"If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." Benjamin Franklin.
Is the cost of education overshadowing its benefits? Some people believe that college is too valuable to worry about the cost because, in the long run, you have received a degree and most likely, have a stable job. But others believe that the little piece of paper is simply that, a little piece of paper. It is hard to imagine spending anywhere from $50,000 – $ 200,000 for a piece of paper with your name on it. So, what is it that the college degree can give you?
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They say you can see everything in hindsight. I have seen the value of a good college education in that perspective. Now at age 22, I am struggling to complete a degree that I was due to celebrate in earlier this year. Due to my lack of wisdom as a teenager and nonchalant attitude towards everything, I am behind. I wasn’t necessarily interested in the "party scene" nor did I think that not learning was "cool," I just thought that being average was okay and I’d still be able to get the things I wanted later on. This is not true. As a matter of fact, it’s the extreme opposite of the truth. I think that at some point in our lives, we all have a time when we wished we had taken advantage of an opportunity forgone. To me, it is higher education. It is not until after I have been unable to find success in job hunting, after years of trying to get back onto the college track, only then have I realized the value of a college education. Not education in general, but a well-rounded college education no matter the cost.
The escalating cost of higher education is causing many to question the value of continuing education beyond high school. Many wonder whether the high cost of tuition, the opportunity cost of choosing college over full-time employment, and the accumulation of thousands of dollars of debt is, in the long run, worth the investment. The risk is especially large for low-income families who have a difficult time making ends meet without the additional burden of college tuition and fees. In order to determine whether higher education is worth the investment, it is useful to examine what is known about the value of higher education and the rates of return on investment to both the individual and to society.
Today, the value of education, in general, is highly underestimated. Education has minor as well as major purposes. However, the importance of education is quite clear. Education is the knowledge of putting one’s potentials to maximum use. Many say that a human being is not in the "proper" sense until he is educated. The importance of education is basically for two reasons. The first is that the training of a human mind is not complete without education. Education makes man ideas have background and supporting facts to whatever theories he has. We are capable of making sound decisions when we have resourceful information. That is not to say that people who do not go to college don’t make accurate decisions, but when you are exposed to different ways of thinking and other perspectives, you are more likely to make a decision based on some forethought. And the second is that only through the attainment of education, are we enabled to receive information from the external world; to acquaint us with past history and receive all necessary information regarding the present. Without education, it is as though we are in a closed room with just one window to look out of and one door. With a college education, we have open doors and open windows to the outside world. College allows students to learn vast amounts of information; everything from social behaviors of people in Turkey to the meaning of life to the habitation of the African Claw Frog.
College education is a great tool for our self enhancement. It gives us a sneak peek at the cultures and values of the world. Subjects like history, anthropology, comparative religion, international politics, and humanities can make us a much more accommodating and sympathetic to other cultures, race and religion resulting in a better bond among international communities. By learning about others values make us able to perform at our best latter in our life contributing to sound political, business related or economic decisions; it also gives us the readiness to work internationally or even locally in a diverse work force. Math and science classes in college gives us the more than just a few basic skills to run the accounting of our life. Math and its deeper studies can help us becoming good engineers, architects or accountants. Science and its deeper studies can lead us to contribute to the advancement of technology in the new millennium.
There is a legitimate public purpose in educating young people to be good citizens. Providing the tools required for participating in the economy is desirable. But these are relatively minor goals, despite their emphasis in the public debate over education. There are, in my view, several major purposes to education. A person who cannot reach his own conclusions about important topics has lost an important measure of freedom. Education should be designed to provide the tools for such independent analysis and to encourage a habit of analyzing topics. Education should also be designed to stimulate appreciation of the finer things in life. The true aim of education should be to produce people with cultivated minds. Anything is a loss and even a tragedy. The concept of "finer" can be carried too far, however. College education and the real-life skills that one can achieve through it are invaluable. One of the most significant consequences of education is wealth and prosperity. As Lyndon Johnson said during the War on Poverty in the 1960s, "Poverty has many roots, but the tap root is ignorance."
