Why Go To College? It's About More Than Money

Seems like a simple question, but before we talk about finding the right colleges, it’s important to articulate the answer especially given the costs involved. Your gut response to this question may have something to do with your ability to get a “good” job and make more money, and that is largely true. There is plenty of research indicating that higher levels of educational attainment correlate with higher pay and the gap in pay between high school and college grads has widened in the past 30 years. College grads can often earn double their high school graduate counterparts over the course of a lifetime, but the benefits do not stop there. There are also other benefits to both individuals and society when people attend college. College grads volunteer at higher rates and vote more often. They rely less on public assistance and have lower unemployment rates. Because people with a college education often earn more money, they also pay more to the government in taxes...if you’re the government, that means increased revenue, and the decreased reliance on public assistance means lower expenditures for towns, cities, states and the federal government.

President Barack Obama emphasized the economic power of a college education in his February 24th, 2009 speech to the nation. In it he said, “In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity it is a pre-requisite.” He also noted that three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma, but the number of students achieving this benchmark is far less.

So, does this mean everyone should go to college? Perhaps not everyone should go to college, but everyone should have that choice, and everyone could benefit from some type of post-secondary education. If you are an auto-mechanic wizard, you could make as much as a starting teacher, and you should pursue the level of education that will provide the maximum benefit for you. The same can be said of plumbers or electricians or many other fields.

Earnings should only be one factor in your career decisions!! Your decisions should not be governed solely by the all mighty dollar, but about happiness too. If the activities and professions that are likely to bring you happiness and fulfillment don’t require a college degree, then pursue whatever specialized training will help you achieve your goals. If a two-year degree will get you where you want to be, you will receive benefits from that level of college education and the cost will be quite reasonable.

For many, however, a college degree will help you achieve whatever professional goals and dreams may unfold. The other accompanying benefits mean good odds of a lifetime of dividends for you and your community.

If you want to know how much a particular career pays or what the demand is in certain careers, use the federal government’s Occupational Outlook Handbook located at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ or take a look at the Majors area of College Factual - http://www.collegefactual.com/majors/