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Is It Worth to Go to College? Research Paper

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Updated: May 14th, 2020


The protagonists and antagonists of post-high school education cost agree that going to college has series of benefits attached to it. For instance, college education guarantees more opportunities that high school diploma, especially when an individual is interested in changing a career or pursing further education. On average, in the US, persons with college education tend to earn more income in lifetime and are likely to experience growth in earnings with time in the labor market that a high school diploma holder. The first alternative would be to apply for a bank loan that is repayable over a period of up to 20 years to finance college education to increase chances of getting mid-level job in the labor market. The second alternative is opting not to go to college due to the high cost and joining the labor market immediately after high school and hoping to rise to mid-level job with time. This paper will present the arguments that supports and oppose these alternatives in order to identify the most rational choice.

Why College education is worth it

According to the poll conducted by Gallup in the year 2014, the findings indicated that more than 50% of those who have recently graduated from colleges indicated that the every rising cost of college education is still worth the benefits of obtaining post secondary education. According to the poll, majority of those who opined that college education is not worth the cost had taken an education loan of more than $50,000. The general finding established that more than 77% of the college graduates agreed that college education is worth its cost in the US (Abel and Deitz 26). As indicated by the head of the poll, “reduced conviction among recent graduates is hardly surprising. Those grads emerged with more debt and poorer employment prospects due to a struggling economy. As the debts get paid off and their earnings rise, they may have a change of heart” (Cox par. 6).

Despite the high cost of going to college through bank loan, the long term outcome of this decision is often guaranteeing a place within the middle class society. The primary intention of pursuing college education immediately after high school is to guarantee more accumulated earnings during the entire career as compare to high school diploma holder. This means that college education is an investment that has stable returns over a lifetime, despite dynamics or swings that might arise in the labor market. For instance, college degree guarantees an individual a place in the job market, even when the unfavorable economic conditions forces mass retrenchment (Abel, Deitz, and Su 5). The persons who are likely to be the first victims of mass retrenchment are holders of high school diploma since their skills and competent might not match that of the college degree holders.

According to Cox (2013), “if it costs $100K to finish your degree over two or more years and you could earn $1M over the next twenty years with the college degree behind you, that would result in having $50K to your W2 per year on average” (par. 8). As indicated in the 2014 Gallop poll, persons with college education tend to earn more salary than high school diploma holder up to 60% on average. Specifically, “high school graduates earn about 62% of what those with four-year degrees earn, according to a Pew Research Center study” (Abel et al. 7). Therefore, an investment of $100,000 to finance a four-year education would give more returns in terms of salary for a lifetime than an otherwise decision that might only result in mid-level job. Despite the fact the financial benefits are long-term, the short-term drawbacks such as high cost of college education might influence an individual to enter the job market and forgo college education (Zafar 312). However, the opportunity cost of this alternative decision will lead to loss of income and restraints career development, irrespective of the experience. Basically, “it is not that college graduates are earning so much more, but that the income and economic opportunities for high-school-only graduates have collapsed” (Abel and Deitz 25) over the years.

It is still worth to go to college since it guarantees some level of happiness due to more wages that it attract in the long term. Besides, it is very easy to advance career with a college degree since this level of education falls under expertise experience. By postponing immediate gratitude which comes with entry into the job market after the high school diploma, pursuing college education gives an individual the flexibility of picking preferred career besides being in a position to change the career throughout the employment period (Cox par. 11). On an average, having college degree gives an individual an upper hand in accessing different alumni services and direct mentorship from other graduates to increase chances of better job placement. By being in a position to have an access to such services, a holder of college degree is well positioned to follow clear career path as an expert and might reach his or her apex of career fulfillment within a decade. Besides, acquiring college degree gives an individual the opportunity to further education in order to increasing his or her chances of becoming the best in the line of career. However, the acquisition of college degree should be done in a way that it balances the cost with the expected benefits (Abel et al. 7). When the financing of college education is balanced and controlled, the beneficiary is not only in a position to repay the loan within a short time but also improve his or her earnings beyond the repayment period.

Despite the high cost of college education, the decision to pursuing post secondary degree gives an individual the much needed negotiation power, which is needed to support rapid career growth and development. For instance, a college graduate has a higher negotiation power than a high school diploma graduate when seeking better remuneration and employment terms since the former is considered an expert in the job market (Baum and Ma 18). On the other hand, a high school diploma holder will have to be very outstanding to guarantee job security since he or she has to compensate for low academic level with experience. In most cases, the college degree holder will excel when placed with the high school graduate in the same job pool.

