How a College Diploma is More Than an Expensive Piece of Paper

Higher education has been under attack more than I've ever seen before.  Some politicians have spoken out saying that encouraging students to go to college is elitist.  The news media keeps talking about the rising costs of college and that it's not worth it anymore, especially for those who major in the humanities or liberal arts. People often mistakenly see college for the sole purpose of getting a job and making money.  While that is true, it is only part of all the benefits of going to college.

No one can ignore that it costs money to go to college; and the cost isn't getting any cheaper.  It is expensive to obtain a higher education.  Certain schools are more expensive than others, but it is still costly.  Some may argue that the climbing costs of college is widening the educational achievement gap between socioeconomic classes.  No matter how expensive a college education is, it is a worthwhile investment. 

These are, in this educated educator's opinion, the three most important benefits of having a college degree (not in any particular order):

Expanding Your Network
When I went to Cal Poly Pomona, I was taking classes with people around my age, within similar interests, and about the same stage off life.  This is when my friends and I met a lot of our closest friends.  It is often said that college is where you meet your friends for life; the aphorism exists for a reason.  I also got to build relationships with people in my major that opened doors for me in my career.  My various internships gave me real life work experience that complimented what I was learning in the classroom.  When I graduated, I was more prepared and employer-marketable than the typical college graduate.

A Higher Quality of Life
Trust me, a college degree does give people a higher quality of life.  I guarantee it.  A higher education expands people's opportunity for higher paying jobs.  That leads to raising one's annual and lifetime earning potential.  People with a college degree on average have a lower unemployment rate (4.1% in June 2012) compared to those with a high school diploma (8.4% in June 2012).*  Last year, people with a bachelor's degree had median earnings of $1,053 a week compared to $638 for those working with a high school diploma.**  Having more wealth helps people ensure that their basic needs met.  It also gives people and their families additional opportunities to enhance their lifestyles such as being able to afford more health care, attend and send their kids to educational activities (tutoring, summer camp, etc), and enjoy various recreational activities (sports teams, dance classes, skydiving, etc).  I can honestly say that the quality of my lifestyle would not be as high without my education.

More Social Capital and Leverage
I came out of college smarter, wiser, and more mature than I was when I first entered.  All the facts, theories, and concepts I learned in class (especially the complex ones) heightened my intelligence.  It expanded my view of the world.  My college experience made me open my mind to various perspectives.  It made me see the world in new and mind bending ways.  Something about what I experienced made me more mature.  It may have been all the people I interacted with, the broad range of material, the discipline it takes to graduate, or a mixture of it all.  I may never know.  What I do know is that my college education has helped me make more informed decisions in every choice I make (which usually leads to "better" results). 



References

*Bureau of Labor and Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t04.htm/

**Bureau of Labor and Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm/

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