Is College Worth It?

By Jake Garner     

     We have all had that pep-talk from our parents and teachers on how we must do well in high school in order to go to a good college once we graduate – and that’s probably what the majority of us will do. When we ask ourselves, “what’s next after high school,” a lot of us automatically think:  “oh yeah, I must go to college.” That’s what society and most of our parents want from us, right? For a lot of us here at Oyster River, it’s a no brainer. We think that a college education is expected of us, so we must go – but in reality, is a college education really worth the money?

     People who argue that a college education is worth it, say that college graduates have a higher employment rate, bigger salaries, and more work benefits than high school graduates. For the most part, that is true. According to college-education.procon.org, high school graduates have a higher unemployment rate of 11.3% versus those with a bachelor’s degree who have an unemployment rate at 4.5%. People who argue that it’s not worth it contend that college loan debt is way too high and delays graduates from buying a house, car, starting a family, launching a business, saving for retirement, and other milestones throughout life.

     According to whitehouse.gov, the average college tuition at a public four-year institution has more than tripled over the past three decades. This makes college out of reach for people who are living in low- and middle-income families, which is the majority of our country.  Today, students are relying on loans more than ever before to pay for their college education, which is the main cause for putting these students in a severe amount of debt.

     “The Vanishing Value of Diplomas”, an article from The Wall Street Journal, stated that someone with a high school school diploma working a full time job makes an average salary of $33,000 dollars a year. Someone with a bachelor’s degree will have an average salary of about $67,000. However, they are also having to pay an average debt of $27,000 from student loans, and that number sometimes grows due to the interest. Technically, the numbers in salary even out to roughly the same because of the amount of debt that a college student will have to pay back from their loans.

     Is paying off debt for the next 5 to 25 years of your life, while realistically having the same amount of money as a high school graduate worth a college education? Well, that is something for you to decide.

     College isn’t for everyone, so it’s important to ask yourself questions like: What do you want to do with your life? What training programs would you be interested in? If you want to be a doctor or teacher, then you will most likely need to go to college.

     Sam Colby, Oyster River alumnus of 2015 graduated a semester early to get a head start on his dream career path of film/photography. “I saw myself dedicating my life to the art world and I knew careers in that world were built off of hard work, self motivation and taking risks, not degrees,” said Colby.

     Colby thought college wasn’t the right choice for a few reasons. “But mostly because I hated the idea of graduating with the burden of debt and being forced into the first nine- to- five job I could find, in order to pay off loans,” explained Colby. Colby is spending as much time as he can working with creative projects in Boston and New York City. “I’m [photo] shooting a lot, networking a lot, and basically just looking for platforms to put myself on,” said Colby. While maintaining his dream career, Colby is also working a regular job as well, to help pay for his rent.

     Some people will go off to college and switch their major two or more times, or maybe get a degree in one field, then find themselves working in a completely different field once they’re out of college.

     An example of this is Kyle Arruda, a Suffolk University alumnus of 2011 who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is now working in realty; a job not even related to the degree in which he invested $50,000+ dollars in. “With the degree I graduated with, it wasn’t worth the cost. I’m also 43,000 dollars in debt, and it keeps on growing due to interest. It’s like a never ending battle,” said Arruda.

     Unfortunately, this is the case for quite a few people. They spend an abundance of money for college, then graduate with a degree which they later realize is something they don’t want to do, then they have to deal with absurd amount of debt. “I did however feel like I paid for the experience of being in college, and that’s something I definitely don’t regret. I learned a lot about myself, and my life during college. Living on my own in a city and running my own life was a growing and learning experience for sure,” added Arruda.

     Stephanie Morales, a junior at UNH, is proud that she made the decision to go to college. “College has helped me grow into the person who I am today and developed my interests even more so than before.” Morales came to UNH with an undecided major, then quickly found an interest in Journalism and International Affairs, which is her current major. “Classes that I took helped me decide, ultimately, what I wanted to do because I followed what most interested me,” said Morales.

     Morales explained that she does have debt, but not an overwhelming amount. “Debt is something that college students joke about, but in reality, it is definitely stressful to think about it. I know that I’m ultimately doing what’s best for me, and makes me aware of how much money I should be making in the future,” said Morales.

     Surprisingly, there have been a lot of people who have been very successful in life who have never received a college degree, like: Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zuckerberg – just to name a few.

     Deciding whether or not college is right for you is something that you have to decide for yourself. Not your parents, not your teacher, not your friends. YOU! If you have an idea of what you want to be or pursue, and you know that reaching that goal would be impossible without a college education, then that’s a no-brainer! Go to school and show them what you’re made of!

     If you know what you want to pursue, like Colby, but you feel like college education would be a waste of time and money, then don’t go. Find some real life opportunity by making connections, talking to people, build a portfolio, and show that specific industry your skill or talent.

     If you are completely unsure of what you want to pursue, then maybe take some time off, yet be productive. Travel a bit, see the world, meet people who will tell you inspirational things and find what interests you. Find something you love, and make a career out of it.

     Colby’s younger sister Abby, graduated a year early, last June and is currently taking a gap year to travel. She just got back this past Thanksgiving from spending three months in Europe. “I went to Italy, France, and then WWOOFed on farms in Portugal and Ireland,” she explained. WWOOFing is an acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. People can travel to farms all around the world and learn farming skills like gardening and taking care of livestock. People who work on the farm are paid in room and board. “What I like most about my year off is being able to structure my time exactly how I want it to be structured.

     When you’re in school, everything is set for you: the hours you’ll be there, and in some cases the classes you take. And sometimes we get so wrapped up in that schedule that we often don’t find the time to do things meaningful to us. Being able to step back from school has let me pursue interests and learn things that I didn’t have the time to do before. It’s important to find purpose in our lives other than being in school full time,” she said. A week after she came back from Europe, she flew down to Haiti to do volunteer work and community service. She is currently making plans to go to Hungary in March to do more farming. She is deferred for a year from UNH and plans to go back in the fall of 2016.

     Colby , however does not intend on going back to school, and explains the sort of guilt he feels for not going back to pursue a degree: “The disadvantages of not going to college are entirely psychological for me. There are moments where I wish I had the secure feeling that I imagined college would give me,” said Colby. “I sort of leaped into the life and position of a post grad, and there are times where that can feel a little uncertain, but that’s my motivation,” he added.

     Tony Gaskins, a motivational speaker, once said: “If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.” So find your passion, figure out what you like to do, and make a career out of it!