Is College Worth It?
Is a college education worth it? Is a college degree worth incurring significant debt?
Punch in. Punch out.
9 to 5.
Every week you walk on tiptoes around your boss, hoping that this is not the week when your name lands on the dismissed list due to budget cuts and mass layoffs.
There’s gotta be a better way to do this!
- You’re right.
Your life doesn’t have to be an endless slog from one weekend to another. You are ready for success.
But what is it going to take?
- Honestly, hard work and determination.
But you are ready for it. You are the kind of person who is ready and willing to do the hard things to succeed.
So you survey the landscape, to get an idea of what you need to do. You can switch jobs, and hope that this one is better than the last one. You can take on a side hustle like Uber to pad out your paycheck until you hopefully get that raise.
Or you can invest in yourself, and get a college degree to increase your income and provide greater job security.
What’s It Going to Cost to Go to College?
Of the three options, a college degree sounds like the best strategy.
But just like Grandma always admonished us, “Nothing worth having is free!” She doesn’t know about Krispy Kremes apparently. Those donuts taste infinitely better when they’re free!
But I have never seen a neon light advertising free tuition at any college, and believe me, I’ve looked! So how much can you expect to pay to get a college degree?
And not so much.
I hate to say this, but it all depends on where you go!
Housing costs can vary significantly from region to region and must be taken into account when you are creating a final comparison between colleges. Room and board at the University of Hawaii, for instance, costs an average of $13,000 annually while Northwestern Oklahoma provides a year of room and board for about $4,630. Though you’re living in Hawaii, so maybe the extra 8 grand would be worth it come December?
But let’s say you hate sunshine and sandy beaches, so we’re going to cross the University of Hawaii off the list of potential colleges.
According to Statista, the average cost of attendance (including tuition, books, and room and board) at a four-year publicly funded in-state college was $20,770 U.S. dollars for 1 academic year in 2017/2018.
If you live in an area with a phenomenal state college, such as the University of Michigan (1 of the top rated public US universities according to the QS World University Rankings®), then this is an open-shut case. But what if this isn’t the case? What are the other options for obtaining a college degree?
- An in-district college is frequently referred to as a Community College. You can obtain an Associate’s degree in 2 years (unlike our favorite students at Greendale Community College) and then go on for further studies elsewhere.
- If you decide to attend an in-district college, you can expect to pay an average of $11,970 per academic year for tuition and room and board
- Attending an in-state college can yield significant benefits for you. You don’t have to worry about missing Thanksgiving dinner due to missed flights, as you’re just a day trip away. Or maybe that’s a negative?
- Another benefit of attending an in-state college is the financial savings. All those years of paying state taxes have finally benefited you as you can expect to pay only $20,090 per academic year.
Out-of-State Publicly Funded College
- Maybe you are looking for a taste of adventure, and an out of state college is the ticket for you? Attending college in another state can allow you to study in a specialty area, such as studying architecture at UCLA.
- This choice, however, is pricier, as you will pay an average of $35,370 to study at an out-of-state college.
Private Non-Profit Four-Year Colleges
- A private college will yield a rich cultural experience, as they tend to attract students not only from other states but from other countries as well. In addition, private colleges tend to have smaller populations, so you are more likely to know your professors and be seen as a person, and not just a number.
- The cost of this experience, however, is considerable, as there is no government funding afforded to private colleges, so on average you will pay $45,370 per year to attend a private college.
(Source: The CollegeBoard. *Using Columbia College of Missouri as an example – $290 per credit hour)
Is College Worth the Cost?
After analyzing the various options for obtaining a college degree, you are asking yourself if it’s even worth it.
Because $11,000 to $45,000 a year for tuition adds up quick when you are working to make rent payments and keep food on the table.
But just like a stock market investment, investing in your education is a long-term game.
It will take time and yes, money to pursue a college degree. But a college degree is worth it.
Believe me, it’s definitely worth it.
Across the board, over the course of their lifetime, a worker with a Bachelor’s degree will make approximately $1 million more than a worker without a post-secondary degree.¹
I could use an extra million dollars in my life, how about you?
But that’s not all.
With the changing times and our current economy, job security is vital. College graduates who hold a Bachelor’s degree earn 66% on average more than their less-educated colleagues and are also far less likely to be unemployed long-term.²
Adding to the necessity of a college degree, by 2020 an estimated two-thirds of job openings will require postsecondary education or training.
These are some jaw-dropping facts. Let’s explore them a little deeper so we can fully understand the benefits that a college degree will make available for you.
How Much is a College Degree Worth?
An extra million dollars in your bank account at the end of your career sounds extremely attractive.
But ask any elementary teacher if they are rolling around in their excess cash, and you will get laughed right out of town.
