Is College Worth the Cost?

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Hi Taylor - My son just started high school, and I’m beginning to have some doubts about college. I’ve been saving and have a modest college fund for him, but I keep hearing a college education isn’t really worth the expense. What do you think? - Camila

Hey Camila - This is one of the more important questions for the next generation of parents. 20 years ago, no one had to think about whether or not college was the right move. Now, with exorbitant costs and a changing workforce, you can’t just assume paying a university tuition is the best option. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of higher education to see if that provides some clarity.

Pros: The percentage of degree earners continues to rise, but that hasn’t changed the fact that college graduates typically earn more than people who only have a high school diploma. More and more people are working freelance jobs and negotiating their own wages, and owning a four-year degree can be a great bargaining chip in that scenario. It’s also still the case that most of the highest paying jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree, and many still want applicants who have earned a master’s or doctorate.

Looking past the dollars and cents, college can be an invaluable experience for young adults. If your son isn’t sure what he wants to do professionally, going into college without a declared major can open his eyes to fields and occupations he’s never heard of. Most towns create a little bubble around their citizens, and attending college is a great way to broaden one’s scope.

Cons: As I’m sure you’re aware, college tuition is astronomically high; public universities cost around $20,000 a year on average. Unfortunately, these institutions need to make money in order to stay open, and that sometimes becomes more of a priority than the education being provided. Students often spend $100,000 earning a degree and come out feeling like they didn’t learn all that much.

Job market is another issue that degrees don’t address. While you can pay through the nose to get a BA from an amazing university, that doesn’t come with guaranteed employment. I’ve seen people earn law degrees and pass the bar, only to struggle finding entry-level work at a firm. Before deciding on a college program, it’s really important for high school graduates to have an idea of what employment opportunities might be available down the road.

As you can see, I don’t have a clear answer as to whether or not you should send your son to college. I feel everyone has a unique situation and people can thrive with or without a secondary education. I would suggest you talk with your son about career paths, student loan debt and any other pressing matters. If you’re honest with yourself and have faith in your decision, you can both make the best of it. Thanks for writing in, Camila!