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College is a positive personal investment

Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 00:01

 

In tough economic times, many students wonder if their college education is costing them more than it's worth, an issue The Chronicle of Higher Education is calling "The Value Gap."

According to the New York Times, the benefits of a college degree that were present for our parents' generation —  increased income, benefits and job stability — are declining for the millennial generation in a job market where entry level positions are the first to go.

According to one writer for Harvard's school newspaper The Crimson, the so-called "Facebook Index," or boredom level, is higher amongst university students taking classes than ever before. So why should already cash-strapped students shell out their current, future and parents' funds for a college education?

Despite such bleak outlooks, a survey by Pew Research found that for 86 percent of graduates polled "college has been a good investment for them personally."

College students earn $2.1 million over their lifetime versus high school graduates who earn an average of $1.2 million over their lifetime, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau for 2000. This almost $1 million incentive is enough for many students to make an investment in their education, as it may well balance the time and money spent earning their degree.

And while many argue that those who earn more from their college degree are those who were raised in a similar income level to their eventual earnings and come from college-educated parents, research shows that college may not reinforce class. Enrollment demographics show a positive movement is in place. 

The percentage of college students who are Hispanic, black or Asian/Pacific Islander has been increasing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Between 1976 and 2009, the proportion of white students enrolled in college dropped from 83 percent to 62 percent, while the percentages for minorities increased.

Many experts are also anticipating a decrease in enrollment for students who are affluent, well prepared for college and have parents who have attended college. This group is no longer the primary growth factor for colleges, as it was in recent years, according to the Chronicle.

While it may be beneficial for workers to be skilled in a trade, research is essential to the growth of science and engineering fields and these positions will need to be filled in the future as well, by academics who hold degrees.

The best reason for college, however, may be that an education supports personal growth. Individuals who have been working at the same job since they were 16 may never discover the other opportunities that are out there. Students completing their Foundations of Learning requirements at USF have the opportunity to study many different subjects that may pique their interests or reinforce a passion they already have.

Students are not only giving themselves a potential economic and professional advantage over their peers, but also, most importantly, a personal one.

Jessica Schoenfeld is a sophomore majoring in sociology and women's studies.

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