The value of education has been recognized since antiquity. Education was considered the path to enlightenment and understanding, and in many cases, to God. But never before has it been such a pivotal determinant of financial stability, professional success and, essentially, happiness. A college-going culture has been firmly established in our society as higher education has been thought of as a ticket to secure employment.
In recent years however, the value of higher education has been called into question as millions of college graduates have struggled to find employment worth a degree. Nothing can be as disappointing as landing a clerical position as an economics major. Yet such cases are commonplace in the realm of post-college employment. So with all things considered, is a college degree truly worth it?
Even amid such inauspicious circumstances, saying that higher education is "necessary" for employment and success is itself an understatement. Many skeptics of higher education fail to put into perspective the difficulty in gaining employment without a college degree altogether. Take into account the still-recovering economy and one can accept that attending college is the safest route to financial security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate of college graduates is 3.2%, compared to 6.2% for high school graduates (August 2014). There is also a significant income gap between those with and without a Bachelor's degree - $45,500 and $28,000, respectively (Pew 2013).
These disparities in unemployment rates and income have several implications. First, unemployment entails emotional stress, anxiety and even depression. It can markedly decrease quality of life and hinder future job opportunities. Those who are unemployed often resort to criminal activity, to make ends meet; and substance abuse, to cope with stress and feelings of despondency.
Difficult financial situations impact not only the individual, but also the family and community at large. Financial disagreements between couples can ruin a family, taking a great toll on children. The psychological effects on children negatively impact their mental well-being and academic performance. Children then are unable to attend college, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Therefore, job security is a compelling reason to consider a higher education.
Pursuing a college degree may seem daunting at first, especially in terms of costs. However, one must note that college pays for itself. Today, on average, it takes ten years to recover the costs of a Bachelor's degree (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Despite all the evidence, views dismissing the value of higher education are still relatively prevalent. The sole premise of such views is that "graduates suffer a mismatch between education and employment and hold jobs that don’t require costly degrees". In order for there to be a shift in views about higher education, college institutions need to take certain steps to ensure that their graduates are successful.
Without excellent career counseling programs, colleges will maintain unsatisfactory "degree-relevant" employment rates. The aim of these programs would be to guide college students towards ideal career paths that are high in demand, secure and personally rewarding. Although such services are available, several factors including limited staffing, extended wait times and counselor incompetence inconvenience students avidly seeking valuable career advice and guidance. These setbacks can be removed through two things - counseling psychology curricula that focus on career counseling for college students and, of course, state funding.
In order for colleges to provide high quality counseling services, they need to properly educate the next generation of college counselors. By developing a standard curriculum for prospective college counselors, colleges will solve their side of the problem. With knowledgeable and specialized counselors, students will be able to make the right decision regarding their career paths.
State funding is also necessary for improving counseling programs and increasing staffing. But nationwide budget cuts have made that seem unlikely. States that cut funding of public universities jeopardize not only the efficient operation of their institutions of higher education, but also the futures of millions of students. The nation as a whole must make the right decision and invest in what will cultivate productive members of society - the proper education of its youth.
Though education has been valued throughout history, specific views and practices have constantly changed. In the U.S. for example, primary and secondary education went from being understated to emphasized and exclusive to inclusive. As the job market's needs change, tertiary education will attain a similar universality, and its value will no longer be questioned.
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