Is expense of college really worth it?

New report from financial giant Goldman Sachs raises that question

HOUSTON – Perhaps you spent tens of thousands of dollars to attend college, or you're going to spend a small fortune to send your child to a university. But is the expense of college really worth it?

A new report from financial giant Goldman Sachs raises that question.

The answer: maybe not.

VIEW REPORT: Is college worth it?

Bob Martin owns Houston-based Extraordinary Media. It's a successful online marketing and digital media company.

Martin went to Harvard University for his undergrad and to MIT for business school, so the Ivy Leaguer should know a thing or two about college, and who gets hired in the real world.

But now Martin raves about his chief technology officer who skipped a college education.

"He was 18 when we hired him," said Martin. "I would put him up against anybody that I’ve worked with and we've hired people from Carnegie Melon, MIT and Stanford."

Martin was impressed with his certifications and on-the-job training.

"He had a background where he got involved in computers very early. He had gone through some certification classes and his on-the-job training and the software that he wrote when he was young," said Martin.

Now that employee makes six figures.

"He is all self-taught and does a great job of self-improvement and self-education," Martin said. "He's just been fantastic."

Consider this: According to The College Board when you consider tuition, room and board, the price tag for in-state universities now averages close to $20,000 a year. A private university will cost you nearly $44,000 a year.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for a college graduate is $50,651.

According to Goldman Sachs, right now it takes the typical student nine years to break even on the cost of college.

Facing those numbers, how do you make the decision whether to invest in a college education?

"When you look whether college is worth it, you look at what do you want to do as a person," said Martin. "If you want to be a lawyer, you want to be an accountant, well then that stamp on your resume is critical. You've got programmers, people in sales, people in customer support. They do an excellent job when they have empathy, hard work, can relate to people, and in many of those skill sets, you don't learn that in (a) formal college environment."

It's not just what you study, but where you study. According to a U.S. Department of Education website, 75 percent of Rice University graduates make more than those with only a high school diploma. At University of Houston it's 72 percent, and at Texas Southern University it's just 45 percent.

"If you are unsure and you don't think that you're going to excel at college now, I think you'd be much better off getting a pot of money, investing it for the long term and going to get mentors in careers that will teach you on-the-job training and take advantage of the online market," Martin said.

About the Authors: