“Higher education can’t be a luxury, it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.” These are the words spoken on the 2012 campaign trail by president Barack Obama, on the importance of higher education. The cost for a college education is a big conversation in many American homes, as well as in Washington. Families are deciding if they will be able to send their children to college due the high and rising cost of a college degree. Sadly, some of them are choosing to bypass college because they believe that the price is too high. Those who believe college is no longer worth the money think the risk of not finding a job is too high, the amount of debt incurred is ridiculous, and the financial effects on the economy are devastating. Although many of these points are true, college graduates tend to live longer, happier lives, are in better financial standing, and fill the critical demands of skilled professions.
College tuition prices have increased rapidly over the past few decades, putting a damper on the idea of attending. In the last decade alone, tuition and room and board prices have increased by 23% at private institutions, and 36% at public ones (Mandel 1). It’s to be expected that since the price of almost of everything has increased the last decade due to the economy, that education would too. But, the hike in the price of college tuition has surpassed inflation, making it difficult for almost all middle class Americans to finance a higher education. The argument, though, is not if families can afford to send their children to college; it’s if they believe that a college education is still worth the high cost it entails. Despite the increases in education costs, higher education is still important, though it may be harder to obtain.
The risky job market is a reason students are choosing to bypass college. Along with high tuition prices, the job market for recent graduates is unstable. In the previous 2012 presidential election, a big topic in the live debates were that recent college graduates were unable to find jobs in their field, and if they did, most of the time they were most of the time, underpaid. This is a scary situation that graduates hope they never have to deal with. New graduates are hoping for a solid job upon graduating from college to pay for their previous four years, and to start their careers and lives. The problem can be summarized by the statement, “Indeed, 60 percent of the increased college graduate population between 1992 and 2008 ended up in these lower skilled jobs, raising real questions about the desirability of pushing to increase the proportion of Americans attending and graduating from four year colleges and universities” (Duke 3).
If graduating from college means spending thousands of dollars to end up with the same job you would have if you didn’t go to college, people are asking, “what is the point?” More people are starting to realize this, and though students are still attending college, they are thinking hard about the possible risk of not getting the job of their choice after graduating. Sadly, some of them are turning down college because of the worry of not being able to find a job.
Of course there are risks with every decision someone makes, and by attending college one is at risk of not finding a open position in their field and having to settle for something less. But there are also risks of not attending college. These risk include the health and well-being of one’s self. Whether or not one finds the right job after graduating, the education and skills acquired still stays throughout their life. This involves learning and practicing healthy habits. Studies have shown that those who earn college degrees are more likely to live happier healthier lives than those who don’t. A report done by the Commission on Heath stated “that those with more education are likely to live longer, experience better health outcomes, and practice healthy behaviors like exercise, avoiding smoking, and getting regular checkups” (“The Happy State” 7).
Those who are highly educated, have learned the importance of health and wellness, and usually live lives that reflect that. Living a healthier life includes: living longer, seeking more prosperous relationships, and having better community connections. Pew Research on Social and Demographic Trends, found that those who have graduated college are significantly happier than those will a high school diploma or less (“Are We Happy Yet?”). So although the risk of not finding a job after graduating is very real, one should consider the risk of not attending school.
Unfortunately, people tend to think more about wealth and not health when deciding whether or not to pursue a college degree. Students are accumulating massive debt, causing some to believe a higher education is not worth the large loans they are forced to take out. With higher tuition bills, students are have to take out more loans, leaving them with a large debt to pay after graduating. In 2012, the average loan debt for college graduates was $27,000, which is more than double from five years ago (Ross 7).
No one wants to start their careers with an overwhelming amount of loan debt. Therefore, many students are justified in skipping college to jump straight into a job where the money they will be making will not have to go toward paying off school debt. A $27,000 debt upon graduating is not usually a selling point for prospective students deciding if attending college is a smart decision.
To help cut down on the amount of loans one has to take out, universities are generous with financial aid. A majority of students earn some sort of financial aid, whether it be academic or need based. These financial grants and scholarships can significantly reduce the amount of money needed to finance a college education. In a study done on Dickinson College, in 2007 the average discount rate for first-years was 30 percent. It was also states that the average at liberal arts colleges is 40 percent (Massa and Parker 94). So, even though the students are forced to take out more loans to pay for college, obtaining financial aid by doing well in high school can reduce the amount needed to pay for college.
Along with cutting down on expenses by taking advantage of financial aid awards, earning more money in a lifetime is a smart reason to go to college. College graduates make significantly more money in their lifetime. Though many high school graduates are eager to start making money, investing time and money into a college degree will end up being a bigger pay out in the end. The amount of money earned in a lifetime with a degree exceeds the amount of loans that one owes. According to the research done, “college graduates earn, on average, about $20,000 a year more than those who finished their educations at high school.
Add that up over a 40-year working life and the total differential is about $800,000[…]” (Clark 3). Even though there are rare cases where students end up making a large amount of money without a college degree, like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the chances of one finding a high paying job without a college education is slim. So even though incurring debt is unattractive, the amount of money earned by obtaining a college degree is worth having to pay back college loans.
An effect of borrowing so much money from the government and not finding a decent job, students are not able to make loan payments. This not only hurts the students but the economy as a whole. When graduates are not able to pay back the money they owe, the federal government suffers and loses money. The “delinquencies” of student loans is now higher than credit cards, mortgages, and all other kinds of consumer loans. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stated that student debt has surpassed $1 trillion (Coy 1). As the economy incurs more of this debt, taxpayers are forced to pay more. This issue has greatly impacted not only students and their families, but the older generations. Other generations now believe that students are not able to pay their school debt, convincing them that college is not worth the enormous amount of debt that affects not only the graduates.
Although it is true that defaulted loans hurt the economy, the nation still needs skilled employees with college degrees to fill critical professions. These graduates play a big role in the furthering of society. It is no new information most people believe a college education is the first step in becoming successful. Many believe an education opens doors and opportunities in the world to become prosperous. In fact, President Obama has greatly promoted higher education during his terms. He even donated most of his $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize Award to support those who cannot afford a college education (Beaver 21). America needs higher educated people to make advancements in technology, medicine, and relations. Imagine for a moment that everyone decided that a college education was not worth it.
Yes, the economy would not acquire as much debt, but who would continue to make advancements in science, treat the sick, or deal with foreign nations? Nations around the world are competing with the United States academically; as a result of this, countries like China, are making strides economically and technologically, competing with the U.S. as the worlds largest super power. A economic crisis like the one the United States is in now requires highly skilled professionals and leaders to make smart and effective decisions to better the country. These professionals are produced through higher education and knowledge. Without college graduates, there is no hope for bettering society.
So, is college worth the costs? Many skeptical people believe that today it isn’t. Because of the risky job market, where recent college graduates are not able to find a job, or at least one in their field of study, students have chosen to skip college. Also, students are finding themselves struggling to afford the high tuition prices of most universities. The high tuition bills force students to rely on loans to pay for a degree, and when they cannot find jobs to pay back those loans, they default on those loans hurting themselves and the economy.
These reasons have caused families to rethink attending college, and although they are legitimate reasons, there are still important reasons as to why college is worth the investment. It has been shown that those with a college education live happier, healthier lives. Graduates make significantly more money in a lifetime and are more financially stable. Lastly, people with higher education are essential for the country. Their knowledge makes the advancements needed to maintain a prosperous nation. Health, money, and social progression is why investment of a college education is worth the cost, even if the price is high.
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