According the U.S. Census Bureau, the holders of bachelor’s degrees will make an average of $40.478 per year as opposed to just $22, 895 for high school graduates. The following figure shows how much salary difference a college degree makes by the end of a 30 year career:
1 year 5 years 10 years 20 years 30 years
College Graduate $40,478.00 $202,390.00 $404,780.00 $809,560.00 $1,214,340.00
High School Graduate $22,895.00 $114,475.00 $228,950.00 $457,900.00 $686,850.00
It is difficult to see the exact value of your education in the beginning. However, finishing high school is an asset that everyone with the opportunity should take full advantage of. Just finishing high school opens up some doors, but not many. On the contrary, not going to school can result in higher unemployment and therefore a means for extra burden on the society. You can see from the chart that there is a dramatic difference between what a person will be paid with a diploma and as a college graduate. According to the chart a college graduate can bring home nearly fifty-percent more than a person with a high school diploma.
Completing a college degree and possibly a Master’s gives more opportunities for individuals. When entering a specific field within the job market, it is often required that the applicant has a college degree. Especially in the 21st century when most employers are advertising for recent grads or those with BA, BS or whatever degree is relative to the job offer. With most labor jobs and non degree employment being cut in the workforce, it is almost essential that we obtain a higher education in order to make it. Therefore, many people without the college degree are restricted to a smaller number of occupations for which they are qualified for. It is difficult to see the exact value of your education in the beginning. In the past, finishing high school was a great achievement and looked great on a job application. But these days, just finishing high school opens up some doors, but not many. Completing a college degree and possibly a Master’s gives more opportunities for individuals. When entering a specific field within the job market, it is often required that the applicant has a college degree. Especially in the 21st century when most employers are advertising for recent grads or those with BA, BS or whatever degree is relative to the job offer.
College graduates also enjoy benefits beyond increased income and better quality employment. A higher education opens up opportunities for people. It gives student the experience and the confidence that they will be able to use in many life situations. Attending college gives students opportunities to express themselves and to learn about other people and their ideas. It opens up a network of peers that they can continue to work with throughout life. They are learning social skills and business skills. Having the knowledge obtained in high school can get you started, but the knowledge obtained in college can set you apart if you take full advantage of the opportunity.
It often gives people confidence later in life when they are dealing with the public. It can give a person confidence in the way that they view their abilities later in life. A 1998 report published by the Institute for Higher Education Policy reviews "the individual benefits that college graduates enjoy, including higher levels of saving, increased personal/professional mobility, improved quality of life for their offspring, better consumer decision making, and more hobbies and leisure activities" (Institute for Higher Education Policy, 1998). According to a report published by the Carnegie Foundation, non-monetary individual benefits of higher education include the tendency for postsecondary students to become more open-minded, more cultured, more rational, more consistent and less authoritarian; these benefits are also passed along to succeeding generations (Rowley and Hurtado, 2002).
Additionally, college attendance has been shown to "decrease prejudice, enhance knowledge of world affairs and enhance social status" while increasing economic and job security for those who earn bachelor’s degrees (Ibid.) Research has also consistently shown a positive correlation between completion of higher education and good health, not only for oneself, but also for one’s children. In fact, "parental schooling levels (after controlling for differences in earnings) are positively correlated with the health status of their children" and "increased schooling (and higher relative income) are correlated with lower mortality rates for given age brackets" (Cohn and Geske, 1992).
In conclusion, education fills up the empty ignorant minds to bring about positive changes, which affect individuals, society, nations and then the world as a whole. Until we learn we don’t know the benefit of learning; until we achieve knowledge we don’t realize how ignorant we were. The world without education would be a world full of disorder. Therefore, to be successful in this life we must carry on the pursuit of enhancing our skills and knowledge through the virtue of education. Now the only topic left up to debate is who is going to foot the bill?
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