Is College Education Worth It? A Comparative Study and Analysis

by Kyle M. Franck

     Many students approaching a college career period of their lives have reconsidered attending college due to many reasons, most notably, the costs incurred both during the college term and after graduation. With a growing number of college “non- believers”, it is understandable why many are considering transitioning directly into the job market rather than acquire massive debt by attending a higher education institution. (McKinney) So why are there many people and students alike saying college isn’t worth it? There are a few reasons to this. College preparation at an earlier level of education needs reform, college tuition costs are very high and are also being considered as a point for government to reform and the type of college degree is important to consider when attending college.
Pew Research Institute, a think tank, had a study that college cost worth itshowed college graduates aged 25 to 32 in full time employment earn about $17,500 (Bureau of Labor) compared to those of similar demographic who just have a college degree, although research shows a variance between degree holders earnings, a college degree earns more money over periods of life span comparatively. Degree completion at the collegiate level is worth it and cheaper college cost along with increased preparation at high school level will will further improve college graduate earnings. (Time. Par. 3) Students at the high school level are combating the issue of attending college and incurring debt or going straight to the work force. According to a study done by the PayScale Research Firm, degrees offered at the college or trade level have statistically been proven to render more economical and monetary growth for the degree holder of the course of the future in comparison to someone without a degree. However, as even Barack Obama stated, “folks can make a lot more” by learning a trade “than they might with an art history degree”. Meaning, some degrees ‘pay for themselves’, while others clearly do not. Likewise, comparable work experience can offer an individual the ability to make the same amount monetarily as a degree holder, but over time the degree holder is more likely to not only make more but be offered higher positions within the employment. (Bennett. 64)
College is costly. Many college attendees are not initially part of the middle class or higher and therefore consider the likelihood that college costs incurred while attending higher education will cause so much debt, it is not worth starting in the first place. (McKinney. 124) “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 2014,” says The Times. (Times. Par. 3) In essence, the costs incurred are indeed high, although the potential for earnings is much higher for a degree holder as well. Meanwhile, a study founded by Forbes showed that 1 out of 3 college graduates had employment that required more than a high school diploma or less. (Forbes) With this statistic in mind, it seems like college did not “pay off” for these graduates, however this is misrepresented. The information is also accompanied by other studies, both through Forbes and through other research firms.


