STUDENT LIFE / JUN. 01, 2015
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The Pros and Cons of Attending College

Without a college degree, what are you going to do? Are you going to sponge off your parents forever? Well, you are not alone.

According to a new survey by USA Today and Bank of America, 40 percent of adults, aged 18-34, still ask their parents to help pay for rent, and credit card and cellphone bills. But it’s time to get real; at some point you will have to leave the nest for good.

And yes, there are plenty of opportunities out there for those without a college degree. According to ManpowerGroup’s 2015 Talent Shortage Survey, there’s a global shortage of skilled trade workers such as drivers, sales representatives, chefs, butchers, bakers, mechanics, and administrative assistants. There’s nothing wrong with any of those professions.

On the other hand, if you get a college degree, you could earn up to a $1 million more over a lifetime than you would with just a high-school diploma, says a new study. Now that should put an end to all of the excuses. If not, check out the following top three pros of going to college in 2015—starting with the top two cons since you still have doubts.

See also: 5 Ways to Make Sure You Have a Constructive Gap Year

1. Con: The Economy

No, there aren’t any guarantees. Just because you go to college, it doesn’t mean that you will get a job in your field of study, especially since 2009. According to The Washington Post, America’s unemployment rate doubled to over 15 million people out of work “at the peak” of the Great Recession. As a result, the job market had become extremely competitive, and employers had their pick of the very best, says The Washington Post.

“The result was an army of underemployed workers,” wrote Ylan Q. Mui. “One analysis estimated that half of all recent college graduates in 2012 were either underemployed or out of work.”

Those with bachelor’s degrees, who couldn’t get a job in their fields, Mui said, were working as waitresses and receptionists. But, Mui added, “The era of the overeducated barista is coming to a close.”

In other words, the economy, by most accounts, is improving. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy produced over 220,000 new jobs in April, and the increase in jobs and more people entering the labor force yanked the unemployment rate down to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent, “marking the lowest level since May 2008”.

“Over the past year, high skill jobs accounted for more than 80 percent of net job growth,” said Mui. “Not only has that translated into stronger employment for college graduates, but it also means firms are increasingly hiring those with less education into high skill jobs as well.”

It’s really too bad that employers don’t offer advances to future employees. So if you decide to go to college, you may have to apply for a student loan.

2. Con: Student Debt

The bad news is that approximately 70 percent of students graduate from four-year colleges with student loans, according to the USA Today/Bank of America survey. Many of those who have borrowed money for college often find themselves in a tangled weave of bills to the tune of $1.19 trillion in student loan debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as reported by Catherine Curan in the New York Post.

“Credit profiles are destroyed, homes and retirements are put at risk, and families land in bankruptcy court,” Curan wrote. “Even then, in most cases higher-education loans, which average more than $30,000 per bachelor’s degree recipient, can only be deferred in bankruptcy, not discharged.”

The good news is that it’s a good time to apply for an education loan.

3. Pro: Interest Rates

In March, President Obama signed a new memorandum, the Student Aid Bill of Rights, which tasks the U.S. Education Department with developing a more user-friendly website by July 2016 to make it easier for borrowers to file complaints about federal student lenders, servicers, collection agencies, and even their schools, according to Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of The Washington Post.

“The move is the latest in a series of steps the administration has taken to promote college access and affordability, including expanding a program that caps student loan payments to 10 percent of a person’s income for 20 years,” Douglas-Gabriel wrote. “It comes at a time when student debt has surpassed $1.3 trillion and the average graduate is leaving school with nearly $29,000 in education loans.”

In addition, according to MarketWatch, interest rates on federal school loans are expected to fall significantly over the course of the 2015-2016 school year. In terms of federal Stafford loans for undergraduates, the rates will drop to 4.29 percent from 4.66 percent from last year, and Parent PLUS loans will drop from 7.21 percent to 6.84 percent. The problem, however, is that it may not happen again anytime soon.

“The falling interest rates are a ‘one-time anomaly’,” Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of Edvisors.com, a financial aid information website, told MarketWatch.

Why? Well, it’s because the interest rates for most federal student loans are “tied to the last auction of the 10-year Treasury note”. That means the rates on student loans will also rise if the Federal Reserve “raises interest rates in response to a growing economy.”

The point, by applying for an education loan now, is that you will be investing in your future. But the key is to select the major with the best earning potential. Then you will be earning enough money to pay off your school loans.

4. Pro: More Money

Depending on which major you choose, you could end up helping your parents with their bills and having plenty of disposable income left to do whatever you want. According to a new study by the Georgetown University, architecture and engineering majors are paid the most, while education majors are paid the least.

The study, which examined the salaries of over 130 college majors to discover the economic benefit of earning an advanced degree, also found that graduates with degrees in top-paying college majors earn $3.4 million more than those with the lowest-paying majors over a lifetime. Needless to say, the big income earners include STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), health, and business majors with average annual wages of $37,000 or more at entry level and an average of $65,000, says MarketWatch.

And even if, for whatever reason, you are unable to enroll in college courses now, just remember: it’s never too late!

5. Pro: Anthony Brutto

Still wondering whether or not it’s a good idea to go to college? Try sharing all of the above excuses with 94-year-old Anthony Brutto who graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree a few weeks ago. His first attempt was back in 1939 when he majored in engineering. Soon after, he was drafted to serve in World War II and of course life had gotten in the way of earning a degree.

"It was always important to me to graduate," Brutto said in a profile on the university’s website.

See also: How to Pay Off Student Loans Faster

The point is that he never lost sight of his goal. And over 70 years later, Brutto became one of the oldest WVU graduates. The other one was a 94-year-old student that graduated in the 1990s, says The Washington Post.

So, what’s your excuse again?

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