Friday, August 10, 2012

Is College Worth It?

By Sean Scarpiello

For many high school students today, college education is quickly becoming harder and harder to achieve. Regardless of the poor economy, college tuition continues to rise each year. As these prices increase, less students can afford to go to college. Many students who take loans to pay for college end up struggling to pay back tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Also, some highly educated people have a very difficult time finding jobs after college and many of these people end up taking jobs which are readily available. Although these people are overqualified for their positions, they need to take any job available to them simply because they need to begin to pay back college loans. Consequently, many high school students and their parents are beginning to ask whether or not a college education is worth it.

Statistically, it is true that, on average, college graduates end up making more money during their lifetime  compared to non-college graduates. Although this is true, there are always exceptions to this rule. Some people, such as Bill Gates, have dropped out or not gone to college and have still been very successful. This idea does not apply only to geniuses like Bill Gates. There should be no shame in entering occupations such as an electrician, plumber, or handyman. In fact, many people in these professions end up making more money than some lawyers and other highly educated people. Plus, there will always be a need for these kinds of workers. If a thunderstorm causes a town’s power to go out, everyone relies on the local electricians to fix this problem, even highly educated CEOs, college professors, and politicians.

With all this in mind, students should not look upon a college as a guarantee to make more money. A college education only increases one’s chances to make more money. From a business standpoint, college is an investment into oneself. For this reason, it is important to make the investment pay off. Picking the right classes and doing well in these classes should be a top priority. If not, college graduates simply will not find a good return on this investment later on down the road. After college, the product graduates are trying to sell is themselves. By increasing the level of intelligence at college, one learns greater abilities and can therefore be more profitable. For example, doctors go through years of highly specialized training because the product they sell is their knowledge. This applies to all jobs, including math, business, political science, art, and more.

In addition, it may be easier to invest the money saved up for a college education into a business. One of the co-founders of PayPal, Peter Thiel, has created a program called the Thiel Fellowship. Here, he gives $100,000 to students under 20 years of age to go out and use it in their own venture. Some of these fellows take the money to spend on education while others drop out of college or finish high school and use this money to begin their own business. The fellowship is an interesting concept. It is a good method for us to gauge the importance of a college education. It can essentially show that if people are self-motivated and intelligent enough to put their money into the best investment possible, then they will be successful, regardless of their level of education.

People should not view college or graduate school as a definite assurance of finding a well-paying job. Therefore, people should choose to go in the path that best fits their personality. If someone learns in a hands-on fashion and struggles in a classroom setting, a vocational school may be the option to save money and still be very successful. Likewise, if someone is innately driven and mature, they can avoid college altogether and invest their money into their own business. That being said, college still serves as an expensive, yet conservative, method of finding success through education.


Joe Wagner said...

A gap year before college spent volunteering or working a job may make college more worthwhile by helping the eventual college student gain greater perspective and thereby value the college experience more.

Alisandra Wederich said...

One of the answers to the dilemma you describe, possibly two, may be:

Entirely cost-free college education, easily available nowadays from, by now, quite a number of sources. Or at truly minimal cost in some instances.

Plus, for the slow learner or less college-ed inclined, learn a trade in a hands-on field, or ANY field of one's interests and/or inclinations. And then, if and when desired, go to college later. Again, not necessarily to the high-cost brick-and-mortar type, but Udacity or such. Many people already follow this model, with great success, probably a higher rate of success than the average college graduate, because they pick up plenty grass roots experience in the process. Examples abound.

It could very well be that, overall, this is already the new underlying trend in education: More part-of-life learning and experience in the educational process. Less reliability on classroom learning, but a lot more via cell phone and iPad available materials and presentations.

Thoughts for a future blog story of yours?