PayScale went further to say that although 33% of college degree holders did not have employment representational of a graduate earning level, the hourly and salary based pay for graduates are around 985 higher in potential earnings. This accounts for roughly $16,900.00 extra annually compared to a non college graduate in the same employment position. (Time) It is relevant that college attendance, although costly, can provide much higher earning opportunity than not attending. Still, many students and their families are not considering college as an option. (Time) High school and early education students are now receiving more quality information and understanding of the university environment but it is apparent that the lack of knowledge and preparedness of high school students leads to a vast number to be apprehensive of the college pathway after graduating with a high school diploma. Some of the reasons for this have been mentioned or elaborated on, but the need for reformation within lower education institutions prior to college attendance is an apparent must. Furthermore, the need for college preparation at earlier levels of
education is necessary to prepare students for a better understanding of a college career and also the need for monetary preparation for the parents of the student.
No doubt, there is a lot of cost involved in attending college, but it is also important to keep in mind that there are a lot of purveyors of change for both the cost of college and the ability for any American citizen to attend college, nevertheless, the costs seem to still be rising for some schools. United States President Barrack Obama and former President George W. Bush both spoke about college attendance and costs many times, motioning that the nation needed reform in education, (Denhart) not only at the college level and incorporating its costs, but at the earlier stages of a child;s education in order to better prepare them for a higher education later in life. Many schools do not have a college preparatory program gauged around and aimed at heightening college education understanding for both the student and the parents. (Denhart) As we approach more reform regarding education in the country, it will be important to focus on this type of preparation. Not to say every child could receive a full scholarship to anywhere they wish to attend, but “honing” students’ focus on attending college rather than instilling the thought it is too expensive or not worth it, will give better opportunities to students for personal and educational this-chart-will-help-put-an-end-to-the-is-college-worth-it-debateadvancement, respectively. Preparatory institutions do exist, such as the University Readiness Course at Fayetteville Christian Academy in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Courses like this are geared toward college studying and college environment skills, as well as a parental aspect for preparing the family for not only the absence of their child while attending college but also the menagerie of monetary costs involved with sending one or more children to a higher education institution. These institutions and preparatory academies are the foundation of a better future, according to Newman, the author of many articles on higher education reform. Although more preparatory institutions and academies can be seen in the private school sector, many public schools are beginning to formulate similar courses, whether they are in the school or offered as extra curricular activities. These courses generally cover similar aspects. Students who are interested in a higher education by attending college can learn of financial responsibilities and the college environment, as well as the necessary emotional stresses college course curriculum can bring to bare upon a student. This will lessen college drop out rates and subsequently lower the apprehension of many of our nation’s youth versus attending college in the first place. Further reform is being sought in relation to the overall cost of education within the country as college costs have steadily rose since the 1930’s to modern day, as seen in the statistical analysis by ProCon, a research firm on higher education. According to the study, college attendance rates have steadily rose from 2.7 million students in 1949 to 19.9 million in 2013, showing that the interest in college attendance is relevant in the youth of the nation. It is shown in analysis that the average student has roughly $29,000 in college debt and that a traditional four year college degree program can be in upwards of $60,000 per year (Economist), but aforementioned statistical studies have shown that the potential for earning is higher for college graduates and the debt to income ration is less as well, but will be further discussed to uncover the factual basis for this information.
A study by Georgetown University showed that by 2018, 63% of jobs will require a college degree. During the recession between Dec. 2007 and Jan. 2010, jobs requiring college degrees grew by 187,000, while jobs requiring some college or an associate’s degree fell by 1.75 million and jobs requiring a high school degree or less fell by 5.6 million. (ProCon) “The world is one of digital technology”, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said. The need for education in the work place is always on the rise as companies and institutions seek degree holding professionals to not only improve the output of work but also the overall “look” and environment of the company. As the job market grows both in an intellectual fashion and I technology application, it is apparent that the necessity of a degree is there. College graduates are sought after not only for the well rounded qualities of education and learning they hold but also the relevance of their ability to be taught and instructed on company protocol, standards and practices. Also, college students are held at a higher standard in relation to meeting due dates and deadlines, especially in degree programs involving English, accounting and communications studies, shown in the Forbes research output as well. These graduates are sought after for the ability to understand accounting practices and business environment norms prior to entering the respective work place, a standard employers would have to invoke on newcomers to their company who have no previous college education. It is a highly sought after asset for companies to hire degree holders versus non degree holders, shown in the ProCon research study.

In Apr. 2013, the unemployment rate for college graduates aged 25 and over with a bachelor’s degree was 3.6%, compared to 5.0% for associate’s degree holders, 7.5% for high school graduates, and 11.4% for high school drop-outs. (Greenwood. 73) Showing that employers are more apt to hire a college graduate, regardless of company position, rather than someone with a lesser form of education. Of course, the degree type, as Barrack Obama implied, fluctuates one’s ability to receive employment and this aspect should be considered greatly prior to enrolling in a university level curriculum. Degree in the engineering fields, accounting fields and communications or English fields, pay higher than those in Fine Arts or similar platforms. There are of course some positions in employment that pay well for the latter portion of degrees but overall statistical studies show economical earnings higher for those who complete degrees in the essentially “harder’ courses of study. (Economist) Nevertheless, any degree holder has the potential to earn in upwards of $500,000 to $1 million higher over the course of a lifetime compared to those with two year degrees or less. (Time)
Can non degree holders earn similar amounts? This study was completed by the Thiel Foundation, formed by online transaction company PayPal’s founder, Peter Thiel. (Time) Thiel offered 24 high school graduates a sum of $100,000 to start any venture of business instead of attending college to prove whether students, given proper backing, can prove to be just as or more successful than those who attend and graduate from college. Currently, 19 of these fund receivers are either working at their own company or have sold it for significant profit. Although this study is interesting, it compels one to look at it from varying standpoints. First, most students would not have a large monetary backing to any venture prior to college like this one, however, this coincides with proper preparation prior to attending college. Also, the course of college careers, although costly and strenuous, offer more earning potential for degree holders that would amount to significantly higher than the ventures posed by these students and subsequently funded by the Thiel Foundation. Lastly, the concept of these students successfully completing a business or entrepreneurial pursuit is wonderful, but the likelihood of the nation adopting this model is unlikely at best and should not be considered in the reform of overall education within the country. Paypal’s Peter Thiel has a good foundation in the experiment although Thiel himself is indeed, a college graduate. So the notion of the experiment is still founded on the backing of an individual who also attended college as a means to provide a better future for himself and a potential future family unit. This experiment also proved that a percentage of these students still had to quit their entrepreneurial venture and go back to college in order to better their future employment potential. This could have been due in part to the costs associated to starting a business or the lack of knowledge involved in the business itself due to a lack of college education prior to starting the venture. Another aspect of college enrollment apprehension is the cost itself. Attending a university has increased in cost over the years and reform has been brought into question by politicians, teachers, and citizens to lower the cost of college education to make it available to those who qualify to attend.

