Higher education: is it worth it?

December 6, 2011  

By Jeff Johnson

Thousands of U.S. university seniors will walk across some stage to receive a hard-earned bachelor’s diploma during December.

Many of them will be graduating with a loan debt of $25,000 or more depending on the university and how much they borrow.

All of them are hopeful that their degree will set them apart in the workforce, enabling them to transition into adulthood and earn an income.

And just as one group exits with a degree in hand, another is considering entering into a university with the same expectations, dreams and hopes.

But with a sagging economy and annually increasing tuitions many may have to reconsider whether higher education is worth the risk of debt upon graduation as opposed to joining an increasingly competitive workforce.

“Absolutely, it’s worth it,” said Wes Waggoner, the dean of admissions at Southern Methodist University. “The whole idea behind a college education is to give you an advantage in that job market.”

Waggoner said there are jobs out there but the competition is intense and by getting an education graduates are better prepared for the challenges of securing employment.

The typical college graduate earns an estimated $650,000 more than the typical high school graduate over the course of a 40-year work life, according to a new analysis of census and college cost data by the Pew Research Center.

And employment after obtaining a degree is the ultimate goal for El Centro College sophomore Stefan Flurry, who is working on sociology associate’s degree at the Dallas community college with plans to transfer to a university upon completion.

“Looking at our future without a degree other than a high school diploma, I don’t think you can be very successful,” said the 23-year-old unemployed student.

With a degree, Flurry feels secure in obtaining the job and wealth he imagines. However, he said it is difficult to finance his education but he is thankful for the government grants and loans he receives.

“Many times people see the sticker price and that scares them away but you have loans, you have grants, scholarships and payment plans,” said Waggoner. “Even if you don’t qualify for those there are other ways to make education affordable.”

Taking advantage of such opportunities is 18-year-old Mary Cruz, who is studying to be a nurse at El Centro with plans to transfer to Texas Woman’s University.

Cruz, who draws inspiration from her older sister who recently earned a law degree, doesn’t worry so much about graduation debt. She says financial aid has been generous and what she has left over she has began saving for future tuition payments.

Waggoner does warn that college isn’t for everybody but says that there are options like trade schools for such individuals.

He also reminds college hopefuls to pursue what they love to lead them to success, which may not always be wealth.

Reshone Jones, a 24-year-old mother of two sons, is rethinking her strategy. Upon graduating from high school, she enrolled into Remington College for a quick medical assistant’s diploma and immediate employment afterward.

“I did like doing the lab work but it was the book work that got to me,” Jones said.
She quickly realized her passion was cosmetology and has completed neither area of study since leavening Remington and starting a family.

Jones has since put off dreams of higher education while she searches for employment and looks to the future in her sons, her biggest “inspiration.”

Waggoner reminds college hopefuls and parents that their education is like an investment in property or a brand new car, but with education there is a return on the investment.

Before you change your mind about school or assume you can’t afford to pay the tuition, Waggoner said to ask the financial advisors at your school because there are a wealth of resources college hopefuls and students may not know exist.

“They’ll never find out about them if they don’t ask,” Waggoner concluded.

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One Response to “Higher education: is it worth it?”

  1. New Study Finds Employers Unsatisfied with Recent College Graduates | Reviving Work Ethic on December 7th, 2011 5:21 pm

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