The Value of Education


So the “Getting Married Young” thread has spurred a lot of debate about whether a woman should be college educated if she is not going to use her knowledge to make money (because she plans to be a stay at home mom). I was about to post my replies there, but then I realized that the thread was almost completely derailed from the original topic.

I’ll ask some questions for people to ponder and then post my own views afterwards.

In your opinion:
-Is the purpose of college only to increase the amount of money you will make in your career?
-Is learning about the world God created an intrinsically worthy pursuit?
-Is the enjoyment of learning enough reason to want to continue schooling?
-Would most people quit school after high school if there were no monetary advantage in continuing? (in this case college would probably cost less too)
-Would fewer women wish to continue schooling if they could be assured they would never have to provide for themselves?
-Is extra education worth the cost if the benefits it provides are not monetary?
-What other benefits does education provide and are they satisfied by a high school diploma?

In the other thread, MichaelSaint said he would not marry a women who had debt from college loans. He said it was irresponsible of her to incur debt if she would not be making money from her education later. This implies that her education would be a waste of money.

IMHO, the purpose of education is NOT to make money. My desire for education (particularly in chemistry and biology) comes from a love of learning and a desire to know the truth. I like to use my brain to make connections and explore cause and effect. I want to know how the world works, even if it costs money but doesn’t make me any.

I also think there are practical benefits that do come from education. It makes me respond to situations more rationally. It disciplines the mind so that I don’t make decisions based on emotions or selfish desires. It leads me to consider my own existence and the debt I owe to my creator.

Anyways, I believe that if a person still has a desire to learn after high school he or she should continue on with a college education. I don’t care if the person is female or male. Monetary concerns are valid if you cannot provide your basic needs, but I think the only way you waste money on an education is by not really learning anything.


Not just to increase the amount of money, but also to open up opportunities for more interesting and fulfilling jobs.

The more education I get, the more able I’ll be to pick an interesting job in my field.

Having more eduction doesn’t always mean making more money – the time spent in school could be spent working and earning money which will accumulate interest. However, I think the more fulfilling job opportunities are definitely worth it.


For some it is. The general loss of virtue in society has led to the reduction of learning to gaining skill sets. The modern university doesn’t care as much about forming consciences as producing workers. It’s the triumph of praxis over contemplation.

Of course. This is a keystone of Catholic humanism.

Enjoyment as its own end is not enough–there ought to be a further end of service. But enjoyment can certainly lead us to the higher end.

Perhaps women would be more willing to postpone higher education in order to have children in their younger years. The desire to know is common to men and women; it’s part of being in the image of God, an essential constituent of our humanity. This desire does not leave just because you have a man paying the bills. :slight_smile: For the woman with intellectual gifts, university can play an important part in developing her vocation. Let’s take Mary Ann Glendon as a visible example!

As someone about to finish an advanced degree in theology (a totally non-monetary pursuit!!!), I’d have to say yes. Again, I think the Catholic intellectual tradition attests to the value, and even the responsibility, of learning. Of course, that’s according to one’s station in life, personal gifts, etc.

Fun topic! :thumbsup:


I suppose I am not answering your questions directly, but I will say that my education is precious to me. No matter what happens - the Nazi’s come back in power, people gang up and make fun of me, I have serious health problems in life, whatever, my education cannot be taken away from me. It’s a privilege and a blessing to be educated.

Do I work? No. I did, though. Do I feel like I am wasting my education? No way. I feel like I am using it more now than ever, I am just not getting paid. I stay home and take care of my 7 kids. I apply everything I learned in my current “occupation”.


I earned a BA at a Catholic college. I have NO regrets! I had a career in my field (science) for many years before I got married and had kids. Once I had kids, I was a SAHM for 11 years. Then I started working in a Catholic school. I could not go back to the science field, since technology had grown by leaps and bounds in those 10 years and I would have had to go back to school for further education at that point. Instead, I chose a different path, and it has been wonderful. I now work in a school with kids!

