Does higher education mean a higher paycheck?

It’s not uncommon for people to associate earning a college degree with increased wages and employment opportunities. According to the U.S. Census Report “The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings,” over the span of an adult’s working life, high school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million; those with a bachelor’s degree, $2.1 million; and people with a master’s degree, $2.5 million.

But despite the numbers, this school of thought has been losing followers. The recent New York magazine article “The University Has No Clothes” addresses the Obama administration’s goal to increase the number of people attending college and what this is doing to increase debt, dropout rates, and grads who are underprepared for the workforce.

According to a study by Sallie Mae, 84 percent of students strongly agreed that higher education was an investment in their future. However, when asked if they would attend college for the experience, not for monetary gains, only 32 percent strongly agreed they would.

Students haven’t always thought of a college education as a ticket to success. The Huffington Post article “What’s Wrong With American Higher Education?” looks back at how enrollment rates have changed over the last 60 years. In 1950, 2.6 million people – less than two percent of the population — were enrolled in college. By 1990, the number of people enrolled rose to 13.2 million, which was more than five percent of the overall population. Then, between 1997 and 2007, the enrollment rose by 25 percent.

This spike in enrollment is an enormous change in the structure of the university, says professor Jane Robbins. Unintentional growth has lead to a system that is both rife with inefficiencies and extremely powerful.

Should students attend college with the motive to gain knowledge and experience? Or do students gain just as much when motivated by a dollar sign? Is there a fine line? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

References: What’s Wrong With American Higher Education? – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/25/whats-wrong-with-american_n_853640.html#s246451&title=Focus_on_Elite

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