College: Is It Still Worth It?

I believe the important lessons you learn during school, are outside of the classroom. My internships, my involvement in school organizations and my traveling, all contributed to developing my social skills and work ethics. I also realized, the distinctive way I learn is not the way a typical professor could teach, especially at a big name university, with an average class size of 200 students.

RMIT University Graduation Parade 2011

Flickr Photo Credit: RMIT University

We’ve heard plenty of times that college degree holders earn much more than those without one, but I don’t know how much longer this argument will hold up. According to Salary.com, the cost of education is increasing faster than inflation, student loans are hitting $1 trillion, and the economy is relatively weak. On top of that, the recent buzz in college education is that Bachelor’s degrees aren’t as valuable as higher degrees. But what are our other options? Yes, college can make you extremely successful but it sorely depends on a grand amount of factors, not simply the degree. So why inadvertently waste thousands of dollars trying to figure that out?

DailyFinance.com says, “50% of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed; many, in fact, are resorting to the kinds of entry-level jobs that they went to college to avoid.” Yet, now the experts are telling us in order to get out of debt, we more than likely will need to acquire more.

Screen-grab from Savingforcollege.com

Screen-grab from Savingforcollege.com

DailyFinance.com also sited a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article where economist Richard Vedder tried to explain why. Vedder sees America as facing a glut of college graduates, as the supply of people with high priced degrees exceeds the demand for them. Sounds ultimately like a terrible downward spiral that doesn’t add up.

CTE Month: Student Success

Flickr Photo Credit: Ohio Hi-Point Career Center

Being a first generation college student, I wasn’t properly prepared for the woes of university life. And being a stubborn 18-year-old who had no problem bringing home A’s in high school, I was very set on a 4-year institution. Because of the prestigious thought of a major university and the less than mediocre connotation of a community or trade school, I never once tried to find more information or seek a different path. Usually looked down on as not good enough, or for the kids who didn’t do as well in school, trade schools graduates are catching up if not passing the Bachelor’s possessing.

“Not surprisingly, the demand for skilled workers has driven up their wages. According to a 2012 study by Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce, 39% of men with an educational certificate earn more than men with an associate’s degree, and 24% earn more than men with a bachelor’s degree.” –Dailyfinance.com

Surprisingly, the conversations pushing “more university” outweighs the conversations containing options outside of college.

According to the Department of Education, the average cost of a year’s tuition, room and board at a four-year college is $20,986; at a two-year school, it’s only $8,451. Although, vocational programs have their own set of flaws and choosing the right one is very important, they require half the time and less money of a major institution.

Majors That Pay You Back

STEM field salaries Photo Credit: Payscale.com

Majors That Pay You Back Methodology
Annual pay for bachelor’s graduates without higher degrees. Typical starting graduates have two years of experience; mid-career graduates have 15 years.

According to Forbes.com, the best-paying college majors of 2012 were in a STEM field- science, technology, engineering or mathematics. I have no doubt that if you receive a degree in one of those, every debt, if any, will be paid in a timely manner. But, what if you can’t do that? Maybe you can’t keep up, maybe your heart isn’t in it. The college experience gets a little more tricky outside of these majors and if you aren’t prepared your plans and money could end up lost.

In reality, the university system is just another big business. We’ve been trained to believe a degree or two is a part of the American dream. But which degree? Whose dream? And upon that unawareness, we blindly give universities money and they turn out a product. Generally, a person that goes back into the “real world” to face underemployment, unfulfilling employment or simply unemployment.

After my own experience, I suggest future students spend their first year or two at their local community college to meet people, network, participate in internships and to travel. Those are the worthy lessons. And then decide if a university, community college or trade school will be worth it.

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