Is a college degree really worth it?

By Alexander Murphy

How important is it to have a college degree in the United States? With the price of secondary education skyrocketing 300 percent since the late 1970s, it is hard to believe that a college degree is as reasonable to obtain or even worth the cost.

It all depends on what you want to do, career-wise, and whether pursuing a college degree is absolutely necessary for that career.

According to the National Center for Education and Statistics, between 1964 and 1965, the average cost of attending a public university was $950. That price included tuition, and room and board.

To some students now, $950 is the price of one month’s rent ” without utilities.

The 1944 G.I. Bill gave veterans the opportunity to pursue higher education with grants.

The government established loan programs and grants to assist more Americans in pursuing higher education, creating a cascading effect for the general public.

College was originally intended to be only for the elite, but that began to change as more and more Americans were able to actually afford the subsidized tuition rates, which were already considerably low compared to today’s rates.

Beginning in 1970, however, inflation reached double-digits, oil became embargoed and the economy began to falter. In addition, government appropriations and investments in colleges declined, shifting the costs to students. Subsequently, tuition rates began to climb faster than the rate of inflation.

Fast-forward to the 2014-15 academic year: the cost of attending Cal Poly Pomona averages $23,536, and overall student enrollment in colleges has increased 40 percent across the U.S. since 1970.

The problem with the increasing rates of college tuition as well as increased rates of enrollment is the fact that some students may be pursuing a degree that they may not be able to use or apply to the current job market.

The more students that do this, mainly those who are paying for their college tuition out-of-pocket, will have a very poor “return of investment.”

Students may have to pursue further schooling to do anything with their chosen area of study.

This means they have to pay more money in the long run, and with college tuition rates as they are, students may not be getting what they had hoped for in the end.

The so-called “return of investment” is a common notion many students and parents laud in justifying the years of study involving costly college tuition.

However, some college graduates are now working jobs that, historically, have been worked by those with merely a high school diploma. In the U.S., 80,000 bartenders have bachelor’s degrees, according to U.S. News, with yearly incomes just tapping the poverty threshold in the country.

Average estimates according to College Data lists university and college costs around $30,094 for private colleges, $8,893 for state residents at public schools, and $22,203 for out-of-state residents attending public school.

While these figures are the averages for pursuing an undergraduate degree, the reality is only a certain percentage of students actually pay the full price of tuition.

Many students receive supplemental aid from university and governmental grants, even scholarships. According to U.S. News, 34 percent of students do not pay the full price of college tuition.

Students who have a very clear idea as to what they want to pursue, how they are going to get there and know what the job market is for their chosen field are well equipped.

If their chosen field requires pursuing the college route, then college is probably a very wise investment.

Despite the increasing cost of higher education, pursuing a college degree does have its benefits. Studies from economic journals prove that not only is the median annual income of college graduates nearly $21,000 more than that of high school graduates, but that families of college graduates are healthier and are more-likely to have children who will be better off as well.

As with any investment, there is always some form of risk, which is why it is detrimental to do significant research on majors, cost of attendance, financial assistance offered, the job market for your area of interest, and whether or not you have to pursue more schooling.

College is supposed to be “the best years of your life.” Spend your time here wisely and enjoy all that higher education has to offer, whether or not you have to take out loans.

Is a college degree really worth it?

Sungah Choi / The Poly Post

Is a college degree really worth it?

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