Pros and Cons of a College Education

There’s no question that college has become more expensive.  For years, tuition has increased more quickly than cost-of-living expenses; students may find themselves paying thousands of dollars more their last year in college than they signed up for on their first year.  With the increasing financial difficulties involved in earning a degree, it can be tempting to consider foregoing a college degree. 

The Drawbacks of a College Degree

There are definitely some reasons why going to college is problematic. These reasons may be deal breakers for some; for others they are simply obstacles to overcome.  If you’re weighing your options, it’s important to take an honest look at the drawbacks—no matter what everyone else is telling you.

Four years out of the workforce

The four years you spend at a traditional campus are four years where you won’t be earning money.  You get started late compared to your high school graduate peers.  The delay to full-time work can be costly. 

If you need to work full-time to support yourself while attending school, an online college may be a better option for you than a traditional college.  With the flexible schedule of virtual learning, it’s much easier to work full-time while you take classes at an online college.

Student debt

Many students graduate with many thousands of dollars in variable-rate loans from private lenders.  High student loan payments can prevent you from following your goals; if an entry-level position in your chosen career doesn’t pay enough to cover your student loans as well as your living expenses, you may have to give up or postpone pursuing your dreams.  For some, the freedom of living debt-free is worth the limitations of having no college degree.

An online education may help you reduce student debt.  Although online degrees don’t always cost less, it’s easier to work while earning an online degree.  With virtual learning, you may be able to make payments toward your tuition while you’re still in school.

Your major may not be your career

You may love eighteenth-century French literature, but it’s tough to make a career in that field.  The truth is that your major may not prepare you for the career you eventually choose.  College is more focused on learning for its own sake than preparing you for a specific career.  Academics in the past have claimed that education for its own sake is more important than training for the workforce, but as college costs rise, it grows more difficult to defend that position.

Why You Should Get Your Degree Anyway

College may be getting more expensive, but most studies indicate it still does pay off. There are some compelling reasons why it’s not a good idea to skip the degree, despite rising costs.

Higher earnings 

A degree may cost a lot, but it gives you access to higher-paying jobs when you graduate. The College Board states that college graduates make $20,000 more each year on average than high school graduates. Over a lifetime, it is estimated that a college graduate will earn 1 million dollars more than a non-college graduate.

More options

Most higher education programs, such as those for law, medicine, and education, won’t let you start without a college degree. Many business, professional, government, and white-collar jobs won’t accept resumes from applicants who didn’t go to college—no matter how qualified they are.  Without a college degree, you may be held back from advancement in your company simply because you don’t fit the education requirements for the position.  If you don’t like that policy and try to find another job, you’ll have more difficulty getting hired without a college degree.

An edge in the job market

One of the reasons high school grads have such difficulty in the job market is that they’re competing with a rising number of college graduates. A college degree ensures you’re competitive against others at your experience level.

With the costs of college rising and funding for students shrinking, it’s becoming more costly to get an education.  But most sources will tell you that the benefits still outweigh the costs.  Online education is becoming more and more accepted as an alternative to traditional college, and many adult students find that online degree programs are more practical for them.  If you’re thinking about whether or not to go to college, consider your options carefully—your choice will have a strong effect on the rest of your life.

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