Is College Worth It?

Posted on: November 9th, 2012 by

As student debt rapidly approaches the $1 trillion mark this year, there has been a great deal of debate with regards to the actual value of a college degree. Is college really worth it? Here we will take a closer look at the pros and cons of seeking out a post-secondary education at at 2 or 4 year university.

The Cons

Time Magazine recently posted a Pew study which showed that as the cost of a college education increases, the perceived value of a degree decreases. According to this study, a staggering 75% of American families believe that they can’t afford college. Raised tuition leads to higher amounts of debt, and paying back student loans has become a big problem for young adults. 24% of students surveyed said that they would turn down a job that coincided with their degree if it did not pay enough to help them make loan payments. Another 48% of students feel that college debt makes it difficult to pay their bills. Although it has been said that those who graduate from college will earn more money than those with only a high-school diploma, depending on a student’s degree and carer path, this is not always the case. Lastly, on top of everything else, a college degree doesn’t seem to make a difference on young adult’s perceptions of how interesting their work is with 51% of high-school graduates and 53% of college graduates stating that their work was engaging.

 The Pros

With all of that having been said, you may  be surprised that 86% of those students surveyed during the same Pew study believe that in spite of the high costs of tuition, a college education is still worth it. So why exactly is this? 74% of those polled claimed that college gave them intellectual growth, and another 69% feel that college made them become more mature. The college experience is still considered a right of passage for young adults in America, and the rewards of knowledge and the development of social skills seem to be enough to maintain the faith of students in the institution of higher education.

Still, does this make college a worthwhile investment? According to Mark Schneider of the American Institute for Research, it can be. During a Business Insider debate, Schneider stated that, “The return on the college investment is driven by the institution a student attends, the degree that they earn and their field of study”. In other words, it is critical that students make good decisions with regards to career paths and their majors in order to see the benefits of their college investment. During this same debate, Katie Bardaro of PayScale agreed saying, “…there is a wide range in expected pay across majors. The median mid-career pay for a Petroleum Engineering major is $163,000, while the median mid-career pay for a Social Worker is only $45,300″. In short, if a student is looking to make good money post college graduation, he or she should take the time to research the most well-paid majors.

The Verdict

The value of college is in the eye of the beholder. While those who are looking to earn 6 figures may not understand why another individual would want to invest so much money into becoming an elementary school teacher, others may find more value in a career that they find emotionally and mentally rewarding (ie: teaching, social work) in spite of high tuition and low post-graduate pay. For those who are unsure or dispassionate about their career paths, however, the costs associated with a college education may not be worth the expense.