Why Books Are Better Than College

First off, I apologize to all of my college professors.  I have spent 7+ years taking college classes at 3 different colleges and I have enjoyed every minute of it.  In fact, I plan to take more classes in the future and wish I could constantly take classes.  Unfortunate I am currently short on both time and money, two key items to continue to enroll in classes.  I love to learn and universities are a fantastic place for it.  Additionally, the only book I actually read in high school was “The Great Gatsby” and I didn’t read a book while getting my undergraduate until a friend convinced me to read “The Automatic Millionaire” towards the end of my senior year.  I despised reading and did everything I could to avoid it.

So if I love college and barely ever read any books up to and during college, then why am I making the claim that books are better than college?  Let me explain.

I received my undergraduate degree in Computer Science from SUNY Oswego in 2006.  State schools are quite a bit cheaper than most private schools.  I can’t remember the annual tuition from when I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree, but if someone was to get a 4 year degree from a New York State university* today, it would cost ~ $90,000 to live on campus and ~$62,000 for an in state commuter.  Now hopefully students can get financial aid and scholarships to offset some of the cost, but that is still a pretty hefty bill for most students.  In exchange for this cost, they receive 4 years of classes (both in their major and in general classes), live class sessions, the experience of meeting a lot of different people and a degree.  Assuming 5 classes per semester, or a total of 40 classes, each class costs somewhere between $1,550 – $2,250.

Now lets take a look at books.

I am a big fan of Amazon (see my post Why I Love Amazon Prime).  I read ~30 books a year, most of which I purchase from Amazon.  Most of the books that I purchase cost between $10 – $45, so the average price of a book is usually $20-$25.  So assuming I read $30 books a year @ $25 per book, I would spend $750 a year on books.  This is between $29,990 – $14,690 less money than it would cost me to attend one year at a SUNY school.  The chart below does some additional comparisons between college and books.

Criteria 1 Year College 30 Books
Cost $29,990 – $14,690 $750
Topics Studied 10 10-30
Knowledge Sharers Professors: From Adjunct, Part Time – PHDs Authors: Any range of education/background/experience
Time Commitment 6-10 hours/day** 30 minutes to several hours/day
Ability to Work Potentially Part Time Part Time or Full Time

Additionally, here are some other benefits of reading:

  1. Improved Reading Speed: The more I read, the faster I am able to read.  This helps reduce the amount of time spent reading a book and helps save time in the rest of my life.
  2. Interesting Topics: I get to choose the topics that I want to read/learn about.  I can read 3 books on the same topics, or each book I read can be on a different topic.
  3. Learn New Ideas: Most books are written by different authors, with different background and experiences.  With each book that I read, even ones that I do not like, I get a variety of new ideas and insights.
  4. Improved Knowledge: I love to learn.  With each book I read, I expand the basis of my knowledge.  There is a great quote that I love – “We learn at the boundary of what we already know.”
  5. Conversation Starters: The more I read, the easier it is for me to talk to others and continue conversations.  I have a great basis of different ideas and knowledge in a broad range of subjects.
  6. Learn from the Best: Where else, other than books, can $25 get you the inner thoughts and years of experience from some of the greatest minds?
  7. Read When You Want: With books, you can choose when and how you want to read.  You can read each night before bed, right when you wake up, between meetings, during lunch or at the gym.  If you like audio-books, you can listen in the car, or while you are doing many other activities.

What are some of the downsides of college?

  • You are forced to take specific classes (ex. introductory classes, general education classes, specific classes for your major), many of which may not interest or benefit you.
  • It is a big time commitment**.  You most likely will not be working, or if you do work it will be part time.  This restricts your ability to make money during this time.
  • It is a big financial commitment.  Most students will graduate with an average of $35,200*** in college related debt.  This has to be paid back, with interest.  Building on the previous example, you also will not be earning maximum value from any job you are working while going to school full time, which sets you back further financially.
  • Getting a college degree does not necessarily mean you will have a job.  Many people I know are not working in their field of study.
  • You do not get to choose your professors (typically only 1 or 2 professors will teach a specific class), so you may be at the whim of the educator currently teaching a course.

With that said, I do think there is a lot of benefit to pursuing a college degree.  I also think you can get much of the same knowledge (and more) for a lot less time/money buy reading books.  It is up to each person to decide which one is right for them (and maybe the answer is both college and books like it was for me).

For anyone interested in what my reading list looks like for a year, here is an example:

books_better_than_college_banner

  1.  First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently
  2.  The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer
  3.  The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance
  4. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience
  5. Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think
  6. Atlas Shrugged
  7.  Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Law School
  8. Cracking the Communication Code: The Secret to Speaking Your Mate’s Language
  9.  The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security
  10.  Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0: How to Stand Out from the Crowd and Tap into the Hidden Job Market Using Social Media and 999 Other Tactics Today
  11. Small Business Start-up: Your Comprehensive Guide to Starting & Managing a Business
  12.  Quality is Free: The Art of Making Quality Certain
  13. The Complete MBA for Dummies
  14. De-Railed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership
  15. Shipping Greatness: Practical lesson son building and launching outstanding software, learned on the job at Google and Amazon
  16. The Real Estate Investor’s Tax Strategy Guide
  17. The Art of War for Managers: 50 Strategic Rules
  18. The Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life
  19. For Better or For Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families
  20. No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Guide to Productivity and Sanity
  21. Wealth Creation for Small Business Owners: 75 Strategies for Financial Success in Any Economy
  22. Windows on the World Complete Wine Course
  23. The Courage to Be Rich: Creating a Life of Material and Spiritual Abundance
  24. Essential Skills for the Agile Developer: A Guide to Better Programming and Design
  25. The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive
  26. Weekend Millionaire’s Secrets to Negotiating Real Estate: How to Get The Best deals to Build Your Fortune in Real Estate
  27.  The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
  28.  Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership
  29.  The Power of Personal Accountability: Achieve What Matters to You
  30. Go For Gold: Inspiration to Increase Your Leadership Impact

 

*Yearly tuition rates taken from https://www.suny.edu/student/paying_tuition.cfm

**Time commitment of college http://www.cornellcollege.edu/academic-support-and-advising/study-tips/How%20Much%20Time%20Should%20You%20Devote%20to%20Studying.shtml

***Average college related debt in 2013 http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/17/pf/college/student-debt/index.html

Tom Sylvester is an Entrepreneur, Real Estate Investor and Lean/Agile Coach.  He has started multiple businesses and is passionate about helping others achieve their goals, both personally and professionally.  He lives in Rochester, NY with his wife and daughter.  Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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