In this episode, Matt and Rick discuss if college is worth it, especially if you want to become an entrepreneur. There’s no easy answer and it is different for everyone. 

On the one hand, there are undeniable benefits to going to college. For one thing, a college degree can significantly increase your earning potential over the course of your career.

College can also provide you with valuable skills and knowledge that you might not be able to gain elsewhere. You can learn about a wide range of subjects and develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills that can be useful in any career.

That being said, college isn’t for everyone. It can be very expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. For some people, pursuing a trade school or certification program might better fit their goals and interests.

We delve into the ongoing debate surrounding the value of a college education. With soaring student debt and evolving job markets, many individuals are questioning whether the traditional path of attending college is truly worth it. We’ll explore different perspectives, their value proposition, and factors to consider when making this important decision.

Factors For Deciding If College Is Worth It

1. Burden of Student Debt

The long-term financial implications of student debt can be overwhelming, and have a significant impact on individuals and families. The average college debt for a four year undergrad degree in the US is $40,000 and the average college debt for a master’s degree in the US is $70,000.

There are certain classes and jobs where you absolutely have to have a degree. Now, if you’re just in some general studies, like a liberal arts program and you spend $70,000, maybe that isn’t practical. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on your undergrad degree, but instead it might make more sense to spend money on a specialty in your master’s degree.

According to “The College Payoff,” a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, the higher the level of educational attainment, the larger the payoff. Bachelor’s degree holders generally earn 75% more than those with just a high school diploma.

college worth it statistics


2. The Varied Experiences of Graduates

Personal anecdotes from Matt Helland and Rick Mayo highlight the diverse outcomes and perspectives on the value of college education.

While Rick was in college, he was running his own personal training business. He started as a science major until his second year when he switched to business because he wanted to learn more about running a business. While he didn’t finish his degree, he has continually taken advantage of other educational opportunities. He went on to pursue additional education and personal training certifications. Now Rick is a highly respected expert in the fitness industry, successful franchise business founder and CEO. He sits on the board for the GA State exercise science department as well as the Atlanta School of Fitness. He is an NSCA certified personal trainer and serves on the board for the Industry Board of Advisors for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Many young folks and their parents are in this conundrum between expectations of attending college and the long-term financial impact. What element of risk and return are you willing to accept? There are highly educated doctors and lawyers who are still paying off their college loans. Then there are the young professionals in their early 30’s with 2 kids that have almost a million dollars in student debt. Their income is fine except for their student debt, which will take forever to pay back.

While some professionals continue to pay off college loans well into their careers, others have found success without completing their degrees.

3. The Relevance of Degree Specialization

The notion that the undergraduate degree alone may not significantly impact one’s career prospects is supported by economists who argue that investing in specialized master’s degrees may offer better returns.

The importance of identifying specific areas of interest and skill gaps is emphasized in Rick Mayo’s experience, suggesting that pursuing higher education should align with individual goals.

4. The Role of Trade Schools and Alternative Paths

Trade schools can offer viable alternatives for those who wish to enter specific industries, providing practical skills and potential high earning potential. It is crucial to recognize that not all career paths require a college degree. Individuals should consider trade schools, apprenticeships, or other vocational options.

The trade school alternative is great for a kid that doesn’t want to go to college. They could go to trade school and possibly make $100,000 a year in the future. But it will take you a long time as an apprentice to learn about the field. Apprenticeship involves learning a trade from a skilled employer while working for a fixed period at low wages. Because the employer is providing the training and education, it takes a while to realize any value from the apprentice to an employer. If you are a motivated welder or plumber, you could start your own company and you might begin to make really good money.

5. Exploring Identity and Personal Growth

If you don’t know what you want to do, you can buy yourself four years as a student to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. College can provide a valuable period for self-discovery and personal development, allowing students to explore different subjects and interests.

Community colleges and military service can also serve as viable alternatives for individuals who are unsure of their career paths but still wish to continue their education.  

6. Balancing Passion and Practicality

The decision to pursue higher education should involve a careful assessment of individual interests, goals, and the potential return on investment.

It is essential to consider both the financial aspects and personal fulfillment when determining the value of a college education.

7. Beyond Traditional Education

Alternative paths to education offer valuable opportunities for skill acquisition and professional growth. 

Whether you have a college degree or no degree, you should still invest in some form of education if you want to get into entrepreneurship. To be successful in business, you have to be wired the right way to take on challenges and recognize you have to upskill yourself.. Upskilling yourself is critical to your growth and success as a business owner. There are many opportunities for continuous improvement in education. Alternative education opportunities could be from college courses, certifications, trade school, mentorships, sales schools, financial courses, online certifications, etc.

Rick Mayo’s example showcases how non-traditional avenues can lead to success when coupled with dedication, education, and self-improvement. If you don’t want to go to college, do something as hard or better. 

All these are valid paths to success, whichever you take. The key decision to determine is college worth it, is that if you decide not to go to college, choose to do something equally challenging. Don’t just sit around and be useless.

Deciding whether to pursue a college education requires careful consideration of individual circumstances, aspirations, and financial implications. While college may be the right choice for some, it is crucial to acknowledge the viability of alternative paths to education and career success. Ultimately, the value of college lies in its alignment with personal goals and the ability to provide practical skills and opportunities for growth.


  • Podcast 192 Key Takeaways
  • Is going to college worth it from an entrepreneurship lens (05:56)
  • The stats of college education (07:08)
  • The alternatives to college (15:24)
  • Finding something equally challenging (18:04)
  • Investing in other forms of education (22:37)
  • Upskill yourself to get to where you want (25:45)

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