October 24, 2012
Organization Communication MG320
Is College Education Worth It?
Getting a “good” job is not straightforward as it used to be. In past generations, someone in an entry-level position could work their way up the ladder simply through hard work and determination; whether or not one had credentials or a diploma mattered very little. This is not the case today. Higher education is now critical to obtaining a better job because the demand for skilled labor is rising. For this reason, the value that a degree offers is higher than that of one’s actual intelligence or merit. Furthermore, workers without college degrees will quickly be outpaced in position and salary by degree holders. Earning a college degree is no longer simply an option for potential job seekers, but a necessity for those wishing to advance in their careers.
With the cost of postsecondary education rising in leaps and bounds, potential students may wonder if the college education system is still worth investing in. Niall Ferguson (2012) states that at a sample of public colleges, average tuition and fees for in-state residents have risen by 25 percent since 2008; for private schools, these tuition and fees rose by 13 percent (p. 20). Similarly, over half (56 percent) of students are enrolled at four year schools with tuitions and fees of up to $9,000 a year with high-ranking institutions reporting costs upwards of $40,000 annually (Walker, 2010, p. 28). Although this cost has been offset for many students by the increase in government funding for education in the form of grants and entitlements, postsecondary expenses can be daunting. Yet, findings discussed later in this report reveal the vital importance of a college degree, not only in short-term job hunts but as a long-term investment over one’s lifetime. First, the demand for skilled labor has risen in America. According to Bound and Turner (2010), “collegiate attainment has not kept pace with increases in the demand for skilled workers in the United States” (p. 7). Although there has been a significant increase in the number of college attendees, the number of students actually completing a college degree has not increased proportionately (p. 7). One possible argument for the rising demand of college graduates is the reduction of blue-collar jobs as this nation moves into a technology and information-based economic market (Carnevalle, 2006, p. 90). Bankston (2011) says this trend might be consistent with the argument that advances in technology have created a rising demand for advanced credentials (p. 337). Other authors cite examples of how “a new technology may require that people have a degree to provide a product or service for which a degree was unnecessary ten years ago” (Whitaker and Zenker, 2011, p. 21). Others argue, however, that demand for jobs that require a college degree is simply a self-perpetuating result of the increase in college graduates. In 1940, barely five percent of American’s held a college degree; by 2008 that number had risen to 30 percent (Bankston, 2011, p. 326). One author credits the rise of degree requirements to the growth of government subsidies in the market of postsecondary education (Bankston, 2011, p. 336). As the government gives more money in the form of Pell grants (which has now been deemed an entitlement), more students attend college and obtain degrees. Bankston reasons that “one would expect that as credentials flood the market, they will purchase fewer opportunities” (p. 336). Over time this may mean that the value of a college degree may diminish and the gap in income and job opportunities between graduates and non-graduates will decrease. (p. 336). It may also mean that having only a bachelor’s degree will not be enough to secure a comfortable career. Debra Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, claims that “over the course of a lifetime, people with master's...