With the high cost of college education in the US, many young students and parents are asking, Why Get College Degree?
Once a student graduates from college, he or she is required to start making monthly student loan repayments, This is true for most people even if they do not have adequate income or a good job to cover the loan payments.
Therefore, many college graduates are forced to take menial jobs closer to minimum wage just so that they do not default on their student loans. In such a dire situation you might ask, “Why Get College Degree”? Does it even make economic or logical sense?
Here is an article discussing the lack of affordability of US college education: New data show some colleges are definitively unaffordable for many.
While taking these low-paying entry-level jobs, graduates are unable to build a professional career and this further hurts their chances of getting a good, well-paying job!
With the lowered income, their credit score also takes a beating when the loan payments are made late. The situation is not much better for older professionals who took out student loans and who have years of work experience on their resumes.
During the last few recessions and the subsequent layoffs that happened, many Americans took to college to become better qualified and thereby improve their career prospects. With reduced job prospects ever since, a percentage of them are even having their social security benefits and their tax refunds garnished for repaying their student loans.
In all the above cases, it is obvious that college with student loans has made life miserable for many people. But there are also a large section of the American working population who have greatly benefited from a good college education and built themselves a successful career with good monthly income.
So it certainly appears that college is worth it, as long as it is affordable (a.k.a zero student loans) and when it directly translates to a lucrative career in a field with many opportunities.
Affordable with Zero Loans
College financing tends to be affordable in the following cases:
- When the fees are so affordable that you can pay for it out-of-pocket perhaps with a part-time job or money from parents (who in turn pay for it out of their pockets and without taking any student loans on your behalf).
- When the costs are comfortably manageable with a student scholarship.
In the first case, the sad fact is that most four-year colleges are highly expensive and impossible to afford without external financing.
Even community colleges are turning out to be not-so-worth-it with many other problems of their own. Many of them are over-crowded and encourage students to take many unwanted additional courses which further deplete student finances.
As for the second case, if you have a student scholarship, please make sure to take only the courses that are required for graduation and those which you find very helpful and interesting. That will ensure you still have enough scholarship money to complete the rest of the courses that are required for college graduation.
If you do not have a student scholarship and if you have not yet found an affordable college that you like, the best option is to wait. Do not fall into the trap of taking on student loans as there is a very heavy price involved in the long-run.
Good Career Prospects
If you want to build a good career, a college degree is the one important prerequisite to getting the first job at a reputed organization.
When applying for jobs as a software engineer, I used to have many questions from recruiters and managers about my Bachelors and Master’s degree. It helped that my Bachelors degree is in the same field of Computer Science.
In fact, many successful companies only hire professionals who have a four-year degree in their chosen occupation.
Complete In Two to Four Years
A college degree gives the best ROI (Return-on-Investment) only when it is completed on time.
Let me give you an example from my own personal experience. Years ago, as a teenager I was unable to directly enroll into a four-year engineering college since I did not have the money or financing for college.
I took many low-cost college level courses from different institutions, some distance courses and gathered years of work experience. I also completed an equivalent of an associate degree in Mathematics. I finally transferred all these credentials to Regents college in New York but still did not have the required college credits in Computer Science.
So it took me ten years from the point of high school graduation to the point where I could call myself a four-year college graduate in Computer Science. In the meantime, I had to undergo much humiliation from family and friends, take on a low-paying job and my marriage also got postponed by several years.
If I had completed a Bachelors degree in just four years, I could have easily avoided all these hardships that I had to live through. But even though I DID complete my four-year degree, I know for the fact that some youngsters in a similar situation would have given up or would have been unable to succeed under such tough circumstances.
In fact, it was almost a miracle that I found Regents college and that I held on for so long and got my college degree with no one to help me. Many would have dropped out or given up, so to avoid this it is best to complete college in two to four years time.
Recognition in Society
For me societal recognition was the primary reason why I finished my four-year college degree even though I was already working before I graduated from college. The following is my perfect answer from my own personal experience of why get college degree indeed!
Once I finished my four-year degree, I got a good software job in a multi-national firm in Pittsburgh. My marriage to the love-of-my-life also happened around the same time. His family viewed me favorably and treated me with respect.
Even members of my own family, cousins, aunts and uncles gave me more importance after I completed my four-year degree. I was glad to have completed my professional college!
Now I would not be viewed as being dependent on my spouse for everything and we could both equally share our financial responsibilities. Just 3 years later, we bought our first house in the center of Silicon Valley, California.
There are some people who have no interest in working for someone else and would prefer working for themselves as an entrepreneur. Even in this case, I have known many people who met their business partners and associates while studying in college.
There is something very special about college. It is a time when a person is not a child anymore and we are able to start forming meaningful relationships with others as adults. Many people form their most memorable professional network while studying in college!
As an entrepreneur, if you ever needed to get a business loan, one of the key questions that the loan officer would ask is about your qualification.
A college degree will prove to him or her that you are capable of working hard and will not give up anything you start. If the college degree is in a similar field as that of your business, it would also indicate that you have the know-how required for a successful business.
Most of us start taking life a bit more seriously only after completing high school. So college is a good time to take a step back and just study before getting into the pressure of generating a full time income. For this reason too, college is definitely a worthwhile goal.
There are some exceptional individuals for whom success came after they dropped out of college. Some famous examples are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
But for most of us, college certainly seems to have made our life a little easier. In a commencement ceremony in 2018 in Harvard, Bill Gates spoke about why dropping out was right for him but why staying and finishing college is the best option for most people.
Of course there are several high-quality accredited US colleges that are a lot more affordable than Harvard or Reeds college! But if you ever feel the need to just follow your dreams of starting a business or traveling the world or anything else for that matter, be sure to check out Excelsior or Charter Oak or other similar colleges.
At these colleges, college is a lot more flexible and you can do it on your own terms and in your own way without following the crowd!
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