Given the costs of a college education, it’s easy to wonder: Is a college degree worth it anymore?
The fact that a college degree: consumes four to five years of a person’s life (which might be spent working)
•Ends with a substantial bill that must be paid, and
•Does not guarantee lucrative employment immediately upon graduation,
Has led many to question the value of a college degree in the first place.
Despite that, there are proven benefits, including:
• Career/Economic Benefits
• Social/Emotional Benefits
• Health/Welfare/Quality of Life Benefits
Career and Economic Benefits
College impacts almost every aspect of a person’s professional life:
• Higher income
• Lower unemployment
• Greater job satisfaction
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, those with bachelor’s degree enjoy a median income twice that of those with only a high school diploma. That is a significant difference that affects a person’s entire working life and retirement.
Not all four-year degrees lead to the same income levels. The highest paid graduates usually earn degrees in:
• Computer sciences
Those with the lowest income potential are associated with the arts and service:
• Art and drama
• Religious studies and ministry
In 2018 the unemployment rate for people with only a high school education was 4.1%, while it was just 2.2% for those with a bachelor’s degree. In effect, someone who has not graduated from college is twice as likely to be unemployed as someone who has. The difference is even more pronounced for African Americans. About 6.7% of African Americans with high school diplomas are unemployed, but only 2.9% of those with college degrees face the same challenge.
Greater Job Satisfaction
Those with bachelor’s degrees tend to be more satisfied with their jobs: 53% of people with a bachelor’s degree report they are “very satisfied” with their current jobs, compared to 37% of people with a high school diploma.
College graduates are more likely to hold positions that allow them to make independent decisions and use their skills and experience to choose solutions to work-related problems. In contrast, those with only a high school diploma typically rely on others to determine what work they will do, when they will do it, and how work-related problems will be solved. The result is that those who have more opportunity to engage with their work are far more satisfied with that work.
Social And Emotional Benefits
College offers young people the opportunity to live, work, and socialize within a contained society made up almost exclusively of people their age. They share experiences and develop close personal relationships. Almost 30% of Americans report meeting their future spouses in college.
Among other social/emotional benefits, college graduates:
• Are more self-confident in social situations
• Are more effective communicators
• Have more friends
• Suffer less frequently from anxiety
• Have higher self-esteem
• Are more likely to believe they have control over their own lives
A 2008 dissertation study from the University of Michigan tracked the success of a cohort, or large class-year group of students. They all faced challenges in adjusting to college life: mundane details of life such as laundry, meals, and managing mild illnesses and injuries, to bigger problems such as finances, conflicts with friends and family, and seeking support for emotional and learning disabilities. Those students who successfully managed these challenges gained advantages over those unable to adjust who eventually left school.
Facing, managing, and overcoming challenges, gives students confidence. They learn that they can take steps to control their own lives. As a result, they have a more positive self-image, are more confident about their choices, and are comfortable interacting in groups and engaging in personal sharing necessary to build friendships.
Health/ Quality of Life
Making a good living, being confident, and having strong personal relationships are not the only benefits of education.
College Graduates are Healthier
College graduates’ higher incomes make them more likely to have comprehensive health insurance. Access to health care is an important factor in one’s overall health. Regular check-ups and rapid response to illness means that college graduates have a higher life expectancy. In addition, college graduates are far less likely to smoke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 22% of those with high school diplomas smoke, compared to only 9% of those with bachelor’s degrees.
Quality of Life Benefits
While a college degree does not guarantee leisure time, frequent vacations, or opportunities to engage within one’s community, it is indisputable that college graduates are more likely to enjoy these amenities of a high quality of life than those who have not finished college. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the children of college graduates are the beneficiaries of a high quality of life. When compared to the children of high school graduates, children of college graduates:
• Are more likely to have annual physicals and comprehensive healthcare.
• Spend more time with their parents
• Are more likely to be involved in extra-curricular activities including sports, clubs, and the arts,
• Are more likely to have college funds, put aside by their parents, available for their own educations.
Flexibility and Mobility
Getting a higher education — especially a career-focused one — tends to result in having more options and possibilities open to you. It can enable you to get a lot more out of your life. And it can come in particularly handy when moving to a new location. Since you may not know anyone at first, your education can act as an important signal of your capabilities and value to potential new employers.
A college education can be expensive and loan debt heavy. But, a college education offers lifelong benefits, from higher income, to better health, to a better life for one’s children. Some of these benefits can be compared dollar for dollar with the cost of an education, but others, like healthy children, self-confidence, and a longer life, are priceless. Is college worth the cost? Absolutely.