Education is probably one of the most important aspects in the development of a person’s life. It has the ability to not only turn around lives, but to also equip students with the skills they need in order to be productive members of society. In fact, we are living in a time where the average student with an internet connection has access to so much information that people of the past could not even dream of having. So, why is it then that in recent years we have seen lots of doubt and insecurity about whether or not college is worth it or not? How come our own students feel this way? How come financial costs have made it such that our students doubt whether or not they can have good prospects once they exit college? Some of these issues, especially the financial ones, have been discussed in the article “I’m the first on in my family to attend college, here’s how I got there” by Ronnie Estoque. So what exactly are some of the issues with modern college education, financial or not, and how can it be solved?
One of the issues that has been not only the question of many students, but also parents, with regards to their children’s education, is whether or not the degree that they are getting will help them achieve social mobility, or in other words, prepare them for getting jobs that require college level skills. However, in recent years, many have started to observe a phenomenon wherein there has been an increase of college students having the necessary skills and requirements to get a job requiring college level skills but end up having a job that they are overqualified for. In the article, titled “Will College Jobs be there for College Grads”, which originally appeared in the journal called Perspectives on Work, the author Peter Cappelli states that, “They document a rise in jobs requiring manual tasks (and not college skills) since 2000, well before the great Recession, and that college grads are increasingly taking them”. (Cappelli 36). This in turn has also led to other groups getting pushed out of the labor market, with Cappelli stating that, “That shift, in turn, crowded out high school grads, holding wages for those jobs down, and pushed more high school grads into unemployment or out of the job market all together.” (Cappelli 36). This in turn, has caused a lot of worry among college students wondering whether or not the degree is worth it, and if they were better off just not going through the financial burden to get a college degree. Cappelli further states that, “One in four graduates now says that the financial cost of college was not worth the benefit.” (Cappelli 35). He further goes on to back this up with some statistics, writing that “The compensation company Payscale looked at data on income and education across colleges for millions of Americans and calculated that for the graduates of about one-quarter of colleges, the return on the cost of investment in attending college was actually negative” (Cappelli 35). We obviously now know that students cannot afford college, but why? There are many financial options available, such as loans for example, but are students borrowing too much or too little? If so, what exactly is the problem?
One of the main ways to afford to pay for college has historically been taking out a loan, in fact, it is highly encouraged and is often times the go-to option for many lower-middle class families, or just families in general that come short on payments. However, it increasingly seems like more and more students rely on it completely. In the Journal article, titled “Student loans: Do College students borrow too much — or not enough?” by Christopher Avery and Sarah Turner, which originally appeared in the journal called “The Journal of Economic Perspectives”, they authors state that “Borrowing to finance educational expenditures has been increasing—-more than quadrupling in real dollars since the early 1990s” (Avery and Turner 165). This is a huge problem and taking huge amount of loans could eventually lead to students putting off buying a home or being financially stable on their own two feet even. In the previous paragraph, we had seen how some students have had doubts over whether or not college was worth it, but is it always a good option?
Given the information of the previous two paragraphs, one might ask what the real worth of college education is, and they might be right. As a matter of fact, in recent years, there has been an increasing trend of getting online certifications and prioritizing experience over actual degrees. However, despite common misconceptions of a college degree being “increasingly outdated” it does still hold somewhat of a value. In the Journal Article entitled “The fundamental worth of education” by Amy Gutmann, which originally appeared in journal entitled “Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society”, Gutmann states that “Moreover since 1950, the investment in college has a return of a whopping 15.2% a year on the $102,000 investment for those who earn only the average salary for college graduates” (Gutmann 138). However, she does come to the conclusion that many families often come to, which is that it makes sense for the more financially well off to send their kids to college, saying that “College is a smart economic choice, but it is a smart choice for those who have the choice” (Gutmann 138). So, what have been the specific effects of such an inequality?
One of the main conclusions that a student or the family of a student would immediately come to is that college is not worth it, and that they would be better off going straight into the job market, than spending 4 years getting a degree. In fact, coming to these conclusions might be correct, as there is a greater share of people who haven’t been getting a college degree, and that is reflected among both men and women. For example, in a Journal article by John Smith and Heather Boushey entitled “Why don’t more young people go to college”, they state that “In 2009, our analysis of the Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group extract finds that among 25 to 34 year old mean, one-in-five (19.4 percent) who had a college degree actually earned less than the average male high school graduate, Meanwhile, one in seven women (14.0 percent) earned less than the average female high school graduate” (Smith and Boushey 81). This combined with the information of the previous three paragraphs, clearly shows us that, when given the evidence, more and more young students would perhaps not hate the idea of going to college, but definitely consider alternative pathways to getting a high skilled and high paying job in any field that they want. So, how can this situation be helped, and what is the end to all these problems?
What would be the point of listing all these problems, if we were not able to give solutions to these problems? In fact, there are many ways to deal with these problems. For example, with regards to the problem of college costs, Johnathan Haber, the author of the article “Solutions to the ‘high’ freaking cost of college” thinks that some colleges should simply specialize in one or two fields/majors, saying that the benefits would be that “less-interested undergraduates can be introduced to the field wherever they attend, and the only people who suffer are the high-priced faculty no longer needed within this new efficient configuration” (Haber 1). Ron Carson, the author of the article, “7 Ways to Reduce College Costs” has different approaches as to some of the problems facing college students. One of the things that he suggests is that students can opt to go to a community college for their first two years, and then have those credits transfer to whichever college they opt to go to next, saying that “Community Colleges, especially those designed to serve as feeder institutions for public state colleges and universities, can be a more affordable alternative for the first two years of a degree program” (Carson 1). In Conclusion, while there have been problems in recent years with the affordability of college, it is still possible to get a degree and be financially well-off as well as have good career prospects.
- Avery, Christopher, and Sarah Turner. “Student Loans: Do College Students Borrow Too Much—Or Not Enough?” The Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 26, no. 1, 2012, pp. 165–192. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41348811. Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.
- GUTMANN, AMY. “The Fundamental Worth of Higher Education.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 158, no. 2, 2014, pp. 136–143., www.jstor.org/stable/24640201. Accessed 15 Apr. 2021.
- Cappelli, Peter. “Will College Jobs Be There for College Grads?” Perspectives on Work, vol. 20, 2016, pp. 34–37. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26621135. Accessed 16 Apr. 2021.
- Schmitt, John, and Heather Boushey. “Why Don’t More Young People Go to College?” Challenge, vol. 55, no. 4, 2012, pp. 78–93., www.jstor.org/stable/41719380. Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.
- Haber, Johnathan. Solutions to the High ‘Freaking’ Cost of College. 15 Apr. 2015, www.huffpost.com/entry/solutions-to-the-high-fre_b_7069932. Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.
- Carson, Ron. 7 Ways To Reduce College Costs. 22 Sept. 2019, www.forbes.com/sites/rcarson/2019/09/22/7-ways-to-reduce-college-costs/?sh=6ed249555e77. Accessed 19 Apr. 2021.