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College tuition and fees are continuously increasing, the United States has over $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, and with the COVID-19 global pandemic, the enrollment rate at 4-year colleges is decreasing

These differing trends present an interesting question: is college worth it?

Let’s break it down.

First, the latest facts must be presented.

1. There was a 136.5% increase in the average college tuition at a 4-year institution between the years of 2000 and 2020. This calculates to an annual increase rate of 6.8%.

2. Many job markets have not seen a drastic increase in their salaries. For example, in 2010 teachers in the United States made an average of $59,924 annually, but in 2017 they made an average of $58,950 annually. This example shows a decrease. How about nurses? Between 2011 and 2020, nurses saw only a 1.67% increase in their average annual salary. It went from $69,118 in 2011 to $80,010 in 2020.

3. As of 2020, 65% of all jobs in the US require a post-secondary degree.

4. In the US, 70% of college graduates took out student loans. The average student debt per student was about $30,000 as of 2021. Keep in mind, some students may take out more or less due to numerous circumstances. 

5. Two-thirds of people with bachelor’s degrees in this study regretted their degree with 51% of Baby Boomers having no regrets compared to just 37% of Gen Xers and 29% of Millennials. (As an analysis, the younger generations have significantly more regrets than the older generations.)

6. More than 30% of student loan borrowers are unable to pay back their loans.

Second, we will talk about my opinions based on the above statistics.

In short, I believe people must decide for themselves. I do think college is worth it. 

Why?

Money is not the only factor when determining whether or not one should go to college. While in college, I have gained multiple lifelong friendships, my significant other, and numerous life skills which I did not have before entering college (such as complex critical thinking, time and project management, and the knowledge of a specific community). 

If one wants to consider college strictly economically, I still think college is worth it. 

Point 1 above does take into account inflation. However, a question I have is whether or not it takes into account increasing prices the colleges have to deal with including ever-evolving technological advancements, increasingly expensive green and ecologically friendly construction material, and the standards which need to be met in order to attract new students (maybe Baby Boomers did not care as much about picturesque scenery across campus as much as Millenials did). While I do think college tuition and fees are drastically too much (keep an eye on my future articles to go more in-depth on this topic), I think the increasing price makes sense to a certain extent.

Point 2 above does not take into account the emotions of people. For example, my major in college has to do with teaching. Based on the economic statistics in Point 2, I should not be satisfied going to college. Granted, I have yet to have my own classroom. However, Point 2 does not consider my happiness in an education-related field versus a science-related field (who typically make more money). Personally, I do not excel, and thus do not feel happy, in science-related fields as much as I do in education- or English-related fields. Therefore, personally, I would be willing to make less money in order to be happy.

Point 3 above recognizes that over 60% of jobs require a post-secondary degree. Therefore, if you want a stable career, you are more likely to receive one if you have a post-secondary degree.

Point 4 above states an average of only $30,000 per student loan borrower. If a borrower pays $300 per biweekly paycheck (which is less than a third of the average biweekly salary in the US), they will only have to pay for about 50 months after graduation (which equates to less than five years). Say they would pay $150 biweekly… it is still doable within 10 years.

Point 5 above notes how the younger generations regret their college degrees more than the older generations. I do not believe this has to do with the college experience. I suspect this has more to do with the economic/money aspect than the overall college experience.

Point 6 above explains how approximately a third of student loan borrowers are unable to pay back their student loans. However, this does not account for students who did not go into their fields of study (thus reducing the use of their college degrees) or other costs of living. Even if we do not take those into account, the majority of people still find a way to pay their student loans.

Cheyenne Halberg is a student at Winona State University with a major in Communication Arts and Literature Teaching. She is from the outskirts of St. Cloud, MN. Cheyenne enjoys writing to express herself and empowering others to do what they love. Her hobbies include spending time with friends and family, watching football, spending time outdoors, crafting and writing. Her life goal is to leave an impression on the next generations that allows them to embrace their unique qualities.
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