A college degree is more like an insurance policy than a golden ticket. A college degree does not guarantee happiness, success and job security, but the odds are in your favor even in a recession. Overall, college graduates have higher salaries, greater job satisfaction and lower unemployment rates than workers with a high school diploma or less. Understanding the benefits of a college education will help you choose your best career path.

Importance of a College Degree

Scary news stories about rising student debt can frighten students away from college. However, in this increasingly automated, high-tech society, you can’t afford not to get some sort of postsecondary education if you want a good job. Blue-collar positions are being outsourced to other countries, and workers are being replaced by robots and machines.

Since 1992, jobs for college graduates that pay around $65,000 increased by 17.7 million compared to a loss of 1.5 million high-paying jobs for workers with only a high school diploma, as noted in 2017 by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. College graduates typically make $2.3 million over their lifetime, compared to workers with a high school diploma who average $1.3 million.

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Reasons to Go to College

Important reasons to go to college include acquiring the right skills and abilities that can help you land an entry-level job and climb the career ladder. Skills like communication, problem solving, decision making, data analysis and technology proficiency are transferable and allow you to adapt to changing workforce needs.

General education classes will help you become a culturally aware, well-rounded person with poise and self-confidence. You will also have the chance to experience the vibrant social scene of a college campus where concerts, engaging speakers, sports events, cultural events and fine art performances are happening all the time. You may make lifelong friends and establish social and business connections through classes, clubs and organizations like fraternities and sororities.

Benefits of a College Education

For many people, college is one of the most memorable experiences of their life. College is a time for finding yourself, gaining independence, figuring out a major and preparing for a meaningful career. Participating in a study abroad trip can deepen your understanding and appreciation of other cultures.

Internships, field work and community service give you soft skills and technical skills. Many students have an opportunity to work with professors on groundbreaking research projects. Campus jobs are available in offices like career services, residential life, student union and the computer center. Getting to know faculty and staff can help you network and learn about unadvertised jobs.

Calculating the Cost of College

The price tag for a college education varies from one school to the next. Tuition and fees at a community college are much lower than at an elite, four-year private school. The added cost of living, housing and travel fluctuates by city and state.

Minnesota example of 2018-2019 annual tuition and fees:

  • Anoka-Ramsey Community College: $5,049
  • Metro State University: $7,879
  • University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: $14,760
  • Argosy (private, for profit): $17,100
  • MacCalester (private): $54,344

Financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, GI benefits and loans can make even the most expensive school affordable for students meeting eligibility requirements. You can get an idea of your expected student and family contribution on a school’s financial aid calculator on their website.

If you are an excellent student, you should definitely pursue scholarships. Students from low-income backgrounds may qualify for merit- and income-based scholarships as well as state and federal grants that don’t need to be repaid. The importance of a college degree can make college a wise financial investment, especially for careers in the STEM fields.

About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.