College DegreeHave you ever wondered if a college education is worth it? Have you asked yourself whether or not college is an important ingredient in success? Most people believe that college can serve many purposes besides an education. Some site life experiences, networking for business contacts, and gaining social skills as just a few; but with college costs rising, is a degree worth the investment?

2010 high school graduates weigh in

The College Board recently conducted a survey asking 2010 graduates whether or not they felt college was worth their time and money. After a year, the overwhelming majority said yes.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • College Is Definitely Worth It: One year out of high school graduation, an overwhelming majority (86%) feel that a college degree is worth the time and money — including a large majority not currently enrolled in college (76%).
  • High School Is Not Enough: An overwhelming majority (90%) agree with the statement: “In today’s world, high school is not enough, and nearly everybody needs to complete some kind of education or training after high school.”
  • College Is Essential for Career Success: Even in the current economy, 66% say they are very (22%) are somewhat (44%) optimistic that people in their generation will have good opportunities for jobs and careers, while 33% say they are worried about this. Seven in 10 members of the class of 2010 say that a college degree will help them a lot in fulfilling their career aspirations, and another 18% say a degree will help somewhat
  • Cost Is a Barrier: Cost was the biggest challenge faced in transition to college. Five in 9 students who attended college say that affording it was very or pretty challenging. Of those who did not attend college, 56% said affordability was a key factor.
  • College More Challenging Than Expected: A majority (54%) report that their college courses were more difficult than expected. And 24% say they were required to take noncredit remedial or developmental courses by their college, including 37% of those who went to a two-year college; 16% report they did not complete the full year of their college program.
  • Rigorous Course Work — More Math, Science, Writing: Students wish they had taken more math, science, and writing-intensive course work in high school.
  • Life Skills Are Also Important: Students wish their high schools had given more practical career readiness and more basic preparation for how to engage in a college environment — including how to manage personal finances.

What about recent college graduates?

Skeptics might say, “These respondents are still in college. How will they feel when they graduate?” The New York Times Economix section asked this question in May when the pool of graduates hit the streets looking for employment. In spite of the dismal job market, they stressed these important factors:

  • It’s true that the job market for new college graduates stinks right now. But you know what? The job market for non-graduates is worse.
  • People with more skills have a broader range of jobs they can do, and having a postsecondary degree sometimes serves as litmus test for employers who can be picky about hiring. As a result, unemployment rates decline as workers become more educated:
  • College graduates also earn more money than their less-educated peers. That gulf in earnings has only widened in the last few decades: the inflation-adjusted pay of college graduates has risen, and the inflation-adjusted pay of every other group has fallen.
  • Nearly three-quarters of recent graduates said they believed their degree was as valuable now as they thought it would be when they first enrolled in college. Additionally, three-quarters said their college education did extremely well or pretty well in preparing them to be successful in their first full-time job.

Cost vs. Return on Investment

If you are considering college or have asked whether or not it would be worth your investment, you should consider the responses from these two groups. Additionally, employers state that education is a key factor on any prospective employee’s resume. The key, however, is to do your homework and guarantee that the amount of time and money you invest will be recouped once you enter the workforce.

Following are just a few points to consider:

  • Research your career choice and the expected pay after graduation.
  • If it is necessary to take out student loans, make sure you can repay them by using student loan repayment calculators.
  • Search for scholarships and grants before taking out loans.
  • Compare colleges and find the one that will be a good fit for the best price.

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