Is College worth it?

Oct 052003
Authors: Taryn Foellmer

The expenses of tuition, books and living arrangements leave some college students with dreams of striking it rich, or at least making a decent income.

“Since college has become a standard for everybody, I came here to better my chances in the marketplace and make more money,” said freshman Danny Ziegler, an open option major.

According to Ann Malen, director of CSU Career Center, Ziegler and other students attending college are on the right track to increasing their earnings.

“Students will find that a college degree is the basic requirement to get their foot in the door for most careers,” Malen said.

Malen said employers look for a variety of workers from managers to accountants. However, the one thing all employers seek is a college degree, she said.

“More education is almost always a worthwhile investment. It is important to look at it as an investment because you are investing time, investing money, investing effort,” said Steven Shulman, a CSU professor of economics.

Shulman believes that just as with investments in stocks, there is a substantial return on investments in education.

The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census’s “March Current Population Survey” shows there is a gap between the median annual earnings of a person with a high school diploma and someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

A male high school graduate earned $26,399 in 2000, while a male with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned about $42,292.

The median annual earnings of a female high school graduate in 2000 were $16,573. A female with a bachelor’s degree or higher had an annual earning of $32,238.

“Actually getting a degree sends out a signal to employers that you have the type of personality they are looking for, that you are reliable and you have self-discipline,” Shulman said.

However, college may not be the best option for all students.

“A four-year degree is not necessary for all students to be successful. For some, a two-year associate’s degree, job-specific training or the military would be best,” said Andrea Tribelhorn, a counselor at Fort Collins High School.

She said if students are not motivated, a year off could help them avoid wasting money.

“There will always be opportunities for schooling and further education, so waiting until you have a goal and a direction might be a good idea,” Tribelhorn said.

The acquisition of skills, Shulman said, is an important determinant of economic success.

Other factors, such as students’ personality and ambition, also impact how employers will value them, Shulman said.

Most employers view people who have graduated differently from students who do not finish college, he said.

“Somebody who goes to a community college for two years and graduates has achieved their goals. A person who goes to college for two years and drops out has failed to achieve their goal,” Shulman said.

Besides advantages in the workforce, college can offer some students a feeling of accomplishment.

“There are a lot of benefits to college besides a degree. It makes you better prepared to deal with issues in the world and gives you a broader perspective,” Malen said.

College is a place for students to transition from high school to the real world.

“College gives you time to grow up, learn more about who you are and who you want to be, in a place that is not exactly the real world,” said Amanda Ross, a senior horticulture major.

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