Free Is College Education Worth It? Essay Sample

With the growing intensity of professional competition in the labor market, college education is becoming a source of a strong competitive advantage for future workers. To put it simply, a person who enters the labor market looking for prospective employment has better chances to find it, if he or she is a college graduate. This is an axiom that has historically governed all major and minor decisions in the field of higher education. College is good. College is profitable. Going to college is the key objective pursued by high school graduates and their families. In the meantime, many of them fall behind the growing spiral of tuition and college education costs. As of today, thousands of people question the value of college education and its promise of better life for future graduates. Popular accounts of those, who have made a prospective career without going to college abound. The situation is particularly challenging with working class individuals, who seek college education as a means for upgrading their social status. Even though college education offers some individual and social benefits, it can do little for the working class applicants, due to the high costs of education and significant barriers to college entry.

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College education has always been one of the most important components of the American Dream. For decades, the American society believed in the value of college degrees and their extremely positive effects on personal, professional, and societal development. According to Lazerson, the 20th century saw an outburst of educational opportunities in the U.S. Moreover, for more than a century, the U.S. had been at the forefront of international developments in the system of education. Today, America is struggling to preserve its leadership in education and professional development. Still, most American families remain committed to the value of college education and dream of seeing their children and grandchildren among college graduates. This commitment is partially due to the long-standing belief that college education can improve the economic fortunes of graduates. It also rests on a popular assumption that college graduates get better jobs. Not surprisingly, in this atmosphere, more working class families invest their scarce financial resources in college tuition for their children. What they do not consider is that the advantages of college education and its drawbacks go hand in hand.

Certainly, the benefits promised and actually provided by college education can hardly be underestimated. College education has profound effects on the economic and social wellbeing of graduates. Hout confirms: college graduates are more likely that their peers without a college degree to earn higher incomes and stand at a higher level of the social hierarchy. What is means is that individuals who graduate from college are better prepared to cope with their workplace obligations. As a result, they are also better equipped to work hard and earn more money than their non-educated counterparts. It is possible to assume that employers are also more favorable towards workers with a college degree than without it. In many respects, a degree serves as a reliable measure of one's vocational preparedness to function in a complex world of business and workplace competition.

However, the benefits of college education are not limited to better employment opportunities. The social advantages of pursuing a college degree also should not be ignored. Hout writes that more educated community members set the stage for further improvements in the social and economic conditions of life. It happens, because as more community members obtain a college degree, they put an informal pressure on their peers to follow the same path. With time, communities become more educated and financially stable. Their safety, security, and wellbeing also increase. Unfortunately, it is an ideal picture of college education and its advantages for individuals and community groups. Lazerson is right: "education's promises are often exaggerated and its aspirations thwarted, and these too are important to understand". Particularly for working class people, college education can become a serious issue rather than an impetus for continuous growth. Applicants who do not come from affluent families may fail to appreciate the numerous benefits promised by college education, because of its high costs and the barriers they are likely to encounter, trying to enter prestigious and reputable educational facilities.

For working class individuals, college education is not worth, at least because its financial cost is too high to compensate for the efforts invested in obtaining a college degree. Speaking about the most renowned colleges and universities in the United States, Harvard charges its students $45,278 annually. Inflation is not a good argument to justify the rising costs of college education, because college tuition has long been far ahead of the inflation trends. What it means is that colleges charge higher rates for their educational services without any regard to the macroeconomic situation in the country. It is not difficult to assume that many families will go bankrupt in their attempt to stretch their limited budgets and provide children with a unique opportunity to study in a prestigious college. Today, an average median household should be ready to spend its yearly budget on college education. Apparently, it is not worth the most generous material advantages promised by a college degree. Not surprisingly, more students join the crowd of credit borrowers, whose debts keep piling up turning into an unbearable mass of financial obligations.

Another problem with college education is that it cannot serve as a strategy for upgrading one's social status, at least because many working class applicants cannot use its benefits to the fullest. In other words, low-income and minority students find it particularly difficult to enroll in prestigious colleges, even when their academic results meet the criteria of admission to elite educational facilities. Gutenplan says that "social background has long been known to be highly correlated with academic achievement." That is, students from higher social classes are believed to be better academic performers than their poorer counterparts. Yet, it also appears that social background can influence one's chances to enter a good college and university. The gap in accessing prestigious educational institutions is truly enormous, even with academic variables being equal. The American Institutes for Research also write that "in past decades education has not been acting as the Great Equalizer." Simply put, college education no longer fulfills its promise of upward social mobility. It does not help working class applicants to upgrade their social status. Given the costs of education, getting a college degree hardly looks like a worthy endeavor. It is high time colleges reconsidered their attitudes towards students and the opportunities they promise to those, who want to excel in studies and use their knowledge for personal, professional, and social growth.

Really, the fact that college education is not worth is mostly the result of the misbalanced financial and reputational strategies used by private facilities to boost their popularity and enroll only the richest students. According to the Educational Testing Service, colleges "should start changing their own messages and strategies about the economic value of degree and how they assist students in getting to graduation." It is time for colleges to reevaluate their opportunity messages and tell the truth about what it takes to get a college degree. Working class applicants should be aware of the problems they may face on their way to college. They should also know why college tuition is so high and how it will benefit them in the future. As of now, for those students who view college education as a driver of upward social mobility, it is not a worthy endeavor. Chances are meager that such students will achieve the desired social goals. Meanwhile, they will be entitled to spend their scarce financial resources on a college that does not guarantee the intended result.

To sum up, college education remains one of the headlines in contemporary mass media and scholarly literature. One of the key questions asked by future students is whether it is worth paying for college education. For decades, the American society has been catering the idea of college education as a criterion of personal and social success. Today, the rising costs of obtaining a college degree question the historical relevance of this axiom. College education offers numerous individual and public benefits, from higher incomes and better employment opportunities to safer and more educated communities. College graduates put a huge pressure on their non-educated peers to follow the same educational path. However, working class enrollees should give up their ambitions to turn college education into a driver of their upward social mobility. Being in college is associated with huge financial and social costs. The latter will hardly translate into increased revenues or a better social status. Moreover, many applicants may simply fail to enter a college of their dreams, even when their academic scores meet the criteria of excellence developed by a particular educational institution. Today's colleges should reconsider their promise of better life and become more realistic in their analysis of quality education. Until it happens, college education will not be worthy the investments made in it.


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