Unlike the alternative of direct job entry after high school diploma, attending college gives an individual to draw a clear career path and carry out explicit planning through doing courses that are relevant to a particular career. This means that college education might help an individual to narrow down his or her career aspiration to boost chances of excellence in the job market in the short and long term. According to Abel and Deitz (2014), “college students often choose a major related to their career (54% vs. 31% for those who drop after high school), especially if they are seeking career advancement” (Abel and Deitz 27). This means that choosing to pursue college education has the potential of exponentially increasing an individual’s knowledge, abilities and skills that are instrumental in career advancement since specialization improves performance that is demanded in the labor market. Therefore, on average, a college graduate might stand out when pooled with a high school graduate in performing a specific duty in an organization. The ability to stand out increases the chance of quick career advancement for a college graduate, without necessarily having several years of experience, unlike the high school diploma holder who must work very hard for many years to match the achievements of a college graduate (Abel et al. 7).

Opting to pursuing college education might come with the benefits of creating a very complex and long term network that might result in satisfactory career since college goers have the opportunity to interact with different persons that might act as the reference point in getting jobs, advancing performance, and belonging to private club that increases the visibility of such an individual in the labor market. As a result, a holder of college degree is in a position to pursue career development through a structure network that comprises of other experts as compared to a high school diploma holder who must work extra hard to remain relevant in the every changing job market (Cox par. 12). For instance, a typical high school diploma holder can only do certain jobs even when he or she has vast experience since this individual is always treated as a general worker and not an expert. In the worst case scenario, the high school diploma holder may become irrelevant in the labor market and more companies adopt the post secondary qualification criterion in hiring employees. This approach has been necessitated by the shrinking labor market for the types of jobs that high school diploma holders have.

It is factual that college education has become very expensive in the US since students are forced to take alone of up to $100,000. The current level of dissatisfaction with college education could be attributed to the high cost, which leaves many graduates indebted in the face of very few employment opportunities in the short-term due to shrinking economy. Specifically, “increased amounts of debt also make it more likely for graduates to delay goals such as going back to school for more education, buying a home or buying a car” (Abel and Deitz 27). This argument basically indicates that it is not worth it to take excessive loan to finance college education that might leave the graduate heavily indebted in the face of very limited job opportunities. Besides, it is not necessary for all Americans to pursue a four-year degree course since there are community colleges that can offer a two-year alternative with the promise of providing similar technical skills. At present, some graduates with four-year degree earn similar income as those in possession of the basic high school diploma. However, “everyone should consider some post-secondary training if they do not want to fall down the economic ladder” (Abel and Deitz 28).

Another argument against spending too much in college education is the forgone alternative of investing the similar amount in growing personal portfolio. When an individual with a high school diploma enters the job market without having to go through college, he or she will have the opportunity to invest income in stocks, business, and personal needs. This means that such an individual is not “tied down to loan repayment and escape running the risk of being included as part of the $1.1 trillion bucket of outstanding student debt that plagues the American economy” (Abel et al. 8). Besides, with proper job placement, a person with high school diploma might be in a position to experience career growth just like a college graduate, especially in areas that require experience or other qualifications beyond academic certificates. For instance, in the deep sea mining rigs, graduates shy off from such jobs due to high risks involved, despite the attractive remuneration that comes with it. High school graduates who take such jobs are in a position to experience similar financial gratification as college graduates in the short and long term (Kahn 314).


Though education is considered a public good by policy maker, its consumption can be beneficially at college level depending on the setting and consumption behavior of an individual. Reflectively, an individual can be in a position to make decisions whether to consume it or not. In addressing the interests of the public, college education system prepares the young to be in a position to assume the roles of adults and promote the civil responsibility, uphold common set of political and economic values, and be in a position to share on common language acquired. Apparently, from the above discussion, the value of college education surpasses its cost in the long terms since the benefits are lifetime. On average, a person with college education is likely to have higher income, career positioning, and better living standard that a high school diploma holders who forgo attending college in the long term.

Works Cited

Abel, Jaison and Richard Deitz. “Do the Benefits of College Still Outweigh the Cost.” Economics and Finance, 20.3 (2014): 24-28. Print.

Abel, Jaison, Richard Deitz and Yaqin Su. “Are Recent College Graduates Finding Good Jobs?” Federal Reserve Bank of New York Current Issues in Economics and Finance, 20.1 (2014): 1-8. Print.

Baum, Sandy, and Jennifer Ma. Trends in College Pricing. New York: The College Board, 2013. Print.

Cox, Jennifer. . 2013. Web.

Kahn, Lisa. “The Long-Term Labor Market Consequences of Graduating from College in a Bad Economy.” Labour Economics17.3 (2010): 303-316. Print.

Zafar, Basit. “How Do College Students Form Expectations?” Journal of Labor Economics 29.3 (2011): 301-348. Print.

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