Over the past few decades, students who decided to go into certain fields could rely on a certain standard of income once they finished their schooling. Newly-graduated doctors and lawyers could expect a standard of living that reflected the school that they had attended and what they had studied. However, this is beginning to change as more and more millennials have difficulty finding available jobs in a recovering economy.
As a result, students are beginning to question whether their chosen career path is really that viable and whether attending a certain school for its reputation is really likely to provide a stable future. Well-known universities tout their reputations as a reason to attend, but many graduates find themselves wondering whether the amount of debt they have taken on is worth the prestige attached.
“Although there is clearly a correlation between earnings and a four-year degree, a correlation isn’t the same thing as a cause. Economists like Robert Reischauer ruffled feathers several years ago by pointing out that talented, driven kids and more likely to go to college in the first place—that they succeed, in other words, because of their innate abilities, not because of their formal education,” states an article written by Forbes staff for NBC.
Because the cost of education continues to rise and well-known institutions such as Harvard and Princeton tend to be some of the most expensive places to attend, many students are beginning to wonder whether the name is worth taking on extra debt. Also, where a student might attend school is not necessarily an indication of how intelligent he or she is.
“[T]he real economic value in a Princeton degree is not the vaunted Princeton education, but in signaling potential employer that you are smart enough to get into Princeton,” the article continues.
Many graduated from lauded four-year colleges find themselves trapped in debt and forced to take on a job that might not immediately offer them the salary they were originally expecting. Higher-paying positions often tend to require more schooling, and students are forced to choose between accepting a smaller income or enrolling in a graduate program and taking on more debt. This is also a reason why many young people choose not to finish a four-year degree and instead look for other work in a trade or other industry.
“[T]he gap in college graduation rates persists. Low-income students who scored between 1200 and 1600 on their SATs were half as likely to finish college than their counterparts in the top 25 percent of income distribution…economic distress can dim a student’s chances by forcing her to take on part-time jobs or reduce her credit load to help out at home,” writes Jeff Guo for the Washington Post.
Community colleges and trade program have also seen an increase in the amount of students enrolled, as they offer a way for students to gain an education with less expense and a way to enter the workplace and make an income almost immediately. Young people are looking for alternative forms of education—they can opt for going with an online tutor on SolutionInn or take classes on a schedule that works for them. This means they can work while in school and eliminate debt faster.
“As student debt levels climb, it’s increasingly important for incoming college students to choose not where they go to school but also what they study,” advises Susie Poppick for Time.
While a better economy offers new graduates a higher salary just out of school than those a few years before, it still does not rid them of the debts they have to pay. Salaries might continue to grow, but the debt that new students take on is also higher. It also requires students to choose a different career path than they might have expected or wanted in order to pay off loans. With no immediate benefits, many potential students are shirking schooling altogether. However, experts warn that this might cause future problems.
“In many ways, our two economies have created two separate societies. Those with low educational attainment drift permanently between recessions and depressions, with little stability. Those with high educational attainment experience increased wealth, only mild recessions, and interesting projects with personal growth,” states Steven Strauss for the Huffington Post.
Perhaps what many students are finding is not that education is unnecessary, but that there other ways to achieve their goals other than enrolling in a well-known and expensive institution. Education still matters, but where it is attained matters less than the chosen industry and what students choose to do with their educations. Intelligence comes in all forms, and it could be that the current state of student debt is allowing young people to explore new talents and use their forms of education in order to make for a new type of workplace.