Thursday, August 15, 2019

Returns On University Education

Going through the public education system is a rite-of-passage for most Singaporean children. The Singapore education system is highly-regarded world-wide on most measures. School fees are heavily subsidised from kindergarten to Junior College levels. It is generally considered worthwhile for students and parents to 'invest' time, effort and money into this glorious 20-year 'paper chase'. However, the ROIC (Returns On Invested Capital) becomes trickier at the tertiary level. Is it still worthwhile pursuing that part-time degree at a private university like SIM?

Many years ago, one of my friends got a degree from SIM after spending close to S$30k on fees and 3 years of his life.  When I casually probed him about the motivations behind his pursuit of this degree, he gave me the expected answers. "I wanted to make my parents proud. I see many of my friends and relatives are graduates and I want to be like them. I wanted to show them I am smart too. Having a degree will help me get a better-paying job too." Sadly, he was wrong on all accounts. Sure, his parents were initially proud of him, smiling widely at the graduation ceremony. They probably have the old-fashion mindset of equating a degree to a lucrative job. Well, times have changed. Graduates of all kinds are flooding the job market now.

Secondly, getting a degree from SIM will not make you appear 'smart' to your friends, relatives or future employer. In fact, it has quite the opposite effect. That degree from SIM actually showed my friend's academic mediocrity when placed against other candidates from more prestigious universities like NUS/NTU/SMU.


He gave up searching for a proper, full-time job after 2 years. Don't worry, he did not end up driving for Grab or delivering food for FoodPanda. He spent the next 8 years dabbling in 'small' businesses which he claimed vehemently he was passionate in. His latest business venture is running a pomelo farm in Vietnam. So far, he has little returns to show for it and almost no CPF savings at all. The harsh reality is that in the end, the ROC of his university education was practically zero. 3 years of his life and S$30k in fees down the drain, forever, plus opportunity costs. He did not get the status, recognition and job security that he thought he would. 

To conclude, I guess my hard-truth message to those impressionable youngsters out there who are dealing with social/peer pressures is this - if you plan to get a sub-par degree from a sub-par university, you are better off not getting one.

1 comment:

tioching said...

bro, I thought SIM already a government uni?

but i shared the same as sentiment as you. dont go for a degree to make other proud.

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