In Bad Economy, Students Ask If College is Worth It


In today’s economy, does a college degree amount to anything more than an expensive certificate encased in an elegantly embroidered frame? Will a degree place American college students on the road to success?

With the debate swirling over the elimination of the federal Pell Grant Program, attending college could soon become exponentially more costly or even financially impossible for lower income students. For this reason, higher education has become a luxury in America. While certainly necessary, higher education has become prohibitory expensive, which begs the question: Is college worth it?

In considering this question, there are three important factors to consider: The potential “monetary payoff” that a degree may have for a graduate; the impact that paying off student loans has on a grad’s future; and the mission of a college itself.

Monetary stability and financial success are significant motivations for young people to consider attending college. According to data gathered by the Pew Research Center, adults who have attended college perceive that, on average, they are earning $20,000 more per year as a result of their education than individuals who did not attend college. Thus, many Americans are willing to make sacrifices in the present to reap potential awards in the future. Because of the recent cut backs in especially government and school-based aid, many college students are often forced to consider the option of a private lender.

Is this extra $20,000 a year worth it, however, when many grads are faced with the fear of defaulting on their student loans?

The Pew Research data also shows that among students that have taken out loans, 48% have said that paying off debt has made it harder to pay other bills, and an additional 49% have said that it has affected their career choices and their ability to buy a home. Thus, the costs of a college degree linger post graduation.

With the economic recession, some have questioned colleges’ mission and advocated that colleges adopt a more career-centric approach rather than emphasizing only intellectual growth. Data reveals that 47% of the public believes that the primary mission of a college is teaching career and job-related skills while only 39% believe that the purpose is to foster economic growth.

According to data gathered by the Pew Research Center in relation to a poll which asked U.S. college presidents’ about their beliefs on higher education in the country being headed in the right direction: 38% said that it is headed in the wrong, while a majority 60% said it is headed in the right. 

In relation to the 38%, I would agree that education in the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction in relation to the proposed cut backs on government student aid and the continued rising costs of college tuition. If nothing is done to protect student aid, than we may in our lifetimes see a lost generation of college students. 

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