During this time of year, we find ourselves in the post-college graduation and pre-summer doldrums. Long before the start of a new college year, we are in the portion of the media cycle calendar in which we see stories questioning whether or not college is actually worth the price of tuition.
The short answer is: Yes.
Data crunched by The New York Times shows that it makes tremendous fiscal sense to attend a worthwhile college or university, and the evidence seems irrefutable.
As Times writer David Leonhardt opines, “The decision not to attend college for fear that it’s a bad deal is among the most economically irrational decisions anybody could make in 2016.”
Here is a chart from his piece (we colored it and made it prettier) that very much confirms his assertion. It shows that the pay gap between those with a college degree and those without has been increasing since the 1970s.
From The New York Times’ The Upshot blog.
So many times in the media, we treat going to college simply as a fiscal decision. We question whether or not it makes good financial sense to go to college without considering all of the other benefits that college provides. After doing a little digging and a bit of soul searching about my own reasons for attending a four-year school, we compiled a Top 5 list.
A note of caution: There are more than 2,000 four-year colleges and institutions in the United States. Not all of them are a good decision (More on this later.)
Human beings are living longer, staying in the workforce longer and, as a result, taking longer to mature into fully fledged adults. College is a great place to try new things and gain new experiences before stepping out into the real world. Think of a university as a proving ground for poor decisions.
It is easier to bounce back from poor social and professional decisions as a young adult in a college setting than in the real world. The mistakes we make in early adulthood, silly or contrived as they may be to us in hindsight, can have long lasting unintended consequences for us in our later years.
2) Think better
Studies have shown that those who have completed additional schooling like college are simply better thinkers. They are better at solving the problems confronted in everyday life and in the workplace, and they have a better time doing it than those who did not go to school.
Self-improvement goes beyond making more money as a college graduate. The importance of improving one’s ability to navigate the world and his or her place within it should not be overlooked.
So much of our overall identities are linked to the communities of which we are a part. There is a saying in Spanish “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres” — “Tell me with whom you walk and I will tell you who you are.“
A large part of the college experience is exposure to new experiences and the people around you who come from all walks of life and many different backgrounds.
College serves as a link to a much larger world beyond the small towns and high school communities of which so many recent high school graduates are a part. Improvement as an adult comes by learning through new experiences.
The economy sucks right now. It sucks for recent college grads whose unemployment rate stands at about 10 percent, but it sucks a whole lot worse for those in the same age range who do not hold a four-year degree. Those without a four-year degree are twice as likely to be unemployed than their counterparts.
This says nothing of underemployment or job satisfaction in the overall marketplace, but it speaks volumes in favor of choosing to go to college. A recent high school graduate may spend the next four years floating between dead-end jobs when he or she could be working toward a more stable career and preparing for greater job satisfaction in the future.
5) Find the love of your life
It sounds like the makings of a ’90s romantic comedy, but cold hard, unfeeling data reveals the truth and shows us the way. Studies reveal that couples who meet in college stay married longer and report having better overall sex lives and happiness in their relationships.
Shared interests, like being the fan of a sports team of an alma mater, can improve intimacy with married couples and strengthen common bonds between partners which experts report is paramount to long-term happiness.
Again, college is not the right decision for everyone, and all colleges are not created equal. In fact, some are obviously quite poor. (We will explore this topic further in a later post.)
Not all of the areas of study at a university are well-equipped to prepare students for the future. If you spend four years studying basket weaving at your local state college, you better emerge from that program knowing how to source and manufacture said baskets, not to mention having a solid business plan for selling them to customers in the real world.
With rising tuition costs and student loan interest rates higher than most 30-year fixed mortgages, going to college is more difficult than it has ever been in recent memory. Accruing debt, attending class and presumably studying hard to achieve better grades demands sacrifice on the part of a student.
Careful consideration must be given to the school and program on the part of the student making the commitment to attend school.