Pardon the play on words in my title today. College Confidential would be the first to admit that college is consequential, in one way or the other.
I think about this quite a bit. When I do, the questions that most frequently come to my mind are:
- Why do we want to go to college?
- Why do parents want their children to go to college?
- Is “real life" capable of educating us about what really matters?
Plus, as I ponder the Big Picture of higher education these days, two Mt. Everest-sized issues bubble up to the top:
1. Why does college cost so much?
2. Do you really need a college education to be happy and successful in life?
Speaking of mountains, there are mountains of data written about both of these issues. I won't get into a detailed series of references about what that information says or who's saying it. However, I would like to give you my take, for what it's worth.
A while back, I noted a few additional likes and dislikes to my 2008 lists. To recap those, here a brief summary:
– Meeting new people. I came from a small, cloistered community dominated by blue-collar workers. Penn State greatly expanded my formerly limited culturally diverse horizons. I met the sons and daughters of wealthy professionals and some wildly talented artistic types …
– Being part of a varsity sports team. Tennis was my sport. Before transferring to Penn State after my military service, I was a starter for a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. I recall the thrill of providing the winning point in a team match against our prime rival …
– Homecoming weekends. The one I remember most could have been the model for every homecoming. The weather was perfect: cool autumn temps, a deep blue, sunny sky, and a dream date on my arm …
– Academic pressure. Yes, Virginia, I realize that we go to college to learn, and part of the leaning process demands academic accountability, ergo testing and project deadlines. Now, believe it or not, I was a responsible student who (mostly) tried to do my best work in (most of) my classes …
– Questionable food. Believe it or not, the gentleman in charge of food service at my little liberal arts school had a last name of “Bloodgood." Yuck. Just thinking about that now makes me laugh. The food, though, was no laughing matter. It sucked …
If you would like to read more of my ramblings, go here.
Dislikes may well outweigh likes when it comes to reviewing higher education. Naturally, we dislike what seems like a lifetime of debt, thanks to student loans. We may also dislike working as a truck driver after spending a fortune on at least four years of a philosophy major.
I've written before about whether or not college is worth it. Perhaps one way to look at it, to paraphrase a former United States president, would be to say, “It depends on what the meaning of 'worth it' is." Is college worth it strictly from a lifetime earnings perspective or worth it from a life-enrichment aspect? Or both? There are two kinds of “value," you know.
First, let's take a look at the value of college from an economic (earnings) and “opportunity" angle. When you search the Web for answers to the query “Is college worth it?" you get the usual avalanche of responses. I chose two from the “About 465,000,000 results [found in] (0.32 seconds)." The first is by Jill Schlesinger, business analyst at CBS News. Her article's thesis states:
… many graduates must now face the stark reality of a mound of education debt. Given the still-tough job market, many families continue to wonder whether college is worth it. The answer is yes, with a caveat.
What's the caveat?
… don't go into hock up to your eyeballs — and parents, please don't raid your retirement accounts and borrow against your home — to do so.
That makes sense, obviously, but easier said than done, in my view. Anyway, what are some of Schlesinger's worth-it points?
– … the unemployment rate for young college graduates stands at 8.5 percent, much lower than the 22.9 percent for high school graduates.
– … household income of young adults with college loans is nearly twice that of people who didn't attend college ($57,941 vs. $32,528).
– … a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco shows that the average US college grad can expect to earn at least $800,000 more than the average high school graduate over a lifetime …
– … Priceonomics blog pegs the 30-year wage premium at $200,000 of extra income ($6,667 a year) compared to that of a high school graduate's salary.
– Researchers at Georgetown predict that in the next six years, the share of jobs requiring post-secondary education will likely increase to 64 percent by 2020 …
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