A few benefits for me of college:

  1. I met my husband.
  2. I got to travel to Europe a few times.
  3. I saw JP II on Epiphany in St. Peter’s Square.
  4. I met the Godmothers and Godfather of my children in college!
  5. I learned how to critically think.
  6. I learned about the Catholic faith (I was not Catholic when I enrolled in this college).
  7. I converted to the Catholic faith!
  8. I now teach in a Catholic school, which puts me on the same schedule as my own children, so I am home when they are home as teens.
  9. I met many amazing people who opened the doors for me in more ways than I can count.
  10. My education can never be taken from me!

I learned how to learn, and I learned to love learning, and I learned how to pass that on my own children, who are doing far better at their ages academically than I ever did!


I am a woman, I am 24, not married but engaged.

I LOVE to learn, I wouldn’t have given up my college experience for anything. I love to learn for learnings sake. History, religion, science, art, are all useful regardless. To be educated is to have a defense against ignorance and a defense against being duped and tricked and used.

I have a master’s in psychology now and I do plan on using my degree to teach b/c that is something I am passionate about. Even if I did not use my degree in a career it would be invaluable in dealing with daily life and interactions with others.

However, I have another motive. My mother was promised that she would be taken care of if she was a stay at home mom. She got her education anyway after my brother and I were old enough to go to school, luckily, and is now a teacher. However my father got the wandering eye and left my mother w/o much warning. If she hadn’t got her education she would have been helpless. I promised I would never depend on a man to the point where I couldn’t stand on my own two feet.


I am glad to have my business degree, even if I am currently in the unpaid workforce.

Despite my lack of income, other than raising my children with my husband, I have a demanding volunteer position in my parish, and an equally demanding volunteer position at my children’s school. I draw on my education and career experience to serve my family and my community.



I have a law degree and many years of litigation practice that while they are not earning me $$ now, still give me an advantage when seeking participation in various community, school, governmental, or volunteer advocacy projects, boards, committees, etc. I am also more aware of issues and concerns that have legal implications than I would have been without my legal education. I am better versed on the history and reasoning behind issues impacting current events like significant legal decisions, regulatory actions, proposed legislation, judicial appointments/elections, etc.

Aside from the value of my past education and the pleasure I gained from its pursuit, I continue to pursue education~and not for any financial remuneration. I have taken literature, foreign language, religious studies as well as computer/tech classes in the past and am to resume foreign language studies again this fall. I fully expect that my travel opportunities once the kids are older will increase significantly and it would be helpful as well as interesting to be better informed about languages and culture other than our own.

I can’t imagine being so narrow in focus or purpose as to decline education simply because it doesn’t add a corresponding monetary advantage to one’s life.


Well, I answered in the other thread, but I’ll expand on my thoughts here now that I don’t have to feel guilty about going off-topic.

Learning for pleasure is certainly commendable, but it doesn’t require going to an institution. Generally, people go to universities in order to be able to discuss ideas with peers and professors, to meet people (potential spouses, career contacts, friends, mentors), to learn new perspectives, and to improve their career opportunities, including earning more money.
I don’t think higher education leads to higher salaries in most fields. However, the more you know, the more you can do, and generally with increased skills and abilities come more job opportunities, some of which might be better paying.

Going to an institute of higher learning gives you a piece of paper that tells potential employers that you probably know what you say you know. For some people, that piece of paper will get filed in the bottom drawer and never looked at again, because it was the knowledge or the experience they were after. For others, that piece of paper will be the difference between poverty and financial comfort, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

For me, the reason I decided to pursue a graduate degree was that I had extra time and money, and marriage didn’t look like it was in my immediate future. (What did I know? :rolleyes:) I thought I may as well put the time to good use. I feared that later I’d have limited job opportunities if I hadn’t taken this educational opportunity while I had time. It did occur to me that I might never use it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I chose my major, education, because I was working in the field and enjoyed it, and because although there were subjects that interested me more, education is a good solid field that has plenty of jobs and won’t change enough to make me unemployable if I take ten years or more off to raise children.

