The value of a college degree



Students at the University of Kentucky spend thousands of dollars every year to earn

their college degree, but many struggle with finding value in their investment after they

graduate.


In a society where people are making millions of dollars through social media platforms, the "college-is-not-for-everyone" movement has become more popular than ever. The value of

a college degree is a rising debate in the world of higher education, leading current students to

question if pursuing a college education is worth the financial strain.


The short answer is yes, a college degree is still worth pursuing. On average, people with

bachelor's degrees make 67% more income than non-college graduates.


Despite the cost of college tuition going on the rise, experts say obtaining a college education

puts job applicants one step higher than those with just a high school diploma. But with

increased employers starting to focus on skills over educational accomplishments, the need for a college degree varies.


College is one of the most expensive investments a person can make for themselves.

University of Kentucky faculty say it is important for students to know exactly what they are

investing in and should determine the worth for themselves.


“If you want to trade Bitcoin, then maybe a degree in Medieval Times Literature would not

be as useful as a medical student needing to jump through the hoops of medical school,” says

Michael Samers, a professor in the Department of Geography.


There is no doubt that college equips students with knowledge, skills and experience that

allows them the ability to adapt to a greater variety of jobs, careers, and life situations.


“College was never designed to just be a ticket for a job,” said Associate Professor Lynne Roche Phillips.


Outside of the extensive experience and skills that college prepares students with, the

question still holds: is the cost of attending college higher than the value of the degree? For

many, that answer is no.


The average cost for a student to attend college has risen to $10 thousand per year for a

public university and $37 thousand per year for private institutions. Yet, the average student debt

is $29 thousand.


Some say the rise has created the debate of return on value and argue that college should

be free. The debate has gained more traction than ever after being featured as a major policy in

the recent presidential campaigns of both Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.


President Biden promised to offer tuition-free community college to students across the country.


“I would love for it to be free, but what does free really mean?” University of Kentucky

Department of Integrated Strategic Communications Faculty Member Bobi Ivanov said.


Though some do believe that free college is the solution to solving the financial burden of

college on students, others are asking if it would really solve the problem of college affordability.

Price does act as a barrier to both college enrollment and completion rates, but there are other

factors that play a role in the issue of free college.


“I do believe free college would in some way create an equal plane, but it concerns me

that it will also create a larger divide,” said Diane Loeffler, College of Social Work senior

lecturer.


Loeffler says there are other ways to make pursuing a college degree more feasible financially,

mentioning that for those who may not have the resources to attend a large university, community college could be another great alternative, along with looking into grants, scholarships and other assistance methods.


Ultimately, the answer to the question of how much a college degree is worth is up to the

person pursuing it. College is more than just classes; it brings experiences that teach life skills

that will prepare each person to be productive citizens. College is not what makes a person’s

work valuable, but it can add value.


“Education is one thing that nobody can take away from you,” said Associate Director/Senior Counselor Kim Jones-Goldring.