During his administration, President Barrack Obama has moved to reform education on many levels. Firstly, the attendance and graduation rates of high schools was improved upon by allocating
funding to lower income areas, specifically the schools that taught the children who lived there. Obama’s initial point was to start at the bottom and reform education upward to colleges. This included changes to college acceptance practices and avenues to pay back student loans after college. Various is-college-worth-itcongressional bills are currently in deliberation over the courses of action to reform this educational platform within the country and offer more potential for not only the attendance of college but the ability to consolidate college tuition debts and pay them off accordingly. Many studies have been done on this aspect of studying the attendance and cost of college by research firms for Forbes, Apple, and Microsoft. Almost all of the studies suggested that one of the ways to lessen the cost of college is to pursue a two year transfer degree program, then move to a four year program at a full university. Community Colleges are generally cheaper to attend and many hold similarly qualified staff in comparison to universities. (Newton. 134) Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina is considered to be one of the largest , primarily due to the large student enrollment and student body, two- year colleges in the state and is moving to become a full accredited state college in coming years. (CollegeBoard) This is accomplished due to the college’s outstanding graduation rate, professors and the ratio of two year degree graduates who transfer to other institutions with much success.
This is proof that proper circumstances given, students in even more basic version of college pursuit can be prepared properly for the completion of a bachelor level or higher degree and enter the workforce more adequately as a highly educated professional. (In fact, the study by the Pew Research Institute showed that over 900 accredited universities across the United States had higher growth percentages in relation to economic endowment for their graduates than students who attended two year degree programs or did not attend college altogether. This formulates the aptitude that students should look positively at the results of attending and graduating with a higher level degree. Another aspect Barrack Obama considered when motioning for the reform of college costs is the current struggles with
health care and insurance for all American citizens, not to mention the students themselves. College graduates are shown to have a higher likelihood of having lifelong health care and health insurance plans for them and their families compared to those who do not have a college degree. (Hardy) Statistically, 70% of college graduates had access to employer-provided health insurance compared to 50% of high school graduates in 2008. Also, 70% of college graduates 25 years old and older had access to retirement plans in 2008 compared to 65% of associate’s degree holders, 55% of high school graduates, and 30% of people who did not complete high school. (Harvard Business Study)

Graduation ** TCN OUT **

In essence, reform of education costs will undoubtedly open more opportunities for education and prosperity as a whole for the American public, not to mention benefit the workforce in the country, however high college costs are able to controlled and college loan debt, although somewhat negative, can be easily controlled and paid for post college graduation. These studies point to the relevance of having a college degree and the importance of students considering college in opposition to going straight into the workforce after high school.
College costs are high, preparation is in need of reform, and apprehension grows as students approach college career possibilities and have doubts about the worth of pursuing a university degree program. Nevertheless, the reformation of college preparation courses, lessening of college loan debt, and the heightened ability for success individually and for possible future family units allows for students to consider college more adequately as the best option after high school. The interest must be there for the student but with so many social and economic programs helping the nation’s youth successfully complete college avenues of study, there is no personal or fiscally responsible reason to not pursue a college degree. (Economist) Potential college students must consider the benefits of having a college degree in a sense of the rest of one’s life. Career opportunities, monetary values and personal growth have been shown to be more adequate after completing a degree program. This is important for the individual student as well as the family they possibly build later in life during their personal pursuit of happiness and success. (Lewin)
In summation, college and higher forms of education can incur quite a bit of debt for collegiate graduates, however the combination of various aspects in society, education reform and college preparation can prove that college degree holders’ potential for higher economical earnings show that the debt is able to be consolidated and paid for. The cost of higher education should not be the reasoning for an individual to not pursue a university level education. With politicians, professors and parents working to properly prepare the nation’s youth for higher education, a better understanding of college environments, costs, and acquisition can be found. College education benefits not only the individual who completes a degree program but improves the United States of America’s ability to formulate a solidified foundation of educated professionals, opening the avenues for younger generations to attend college more adequately.





