Working Students and Parents Ask: Is a College Degree Worth it?

Student Life: Marlin DeCamp, Jessica Whitehead and Whitney Wright at a Colorado State University Football Game Photo By: Jessica Whitehead

Student Life: Marlin DeCamp, Jessica Bruner and Whitney Wright at a Colorado State University Football Game
Photo Edited By: Jessica Bruner

The cost of college is more expensive now than it has ever been, and tuition keeps raising with no sign of slowing down. But with the rise in competition within the workforce, a college degree seems to be a bare minimum for the upcoming generation to make a decent living.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree make, on average, almost 85 percent more than those with just a GED.

Yearly Income:

  • High school drop outs: $18,734
  • High school graduates: $27,915
  • College grads (with a bachelor’s degree): $51,206
  • Advanced degree holders: $74,602

After considering not only the cost of tuition, but the cost of living, books, food, gas, bills and the list goes on, high school graduates and their families are reconsidering whether or not college is worth it.

“College can be very expensive and will often burden you with a lot of debt,” said Jared Moore, creater of collegeriskreport.com. “College education in the United States is becoming a financially risky pursuit.”

It’s a risk more and more people are willing to take due to the heightened level of competition in the workforce. Over the course of 40 years, someone with a bachelor’s degree will make on average $2,048,240 while those with only their high school diploma will make $1,116,600. That’s nearly a million dollars more.

“I think getting at least a two-year degree is worth it,” said Moore. “If you aren’t sure whether or not to go to college, people should consider getting their associates since it’s relatively inexpensive and still looks good.”

With the rise in tuition and living expenses, there has also been a rise in the percent of students who have to work their way through college. In 1990 about 50.8 percent of students held a job while attending college. 22 years later in 2012, that number rose to about 76.4 percent of students.

“It’s important for these kids to learn how to make and manage their own money before they graduate from school,” said Karen Wickel, parent of three students at CSU. “Times are hard for us, and of course I help them when they need it, but you have to have working skills along with your skills as a student to succeed.”

The majority of parents, as of now, still believe that pushing their kids to achieve a higher education is the right choice. However, they are less likely to provide 100 percent of the cost of living their kids may need to get through school.

84 percent of students say they admitted to needing more education on financial management. While students may be working through school for extra spending money, studies show that it’s important for them to wean off their parents’ wallets by taking responsibility for at least some expenses. Whether that be groceries, gas, bills, rent or all of those combined, there’s no better way to learn financing that to just do it.

While most students receive at least some help from their parents, the recession made it hard for some parents to send their kids to school at all. Ross Clements, senior at CSU, took matters into his own hands.

Clements has worked full time since he was old enough to, saving up to send himself to school with no financial help from his parents. His hard work continues to pay off for him now that he’s attending CSU in pursuit of a degree in Health and Exercise Science.

“I go to class, then work, then class, then I donate plasma, then back to work at another job and then homework,” said Clements.

As if being a full time student with two jobs wasn’t enough, Clements has also been donating plasma twice a week for the past three years to have extra money.

There has been a lot of debate about whether or not college is worth the cost. Especially with the rate of tuition rising at twice the rate of general inflation.

Kevin Carey, who is a director of education says, “Yes, people need to go to college in order to have a fighting chance at a well-paying career.”

On the opposing side, Richard Vedder, Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity says, “Although college graduates do stand a better chance of getting a higher paid job, the expense and time that it takes to pay back the cost of the degree  may not be worth it.”

In the next 20 years, if the tuition keeps rising at the same rate, certainly more people will have their doubts about making the commitment. But for now, it’s right on the border.

Some experts say that college has become more about just getting a degree than actually learning the skills appropriate to specific areas of the workforce.

“It’s becoming less and less about what you’re actually studying, and more and more about just having a piece of paper that says you got through the four years,” said Vedder.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 about 30 percent of adults had a college degree. In Fort Collins, 43 percent of adults have theirs. It’s partly because of that high number that Forbes has named it number seven in best places for businesses and careers. 

That number is steadily climbing as more and more students are enrolling in higher education. In 2012, about 70 percent of high school students were enrolled for college after graduating.

“Putting three kids through school hasn’t been the easiest thing for us to do financially, but it was something we all agreed was necessary,” said Wickel. “They all work part time, which is enough to pay for their rent and basic living expenses. I mean, there’s not much left for fun money, but hey, welcome to the real world.”

Check out my Infographic for information on student working and spending habits:

Student Habits

 

3 thoughts on “Working Students and Parents Ask: Is a College Degree Worth it?

  1. My feeling is that a lot of kids these days expect their parents to fund their higher education, with no responsibility on their part to participate. It is getting harder and harder, also, for these parents to save for their own retirement, especially, after paying for their kids’ education. It is the parent’s responsibility to get their kids through high school, and if they are able, then it is a privilege for the kid for them to fund their higher education. College is not party time – with the cost increasing as this article says, it’s serious business for everyone to do their part and make the most of the opportunities that everyone can afford. That means that it’s time for the kids to work hard, including their school work and participating in the investment of their futures. They have the rest of their lives to make their way in the world, while the parents only have so many earning years left. It should definitely be a well thought out decision, made between the parents and the kids, with clear understandings of the expectations. If you really want to succeed if life, learn how to budget your money, work through summers to help pay for the next year, and truly plan for your INVESTMENT to pay off for you!

    • Melissa, I added this paragraph in response to your comment:
      84 percent of students say they admitted to needing more education on financial management. While students may be working through school for extra spending money, studies show that it’s important for them to wean off their parents’ wallets by taking responsibility for at least some expenses. Whether that be groceries, gas, bills, rent or all of those combined, there’s no better way to learn financing that to just do it.

      I think it is crucial for parents to begin cutting off their kids sooner rather than later. I don’t mean cutting them off 100 percent. But rather “weaning” them off. Slowly but surely, making them pay for their phone bill, then gas, then food, then rent, then insurance all throughout college so that by the time they graduate they will be able to completely be on their own.

      I’m a student at CSU and that’s what I have been doing with my parents gradually over the last few years. It started with buying my own food and gas, then bills were put in my name for apartments, then I got off the family plan and got my own Verizon account. Granted it’s cheaper to stay on family plans, but to me it’s more valuable to have it in my own name with my own plan (plus I get both a student, and a Red Lobster discount). Now I pay rent, and slowly but surely I’m making my way to being able to stand on my own two feet. Of course they help me all the time, but more students need to have these responsibilities if they want to learn how to finance their money.

      This, in turn, also takes some pressure off the parents retirement fund!!!!!!!!!! It’s a win-win!

      Thanks for your thoughts Melissa!

      • Just one more thought, Jessica. I feel that parents should start giving their kids lessons in financial management during their high school years. If your child is working after school and/or during school breaks, help them establish a checking account and a savings account, and teach them how to be responsible with that. They need to know how their decisions about money can affect their credit history, before they leave home, whether it’s to go to college or not. If more parents would do this, there would be a lot less people out there that are over their heads in debt and wondering how they got that way. I could go on and on, as it is a subject that I’m passionate about, but I’ll leave it at this for now.

        Thank you for the interesting blog. I hope that you continue it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s