College Is Not a Waste of Money, Time, or Talent

College was a transformative period in my life. I held my professors in high regard, viewing them as beacons of wisdom. For most of my time there, I was a teaching assistant and laboratory technician in the chemistry department, a role that made me feel like an integral part of the university community. The camaraderie we shared was palpable. Even now, I look back fondly on those days, though many of my mentors have since passed away.

My college education was the gateway to a multitude of opportunities. It paved the way for me to pursue further studies in various graduate programs and to embark on careers in both industry and academia. The possibilities were endless, and I was equipped with the knowledge and skills to explore them.

I get it that college isn’t for everyone. Mike Rowe provides a valuable resource through his Mike Rowe Works Foundation for those who want to pursue a career without a four-year degree. And there are trade schools for those who’d rather build or fix things.

But for those of you who are considering college, let me encourage you to hold on to that dream. It will be worth it all in the end. And it’s not a waste of money, time, or talent as some have bloviated.

You don’t have to attend an Ivy League school to succeed or achieve your dream. There are exceptional students in every college, just as there are short-cutters and cheaters. Hard work and integrity will be worth far more to a future employer, graduate school admissions committee, or the college professor who writes you a stellar letter of recommendation than the name of the institution appearing on your diploma.

Public community colleges and smaller private universities provide a good education— maybe better in some respects—since class sizes tend to be smaller. There are also affordable degree programs online offered by accredited schools for the truly self-motivated who cannot attend a traditional day institution due to work schedules or family responsibilities.

And consider a Christian college!

When I first applied to teach at Palm Beach Atlantic University, I was required to submit a statement that described how I would integrate a Christian worldview in my courses. I wrote, “in whatever discipline I have taught, my goal has always been to create a sense of awe for the creation—general revelation—and for its pinnacle—man—as expressed through the Scriptures—special revelation—through an understanding of a biblical world view, i.e., that each of us carries the Imago Dei—the image of God within our souls—although marred, broken by sin and in need of redemption.”

You may wonder how a chemistry professor can blend the Bible and science in the classroom. In the words of former ABC News Science Correspondent Dr. Michael Guillen, “Christianity and science are an awesome power couple.”

Notably, the father of classical physics, Sir Isaac Newton, and the father of quantum physics, Max Planck, could seamlessly integrate faith and science. Belief in God did not contradict their understanding of the design and the mechanics governing the respective worlds they studied. They both believed that God is the Ultimate Designer, ‘For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible …He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’” (Colossians 1:16-17).

I attended what was then a small, private Catholic college for my undergraduate degree—now Iona University—and a larger Catholic university—Fordham University—where I earned one of my two graduate degrees.

My parents started saving money for my college education when I was still in grammar school. But that was during an era when their first house, a small Cape Cod in Yonkers, New York, cost them less than $6,000—Yes! $6,000! Inflation has inflated everything, not just college tuition.

My father, who had an M.A. from New York University and taught music in a public high school in the Bronx, told me that he’d pay my tuition, but anything beyond my undergraduate degree was on me. “Oh—and get a job to pay for your books,” he added.

For parents reading this column, I have several suggestions. Remember, anything worthwhile is worth the expense. Save money for your children’s future education. It’s never too early to start. Open a 529 college savings account.

Try to avoid student loans if possible, but if you are forced to go that route, do so with the intention of paying the loans back. Doing otherwise is unethical, and it sends the wrong message to your son or daughter by kindling a spirit of entitlement. Remember, nothing offered by the government is free. It just means someone else is paying for it.

Make your children get a job as early as they can legally work and save a portion of their income for their future college expenses. They’ll appreciate college much more if they must work for it.

Most importantly, encourage your children to develop good study habits. Good study habits equal good grades, which in turn equal scholarships. This is by far the most effective way to reduce college costs.

Do your own homework. College can be a game-changer for your son or daughter. And maybe pay less attention to the media dissonance that asserts college is a waste of money, time, and talent.

Editor’s Note: Versions of this article have previously appeared in The South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post, and The Orlando Sentinel. The author submitted this piece to Minding the Campus, and it has been edited to align with Minding the Campus’s style guidelines.

Photo by Studio Romantic — Adobe Stock — Asset ID#: 321701964


  • Gregory J. Rummo

    Gregory J. Rummo, D.Min., M.S., M.B.A., is a Lecturer of Chemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences at Palm Beach Atlantic University and an Adjunct Scholar at the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He is the author of The View from the Grass Roots, The View from the Grass Roots - Another Look, and several other volumes in the series.

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One thought on “College Is Not a Waste of Money, Time, or Talent”

  1. “For most of my time there, I was a teaching assistant and laboratory technician in the chemistry department, a role that made me feel like an integral part of the university community. The camaraderie we shared was palpable.”

    Working for the institution, in a valued role, makes all the difference in the world.

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