Illustration by Ashley Golden
Here is a problem for you mathematics majors out there: is the cost of a college education greater than or less than the worth of the education? What do you think, does this equation balance? Students all over the country are starting to wonder.
This is an especially relevant question to students here at University of California Santa Barbara. With the cost of tuition and cost of living on the rise (my rent is going up this quarter, how about yours?) and the job market still in the gutter- not to mention the exorbitant cost of books, the student loans many will be paying off for over a decade and that our school funding keeps getting cut- University of California students are wondering if college was the right choice.
Well, you can rest assured, the answer is yes. Higher education is worth the money, depending on what you are going to do with it, but traditional colleges may not be the best solution for everyone and not all colleges are created equal.
We happen to go to a research institution and a common complaint I hear from students is that our coursework is too theoretical and not hands-on enough. This is both wonderful and terrible. It’s wonderful because we aren’t boxed into one career path and have the skills to be competitive in almost any field our degree can be applied to. It’s terrible because our degrees don’t set us up for any particular job, which in the past wasn’t a problem, but now with job scarcity still so high, students are wishing they had a guarantee.
But a 2011 study listed by the Huffington Post says college graduates earn on average 84 percent more than high school graduates over the course of a lifetime, regardless of degree. Those are good numbers, people.
The thing is, most decent paying careers (not even great paying, just decent paying) require a degree, and those that don’t will certainly have people with degrees applying anyway so without one you are not really competitive. So the only other way to make big money without a degree is to be very lucky, work way harder than other people, start your own business (very hard if you never got that business degree to tell you what to do, seriously, have you ever tried to make a business plan? It is tough), become famous or marry well. Limited options and many of them include a fair amount of luck.
For students who are afraid they won’t have a job waiting for them when they graduate, but do see the value in a higher education, trade schools are becoming a popular option for people looking for that kind of job security. Trade schools are places you get an education for a specific career, like dentistry.
There are those lucky few who make big money without a higher education degree or certification, but the odds are not in your favor (really, the odds of making big money at all, regardless of education, are quite small. There is a reason it’s all the one percent).
My point is, making very good money with a college degree is only a matter of time, making good money without one is a matter of luck (or brilliance. Oh Bill Gates, you smarty pants you).
Yes, we are overpaying for our education right now. Yes, that book that cost you over a hundred bucks isn’t worth it and it sucks. But, despite the fact we are being price gouged, it is still worth the investment long term. You will earn back the money you spent, and even though you will probably be paying off student loans every month, the amount of money you make per month will be much higher than had you not gotten your degree.
So, if you are spending sleepless nights wondering if all the time and money and effort of your degree is worth it, rest assured, it is.