Is College Worth the Cost?

By July 27, 2013 Editorials

Is College Worth the Cost?

High school students will soon be graduating; many will be preparing to begin college this upcoming Fall. Our society dictates that successful people graduate from college. Therefore, to be successful, students should go to college to obtain the skills needed to live a comfortable lifestyle. But how is this true? The average college graduate in 2012 earned a starting salary of $44,455. I’m sure this figure sounds appealing to many people (including myself), but how much does the average person actually need to live comfortably (or, successfully)?

The average cost of living in the United States is $58,627; this includes costs for childcare, housing, food, taxes, transportation, healthcare and other necessities. Add the yearly amount the average student will be paying on their student loan for the following 30 years, the cost of living jumps to $61,531 – and that is assuming the graduate received the cheapest loans. So where do these graduates get the additional $17,076 needed to make a living? Is a successful person dependent on government assistance? Low income housing? Or, working more than one full time job?

When we look at the history of college in America, there was once a time (in the 1600’s) that only the children of the elite went to college. Only those parents who had the wealth to afford college sent their children to attend. So, it is easy to see why our society thinks successful people graduate from college. It is not because they attended and gained the skills needed to be successful, but because they had a family that was already successful. College now cost more, however, student aid is provided to those who do now have wealthy families. The majority of the aid must be paid back after graduation at an average interest rate of 7% over the course of 30 years. In other words, a student then graduated from college while already having paid the majority of the cost and a student today graduates from college owing more than they borrowed. In what mathematical equation is this equal success?

These statistics should not suggest to anyone not to go to college. Instead, it should encourage you to look at your options. Some degrees offered by colleges and universities are not worth the cost; research what fields are hiring, how much are positions paying and how much will you need to pay back after graduation. Some degrees simply are not needed; some professions only require a certificate –which requires less time and costs much less. Some professions (such as nursing, engineering, etc.) actually require higher education and they often pay more upon graduating as well; but research to see if the industry is actually growing and hiring. Finally, there are some professions that prefer experience before a degree.

Graduating from college does not make anyone successful. Having a well paying job or creating a successful business is what helps one become successful. Before accepting any loan look at your options. Especially, if you are not certain about what profession you want to enter.

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