Since we were children, we were told that a 4-year college degree would be necessary for an enjoyable quality of life. However, did this not disparage many careers not requiring a traditional 4-year degree and encourage us to choose from a range of careers that required that 4-year degree?
It was common for parents and teachers to warn us about “digging ditches” and other hardships we were implied to face if we did not pursue a degree, often neglecting to discuss apprenticeships and other alternate career routes.
Many careers essentially require some form of degree to qualify for an entry position, but it is also often noted that a degree is not enough to stand out on a résumé. A degree is not the proof of competency or value that we expect it to be. Perhaps the traditional 4-year degree is not worth the increasing costs.
We must consider the practical value of a college degree. Of course, there are many benefits in terms of personal growth and a rounded education, but these cannot be directly valued. What can be valued is the typical costs and risks in the current economic climate. Here, one must consider that potential failure is a possibility. Using Morehead State University as an example, according the U.S. Department of Education, less than 41% of MSUd students graduate, and only 52% of those graduates make more than a high school graduate.
This means any debt accrued by the other 59% goes unrewarded, and that debt will follow them until it is repaid or possibly forgiven. This is a substantial concern for those highly dependent on loans to cover the costs of admission. This also makes the pursuit of a degree a considerable risk that many of us felt pressured into taking when we were still in high school.
On the subject of high school, it is important to consider what an uncertain time this is for a person, and how often high school students are encouraged to make major life choices like pursuing college. That often entails taking on loans, a considerable act seemingly brushed over.
As the costs of education continues to rise, we should continue to question the value of a traditional college degree.