Because not only does a degree set you up for success, but getting the right degree. Every degree has a different return on your investment, and those variables need to be weighed carefully.
|BACHELOR’S DEGREE MAJOR||AVERAGE SALARY|
|Math and Sciences||$55,087|
Source: Time Magazine’s Here’s What the Average Grad Makes Right Out of College
So if you are looking to get the most bang for your literal buck, then you will want to consider pursuing a degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) rather than an arts degree.
Still curious? Here’s a list of the top 20 highest paying bachelor’s degrees if you want to dig deeper.
What is the Long-Term Gain of a College Degree?
Perhaps you are not in the place to go to school full-time for the next 4 years. Is there any benefit to upgrading your education, if you can only do a year or two of college?
Whether you are able to invest a little or a lot into your education, every bit counts.
Even if you are only able to take one or two courses a year, and are not able to complete a post-secondary degree, it will impact your financial bottom line. Workers who have some post-secondary education without obtaining a degree can expect to make about $38,700 annually. This equals into an additional $250,000 in lifetime earnings.
But it doesn’t have to stop there, the increase in salary continues as your level of education rises.
If you complete an Associate’s degree at your local community college, you stand to make nearly one third more than a worker with only a high school diploma. Securing an Associate’s degree will cause your lifetime earnings to swell by $450,000 over someone who does not have a post-secondary education.
At this point, you are halfway finished a Bachelor’s Degree, and with a couple more classes under your belt, your lifetime earnings are more than worth the effort. After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, your lifetime earnings will amount to 2.3 million dollars! This is 74% greater than the expected earnings of a worker with only a high school diploma.
(Source: Georgetown University, The College Payoff: Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings)
Well, What’s in it for Me Personally?
You’ve weighed the argument back and forth, and it seems heavily weighted in favor of getting a college degree. The money’s good, the prestige, and job security are valuable.
But you’re not just about the money.
You need to know that a degree is going to be good for you, from a holistic perspective.
And it delivers.
Benefits of a College Degree
A college degree provides 4 essential benefits, that have nothing to do with your earnings.
1. Job Satisfaction
Having a career that is personally satisfying is often the result of your own sweat equity. You’ve invested in this degree, and brought it to completion. 89% of people with a Bachelor’s degree attest to having a feeling of job satisfaction.
2. Increased Health
We have all seen the anti-smoking ads, and are aware of the health costs of choosing to smoke cigarettes. However, a post-secondary degree takes that understanding to heart and reduces your propensity to smoke cigarettes by 15%. Take that lung cancer!
3. Sophisticated Leisure
Perhaps due to an increased exposure to the arts while studying, if you have a Bachelor’s degree, you are more likely to read books daily and attend concerts twice a month then if you only have a high school diploma.
4. Civic Engagement
In the 1996 election, only 26% of high school graduates voted in the presidential election, compared to 42% of post-secondary graduates. In these days, every vote counts, and those who have a college degree are more likely to take their responsibility to heart and participate in civic elections.
(Source: University of Pennsylvania, The Benefits of Higher Education: Sex, Racial/ Ethnic, and Socioeconomic Group Differences)
What If I Decide Not To Get A College Degree?
I can understand the temptation to walk away from your dreams of a college degree. Investing years of your life and huge sums of money when you are just trying to keep one foot in front of the other is nerve-wracking.
But what happens if you don’t take this opportunity?
What happens if you decide to stay on with your current employer Mr. Niceandgood, and just keep your head down and work this job till you retire?
Maybe it will work, and you won’t have to put in the effort to improve yourself. It’ll be good enough.
But maybe it won’t work.
Maybe Mr. Niceandgood will reach his 45th year of running the company and decide to close up shop and move to a tropical island. I can’t blame him really.
Or maybe economic times will cause a merger between Mr. Niceandgood and Mr. Justfine and suddenly your position is unnecessary, and you find yourself with a severance package for a month or two and no future plans.
Whatever the case, you’re unemployed, and you only have a high school diploma and an Employee of the Month certificate to open doors for the next job.
Honestly, that’s not going to work very well.
Georgetown University forecasts that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the economy will require post-secondary education and training beyond high school.
That means your odds are against you to secure another job that will pay a living wage, with only a high school diploma.
This might not be the “right time” when it’s easy to make the leap into a college degree. But that doesn’t mean its the wrong choice. Waiting until everything lines up can leave you lining up in the unemployment line, wondering why you didn’t jump for it earlier.
Choose to invest in you. It’s worth it.
You’re worth it.
The opportunity lingers before you. Do you take the leap into higher education? The costs are high, but the reward is greater. You deserve the chance to better your future. Choose you.