The Value of Today’s College Degree

According to a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a survey conducted by Widmeyer Communication indicates that Americans are split on the current value of a college degree.

The question was, “Is a college degree as valuable as it was twenty years ago?” This would put us at 1992. Of those surveyed, 46% said a college degree is just as valuable, while 41% stated that it wasn’t. While those may seem like surprising numbers, 60% of those surveyed indicated that regardless of whether or not a college degree is as valuable as it used to be, it’s still a good investment.

Why might some view a college degree as being less valuable today than in 1992? There could be a variety of answers for this.

As of 2012, more than 30% of U.S. adults have a bachelor’s degree, which is a record in American history. As the New York Times article “U.S. Bachelor Degree Rate Passes Milestones” points out, this increase began in the mid 1990’s. So more people have a college degree now than in 1992. Does more people having a college education make it less valuable? Maybe.

On the one hand, recent college graduates looking for a job may feel like their degree isn’t anything that’s going to put them ahead of the game. With the competition all having a bachelor’s degree as well, it’s the work experience, internships, and other “add-ons” to the degree that will land you a position. In addition, as college graduates struggle to find jobs and pay off loans, many will find themselves working retail, food service, and other jobs they could have obtained without having gone to college. Based on a 2010 article entitled “The Great College Degree Scam” published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, as of 2008, out of the nearly 50 million college educated adults, 17 million were working in jobs that didn’t require a college degree.

On the other hand, if getting a college degree is the bare minimum requirement for so many jobs, getting a degree is all the more important. An employer is more likely to hire someone with a college degree over someone who doesn’t have one, even for retail and food service jobs. Having a degree can also be the difference between getting promoted to management and staying where you are.

One also needs to address the personal value of a college education. Those who’ve gone to college have a wide range of knowledge on more than just their field of study. They’re often more appreciative and accepting of diversity. They’ve learned to form solid opinions and ideas based on facts. College students know how to find the answers when they don’t know them. They can respectfully debate an issue. They can hypothesize. They can dream. College students in general are well-rounded people. Regardless of whether or not they currently have a job, or what that job is, the intellectual growth and personal development that comes with a college education is invaluable.

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