Bozeman High sent around 400 plus scholars out into the world to earn their fortune this past weekend. Although I did attend some college, the only degree I can admit to, was the “third degree” from the campus police a time or two. But on the plus side, one of my books has been a textbook at two universities, so I guess things have a way of balancing out.

How Valuable Is College?

Each year various publications post the starting salaries for those with high school, college or graduate degrees. The higher you climb in education the more income you supposedly make. Why do I use the word “supposedly?”

How much you take home has a lot to do with your area of study. An art history major is most likely going to work in a museum or teach. While an accounting major can work for major corporations or start their own small bookkeeping service. So the type of education you select has some bearing on where you finally perch on the salary ladder.

More and more studies are showing that a college education is not all it’s cracked up to be. Doctor’s, engineers and attorney’s need college. No way you can practice those professions without the sheepskin.

But for some, student loans and other costs put some graduates in debt far longer than their “learn on the job” counterparts. By the time Ph.D.’s have paid off their education, they may well find they are working for a “D” student high school dropout that learned the business inside out by starting in the mail room.

To bring this point home, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, created a revolutionary program. His idea was to give 20 college students, under the age of 20, $100,000 to drop out of college or vocational school and start pursuing their dreams now, rather than waiting until they received their degrees. How many of the 20 will succeed? Only time will tell.

There’s Education and Then There’s Education

One of America’s greatest authors, Mark Twain, once said, “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” In most cases, school gives us a foundation to begin our learning. It’s a little like getting “life’s little rule book” with tests.

While there is no question that more people succeed with education than without it, there are still some dropouts that managed to make it pretty big.

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, did the same and his company went public last week to lukewarm response. Abraham Lincoln taught himself trigonometry and law — home schooled. The only president awarded a patent by the United States Patent Office. Andrew Jackson, another president without formal education. Benjamin Franklin also home schooled and had no formal education. In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue — home schooled. Dave Thomas, Wendy’s, dropped out of high school. The list goes on and on.

Some Final Thoughts

I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been had I gone back to school after the Vietnam War. Everything I know about business I learned from those actually doing it on Main Street USA. Not in the classroom.

Would classroom theory and structure have caused me to question the business owners I met along the way, instead of listening with an open mind? Would ridged business “rules” have prevented me from “thinking outside the box?” Would I have forced my ideas to conform to certain norms that had been drilled into me by Professor Whoever? If I went back to school now, would I spend all my time arguing with my instructors like Rodney Dangerfield in the movie, “Back to School?”

I guess there’s no way to know, but at least in my case, good or bad, — I didn’t let school get in the way of my education.