College is a time to grow up, have some fun, and receive a good education. In the past, colleges have been regarded as prestigious and an essential stop on the road to success and wealth. While many still regard college in this way, recent years have led many to question this reputation.
There has been a great deal of debate lately in regards to the importance, or even relevance, of a college education in today’s ever-changing technological world. What was once the one-stop shop that almost guaranteed a fruitful career filled with success and climbing the professional ladder, is now being questioned.
Drawbacks of a College Education
There are many reasons why people are becoming skeptical of a traditional 4-year college as one of the avenues to a successful career. Among other commonly disputed points, we’ll be looking at the prices, increase in debt, and the value of the degree itself.
- Skyrocketing Prices
There is no debate that over the past few decades the price of obtaining a degree from a 4-year college has increased exponentially. In 1989, the average cost of attending a 4-year college was approximately $52,000. By 2016, the average had nearly doubled to be almost $105,000. And from recent reports, it doesn’t look like the price increases will be slowing down anytime soon.
Getting a degree used to be the ticket to a successful career, but with the prices making it more and more out of reach for middle to lower class students, more assistance was needed for people to be able to afford.
Throughout the past few decades, the availability of student loans has also skyrocketed along with the prices. While student loans can be a wonderful tool to help those in need receive a quality education that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive, it can turn problematic in the years following graduation.
Being able to receive student loans has arguably played a big role in the increase in enrollment, but it has come at a cost.
It has been found recently that over 54% of all college attendees acquire some form of student loan debt throughout their time pursuing a degree, with the average amount of debt being around $34,000.
Leaving your 4-year institution in significant debt can be overwhelming and, quite frankly, daunting for many. Getting a job after graduation then becomes a necessity to paying off the loans before the interest rates continue to climb. Instead of being able to buy a home or build a fruitful business, students after graduation are having to pay these huge bills.
- Value of a Degree
Because of the lightning speed at which technology is changing and the availability of countless online educational opportunities, many wonder if a degree from a college is worth the debt accumulation and very high price tag. Is it actually a good return on investment?
For example, if you are wanting to pursue a career in marketing you may ask yourself, Why should I spend four years learning about marketing when there are hundreds of free and for pay courses that I can utilize from home? It’s a valid question. We actually recently posted about 10 free online marketing tools for every “hands on” marketer, and there were so many more to choose from!
Another thing to consider with questioning the value of a traditional degree is the rise in entrepreneurs and small businesses that seem to be popping up everywhere these days. Social media, such as Instagram, has become a huge platform for self-promotion and building your business.
Benefits of a College Education
Yes, there are a lot of drawbacks to getting a college education, but do these drawbacks warrant claiming that a college education is “dead”? Before we decide, let’s take a look at some of the many benefits of a college education including: a qualified degree, social networking opportunities, and supporting research from the institutions.
There is no debate that graduating from an Ivy league college or a school with a great reputation for high standards will do wonders for your resume. While there are so many alternative learning programs out there, many jobs require a four-year degree as a minimum requirement for employment.
It almost seems like these days that more and more jobs are requiring a traditional degree which could definitely create a pressure to attend. However, with more and more information and learning being offered alternatively, this may change in the future.
Another less often discussed benefit of attending a traditional higher education school is the power of networking. From getting to know professors, building relationships through classes, and even simply having the “traditional college experience”, you are constantly building connections. This is something that would be incredibly hard to replicate from alternative education forms as there is significantly less social interaction.
- Supporting Research
Many college and university professors devote their life to discovering the newest technologies and science discoveries. By learning from a program online or another alternative education route, you would miss out on learning from these life-changing professors. Your money would also not be going towards their research, which is essential for continued development in all of the different fields.
By “alternative education”, we are looking at any platform online or in-person in which a person can gain knowledge. Some forms of alternative education may include special certifications for completion while others may simply provide information. Likewise, some alternatives to a college education are free while others have a price tag. There are many benefits and drawbacks to learning in this way as well. But does it have the potential to completely replace college education?
There’s no debate that learning skills in areas other than at a traditional college is exponentially more affordable. With the money that you have saved from not attending a traditional college, you could use it to invest in other business ventures or diversify your education by learning a variety of skills. This could help you to become better marketable to future employers.
- Unlimited Options
Typically, in college, you must select one major and if you’re lucky a minor to go along with it. With a non-traditional education, such as online learning, courses, specified certifications, and more, the options can seem limitless.
Along with this, learning in an alternative way can provide you with the opportunity to learn a very specific, niche skill that may not be offered at a regular higher education institution. If you want to learn how to become a photographer, you can find specific classes for the different types of photography. Meanwhile, the college you selected to attend, may only have a broader entry level class.
Want to start your own business? Instead of majoring in business, you could take business classes, marketing programs, and so much more. The world of marketing alone has so many opportunities from how to begin to some really advanced, in depth learning.
Again, with alternative learning, the sea of knowledge is vast, but it will definitely require a trained eye to decipher the content’s credibility. Learning at a college, you know that the professors have the required credentials to be teaching the content.
For colleges to be considered completely “dead”, alternative education opportunities would need to have more accountability for their credibility.
After all of this, the question is still left to be answered...Is college education dead?
Yes, we are in a golden age of technology with endless resources for further education constantly at the tip of our fingers, but does that warrant the ending of all college institutions and declaring them “dead”?
There is still some very significant merit to be earned from colleges and universities depending on their reputation and the quality of the school. However, many people are finding that the return on their investment of education leaves a great deal to be desired.
Decades ago when college was more affordable, they would be able to leave the institution with little to no debt and start their career right away with a promising job. Now, with student debts soaring along with the prices of attending college, people are seeing much less returns on their investment beyond the piles of student loan debts.
So, to answer the question of whether or not a college education is dead...we would say “it depends”. It depends on what you are going to school for. It depends on how much debt you will have to acquire. It depends on the quality of school you are attending. At the end of the day, college will be a perfect fit for some while alternative forms of education will be a perfect fit for others. What is important is that you research and make the best decision for yourself, your future, and your desired career path.