30 October, 2017
Is College Worth It?
Attending college is an enormous investment that can leave participants in debt long after they have left college. A question that is becoming increasingly argued is whether college is worth the thousands of dollars or not. In government, traditional thinking prevails. Former President Barack Obama stated that higher education “is an economic imperative” (Bittar). Education is the single highest expenditure of both the federal and local governments, spending about 30% of their allotted budgets. Of this spending, about 40% is spent on higher education - around $386 billion per year. Why is the government choosing to allocate a significant portion of its budget to higher education? Because postsecondary education is an invaluable investment in human capital that benefits the individual and the whole.
Opponents of attending college cite the ever-rising costs. Over the past 40 years, the average price of college has more than doubled. The average public 4-year college costs around $20,000 a year (including tuition, room, and board), while the price of private colleges has risen even higher at the average of $40,000 a year. However, there are many options to help prospective students with their debt. Financial aid from the federal government can substantially decrease the amount of money one needs to pay based on a family’s financial need. In 2014, the government provided $24 billion in grants (don’t have to be paid back) to college students who needed it. The government also disbursed around $100 billion in low-interest loans with flexible payback options. On top of government aid, there is also private aid available from individual colleges and scholarship granting organizations.
It is incontestable that college is expensive, and costs rising every year, providing the one of most valid argument against attending college. However, attending college and attaining a degree allows one more opportunity to find a higher-level job that supplies a larger income than if they only had a high school diploma. Opponents of going to college, believe that the opportunity cost of attending is giving up the opportunity to get a job and immediately start earning money. However, the Pew Research Center found that the income gap between those with higher levels of education (Bachelors, Masters, etc.) and those with high school education is larger with millennials in 2013 than previous generations, averaging a difference of $17,500 annually. For baby boomers, the average difference is $14,245 while for gen xers the difference is $15,780 (Kurztleben). The average 4-year bachelor’s degree holder earns nearly $1 million more over the course of their lifetime than someone with only a high school diploma. Today, there is a large demand for workers with degrees in higher education, as less than 30% of Americans have a degree. Since there is a scarcity of workers in the job market with a degree, it has become increasingly valuable and a desired aspect to applications.
In general, the benefits of attending college outweigh the costs in the end. Employers desire degree-holders more, more high-level and high-paying jobs are available, and average income improves overall.
Bittar, Catherine. “The Economics of Higher Education: Why College Is a Worthwhile Investment.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 19 Oct. 2012, www.huffingtonpost.com/catherine-bittar/college-investment_b_1989876.html.
“Financial Costs and Benefits of College.” Khan Academy, Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/college-careers-more/college-admissions/get-started/importance-of-college/a/financial-costs-and-benefits-of-college.
Kurtzleben, Danielle. “Study: Income Gap Between Young College and High School Grads Widens.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 11 Feb. 2014, www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/02/11/study-income-gap-between-young-college-and-high-school-grads-widens.