The Value of a College Degree, According to Students

    OES services for college students

    No matter how much we may want to return to our lives and habits before the COVID-19 health crisis became a primary focus all around the world, many analysts believe some things will be changed forever by the novel coronavirus. 

    According to Forbes, the world of higher education may be one such institution that never regains its former self. Social distancing recommendations have had a profound impact on the structure of conventional academia, forcing many to turn to digital outlets instead. With colleges making the decision to move more classes online and millions of students across the country unsure whether they would return to in-person classes, either way, the future of the standard university experience seems to be in jeopardy. 

    With this in mind, the value of a college education may be coming under fire again. Many schools may continue to employ online classes and remote learning, forcing students to wonder – is this what I paid for? For a closer look at investing in your education, surveyed over 1,000 college and high school graduates to get their perspective on the importance – and economic value – of earning their degrees. 

    Is It Worth It? 

    While 17% of students remain unsure over the investment value of going to college, 68% of students agreed higher education is a good investment. Just 15% of students were confident going to college wasn’t worth the expense or time. 

    Among those in concurrence with the notion that getting a college degree is worth what you pay for it, the most common explanations included having more career opportunities (76%), better work benefits (69%), and investing in the future (65%). Less than half of students who perceived college as a worthy investment believe having a degree equals better job security (39%) or better networking opportunities (32%). 

    Even in retrospect, the cost of tuition may not be a discouraging factor. Despite 89% of college graduates agreeing that earning their degree was too expensive, 74% said they would do it all over again if they could go back in time.

    Job Opportunities With A Degree

    Still, having a formal degree under your belt may not always make you a shoo-in for job opportunities after school. Compared to 48% of students with high school diplomas, just 33% of college graduates managed to secure a job less than one month after graduating. In contrast, it took 1 in 5 college graduates between six and 11 months to secure a job after graduating, and 14% needed more than one year. 

    While students with college degrees turned to online platforms (31%) and networking (31%) to help identify job opportunities, high school graduates more commonly utilized friends and family members (31%) to help them find work.

    And while high school grads may land jobs more quickly, students with college degrees earn more on average. Compared to students with a high school diploma earning just over $38,000 a year, college graduates reported making $51,000, on average. A majority of college grads believed it was their education that helped them secure higher salaries earlier in their careers. 

    Cost vs. Reward 

    There’s no denying going to college will cost you money, too. Three in four college grads admitted they couldn’t have afforded their education without the help of student loans, even if they didn’t always understand the terms. Overall, just 63% of college graduates understood how student loans worked when they took one out, and only 36% were happy with the decision to utilize student loans. 

    Even if you make more money with a college degree, you could be paying them off for years to come. Nearly 2 in 3 (63%) former students in their 30s were still paying off their student loans, followed by more than 1 in 3 (36%) former college students in their 40s. With an average monthly payment of $223, college grads in their 40s reported an average remaining balance on their student loans of over $25,000. 

    The value of college ultimately depends on the career you pursue and opportunities your degree opens up for you. Even if you believe your education is a worthy investment, there’s no denying the associated costs. In all likelihood, you could be paying on that “investment” well into your 40s if you take out student loans without fully understanding the terms or repayment structure.


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