30 Oct 2009

What would you do with your $500,000?

This [unedited] guest post is by a student in my EEP100 class (background post).
Please praise/critique/comment on its economic quality and importance to you.

Hak Ryul Kim says:

Nowadays, ‘studying abroad’ became one of the most concerned educational issues in South Korea. The competition in the education of Korean high schools led students to seek for other opportunities abroad. The ultimate goal is to graduate from the high ranked universities mainly for its name value. This might sound quite extreme; yet, it is the reality that the Korean education values purely the names and the reputation of the universities. People judge one’s intelligence solely on which school or college he/she went to. Such perspectives on the educational system led parents to spend more and more money for their kids to study abroad. Recently, research has been done on Korean students who have completed their study abroad up to college. According to the research, Korean expenditure on education and language training abroad is $138 million per year; individually they spend approximately $500,000 on average to study at a private boarding high school and a private university (4 year bases) in U.S. It is 2~5 times more than receiving the best possible education in Korea. You might wonder why they don’t just go to public schools in the U.S. Since international students have to pay almost the same amount of tuition fees for public high schools/state universities as other private schools in the U.S, people tend to choose private schools. Then what happens after, when their half million dollar education is done? 60% of people get jobs in Korea, and their first salary is marked to be $36,000 on average, which is only 30% higher than those who studied in Korean high schools and universities. 24% were employed in U.S with average starting salary of $80,000. And the remaining 15% of students who studied in U.S suffer from unemployment.

Bottom Line: What is the opportunity cost in this case? Is it worthy for foreign students to have “better” education in the U.S, that costs half a million dollars or is it simply just a waste of money as the statistics show? In my case, studying abroad is more than the numbers that we see; it is more about experiencing and overcoming difficulties at a young age. It is an expensive cost to pay, but not so much for the experiences you can get.


  1. In my opinion, after some time the most important thing that remains from the university experience is your lifelong friendships and the relations you develope with teachers, who will provide you with important contacts and connections.

    Maybe your experience is different.

    One thing is for sure, tghe things you learn are obsolete after a few years. You really start to learn in real life.

  2. Some of the best entrepreneurs were college drop outs, just saying...

    Okay, on a serious note education matters, but why not get the best possible education in YOUR city, paying into YOUR economy and then try to work for YOUR country, especially if it's cheaper and quality is the same. I am all for globalization of education, but in my opinion a talented individual will succeed with or without fancy US diploma.

    You can study undergrad at home and if you really want it get masters or postdoc in the country of your choice.

  3. You have looked simply at the one-year payback for your $500k, you need to amortise this cost across your complete career, maybe 40 years. That's $12.5k per year excluding interest.

    I have no figures, but I would expect that for those 24% who start on $80k per year, by the time they reach retirement that $500k will be chump change, and those that stayed at home at a local Uni and started on $36k will not be on a lot more. The trick is for you (and your parents, given that they are probably the ones ponying up the cash up front) to understand if you are going to be in that 24% and worth the investment, or if you are going to be in that 15% and be unemployed.


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