Cap and Gown
Taliyah Mosley celebrates her high school graduation in Rome, Ga. Diana Ward | Avant-Youth

We as a society expect young people to attend college, but how does one know if attending is worth the time and money?

With the rising cost of tuition and crushing student loan debt, is a postsecondary degree worth being a slave to the government, banks or from wherever we borrow money? Is the tassel worth the hassle of looking and applying for scholarships one may not even obtain?

Some people make a comfortable living without ever obtaining a degree. They’ll never have to pay back school loans or suffer through grueling and tedious assignments. They can go straight into their passion without ever learning things they don’t need.  

Researchers, many of whom focus on the cost of attending and loan debt, have studied and written on this topic for years.

According to the 2016 Nationally Representative Online Survey conducted by Consumer Reports, 45% of people with student loan debt said that college wasn’t worth the cost. Among those who said it wasn’t worth the cost, 38% didn’t graduate, 69% have trouble repaying and 78% earn less than $50,000 a year.

For an in-state public school, the median debt is $20,893. The impact of this debt has caused almost half of those surveyed to cut back on everyday living expenses. As tuition rises, the crisis only grows.  

On social media, asking whether college is worth it sparked many opinions. Most who responded gave split answers.

“[I]t depends on the career path one wants to go into,” Cassie Hall, a Georgia Perimeter student said. “If someone wants to be an electrician, they should go to a trade school.”  

While one requires a degree if he or she wants to become a medical doctor, it may not be the case to be a manager of a company–especially if that company hires from within. Hiring from within means starting at the bottom, gaining experience and learning everything about that company.

Some opinions have circulated as to whether employers desire experience over education, but there is no clear answer. One woman, Jordan Roddenberry, did agree that on-the-job training is the best form of education, but employers want both experience and education, because their goal is to eliminate risk.

Many college graduates experience difficulty in searching for and securing a job in their field, and can attest to the speculation that employers seem to crave experience over education. A startling number of college graduates end up working in fields that aren’t related to their major, or worse, are underemployed or unemployed.

In a 2018 study by the New York Fed, 41.4% of recent graduates and 34% of graduates overall were underemployed, meaning they work jobs that don’t fully utilize the skills they learned. Seeing data like this may cause one to pause before spending tens of thousands of dollars just to work a menial job where he or she is likely to be underappreciated.

The data does overshadow the fact that college graduates tend to earn more money than high school, and that college graduates are less likely to be impoverished.

Don’t allow the statistics and money to be the only things determining whether or not college is worth the time. Of course, money is important and people want to stretch their dollar as much as they can, but aren’t some things more important than money?

Another responder, Megan Fogg, a recent graduate from the University of West Georgia, said that “[c]ollege is about so much more than getting a degree to get a decent paying job. It’s about expanding your limited perspective on the world […] and thinking critically.” She goes on to say that students who attend college expose themselves to other experts in their field, more so than if a student didn’t attend college. It can be argued that even if one doesn’t attend college, he or she can still be exposed to experts in his or her field; however, he or she will likely have to work much harder at it.

One may strongly argue that the analytical and critical thinking skills, the tools and other social and life skills learned in college can make a person a far more well-rounded individual. Alysha Watts, former student at Southern Crescent Technical College, said that she didn’t want to go to college after graduating high school, but said “[c]ollege definitely is something that all should consider no matter what.”

Attending college isn’t for the faint of heart. It challenges you mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically in ways one cannot imagine until he or she experiences it. True value is in the eye of the beholder, and whether college is worth it solely depends on the individual considering it.

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