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Many high school graduates and even adults who have not continued getting a higher education are put into a situation where they have to think about whether or not college is really worth the investment. Many people hold a belief that having a bachelor’s degree is expected and will bring you success. Others will counter argue that college is too expensive and you will be stuck paying off student loans for a majority of your life. Whether or not a college education is worth the money all depends on how much effort the person is willing to put in before, during, and after college.
College is a place to explore career paths and develop job skills. Although the idea of paying off student loans for many years after you graduate college are turning away prospective students, having a bachelor’s degree will allow the person to earn more money, have better job opportunities, and receive a high return as an investment, in the long run, makes college education a worthwhile investment.
First, a person with a bachelor’s degree will earn more money than a person who does not have a college degree. This allows the graduate to become apart of the middle class or upper class. This also gives an opportunity of comfortable living and to advance in work and life. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “college graduates… earned 56% more than high school [graduates] in 2015” (Rugaber). This pay had risen 51% from 1999 and will continue to rise in the coming years.
In fact, Georgetown University did a study in which college graduates are more likely to earn $1 million more than someone who has not graduated from college. In addition, the Pew Research Center conducted a study and found that the difference in yearly income between a high school graduate and a college graduate is as much as $17,500. With the higher pay being earned results in lower poverty rates for people with a bachelor’s degree or higher. A report conducted by the Census Bureau showed that the poverty rates among people, aged 25 and older, was at the lowest with those who had a bachelor’s degree or higher. The rate was 5% compared to 14% with only a high school degree and 29% without a high school degree. Although paying for college is a lot to begin with, choosing not to go to college can result in the loss of thousands and millions of dollars. If getting a degree may not sound as important as many people believe, the career field may think otherwise. Second, the number of jobs that are requiring a college degree is increasing. The reality of it all, when looking for jobs the difference between getting hired and staying unemployed can be factored down to whether you gave a bachelor’s degree or not. Georgetown.edu predicts that “by 2020, 65% of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school” (Georgetown University). Occupations that are growing at an exponential rate involve, STEM and healthcare. Both have a high demand for college education. In addition, “the United States will fall short by 5 million workers with postsecondary education… by 2020” (Georgetown University). One of the reasons is the fact that Baby Boomers are set to retire. “College is a Waste of Time” by Dale Stephens highlights the convenience people have when going online to display their resumes to potential employers. Websites, such as LinkedIn, connect people with potential employers. This can broaden one’s chances of finding a job. Although one can list several qualities and believe that one can get hired “based on their talents” (Kirszner et al. 44), it simply depends on the job that people are striving for. This will not work when book education is required, such as performing surgery or understanding the difference between a harmless spot on the skin and a dangerous spot when diagnosing a patient. If the job position is competitive, the person with a bachelor’s degree will more likely be chosen over someone who has no degree. It is better to be overqualified for a job than underqualified. This increases the chances of being more likely to get hired for a job position. In addition, “as the economy becomes more technologically complex, the amount of education that people need will rise” (Kirszner et al. 35). Unskilled jobs do not require a college degree. Unfortunately, those unskilled jobs are being replaced by robots. Cashiers are being replaced by touchscreens. Cars are being built by machines. Machines are getting your online order ready to be shipped from their distribution center. McKinsey, a global management consulting firm, reported in November 2017 that “in 60% of occupations, at least one-third of activities could be automated” (Kak). In the era of artificial intelligence machines performing tasks more efficiently, it is necessary to take into consideration that having a job in an unskilled field is likely to be replaced by a machine. The need for college degrees in the workforce is higher than ever. With this in mind, college holds a high return as an investment. Third, going to college is rewarding, not only because you may earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, but because of the return on investment. Business Insider reports that “bachelor’s degree holders earn about $30,000 more per year than high school graduates… [adding] up to a 15% return on investment” (Brothers). As stated before, a bachelor’s degree increases the total amount of earnings in a career. Equally important, earning a college degree is a major life achievement. Graduating from college and earning a bachelor’s degree holds personal value. It is not just about going to college for four