I know I probably wouldn’t have gone into debt to get this degree - I spent all my savings (well, this week I took out all but my last $300) but have been able to pay for my degree out of savings and salary so far. I’m not eligible for loans, grants, scholarships, bursaries, or anything else, due to being a citizen of one country, a resident of a different country, and a student at a university in a third country. That means that my options have been pretty limited as far as schools and finances are concerned, but at least I won’t carry any debt when I get married.

In truth, I may never use this degree anyway - I started dating a male friend of mine the same month I started the degree, and we plan to get married as soon as I finish. Already, he’s encouraging me to learn NFP so we can start trying to conceive right away. :smiley: I know he’d love to get married and have a baby even before I finish, but I just wouldn’t be able to handle the course work with my full-time job, wedding planning, and a baby on the way. I’m continuing with the degree, paying almost 2/3 of my salary every month, even knowing I may never see a financial benefit from it.

However, an education degree is a wonderful fallback to have. If tragedy strikes, I’ll be able to go back to teaching, which means that I won’t even have to arrange childcare if my kids are in school. I know we want to send our kids to Catholic school, but I might end up homeschooling them if that doesn’t work out, and an education degree is great for that. Or if Catholic school gets expensive, I can always work to help pay for it. Or even if finances are tight, I can get a day job working in a school or a night job tutoring online, by phone, or out of my home.


I don’t think it’s a matter of “never having to provide for yourself” because you really have no guarantee on that. My own mother had to go through periods of working and staying at home throughout our lives. Regardless, I think an education and the experience you get in college is worthwhile. Also, some women actually do want to work (I originally went with the intent of becoming a doctor).

I’m only almost finished with my first year but here’s how it benefited me:

  1. My faith has grown exponentially this year, partly to not being able to take it for granted (I’m at a non-Catholic school) and partially due to the wonderful Catholics and other Christians I’ve met at school.
  2. I had to deal with issues from my past, which I wouldn’t have done without the help of a very beautiful friend of mine (who I met at school).
  3. I learned that premed WAS NOT for me and that there are other ways of helping others and using my interests.
  4. After trying to go it alone most of my teen years, I learned that it was impossible and that I had to reach out to people.
  5. I ended up closer to my parents (distance does that to you:))
  6. I’m becoming more fluent in Spanish and Italian
  7. I learned how to budget my money (DC is an expensive city, even to go out for dinner with people).
  8. I got a greater interest in my roots.
  9. I’ve become open to the possibility of discerning a religious vocation (and there are orders that won’t take you unless you’ve at least obtained a Bachelor’s, i.e. the Dominicans)
  10. I learned that I really DON’T need a boyfriend to make me happy (thanks to same friend mentioned in #2 treating me as how a man should treat a woman, not only the one who captures his fancy!)

Going away to college has caused me to become more independent and gave me a greater desire to take ownership over myself and my education. Regardless of my state in life, I will never regret the things I learned, the people I’ve met and forged friendships with, and the experiences I’ve had living in a big city:)


I attended college full time for about 5 years and then took a class here and there…still no degree. I am currently a SAHM of four. I should have finished my degree but that would not have changed the fact that I would have left any job to work full time for my family. I knew that I wanted kids one day. I knew that in raising those kids, I would stay home (if finances allowed) no matter what degree I carried at the time.
I have three girls. I would recommend college for them no matter what path life may take them down. I will help them in any way I can to gain an education beyond high school. College is important … It’s an education…not just academically. I became Catholic during my college years, I learned to care for myself and how to stretch my money. I learned how to be an adult. No matter what you are studying to be it can help when running a household. If you are going for teaching: you are your child’s first educator. Nursing-have knowledge in medical issues that always come with children. Business: Teaches you how to manage money. I could go on and on. I think the more educated you are, the better mother/wife you end up being. You can’t put a price on that type of learning. I sit here today degree-less but I tell you that I have tapped into the learning experience of my college years more times than I can count. Learning never ends.


