By Alaina Perdon
Elm Staff Writer
Is college worth it? With the cost of a college education continuously rising, many people find themselves questioning whether to pursue a degree.
The results of a 2018, Gallup-Bates study on the significance of higher education found 71% of college graduates are in some level of debt and the 44 million borrowers across the nation collectively owe $1.5 trillion.
While there are many financial and career benefits to higher education, the college experience stretches far beyond that. These final few years of our adolescence are a remarkably formative period in our lives. College offers a unique platform for self-discovery, as we transition from bumbling teenagers to functional adults. It is a place to find our passions and refine our talents, supported by mentors and friends alike.
If you Google the first line of this article, you will be hit with thousands of articles from Business Insider, Unigo, and the Washington Post, offering a relatively similar list of benefits a college education. Employees with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of 56% more than their counterparts with high school diplomas, and those without degrees face unemployment rates twice that of college grads. Their facts are compelling.
Had I not come to college, my world would not stretch far beyond the confines of home. I would have never eaten a roasted cricket at the Eastern Shore Food Lab or sailed across the Chester River on the bowsprit of the Elsworth. While these exact experiences may not be universal, college students across the country are charting their paths to find themselves as they explore the world.
In addition to the paycheck and job security, a Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America Institute study found an array of social and mental health benefits to attending college. College students reportedly experience increased self-esteem and self-awareness, generated by the freedom felt once out of the confines of our parents’ homes.
“There is a [collaboration] for academic social growth when combined with going to college,” Bill Shaffir,Vocal Media reporter covering the study, said. “Even those without early learning develop a strong sense of self, independence, and emotional and social growth from the school climate in college.”
We become worldly by interacting with cultures and rituals we may not normally encounter and developing our communication skills as we are thrust into group assignments, team huddles, and club meetings. The independence we craved since high school teaches us to stand on our own two feet.
Despite the excitement surrounding the concept of college and the shown benefits, some still opt out of attending a four-year university. Trade schools, community colleges, or simply not pursuing higher education are all valid options through which many have found success. While my chosen career path of environmental education aligns more with a traditional education path, friends seeking trade jobs or unsure of their desired career field have reported immense contentedness at vocational academies and county colleges.
In a Fox Business article published Oct. 2, Ann Schmidt revealed many managerial positions and other “six-figure jobs” that do not require traditional bachelor’s degrees. Transportation and distribution managers make, on average, just over $102,000 annually, and the job only requires completion of training sessions provided by the employer. Though far less glamorous, garbage collectors with absolutely no formal training earn upwards of $60,000 annually in some areas.
The traditional college route does not suit the needs of everyone; however, the college environment can provide a safe atmosphere for exploration before we are cast off into adulthood. We emerge more employable, but also surer of ourselves, our passions, and our positions in the world.