years only to graduate with a piece of paper. That piece of paper carries a sense of accomplishment, validation, success, opportunity, and reward. When reading “What does it mean to be a college grad?” by Jennie Le, I related to her story. I, too, am a first generation American. Being apart of a family of immigrants who came here legally, makes me believe that earning a bachelor’s degree is a sense of accomplishment. I also see the degree as a gift to my parents who made that journey from the Philippines. There, they both grew up very poor. They came to America to give their children a better life, and to provide us with the luxury that they did not have. Even though they both went to college, they still spent their money on helping me learn my college education. The least I can do is to graduate and get a well-paying job. To Filipinos, graduating from college is seen as a success that is worth celebrating. It means that we have put in the hard work towards our education so we can have a comfortable life, a job that pays well, and not have to worry about financial problems. Even if someone is not a first-generation American or college graduate, the value behind a bachelor’s degree is acknowledged when the degree is being put to use in their career. Setting my arguments aside, a person may not see the benefits of a college degree. With college tuition continuing to rise, a person may not think that continuing on with higher education is worth the investment. One claim is that student loan debt is a financial burden. The Department of Education reported that “42.2 million Americans were paying a federal student loan at the end of June 2018 for a total sum of nearly $1.5 trillion” (“Student loan debt still crippling burden for millions of Americans”). This debt depends on the “three important factors: the college attended, the field of study, and the cost or debt” (Kirszner et al. 45). If the student was smart to see which colleges offered the most out of their tuition and got into a field of study, such as science and engineering, that debt will be paid off with their yearly earnings. Depending on the job the person works at, the company can assist with student loan forgiveness. With federal student loan forgiveness programs, people can get out of their student loans in a “qualifies teaching or public service position” (Kurfiss). Other people may argue that having a bachelor’s degree does not indicate one’s success. In fact, college graduates are either faced with unemployment or are working in jobs that do not have college degrees as a requirement. Forbes claims that “underemployment is distinct from the related phenomenon of degree inflation” (Cooper). Degree inflation occurs when employers list a college degree as a requirement for jobs that do not require college-level skills. Even though this is a reality to many, the field of study is equally important when considering a college degree. People make the mistake of choosing a field of study with the least career benefits. Going back to the three important factors named, the field of study chosen for the degree can help prevent encountering this problem. Being unemployed while having a bachelor’s degree is insufficient to determine that going to college is not worth the money. Unemployment can happen to anyone. A degree does not make anyone immune to that matter. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported as of 2018 states that unemployment rates among college graduates are 2.5% and 5.9% among those without a high school degree. (Bureau of Labor Statistics). This goes to show that even with a degree, unemployment is inevitable. Adding to unemployment, many people are able to succeed in life by being employed in jobs that do not require a college degree. USA Today reported that “many middle-income jobs don’t require college, nearly all require some post-high school education or training” (Rugaber). Although these middle-skill jobs seem appealing when it comes to saving thousands of dollars on college; however, “the lack of a properly skilled workforce is hindering the ability of American businesses to compete globally” (Harvard Business School). This negatively affects the average American’s productivity levels. This results in a lower income and decreased quality of living standard. That being said, what a bachelor’s degree can do for a person, in the long run, outweighs the cons that people need to sacrifice in order to obtain that degree. Overall, many people argue that college results in large student loan debt, unemployment, and a waste of time and investment since there are “middle skill” jobs that do not require a college degree. In addition, many claim that we do not apply the concepts we learned in school into our daily lives. Or do we read long books and explaining the hidden messages that were in those books to people we meet randomly. With this in mind, why do we even have the argument about whether or not college is worth the money? To go about this issue, we need to think about why education exists. It is not about what we learned in school. We are not learning things in school because we are going to apply them in our daily life once we are out of high school or college. It is more about going through the process of having to learn and apply concepts as a way of building skills that we need to be successful in life. Not only does college give someone the opportunity to earn a degree and develop job skills, but it also increases income, job opportunities, and has a high return on investment. Because of this, a college education is worth the money.
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