Value of College

Apr 4th, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, Career advice, career challenges, challenges, mentor, personality, success

There are a lot of articles floating on the web questioning the value of a college degree.   Several try to answer the question of the value of your degree based on earning power versus cost.  The rational is that as the cost of attending college rises, the financial burden may negate the benefits of a college education.  Do investments in education pay dividends?

A recent Wall Street article “What’s a Degree Really Worth” http://marypilon.blogspot.com/2010/02/how-much-is-your-college-degree-really.html discusses the cost of a college degree and the projected earning power of those with college degrees versus those with high school degrees.  Considering the time, expense, and lingering student loan debt, coupled with the projected statistical earning power of a college degree illustrates the possible diminishing ROI (return on investment) of a college degree.  Is this really the case?

One problem I see with comparing the salaries of college graduates to non-college graduates is the changing landscape of America’s job market.  Manufacturing jobs, which were once the main source of income, are continuing to disappear at an alarming rate.  When I graduated from college in 1972, I started at a much lower salary of my high school friends who were working in the local steel mills.  They had better benefits and appeared to have a clear path of steady employment.  By the 1980’s most of the steel mills and related fabricating plants were closed, and my friends were out of work.  In the meantime my salary continued to increase and my job security grew more stable as I advanced into more responsible positions.  Although my displaced high school friends found jobs in other industries, it was for lower wages and less benefits.  Now approaching retirement, most are depending on Social Security as their sole income.  Currently the country is in a even deeper recession than the 1970’s and the re-employment predictions are for a decrease in wages and benefits when the recession ends.  Without a college degree the chances of finding a job that will support a middleclass life style are not good.

There are several skilled jobs such as electricians, plumbers, draftsman, computer specialist, etc, that have the potential to make middleclass wages, but these career fields are becoming over crowded.  With the current economic downturn there is even more pressure on skilled labor professions to find employment.  Even those who are self employed are finding it difficult to make ends meet, and the long range forecast is for more of the same.

Although a college degree is not the ticket to a secure financial future that it once was, the path for the high school graduate is even less clear.  A college degree is still a respected credential that can open the doors of opportunity.  How to take advantage of those opportunities requires developing a successful career strategy.  The saying  “Education is never wasted” is as true today as ever.

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The Practical Mentor

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