Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

COLUMN: Pro and con arguments on college education

By: Gene A Budig and Alan Heaps
May 30, 2018 Updated: May 30, 2018 at 7:10 am
0
photo -

It's the end of spring the beginning of summer and that means college graduation for millions of Americans.

During the 2017-2018 school year, the almost 5,000 higher education degree granting institutions will award just under 4 million degrees: one million associate degrees, 1.9 million bachelors, 800,000 masters, and 180,000 doctorates.

The data shows that higher education graduation numbers continue to grow along with the percentages of those with a college degree. One third of Americans 25 years or older now have a Bachelor's degree or higher. That is a significant increase from the 28 percent of a decade ago. In 1940, it was under 5 percent.

But despite this rise, Americans are divided on the value of a college education.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 49 percent agree that a four year degree was "worth the cost." 47 percent disagree.

This is a shift.

In 2013, a similar question had 54 percent for and 40 percent against.

There are good arguments on the "worth it" side.

- College graduates have lower unemployment rates (in April 2018, the unemployment rate for those with Bachelor's degree or higher was 1.9 compared to 4.1 percent for those with only a high school degree). They also make more money (it is estimated that over their lifetime, a college graduate will make $1 million more than non-graduates.)

- College graduates are needed for a healthy economy. The U.S. economy will grow from 140 million to 165 million jobs by 2020.

Of these, 35 percent will require at least a bachelor's degree, 30 percent will require some college or an associate's degree, and 36 percent will not require education beyond high school.

- College graduates add value beyond dollars and cents. They vote and volunteer at much higher rates (at double the rates of high school graduates) and are significantly healthier (including lower smoking rates and higher exercise rates).

But there are also good arguments on the "against it" side.

- College is expensive. About 40 percent of adults below the age of 30 have student debt.

The median student loan debt is $17,000 but this varies considerably. A quarter owe $7,000 or less, and a quarter owed $43,000 or more.

- College is time consuming. Only about a third of those attending public four year institutions receive their degree in four years. More than a third take six years or longer.

- Economic "returns" vary tremendously depending on factors such as college attended and major.

For example, the average starting salary for an electrical engineering degree is $62,000. For social work it is $37,000.

- There are real and varied economic opportunities open to those without a college degree including paralegal, carpenter, web developer, and appliance repair.

While the data shows that "on average" it makes sense to attend and graduate from college, none of us is "average." We all have different backgrounds, aspirations, and life circumstances. Decisions as important as this should not be automatic.

Whether to attend college, and when to attend, should take into account all those factors that make us individuals.

-

Gene A. Budig is the former president/chancellor of three major universities. He was also president of baseball's American League. Alan Heaps is a former vice president of the College Board in New York City.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

or
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
You have reached your article limit for the month
You have reached your article limit for the month

We hope that you've enjoyed your complimentary access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 

Exclusive Subscriber Content

You read The Gazette because you care about your community and the local stories you can't find anywhere else.

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber? Get Access | Already a digital subscriber? Log In
 
articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.