I know i already posted once but I just wanted to say that

education is invaluable…so many people have fought for just the ability to go to school: minorities, women, impoverished nations. I think as long as you have the ability you should go to college for that reason alone, not to mention the experiences mentioned already on this thread. Being a stay at home mom is a full time job in itself, so who says that being one you aren’t “using” your degree! I think being a stay at home mom would be harder than having a career. Granted I’ve never had children either so…my opinion is what it is :thumbsup:


While I love that I got a degree if I knew for sure that I wanted to be a SAHM I’d of never gotten one. I have over $45,000 in student loans from degree.My husband has another $45,000. Because of this a) we have to use NFP because literally cannot afford another child b) cannot afford for me to be a SAHM.

I think my husband feels the same about his masters in theology. A totally uselses degree unless you plan on getting a PhD. And even then there is only 5 teaching positions in the US with over 200 applicants.

One thing I will say too, if you don’t use your science degree in 7 years its considered expired. My husband has faced this numerous times, with most labs telling him he’d have to go back to school for 2 years in order for his degree to be valid again!


First of all, education is always a plus for anyone. The more educated you are, the better you can interact with the world around you. And just because you don’t plan on using your education for financial reasons now, doesn’t mean you won’t HAVE to in the future. None of us but God knows the future, and just because you plan to stay home and raise kids doesn’t mean that’s what’s going to happen. Any number of scenarios could arise that make it necessary for you to be able to support yourself and your children. Even without that, I still think it makes a more well-rounded person in all areas if they receive a good education. I can’t think of a single reason why I would regret getting a good education, but I can think of a LOT of reasons why I would regret NOT having one.


One can educate themselves throughout their life with or without college. If seeking knowledge is your pursuit there are so many ways to gain it without setting foot in a school.

If you are in the corporate trap you may need a formal college education to advance, but even that is changing with distance learning.


Or if you choose a profession such as medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, nursing, or scientific research. Those are necessarily hands-on skilled learning programs, and involve not only traditional education but also apprenticeship-style learning. I certainly don’t one someone who taught him or herself from a book attempting to perform surgery on me.

As for the question of whether or not women should bother with education if they’re going to stay home and have children rather than have a career: what if the children never come? I met my husband after finishing my bachelor’s degree (which I loved doing), and we planned to have children so I didn’t apply to graduate schools and instead worked in my field, figuring I could quit or go on part-time when the babies came. Well, turns out we can’t have kids. I don’t get pregnant easily and when I do, I can’t carry the babies past 5 weeks. My job was the only thing that saved my sanity after that first miscarriage. If I’d been at home alone all day, every day, I’m not sure I would have been able to pull myself out of the depression. My job gave me something to focus on, and I enjoyed it. And the experience gained through my job, as well as my undergrad degree, got me into the grad program of my choice along with full scholarship. In this time I’ve met so many people (including one of the professors that I work with) who’ve successfully adopted children, and so many more who’ve had children as their careers have progressed. One of my fellow students just had his third child. I’m blessed to be around these people and so happy to continue my education.

I agree that formal higher education is not for everyone. My own father, who loves to read and learn, feels stifled in a classroom and prefers physical labor. But I don’t think women should be told not to pursue higher education simply because women often become mothers.


I think learning in and of itself is a reward.
I think education is valuable regardless of monetary benefit.
I think there are many things in this world that are worthy of pursuing.
I think the worth of the education and other pursuits should be balanced with practical needs and common sense.
I would agree that going into debt that can’t be paid is irresponsible, regardless of whether the degree is used or not.
I don’t know that I’d refuse to marry someone based on their debt. I g****uess it would depend on my own financial situation and if it would hurt our marriage from the beginning. I’d prefer to start without that financial handicap.

