Today, a college education is the next-largest expense one will likely face in their lifetime — second only to the cost of purchasing a home. As a result, many families are left either with insurmountable student loan debt or unable to afford tertiary education altogether.
It’s not surprising that many prospective students wonder if they should invest in college or if it is still worth it.
Why Is College Tuition Rising?
The average cost of college in the United States is $35,331 per student per year, having more than doubled since the beginning of the 21st century. Moreover, a college degree still carries a hefty price tag even if a student qualifies for financial aid, including scholarships and grants. As a result, choosing to invest in college now has financial considerations that outweigh academics when choosing a school. And this is especially true for low-income students.
So, why is college so expensive?
There are many reasons – lower state funding, the exploding costs of salaries and administrators, rising costs of financial aid, and the overall economic climate. But, simply put, many institutions must increase tuition to continue operating as they have been.
Should I Invest in College? 3 Reasons to Consider
Let’s be honest. Any major life decision has pros and cons, especially choosing to invest in college. For many, college education continues to be well worth the expense. Not only does a college education open up new opportunities for social and intellectual growth, but it also offers several advantages:
1. College graduates earn more than non-graduates
Money is a significant driving force behind the decision to go to college. And a college degree still pays off for most graduates, despite the rising costs.
While skipping college may seem cheaper, college graduates outearn those with just a high school diploma by a significant margin in every US state. For instance, North Dakota has the lowest pay disparity, and college grads still earn 38% more than non-grads. The difference in earnings is more pronounced in expensive states exceeding 100% in states like California, New York, and Washington, DC.
2. More and more jobs require a college degree
There are plenty of exciting careers to venture into without a degree. However, they’re decreasing in number with each passing year. As a result, a college education is becoming increasingly necessary to earn a middle-class income.
In short, there are fewer opportunities for those without postsecondary education on their resume. In addition, it’s even more challenging to find a high-paying job due to high levels of competition.
3. There’s a lot to learn in and outside the classroom
There’s more to a college education than just a certificate. College means networking and making lifelong connections, both personal and professional. It also comes with additional benefits, like the opportunity to study abroad on exchange programs.
College can also increase your awareness of other people, cultures, and ways of living, resulting in a more profound yet broader world perspective.
Alternatives to College
No college experience or career path is the same. Therefore, students should be advised to estimate their ROI based on their degree and career path. But, these numbers are unlikely to tell the whole story.
Other options available to students would allow them to live out their dreams and earn a good income. For one, attending community college is substantially cheaper than attending a four-year university program. In addition, students can earn an associate’s degree and venture into stable careers in virtually any field. Trade schools and technical colleges also provide hands-on training for different skilled careers. Not to mention some students would thrive in entrepreneurship.
So, is a college education worth it? Yes, definitely. But it’s not a career path every student can or should take.