Higher education usually leads to higher pay and more job opportunities. With high unemployment rates, more people are staying in school longer — or returning to school — to reap these increased employment opportunities. In 2009, bachelor’s degree holders earned more than twice as much as those without a high school diploma, 50 percent more than those with a high school diploma, and 25 percent more than associate’s degree holders.1
In his New York Times education blog, The Choice, Professor Daniel F. Chambliss tells high school juniors the number one rule for college basics:
“First, you must go. Unless you have a good trade (electrician, plumber) or plan a military career, a college degree is necessary for a decent life in 21st-century America.”2
He also warns, it will be expensive. In fact, the tuition is one of the top two reasons students choose not to attend higher education in the first place. The average yearly tuition is $25,000, or $100,000 for 4 years.3 Some students are willing to take the risk of a hefty college investment, however, it might be a bigger risk than some students can afford to make.
According to the article “5 College Degrees That Aren’t Worth the Cost,” bachelor’s degree holders can be less financially stable than a high school graduate because of the years they spend taking out loans and not receiving an income. (Many students put work on hold attending college.) That paired with the average bill of $100,000 for a 4-year education puts college grads in a pile of debt as they enter the workforce, with many requiring a salary that pays $40,000 a year to afford basic living necessities and loan payments.
Another reality for today’s college student is that it may take more than four years to complete a bachelor’s degree, causing the price of college to extend for additional years that weren’t accounted for in the planning stage of college. A Harvard Graduate School of Education study in 2011 shows 56 percent of college students completed a 4-year degree in six years. In the Reuters article “Why College Students Stop Short of a Degree,” Lou Carlozo gives multiple real-life examples of how students are having to weigh the cost of dropping out versus being burdened by debt.4
From career schools to law school, an education is and always will be a gamble. Before signing on for student debt, students must consider whether the risks and rewards of an education that is out of their price range is worth it. After weighing out all the factors, students may find a more affordable school with less prestige will give them more freedom after college than one with a higher price tag.
1“Income of Young Adults.” Accessed on 26 June 2012. National Center for Educational Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=77
2“College Basics for High School Juniors,” by Daniel F. Chambliss. 25 June 2012. The Choice. Accessed on 26 June 2012. http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/college-basics-for-high-school-juniors/?ref=education
3“5 College Degrees that Aren’t Worth the Cost,” by JP. Accessed 26 June 2012. http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2012/06/22/5-college-degrees-that-arent-worth-the-cost
4“Why College Students Stop Short of a Degree,” by Lou Carolozo. 27 March 2012. Reuters. Accessed on 27 March 2012. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/27/us-attn-andrea-education-dropouts-idUSBRE82Q0Y120120327