The Key to Success is a College Education

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For years, people have been told that the key to success is a college education. While policymakers, media, and parents continue to push students to attend college, the cost of attending college is increasing and students are borrowing money more than ever (Oreopoulos). In addition, students today take longer to finish college than in past decades which complicates the decision of whether to attend college. Students are left wondering whether the benefits of a college education balance the sacrifices that students make in time and money (23). For most people, college is definitely a worthwhile investment. Studies have shown that college graduates “make more money, feel better about themselves, vote more often and have other advantages” over people with only a high school diploma (Smydo). Earning a college degree opens up opportunities in life and prepares you for your career and adult life.

The college experience allows students to build professional relationships and networks that can benefit them throughout their career. These connections can provide recommendations for employment, receiving promotions, consideration for a higher salary and even certain benefits. Jobs requiring higher education tend to provide more benefits such as “health care, retirement investment, travel, and other perks” (Loveless). College helps you become a more professional individual, it “trains you to think analytically, understand complex subjects and communicate your own critical ideas about them” (Loveless). It is no secret that people with higher education earn more money. A report from the Labor Department of the Economic Policy Institute says people with “four-year degrees made 93 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree” (33). Although the amount of money earned depends on the field of work, the pay for people with a four-year college degree has increased compared to that of those with no college credit. Students who major in STEM fields, science, technology, engineering, and math, have the highest income and have more job stability. Data shows that college graduates begin with a higher annual income and have more rapid growth in earnings than people of that age with only a high school degree. This information tells us that “the value of a college education rises over a worker’s life” (50).

The benefits of a college education are not just for graduates of elite colleges, who usually go on to earn graduate degrees. A study from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that people with a bachelor’s degree earn about $1.2 million more than a person without a degree. Someone with an associate’s degree can earn about $325,000 more than a person with only high school education. After factoring in the cost of college, those with a bachelor’s or associate’s degrees also earn more over their lifetime. Another benefit of attending college is better chances of employment and job stability. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, high school graduates experience “unemployment rates about twice as high” compared to college graduates (51). During recessions, workers with lower levels of education are more vulnerable to layoffs and easier to replace. College life itself offers a wide variety of experiences for students. Students are able to participate in activities, spend time with others of their age, and satisfy their intellectual curiosity.

Evidence shows that college graduates hold jobs that give “a greater sense of accomplishment, more independence, and opportunities for creativity, and more social interactions” than jobs available to high school graduates (Oreopoulos). Controlled studies have found that people with a year or more of education are less likely to be divorced, have teenage births, suffer mental ailments, or have children be retained a grade level. Although measuring the credibility of these benefits is even tougher than measuring economic rewards from college, it is necessary to acknowledge the potential for college to have an effect on a good array of outcomes over one’s lifetime, not simply through earnings (Oreopoulos). A major concern when deciding whether a college education is a worthwhile investment is the rising costs of tuition. Parents and students are concerned whether the high cost of college will pay off. On average, 2015 graduates with student-loan debt owed over $35,000. Student loan debt was higher than credit card debt in 2010. But a paper in the Journal Science by Mr. Autor says “the true cost of a college degree is about negative $500,000” (43).

Mr. Autor calculated the cost of tuition and fees and then subtracted the difference of the lifetime earnings between college and high school graduates. A college graduate paying annual tuition of about $20,000 can recoup the costs of college education by age 40. After that, the difference between earnings continues such that “the average college graduate earns over $800,000 more than the average high school graduate by retirement age” (Daly). Although there are many stories of people who did not go to college and still achieved financial success, for most people the path to higher future earnings requires a four-year college degree. The average college graduate can recover the costs of attending college in less than 20 years (Daly). Whichever educational path students choose to pursue, one thing is clear, they must be better prepared to face an increasingly competitive job market and turn their college education into a winning position.

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The Key to Success is a College Education. (2020, May 13). Retrieved April 16, 2024 , from

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