what they know. Who could call them on their mistakes anyway? Their students? Who else is in the classroom to judge them? You will always know less about the subject than the teachers. Which means they are free from any real meaningful criticism of their jobs. Once they know a course very little ever changes, so they pretty much never have to learn anything new for the rest of their careers. We won’t even talk about high school teachers or below, as these ‘teachers’ were too lame to even become college professors.


Pressure in the Real World

In the real world you are constantly being judged on your performance. If you fail at your job - you are fired. You have to perform every day, there isn’t any choice. Knowledge and procedures are constantly changing so you constantly have to figure out more and more, or never advance to a higher job. There are Supervisors and Managers who constantly observe and judge your performance.

So don’t shed a tear for your teachers, they get paid enormously for very little work, with almost no pressure.


When you are taught by failures, who have effectively failed in the world, what are they likely to teach you? Certainly not what works. What they teach you is what they know, and what they know is how to do it all wrong. Therefore you are learning what they know all too well - which is how to fail.

Never doubt the ignorance of your Professor. This is a person who will stop at nothing to infect you with all the wrong attitudes and ideas. Notice also that they can’t stand successful people out in the real world. They call those people who succeed evil, or ignorant (a popular tool in most academic arguments), or bourgeois or imperialists, etc. etc. ad infinitum, when it is they themselves who are truly the dull-witted ones.

This having been said - be careful! Disagreeing with these people can be very dangerous. They are incredibly vindictive (like the losers they are) and will reduce your grades or even get you kicked out of school for not agreeing with them. They will also do other childish things such as ridicule you in front of class, shun you, and tell other professors that you have a bad attitude, which will make it hard for you to pass any other courses. Just know that they are miserably unaware of how things truly work. Look at them in front of you and truly know them for the failures that they are. Hopefully they will not damage you and you can at least get on with your life! If you want that degree for your resume, listen enough to pass the course, don’t believe any of it, and keep your mouth shut!


Here’s the low-down: stay in school simply for your résumé. Or don’t go at all! Just lie and say you went to college somewhere in Montana (note: most companies don’t check your college information anyway, mainly because what you learned was useless to your job anyway - also, they usually don’t have the time to do it). NOTE: do not lie if you are getting a high paying or security sensitive job, or a job with the military.

Anyway, have a good time, try not to die, take some useful courses (accounting, finance, basic law) and don’t become brainwashed. If you listen to this advice you will have a good life, and be miles ahead of almost every other college educated retard out there.


20,000/year x 4 years = 80,000. If you spent some time doing some real research and put your college money in one semi-decent stock you could expect a 30% compounded return over 10 years. This could end up as a final total of $1,102,867.93 by the time you were 28 years old! (Note: if this amount of money had been invested in Microsoft back in 1987 you would have made $42 Million dollars by 1997.) Instead you will give the money to a bunch of feeble lunatics who will actually brainwash you with all the ideas that lead to failure so that you end up, out of desperation, working at a job you hate and paying off student loans until you are 35 years old.###

This article originally appeared on

All contents © 2011 by Gene Mahoney