Is Earning a Degree Worth Going Into Debt?
Starting around 1985, perspectives adopted by high school graduates concerning their ability to obtain viable employment that paid well and offered security began to change as technology experienced unprecedented advances. Gone were the days where 18 year olds could step out of high school and into a good-paying, stable factory job or other company position that offered “on-the-job” training. It was the latter half of the 1980s that found young adults enrolling in college in record numbers to obtain specialized knowledge about computers, electronics and health-related subjects which employees were demanding new hires know.
The Rising Cost of Earning a Degree
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of a four-year college degree has risen nearly 600 percent since the 1980s. In other words, earning a bachelor’s degree from a non-private, higher education institution 30 years ago cost between $8,000 and $10,000; today, this number is closer to $30,000, with lower tuition rates offered by accredited online colleges and universities. In fact, the amount of debt owed by college students has now gone beyond the $1 trillion mark and shows no sign of decreasing.
College Degrees Should be Considered Investments
Because the cost of tuition continues to rise, students undergraduate and graduate degrees need to consider whether the degree they seek will provide them with an adequate ROI, or return of investment. While the majority of professional careers demand degrees, some only require certifications that take less then two years to receive. Jobs such as certified nursing assistants, state-tested nursing assistants, small engine repair and trades such as carpentry and construction are entirely obtainable and lucrative if the person is dedicated and talented in these fields. The cost of earning a certification is generally less than $2000, depending on whether the student attends a traditional community college (more expensive) or online technical school (less expensive).
Bachelor, Master and Doctorate degrees that currently present high ROIs include:
- Physicians, surgeons, dentists and registered nurses
- Electronic, computer and electrical engineering
- Computer programmers
- Health care administration (hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities)
- Biomedical, pharmaceutical or bioengineering technician
- Marketing and advertising
- Business/financial consulting
Wages earned by individuals working in these positions are commensurate with being able to pay off tuition debt within several years of obtaining such a position. For example, an Engineering Science executive can expect to make enough money to eliminate his or her college loans in less then two or three years of working as a full-fledged surgeon making around $100,00 annually. However, attaining the title of an Executive is a long and arduous process involving eight years of school. There is so much growth and opportunities once you have a degree in Organizational Development and Leadership that the sky is the limit. If you want to make more, going for your bachelors or Ph.D. would be smart.
Unemployment Rates for People Without a College Degree
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the high cost of obtaining a college degree may be a necessary evil to avoid being chronically underemployed or unemployed. Increases in all employment sectors over the past 20 years indicate that those who are being consistently hired are people who have completed two or four years of college, with graduates offering bachelor degrees most likely to be hired. Another significant statistic shows that from 1992 until now, the number of workers with a college degree has increased from 25 million to nearly 50 million in the U.S.
Alternately, employment opportunities for those with or without a high school diploma have steadily been decreasing over the past two decades, regardless of whether the economy is contracting or booming. The relationship between unemployment and education is definitely inverse, meaning the more education a person has, the less difficulty there will be in obtaining long-term employment that pays at least $20 an hour.
As a consequence of technological advances requiring people with special knowledge and skills, both traditional and online universities are needing more professors, adjunct instructors and administrators to accommodate the burgeoning number of students seeking degrees. Although a teaching degree may not be a lucrative as a degree in bioengineering or medicine, it can still provide a variety of job opportunities for people earning such degrees.
Degrees Without Dependable ROIs
Although a college degree will increase your chances of obtaining employment, some degrees are considerably less conducive to earning enough money for the purpose of paying off student debt within a reasonable amount of time.
Liberal arts degrees are especially under fire in this day and age of escalating college tuition costs, with some politicians going so far as to suggest withdrawing federal financial aid for all liberal arts degrees due to their growing obsolete position in an economy focused on digitalized machinery, state of the art technology, entrepreneurship and financial astuteness.
Before deciding to enroll in degrees like art history, philosophy, communications, political science or anthropology, students should consider the negative implications involved with trying to find a job in those fields as well as the increasingly unfavorable view that employers are taking when reading resumes offering these types of degrees.
Affordable Online School Degrees
In order to reduce the amount of debt owed to private or federal agencies after obtaining a degree, many students are turning to online schools for their higher education needs instead of pricier, traditional universities. Online classes do not require students to physically be in attendance at specific times, which allows them to continue working full or part-time in order to help pay for tuition costs. Additionally, students do not have to pay extra to live on campus or commute to school, which saves on gas and car repair expenses. Nor do online schools have to charge students as much for tuition since they do not have the huge overhead found at brick and mortar colleges and universities.
To Degree or Not Degree?
Even with the high cost of education, getting some kind of degree is almost imperative today in order to access long-term job security, even if it may not be with the same company for 30 years. However, with accredited online universities now regulated by the U.S. Department of Education as well as several regional education agencies, students can obtain a valid and worthwhile degree while preventing tuition costs and extraneous fees from spiraling out of control.