Education Costs and Professional Success
An increasing number of people are unremittingly questioning whether higher education opportunities and benefits commensurate the costs associated with the pursuance of the latter. In fact, a while ago, PayPal’s founder, Peter Thiel, had proposed to pay $100,000 to young students who would drop out of college and establish a tech-related venture. Therefore, many people are interested why there is so much doubt about the worth of college costs, and whether a person will benefit from such an investment. Given the increasing university costs, the subsequent debts that students accumulate till their graduation, and the difficulties it takes to secure a job in today’s American economy, people are questioning the fundamental worth of such education. Debates on whether enrolling in elite colleges increases the chances of a graduate’s success have also attracted different opinions. Lastly, the fact that there are many examples of people who are successful without a degree does not help the argument proposing to invest in higher education. Analysis, however, based on the best comprehensive data available indicates that with the full set of expenditures and benefits taken into consideration, investment in higher education remains a wise economic decision.
Statistics indicate that in 2013, an approximate of 20 million students enrolled for college education. This was the highest number of enrollments compared to previous years. In the USA, enrollment for higher education is almost perceived as a trend and a prerequisite to getting well-paid jobs and a chance to rise to a more financially stable class. Further, the number of international students seeking higher education opportunities has also increased drastically. This is because the USA prides itself on the ability to offer a wider access to higher education owing to its excellence-based system. However, even with the increasing enrollments, a bigger number of people are struggling with the affordability of the same. The costs for such education are becoming ominously high. This trend has triggered the debate on whether such high costs determine one’s career success.
Research demonstrated the differences in earnings of bachelor’s degree holders since 1970’s with those who only have a high school diploma. The study helped to determine and demonstrate that costly higher education has more value than people see. The authors found that between 1970 and 2015, employees who had a bachelor’s degree (discounting the postgraduate degree holders) had annual earnings of approximately $64,500. Respondents with an associate degree earned about $50,000 whereas those with a high-school diploma earned about $41,000. People with a degree have a chance for better paying opportunities. The authors also assert that over the four decades included in the study, employees who hold a bachelor’s degree had a 56% higher earnings compared to high school graduates. As such, Abel and Deitz argue, if all people retire at the age of 65 years, bachelor’s degree holders will have earned $ 1 million more than those with a high school diploma. In the 70’s, graduates had higher earnings as employers were interested in educated people who would address the changes in consumer habits, bring new ideas to the business and had an array of skills. The same, of course, is still relevant today hence just like in the 70’s, today’s graduates still earn more. Inarguably, with higher incomes, one also has higher chances of achieving their professional and career goals thus proving the worth of higher education.
Investing in higher education has also been confirmed to be worth when it comes to unemployment rates. Research shows that in the calculation of unemployment rates, people without a college degree comprise a higher percentage. Further, during the harsh economic period experienced in 2014, statistics showed that the number of unemployed graduates above the age of 25 comprised 3.65% whereas high school graduates comprised a total of 7.5%. Gutmann adds that the scenario was the same during the great depression as the unemployment rates for degree holders were half of those with high school diplomas. Therefore, people who pursue higher education are likely to gain aptitude, demonstrate excellent task performance skills and other characteristics which separate them from those without a college education. This aspect may also explain the differences in earnings between the two groups. In Working in Florida, Enheinreich demonstrates the low earnings of people without a college degree. She is warned that chatting and friendly conversations are not for servers at Jerry’s but rather for “good looking young college educated servers in Carpaccio and Ceviche joins who make $70-100 a night. At Jerry’s Enheireich earned 2.13 dollars an hour, worked an eight-hour shift with her co-workers (for example Lucy), and could not afford insurance. This is probably because the employee did not have a college degree which would probably allow them to earn more or work at places such as Carpaccio. This demonstrates that college education places one in a higher earning bracket.
Students are usually crippled with loans upon their graduations, but the costs are worth as they equip students with skills and knowledge which in turn makes them competitive in the labor market. First, today, many higher-paying occupations such as those in the sphere of mathematics, computer, and engineering require graduate degrees. People who work in such fields are well-paid. The two employ the human capital theory to explain the necessity of a graduate degree for successful employees. The theory asserts that the abilities and knowledge that individuals acquire through higher education are usually rewarded with higher earnings. Of course, the two forms of human capital are abilities and knowledge, both of which are increasingly achieved through the pursuance of higher education.
Educated individuals have greater fluid intelligence. It comprises abstract reasoning, processing complex information, and attention among others. On the other hand, crystallized intelligence encompasses general knowledge, level of vocabulary, verbal comprehension as well as information on different general topics. Higher education gives one a chance to acquire the two types of intelligence, setting them apart in an employment scenario. The more one knows about the company and their competitors, for example, the more likely they are to be hired. Education plays a role in stimulating learner’s mind. Individuals with a degree are likely to score better on their IQ tests, giving them an added advantage over those without a college degree. Such individuals are also likely to be effective in their duties hence the greater chances of success in their careers.
