Does a High Dollar Education Still Have Value?
It seems justified and important to question the value of a college education when the economy is not producing jobs the way it used to and college tuition is on the rise. Is the present focus on the financial, however, diverting us from considering other sources of value for a college degree that has proven itself over the years with innumerable life-altering outcomes for ourselves and our country? Perhaps considering the alternatives (some lucrative, some not) would help put this into perspective. One of the stories I hear over and again is from students who decide to quit college in order to work and then return with a very different point of view and motivation. Experiencing that alternative reality made a difference, and these returnees will do whatever it takes to get that college education.
There are very few grads who regret getting their bachelor's degrees, meaning it is likely there is a strong ROI, or return on investment, for most grads. A Pew study indicates many [others] are skeptical, but college graduates remain confident in their choices (Brian Burnsed, Americans Split on Value of a College Degree, May 6, 2011, usnews.com).
It is well documented that college graduates make more money overa lifetime than non-college grads. Not only that, but the unemployment rate is lower than that of those without that degree even in our strained economy. However, more benefits are showing themselves in the research and they are significant. I have read marriages of the college-educated are more sustainable, producing a more stable situation for children, thus translating to a stronger foundation for our society.
In addition, research shows college graduates are more engaged citizens and make healthier decisions than those who don't earn a diploma. [There search study] Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society argues higher education has a high rate of return for society. "A more educated work force means greater tax revenue and a stronger democracy" (Elia Powers, The (Non-Monetary) Value of a College Degree, Sept. 13, 2007, insidehighered.com)
It seems to be well known but often forgotten how the liberal arts in a college education can put one on the path to a well-lived life. This can be priceless. Learning about art, history, global issues, communication and the economy, for example, will not leave one in a dark cocoon of life experiences, but will allow them to "butterfly" themselves into a world of understanding and relationship. "College exposes future citizens to material that enlightens and empowers them, whatever careers they end up choosing ... Ideally, we want everyone to go to college, because college gets everyone on the same page. It's a way of producing a society of like-minded grownups ... There is stuff that every adult ought to know, and college is the best delivery system for getting that stuff into people's heads" (Louis Menand, "Live and Learn," The New Yorker, June 6, 2011,newyorker.com)
One of our students at George Fox has summarized the liberal arts value quite well for her own life:
Given all of that, what compels us now in this question of value? In the Office of Career Services, we could be considered a pressure point in the transition from college to the workforce. I am picturing my mother's old pressure cooker steaming away when she was either cooking beans or potatoes. I remember how significant the valve cover was as it wobbled back and forth from the steam. The timing of all this was critical in order for the food to be cooked just right. So how do we utilize the pressure of making a high-priced education "amount to something" as a student approaches graduation? Defining "something" is the challenge for us and your student.
Although the value of a degree is well documented despite the high cost, we cannot ignore the financial pressures facing our graduates – especially those with lowest-earning degrees and everyone facing a job market that is primarily just "slow and steady." (qualityinfo.org) Therefore, preparing and supporting our emerging professionals in their search for suitable employment is essential ... and now is that time. I don't recommend standing at the top of an exit ramp with a sign, as one of our grads did recently, as a constructive way to find a job. Unfortunately it perhaps signaled desperation vs. a methodical, well-planned approach. It has long been said among career professionals that the prepared (for the job search) candidate is the one who gets the job over the more qualified candidate. How does a pre-graduate get ready for what awaits? It is to this we are all dedicated and must turn our attention as we help your student prepare for a fruitful job search bringing more value to their education.