College is a Worthwhile Investment
Driven mostly by the state of the economy, pundits and commentators have questioned the necessity of a degree in today's society. With tuition hikes coming hard and fast across the nation, and average student loan debt at $29,400 as of 2012 for bachelor's program graduates (per the Project on Student Debt), pessimists have plenty of ammunition to argue that the cost of a degree isn't worth it.
While a postsecondary degree may not be the one-way ticket to success it was in years past, that doesn't mean there's no value in a college education. What you get out of your degree is up to you, even in a tough job market.
Numbers Prove the Worth of a Degree
As of 2011, bachelor's-degree holders earned a median of roughly $21,000 more per year than individuals with only a high school diploma, according to the College Board. A similarly compelling statistic from the College Board suggests that the median 18-year old college student who graduates in four years will earn enough money by age 36 to fully pay off his or her loan debt, even if all tuition-and-fee payments were borrowed with interest. It's important to note this stat applies only to students who don't generate income during their 4-year college careers; students who do work during college can emerge from debt even sooner.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a 12% increase in employment opportunities is expected between 2012 and 2022 for career fields that require at least a bachelor's degree. Similarly, an 18% increase in openings is projected for fields that require an associate's degree. However, the BLS expects only an 8% uptick in available positions for individuals with a high school diploma. Clearly, job opportunities will likely be more widespread for college graduates in the coming years.
So What Does This Mean?
While a college education is no guarantee of wealth and success, reliable studies point to a truth that's hard to deny: Earning a postsecondary degree typically leads to more life-long opportunity and prosperity than a high school diploma. You might find success by taking a different route, but not everyone gets to be Mark Zuckerberg. For most of us, earning a college degree will help make things a bit easier in the long run.
Choosing not to follow a traditional career path is also a valid option for college grads these days.