The American dream is about creating a life of economic freedom. But with that opportunity comes with it great responsibility. The dream has always lead with the ability or chance to go to college. We have been indoctrinated throughout the last four decades that college is the best chance to make good on that American dream. Yet, as we look at the number of college graduates that are struggling to get jobs in their field of study, I think it’s time we don’t assume that this path is the best and most profitable.
The average four year state school education will cost approximately $65,000, which most students and parents are taking on in the form of loans. Add in interest, over a 10 -15 year period and you are looking at a hefty investment in the future of our children. Is it worth it?
Looking at a recent study conducted by The Georgetown Center the short answer is that yes, education is certainly worth it. The study does project that with 14 million future job openings, nearly half of those jobs will be filled by individuals with post-secondary education. But before you learn the college fight song or hit the university book store for bumper stickers, it’s important to understand just what kind of education these jobs will require.
It’s not the post-secondary education we tend to think of in terms of four year degrees. Half of those jobs will be suited for people with an associate’s degree or occupational certifications. Jobs such as electricians, construction, dental hygienist, paralegal and those in criminal justice are the winners in getting the most for your money.
And here is the part that is really going to hurt, theses jobs will pay more than many of the jobs held by those with a bachelor’s degree. In fact, “27 percent of people with post-secondary licenses or certificates-credentials short of an associate’s degree-earn more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient” as stated in a 2007 report, Preparing the Workers of Today for the Jobs of Tomorrow, by economists Harry Holzer and Robert Lerman.
Is a bachelors degree a bad thing? Not at all, but as the price for education rises at astronomical levels we need to become better consumers. Let’s not assume all of our high school graduates must go on to four year degrees. Let’s take a long look at what we are getting for our money and not assume that taking on 15 years of debt is the best price for success. It’s time to open our eyes and spend some time really understanding what we are getting for our money.