College: Is It Worth the Cost?

It’s a question that’s been starting to gnaw on Americans more than ever in U.S. history. Rising tuition rates and mounting college debt is inducing parents and young adults both to seriously consider whether matriculating at a four year institution really amounts to much. Does it? Yes, and here’s why.

First and foremost, college should never have become about getting a well-paying job, and young people should not approach matriculating solely with the expectation of acquiring a good income. First and foremost, one never knows the state of the economy. Second, discovering your passion and how to channel that usefully into society will reap one far more emotional, physical, psychological, and pecuniary benefits than simply sweating through years of business or med school simply because ‘the pay is good.’ Look at any well-rounded person in life, and they will invariably say, “I love what I do.

Colleges were designed, in part, to help you discover what you love. They were never designed to allow young women and men the opportunity to reap wealth, although a fine education often has that effect. Colleges are meant to be a domain for young minds to gain a in-depth introduction to fields that shape our lives. More specifically, college is meant to provide the opportunity for men and women to discover what their talents are and to delve into that subject with an intellectual rigor that cultivates a sense of critical thinking, objectivity, fairness, culture, and tolerance.

We do not attend colleges to make money; we attend them to become better individuals, building on the heaps of knowledge generations of humans have accumulated. We attend in order to learn about the world around us, to grow out of our juvenile years, to mature, and, perhaps most importantly, to learn about ourselves and our relation with the endlessly fascinating and daunting world we inhabit. We attend so that we might banish ignorance and cultivate insight. These are priceless commodities; they cannot be bought nor sold, but they can be taught, and though they might weigh us down with some uncomfortable debt, they also give the tools to persevere through such tribulations, and far worse, too.

College helps us appreciate life, and at it’s best, it teaches how to think, not what to think. That is a skill, folks, that is applicable in any endeavor in any economy on earth. Show me the oft-derided English major who is well-spoken, motivated, and thinks critically, who went to college simply to have knowledge, and show me a economics major who is and did none of these, and I will show you, in crass terms, who will succeed and who will not.

All the above should furnish parents and young people all the reasons they need to attend college. Of course, there are others, and if some are not to be persuaded by an altruistic appeal, there are other modes of persuasion, too!

College educated women and men earn more and are more likely to keep their jobs when times get tough. The recent economic downturn has only crystallized that distinction. Unemployment levels for workers twenty-five or older stood at 4.6% last year, while 10% of those who had a high-school diploma were jobless. For those with a BA or BS, an unemployment spell would lasted 18 weeks on average, while those with a high-school diploma had to grit their teeth through 27.5 weeks. And if the point isn’t proven already, those with a four-year degree make an average of 64% more than those without degrees.

College isn’t a walk in the park to pay for, and it certainly isn’t easy to graduate from a four-year institution, either. But nothing good in life comes easy. So save, work hard, and remember that the benefits of a good education will be with you or your child forever.

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