That said, I think a college degree or equal of some sort is important and should be required of our kids. One never knows where one will end up in life. I wouldn’t put marriage or kids off to get it. I wouldn’t go into debt for it. Neither of those things are required to get a degree.
And far more learning happens in real life than in a classroom.


Interesting thread… I didn’t see the original discussion on the other thread and I’m jumping in here late… but here are my thoughts…

First off… my background! :smiley:
I was raised by an adamant SAHM who went to college but did not finish her degree. I know her self esteem suffered due to her lack of degree, but she dedicated herself to her children and didn’t lack in ability due to her lack of degree. She raised us to think highly of education and to reach for and achieve high aspirations… her 4 children studied engineering, law, nursing and social work in college.
I’m the Engineer. I went to college with the understanding that a good degree would get me a high paying job. This was my goal. My goal was not to “become educated” (because you can do that on your own, IMO), but to earn a degree, in order to get a job, that would help bring income. I really think there is a difference between “becoming educated” and “earning a degree”… and they don’t necessarily both require a college education.
Now that I’m out of college (7 years now) and paying off college loans and working full time… honestly, I wish I didn’t have the burden of working. :o I often look at my education and my degree with contempt because it’s locked me into a situation that I don’t enjoy.
While I certainly don’t “blame” my mom for her pushing us to do our very best and achieve high goals… I do think there was some level of compensation for her own feelings of inadequacy. Personally, if I have daughters, I don’t think I’ll push them to be the “highest achievers” unless it’s their own personal drive.
Looking at our economic situation with me “needing” to work, I wish it were something that I felt a personal drive for. Instead, I feel like I was encouraged to “achieve” regardless of the difficulties associated with it.

Okay… so I didn’t directly answer the question at hand.
I think a woman’s personal drive should determine whether or not she goes to college. If the motivation is that “women should be EDUCATED”… I don’t think that’s enough. The motivation should be ordered towards receiving a degree IF she wants to work. Otherwise, yes, I think an expensive college education is wasteful when you can self-educate for free.


Never know what the future holds–so it’s wise to have an education–male or female. If my dd decides to be a stay at home mom someday, hopefully she will have that choice. If she chooses someone who at the time cannot support the household on just his income, she will have to work. I think it would be better to make a good living if one ‘has’ to work, than take a mediocre job–dreading it. Now, there are people who go to college, who don’t end up utilizing their degrees. I be one of those people.:stuck_out_tongue: I got a teaching degree, got married, temped becauses there were no teaching jobs available in my area–then, had babies, stayed home with them for a time–and my husband was laid off, and I went ‘back’ to work. (really just started into the corporate world) I remained because I did well in sales/marketing, and am glad I went to college. The thing is though, let’s say I was still a stay at home mom, and now wanted to go back to work–a degree will add $$ onto your salary any day, over someone who does not have a degree–unless you are like my sister, and she doesn’t have a degree, but was out of high school in the 70’s, climbed the business ladder in the 80’s, and things worked out differently. But, today, almost all higher/decent paying, salaried jobs require some type of bachelor’s degree. Almost.

So, long story made long-lol–I think it behooves a person (not just women) to go to college, get some type of degree, preferably in something he/she likes, and even if you don’t use it for years, you have that to use. It is also a good experience–college, in general. I sometimes miss those carefree days–didn’t know how easy my life was back then.:wink:


That’s interesting Emily–I have a dd and I don’t ‘push’ her (nor do I push my son) but, I definitely encourage them EQUALLY in their future endeavors. I personally don’t think it’s a good idea if a parent has sons and daughters, to only push the sons to be high achievers. I look at Mother Teresa, and she used her life in a very different way than most. She was still a high achiever, in a different way…so, I think I know what you meant, but girls and boys should be given equal encouragement to pursue their ‘dreams.’ Whatever those dreams might be.:slight_smile:

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