Is a College Education Worth It?

The cost of tuition at a community or vocational college worth the increase in career income. Vocational training and associate's degrees get you in the job market quicker.  Technical and Community colleges offer more personal instruction. Choosing technical or associates degrees is less expensive.

Vocational or community college can be a cost-effective alternative to high tuition rates.  An associates degree with sought after skills are a premium in the job market.  Berevan Omer was employed three days after graduation as a computer-networking engineer.  At a starting salary of $50,000, the two years of tuition will pay for itself in a year on the job. (Marcus, 2013, 1)   Many companies prefer to promote from within and also offer tuition incentives.   Getting in on the ground floor at one of these companies with an associate's degree can prove to be an even more cost-effective way to earn a bachelor's degree. For students that cannot afford the tuition prices at four-year colleges and universities, an associate's degree is an excellent vehicle to earning a decent salary.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, one in fourteen students at a community college has a bachelor's degree. (Community College Week, 2016, 9)  Colleges are not preparing their graduates for jobs that are in demand locally.  Community colleges often have programs sponsored by local companies that need specific skills.  A degree in Environmental Petrochemical Lab Technology commands a demand so high that most of Westenelt's students have a job by graduation.  (Community College Week, 2016, 10)  Healthcare professions such as Licensed Vocational Nursing, Radiology, or Certified Nursing Assistant are recession-proof.  The need is so great employment is guaranteed at many community colleges and vocational colleges.  For an immediate return on investment, it is hard to deny the ability for an associate's degree earned at a community college to pay off with immediate employment.  These degrees also provide a stepping stone to a bachelor's degree.  Not only does the student enter the workforce quicker, but with a clear path and possible tuition assistance through their employment, advancement is inevitable.

Choosing a technical or associate's degree college becomes more affordable by allowing the student to enter the job market quicker.    Coming out of college debt-free can be achieved by attending a community college.   These colleges are traditionally low cost.  By attending a college close to home, the student can live at home and save money on room and board.  In Kristina Lane's Community Colleges Deserve a Gold Age, she points out that fast-changing economies make community colleges the right choice for the middle class.   Community colleges often model their programs and degree offerings according to the local job market.  This summer, Texas Southmost College offered one free summer session class for each summer session to any student.  It allowed me to take a business class as a trial run.  After excelling in both summer sessions, I enrolled in full time this fall.  My previously unfinished degree will be completed in a year, and I know it will equate to a higher income. "Students who completed an associate's degree at a public or private college experienced an earnings gain of about 15-17 percent" (Oreopoulos, Petronijevic 2013, 9). My college tuition costs for three semesters are approximately 6000 dollars.  I will realize a return on my investment in two years.  I couldn't get a better return if I bought and sold a lot in two years.  But it's much more than just a monetary return;  it is a confidence return.   Those lessons can't be bought or learned, but completing the work it will trickle into better career earnings.   It doesn't have to end at an associate's or technical degree.  These degrees can be used as stepping stones to a bachelor's degree.  The student can now enter the job market and take classes at night or online to continue toward that goal and at a more comfortable earning level.  This path opens up many opportunities at a more affordable option.

The market is so saturated with degreed workers in specific fields, and many are unemployed. "We have a lot of bartenders and taxi drivers with bachelor's degrees," says Christopher Denhart, one of the coauthors of Community College Grads Out-Earn Bachelor's Degree Holders.  The current Covid crisis has not helped the situation either.  With restaurants and bars ordered to shut down, now those jobs are lost.  There is a hiring freeze in many fields while companies wait out the pandemic making the high cost of tuition and the burden of student loans a risk that some students may not need to take. "In 1969, public colleges and universities charged an average of $7,206, compared with $14,292 in 2012, after adjusting for inflation." ( (Bernasek, 2014, Pg.1)  The cost for one resident 12 hour semester at UTRGV is 4,458.56 dollars.  College tuition continues to rise.  Those costs could be recouped with a good job and worth the investment if a good job is to be had.  Being saddled with interest accumulating debt can be a lifelong burden.  Not being able to pay the student loan can affect the students' credit rating.

Bad credit ratings result in higher interest loans on cars, houses, purchases and may even affect the students' ability to get a job.  Many landlords check credit ratings for prospective tenants, resulting in renting in not such desirable neighborhoods.  College is not the only source of training for good jobs.  Plumbers apprenticeships and workers in the construction industry make a good living and are always in demand.  I obtained my insurance license after studying for two months and taking a test.  Real estate agents need only to pass the state exam and take six 30-hour classes to become licensed.  These are just a few careers that do not require a college degree and can quickly get you a decent salary. 


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