The Value of College Education

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In this essay I am going to argue that whilst I do not believe there necessarily should be such a high value placed on a college education, there currently is in our society. I will put forward reasons in this paper to back up my thesis and defend my line of argument.

Firstly, there are two kinds of workforce people can go into today; one being white color and the other being blue-collar. White-collar jobs tend to be office-based and, in today’s society, if you want to do anything in a white-collar field you have to have a college education. A common belief amongst the majority of society is that the better-paid jobs are white-collar jobs and, therefore, jobs of this nature go to the better educated. Therefore, many students are strongly encouraged to embark on a college education by their parents who, whilst only wanting the best for them, are not necessarily fully informed about the facts regarding white-collar vs. blue-collar jobs.

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That is to say, because the majority of white-collar jobs, even at entry-level, require a minimum of a college degree, it is assumed that having a college degree will result in a good initial wage with such a job. Yet, the fact is that the federal minimum wage isn’t rising and a lot of entry positions in white-collar jobs pay little to nothing. For example, an initial wage for an adjunct professor is roughly $30,000 and a master’s degree is typically required to attain such a position. However, such a job title is prestigious, and many would incorrectly assume that the job would come with a significantly higher salary. Actually, many tradespeople with no college background earn significantly more not long out of high school and find themselves with no student debt. Of course, there can be no price placed on the knowledge such an indivudal has acquired during their academic career, but if a student is simply concerned with having a typical college experience and landing a decent job, it certainly does not seem as though such an emphasis should be placed on college.

As I mentioned, many students who perhaps would not have needed to have attended college find themselves swamped in debt. How do college students keep their heads above water with student debt? The reality of it is that many of them don’t. Students usually take on thousands of dollars in debt just for the chance of a brighter future. A college degree is worth the time and effort for many people because it allows people to get more job opportunities than people without a college degree. People with college degrees statistically make more money than they would with just a high school degree, and people are then specially trained in a specific skill and learning category when they finish their particular degree of study. However, as I have mentioned, this is not always the case. Indeed, if one is simply lucky and has connections such as a family business they are far more likely to land a well-paying position irrespective of if they have graduated with the ideal qualifications from a prestigious institution.

Back in the 1960s, anyone that graduated from high school was practically guaranteed a job. Whether that was in a factory or any other kind of blue-collar job. This was known as the American Dream to some people. As time went on, factories realized that outsourcing jobs to other countries were significantly cheaper than American Labor. In the past 30 years, it has been hard to find an honest living without at least going to college or obtaining schooling in some sort of trade.

According to Pew Research Center, workers with at least a bachelor’s degree had median annual earnings of $45,500, well over the median for people with only some college ($30,000) or a high-school diploma ($28,000). Money alone helps people decide what they want to do after high school. This can be a generally risky behavior because then people start to lean towards college and take out thousands of dollars of student loans only to find out that college was not for them. Some students are then forced to drop out because the college experience wasn’t for them. Now they have thousands of dollars to pay back to a school with nothing to show for it.

In high school, teachers paint a very clear picture in our heads for us. They make it seem as if the only way to make it in the workforce is if you go to college. For some kids, college is for them, although there are kids who struggle more than others and they can still feel obligated to attend college even if they feel they are not ready for it. Certain kids are even selected as talented and gifted, which means they get more academic attention than other kids in the same grade. Of course, all young children have talents, even if they are not necessarily academic, and they may not be discovered in the classroom. Whilst college can be a beneficial time for young people to discover themselves socially ad culturally as well as academically and broaden their horizons in so many ways, these skills can also be honed through joining clubs and traveling and individuals would not, therefore, incur such extravagant debt.

Many people who have college degrees are finding it difficult to find a job after college in their degree field. According to an article by “The Washington Post”, “A significant number of college grads appear to be underemployed: In 2010, only 62 percent of college graduates had a job that required a college degree.”(2013, Plumer) This means that 62 percent of college graduates obtained a job only because they had a college degree.

However, the same article states that 27 percent of college graduates have a job that is closely related to their major of choice. While there isn’t a huge number of college graduates that get a job closely related to their degree of choice, there are still many college graduates that are pretty much guaranteed a job after college, regardless of degree type. This is because companies are looking for work ethic and for prospective employees to have a basic understanding of many different topics and ideas. Getting a college education at any liberal arts college with allowing for this to happen.

Some jobs require some higher education but then don’t assist those employees in paying back their loans for that higher education. Student loans in the United States of all college students are high, very high. The price is so high, Presidential candidates have based their campaign solely on the idea of lowering the cost of colleges and eliminating student loan debt. “When they graduate, the average student loan borrower has $37,172 in student loans, a $20,000 increase from 13 years ago” (CNBC). A lot of people don’t have a spare $37,000 laying around that they can spend freely so they end up not going to college. No one can really blame them for not going at that price. Compare this to the price of community colleges; “The national average community college debt for graduating students is approximately $13,802” (Community College Review). An associate degree can be very rewarding depending on the type of field you’re studying. Two-year degrees that can be rewarding in terms of pay are nursing, air traffic controller, web developer, etc. According to PayScale, on average a person working with a bachelor’s degree makes about $18.97 per hour. When on the other hand the minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 an hour.

Even though the general public states that it is very important to get a college education, we don’t even hold those college educations to the highest standard. Even though society may not hold higher education to the standard that it deserves, everyone should gain as much knowledge as they want. We as humans are born to be curious, this means that we strive to understand everything. So, things like going to college are extremely appealing to people. We strive to better ourselves in this mental capacity.

When applying for a job, employers can be picky when it comes to the job’s requirements. According to the Pew Research Center, roughly 25% of people who are searching for a job don’t apply for some jobs because they prefer someone with at least a bachelor’s degree. This is understandable because people don’t feel like they would be considered if they even tried. The same study also found that 44% of people who have an associate degree also wouldn’t try for a job that prefers a bachelor’s degree. This is interesting because even though they have a higher education point than someone without a college degree, people with associate degrees are less likely to apply for jobs than those who only have a high school diploma.

With a college degree, you are not guaranteed to get a job in the same line of work that you major in. This is not saying that you won’t get a job, but that you may not have your dream job right out of the gate. Many college students do not realize that everyone must start somewhere. College is not for everyone, but for some people, it is very rewarding. No matter who goes to college and who doesn’t, the world will always need managers in retail stores and cooks for restaurants, just as much as we need doctors and lawyers.

Consequently, in this essay I have argued that whilst I do not believe there necessarily should be such a high value placed on a college education, there currently is in our society. I have put forward reasons to promote my argument. 

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