Annotated Bibliography

“Here We Go Again: Is College Worth It?” Time. Time. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.

As an advocate for skipping college blesses 20 new fellows with seed money, new data shows pay advantage for graduates is growing. The debate over whether college is worth the money may have taken a decisive turn. Unquestionably, it is—even if you must go into debt to get the degree—new data suggests. Still, there is no convincing folks at the Thiel Foundation, which just blessed a fourth class of dropouts with money to start their own business.

“Is College worth It?” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 5 Apr. 2014. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.

Too many degrees are a waste of money. The return on higher education would be much better if college were cheaper. “Is college worth it?” Some degrees pay for themselves; others don’t. American schoolkids pondering whether to take on huge student loans are constantly told that college is the gateway to the middle class. The truth is more nuanced, as Barack Obama hinted when he said in January that “folks can make a lot more” by learning a trade “than they might with an art history degree”. An angry art history professor forced him to apologize, but he was right.

Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney, “Is Starting College and Not Finishing Really That Bad?,”, June 2013

Employers added 175,000 jobs in May, according t today’s employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about the same average pace of job creation over the prior year. All of the job increases were in the private service-providing sector; employment edged down in both the goods-production sector, which includes construction and manufacturing, and in government. This reflects a longer-term pattern: over the prior year, employment in the service sector has increased by almost 2 million jobs, while employment in the goods-producing sector has been essentially flat, and public employment has declined. Also in May, the unemployment rate edged up to 7.6 percent. The broadest measure of employment—the employment-to-population ratio—was 58.6 percent, the same as a year ago. It has remained roughly at the same level since late-2009.

Marcelina Hardy, “7 Benefits of Earning a College Degree,”, 2013

School to college is a lot of costs that must be issued, but according to experience what we get in there and we get a degree. and allows us to work of course. Check out these interesting benefits linked to higher education. Are you thinking of pursuing a college degree, but unsure if it’s right for you?

Mckinney, Lyle, and Andrea Backscheider Burridge. “Helping or Hindering? The Effects of Loans on Community College Student Persistence.”Research in Higher Education Res High Educ 56.4 (2014): 299-324. Web.

The purpose of this study was to understand how community college students assess the risks and rewards of using personal loans to achieve their higher education goals. Interviews were conducted with 12 federal loan borrowers attending a large, urban community college in Texas during the Spring 2013 semester. Results: Findings from thematic analysis of the data revealed that although these students typically viewed borrowing as a last resort, they believed that loans had contributed to their academic momentum and success. However, these borrowers had many misconceptions about debt management and loan repayment. Many of the students expressed a willingness to borrow US$100,000 or more to achieve their educational goals.

Chris Denhart, “How the $1.2 Trillion College Debt Crisis Is Crippling Students, Parents and the Economy,”, Aug. 7, 2013

With the federal debt at $16.7 trillion, student loan debts measure at 6% of the overall national debt. This is no small figure, and national debt carries many consequences including slowing economic growth (translating into fewer jobs being created) and rising interest rates. Capital will not be as easy to access.

Harvard Graduate School of Education, “Pathways to Prosperity,”, Feb. 2011

On Wednesday, February 2nd, the American Youth Policy Forum hosted a special event for the release of the Harvard Graduate School of Education report Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century. The event featured an overview of the report, the reactions of a panel of education and business leaders, and special remarks from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Fastest Growing Occupations, 2010 and Projected 2020,”, Jan. 2012

Earlier this year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics published employemnt priojectios for the 30 fastest growing occupations during the current decade. Fastest growing occupations is based upon the estimated percentage change in employment during a 10 year period between 2010 and 2020.

Tamar Lewin, “Child’s Education, but Parents’ Crushing Loans,”, Nov. 11, 2012

There are record numbers of student borrowers in financial distress, according to federal data. But millions of parents who have taken out loans to pay for their children’s college education make up a less visible generation in debt. For the most part, these parents did well enough through midlife to take on sizable loans, but some have since fallen on tough times because of the recession, health problems, job loss or lives that took a sudden hard turn.

College Board, “Trends in College Pricing, 2011,”, 2011

Trends in College Pricing provides information on changes over time in undergraduate tuition and fees, room and board, and other estimated expenses related to attending colleges and universities. The report, which includes data through 2015-16 from the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges, reveals the wide variation in prices charged by institutions of different types and in different parts of the country. Of particular importance is the focus on the net prices students actually pay after taking grant aid into consideration.

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