In spite of being increasingly expensive, higher education is important as it also plays a major role in the class status in America. The more educated a person is, the more likely they are to move to a higher class. In Class in America, Mantsios demonstrates how different aspects set people in different class levels. He seeks to demystify four myths, one being that all people have equal chances of succeeding in America. However, this is not true. A good example is a comparison between Harold Browning, Bob Farrell, and Cheryl Mitchell. Born to extremely wealthy parents, Browning attends elite schools compared to Farrell who attends a regular college. Mitchel, on the other hand, drops out of college for financial reasons. All the three have their career and life goals, but Bob’s goal is easier to achieve based on his background. For Farrell, college education sets him apart from Mitchell as he works in a better-paying job. Having dropped out of college, Cheryl has fewer chances of improving her life. Education, as demonstrated by this example, plays a major role in class differentiation in the USA.
Questions arise on whether attending an elite college, with the resulting debts is worth it. People evaluate whether prestigious and expensive colleges are worth the investment, and will this impact their professional success. Researchers from the Rand Corporation as discussed in the New York Times had concluded that attending an elite school plays a major role in one’s career success. The study suggested that elite college graduates had significant returns compared to regular university graduates. Elite college students had an average earning that was 40% more than that of simple college graduates. Some students take an advantage of the institution reputation. Such elite institutions may also have an active and ardent alumni body which may play a huge role in determining who gets a job in a certain field and who does not. The authors assumed that students from less affluent backgrounds are likely to be more successful when they join elite universities as they will use the opportunity to build their skills and establish contacts that will enable them to land a job upon completion. There have been findings that only a small number of graduates from such colleges owe their success to their institutional affiliation, and an even smaller number of the same who have better work and life satisfaction. However, such schools provide students with better opportunities compared to others. As such, the rates of higher education may be particularly extreme in elite colleges, but the results are usually worth the investment.
However, even with the evidence that higher education plays a major role in one’s professional success, there are people who argue with the statement. One major counterargument is propagated by citing people who have become successful without a degree. Dell’s Computers founder Michael Dell earned about $20 billion after he dropped out of Texas University. At 27, Dell, without a degree, was listed as the youngest CEO in 1992 on the Fortune 500 list. Radio host Rush Limbaugh dropped out of Southeast Missouri State University only two semesters after enrollment. He went ahead to launch one of the greatest shows on radio and is estimated to have earned over $66 million. Bill Gates, one of the top three richest men on earth, also dropped out of Harvard University to co-establish Microsoft. With the earnings worth over $76 billion, the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows that success does not necessarily require a college degree. These are just a few of the many people who are cited as having being successful without a higher education degree.
However, the argument that university education is not necessarily important in achieving profession success is fundamentally flawed. Most of the examples cited to justify the argument describe undeniably talented people. One definitely needs a driven persona, talent, and an entrepreneurial spirit to make it without a college degree. Education, in most cases, is a stepping stone to career success and to rising through the American class level system. Countless people have become famous owing to the fact that they got a degree. Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, Blackboard Learn co-founder Michael Chasen, the 2012 American Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney, television host Jimmy Falon and the Big Bang Theory Actress Mayim Bialik among others. The number of people who have succeeded after pursuing higher education outdoes those without. Education, therefore, increases one’s opportunities and avenues to achieve professional success.
Other parties also argue that the costs associated with pursuing Master’s or Doctorate degree do not make sense in a country where unemployment is a major issue. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a Master’s degree at a public university might cost up to $40,000 whereas studying for the same in elite universities such as Harvard or Princeton could reach $120,000. The costs, however, may vary depending on the program being pursued. Further, studying for a Doctorate degree in the USA cost about $10,725 each year for public schools whereas private tuition of the same costs about $22,607 per year. With the thought that a doctorate program taking a minimum of five years, critics argue that the cost is not only unaffordable but also do not seem to make sense. However, the earnings of people who pursue such learning opportunities are way above those without a degree. According to the New York Times, the nation still doesn’t have enough graduates. Compared to those without a degree, graduates with a four-year degree earned 98% more hourly pay in 2013 compared to the 1980’s. This shows that Ph.D and Master’s holders earn even more, justifying the idea to invest in higher education.
Undeniably, the more one earns, the higher are the possibilities of achieving life goals and career success. Also some people do not enjoy their education benefits as they confine themselves to their areas of study. Education helps to expand one’s knowledge and hence, one should be open-minded to work anywhere. This will make it easier to see the benefits of investing in education.
In conclusion, the debate on whether higher education is worth the costs continues to generate different opinions and views. The amount of student loans accumulated by graduates is alarmingly high. This has led to some people questioning whether one needs the education to earn money. Further, questions abound on whether the costs of education are proportional to the career success of the graduate. This research has established that education plays an undeniably important role in the success of individuals. The more educated a person is, the higher his chances of achieving professional success are. People with a degree have higher aptitude, skills, and gather more intelligence and knowledge in the course of their education. People with degrees are usually retained in the case of recession or economic hardships. They are also likely to receive better-paying jobs as compared to those without a degree. As such, this study concludes that investing in higher education is worth the costs as it increases one’s success of achieving their career and professional progress.
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