You’ve all heard the argument: is the cost of college worth it?
This long-time debate has been especially prominent in the economic downturn in the past few years. The debate isn’t whether college-educated employees make significantly more money in their lifetime than those without a degree — this fact is widely accepted. Instead, the debate is whether the education you receive in college is what’s producing value, or if it’s the simple fact of having a college degree that gives you a higher paycheck.
Fast Company created this infographic about the debate, making two points: 1. Whatever kids are doing in college, it doesn’t seem to be about getting an education (witness how students spend their hours every week) 2. “Some majors don’t really qualify you for much.” The statistics point to the average student debt and how that debt affects their life choices; how long it takes some students to finish their degrees and what they spend their days doing besides studying; what the average cost of private and public schools are as related to median starting salary; and more.
While I agree with the statistics presented in this infographic, I do have an issue with those two statements. I think a combination of your education and the mere fact of having a degree produces value — it’s not strictly one or the other. I wouldn’t perform as well in my career if I had just paid someone $80,000 to hand me a degree than if I had completed a rounded, four-year education.
Additionally, while I agree that a good number of college students spend a lot of their time doing everything but studying, I think that this fact doesn’t really correlate with whether college is “worth it” to the general public — it correlates more with if college is “worth it” to those individuals avoiding their studies. I also think college is more than just academics, but also a “life class” that goes beyond pen-and-paper learning. As for point number two, yes, there are some majors that may not prepare you for much (Bowling Industry Management, for one), but your major is what you make of it.
Your whole education and college experience is what you make of it, so I think the debate needs to move away from whether a college degree has intrinsic value — because it does — but more towards individuals and whether or not they recognize and capitalize on that value.
Do you think a college degree is worth it? Share with us!
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About the Author: Kate D’Amico is in her senior year at Virginia Tech where she is studying communications with an emphasis in public relations as well as psychology and special events management and marketing. She has prior internship experience in corporate communications and public relations for technology, nonprofit, and association clients. Follow Kate on Twitter!