A college degree should still be the goal

The U.S. is seeing the largest college enrollment levels in history. Of Americans 18 to 24 years old, 40 percent are attending college, according to a Pew Research Center report. Some think this number is too high, though.

“A large subset of our population should not go to college, or at least not at public expense,” said Richard K. Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and professor of economics at Ohio University, to the Chronicle of Higher Education. “The number of new jobs requiring a college degree is now less than the number of young adults graduating from universities, so more and more graduates are filling jobs for which they are academically overqualified.”

The increased education level of the American workforce is a trend that does not seem to be slowing down – nor should it. A college education brings higher pay and, most importantly, knowledge. Individuals with at least a four-year degree are more critically minded and better equipped for survival in a competitive and often apathetic society.

Census information from 2002 showed that average income for a high school graduate was only $25,900 a year. Those with bachelor’s degree earned $45,400 a year. People who had a doctorate or master’s degree had an average income of $99,300 a year. This is why Vedder’s reasoning is off.

In the ’60s, only one-fifth of college students dropped out, compared to one-third in 2000, according to census data. Many of those who drop claim they are simply taking a break and plan on returning. However, it’s estimated that only 12 percent of the college undergraduate population is made of re-entry students older than 25, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

College can be difficult for people from poor backgrounds with little family support. Graduation may seem impossible while balancing rent and utilities or not having enough personal money.

Thus, going home and taking a job may seem like an inevitable choice. However, this choice will only lead to lower-paying jobs in the long run. The difference between a job and a career often depends on a college degree.

For those from poor backgrounds, a college education is all the more valuable.

“With the disappearance of virtually all highly paid, low-skill jobs, the only way that most Americans can fulfill their aspirations for middle-class status is through acquiring a higher-education credential and the skills that go with it,” said Daniel Yankelovich, founder and chairman of Viewpoint Learning Inc., to the Chronicle. “For most employers, ‘qualified’ means having core skills like the ability to read, write, think clearly and bring a strong work ethic to the task. It is those core skills and virtues that higher education warrants.”

Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.