The cost of college is more expensive now than it has ever been, and tuition keeps raising with no sign of slowing down. But with the rise in competition within the workforce, a college degree seems to be a bare minimum for the upcoming generation to make a decent living.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree make, on average, almost 85 percent more than those with just a GED.
- High school drop outs: $18,734
- High school graduates: $27,915
- College grads (with a bachelor’s degree): $51,206
- Advanced degree holders: $74,602
After considering not only the cost of tuition, but the cost of living, books, food, gas, bills and the list goes on, high school graduates and their families are reconsidering whether or not college is worth it.
“College can be very expensive and will often burden you with a lot of debt,” said Jared Moore, creater of collegeriskreport.com. “College education in the United States is becoming a financially risky pursuit.”
It’s a risk more and more people are willing to take due to the heightened level of competition in the workforce. Over the course of 40 years, someone with a bachelor’s degree will make on average $2,048,240 while those with only their high school diploma will make $1,116,600. That’s nearly a million dollars more.
“I think getting at least a two-year degree is worth it,” said Moore. “If you aren’t sure whether or not to go to college, people should consider getting their associates since it’s relatively inexpensive and still looks good.”
With the rise in tuition and living expenses, there has also been a rise in the percent of students who have to work their way through college. In 1990 about 50.8 percent of students held a job while attending college. 22 years later in 2012, that number rose to about 76.4 percent of students.
“It’s important for these kids to learn how to make and manage their own money before they graduate from school,” said Karen Wickel, parent of three students at CSU. “Times are hard for us, and of course I help them when they need it, but you have to have working skills along with your skills as a student to succeed.”
The majority of parents, as of now, still believe that pushing their kids to achieve a higher education is the right choice. However, they are less likely to provide 100 percent of the cost of living their kids may need to get through school.
84 percent of students say they admitted to needing more education on financial management. While students may be working through school for extra spending money, studies show that it’s important for them to wean off their parents’ wallets by taking responsibility for at least some expenses. Whether that be groceries, gas, bills, rent or all of those combined, there’s no better way to learn financing that to just do it.
While most students receive at least some help from their parents, the recession made it hard for some parents to send their kids to school at all. Ross Clements, senior at CSU, took matters into his own hands.
Clements has worked full time since he was old enough to, saving up to send himself to school with no financial help from his parents. His hard work continues to pay off for him now that he’s attending CSU in pursuit of a degree in Health and Exercise Science.
“I go to class, then work, then class, then I donate plasma, then back to work at another job and then homework,” said Clements.
As if being a full time student with two jobs wasn’t enough, Clements has also been donating plasma twice a week for the past three years to have extra money.
There has been a lot of debate about whether or not college is worth the cost. Especially with the rate of tuition rising at twice the rate of general inflation.
Kevin Carey, who is a director of education says, “Yes, people need to go to college in order to have a fighting chance at a well-paying career.”
On the opposing side, Richard Vedder, Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity says, “Although college graduates do stand a better chance of getting a higher paid job, the expense and time that it takes to pay back the cost of the degree may not be worth it.”
In the next 20 years, if the tuition keeps rising at the same rate, certainly more people will have their doubts about making the commitment. But for now, it’s right on the border.
Some experts say that college has become more about just getting a degree than actually learning the skills appropriate to specific areas of the workforce.
“It’s becoming less and less about what you’re actually studying, and more and more about just having a piece of paper that says you got through the four years,” said Vedder.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 about 30 percent of adults had a college degree. In Fort Collins, 43 percent of adults have theirs. It’s partly because of that high number that Forbes has named it number seven in best places for businesses and careers.
That number is steadily climbing as more and more students are enrolling in higher education. In 2012, about 70 percent of high school students were enrolled for college after graduating.
“Putting three kids through school hasn’t been the easiest thing for us to do financially, but it was something we all agreed was necessary,” said Wickel. “They all work part time, which is enough to pay for their rent and basic living expenses. I mean, there’s not much left for fun money, but hey, welcome to the real world.”
Check out my Infographic for information on student working and spending habits:
- Is My College Education Even Worth It? (keiralynnsblog.wordpress.com)
- Is your job relevant to your college degree? Probably not (bizjournals.com)
- Online Degrees Can Be Affordable (degreegragon.wordpress.com)