‘Is college worth it?’ is the wrong question to ask

Jennifer Greenlee

Since the beginning of time, college students have wondered if college is worth it.

(Monika Clarke / The Signpost)

But that’s the wrong question to ask.

There are too many variables to the question “is college worth it?” and it’s not a yes or no answer.

Students want an easy answer to whether or not they should go to college, but it’s not that simple. You have to define each component of the question before you can find an answer.

First, you have to determine what you mean by “college.” Do you mean a technical college, a four-year university, a community college or an institution with graduate schools? Each one of those have different requirements, time requirements, credit requirements and workplace value.

The same goes for “worth.” When you use the word, you could be talking about the monetary value of a degree, the experience you had in college, the time you spend in college compared to the money you make after or the money you spend on education to make money after you leave.

And what is it? The time you put in? The money you spend on education? The monetary value the workforce places on your degree? The enjoyment you receive from studying your major?

This question is also variable based on what major you’re studying. If you’re working on a degree that has a lower paying field when you graduate, you have to take that into consideration as well — and also whether you want to prioritize the monetary value of your field over your enjoyment of the field.

So, the question students should be asking? “Is college I am attending right now and the degree I am pursuing worth what I want to get out of it?”

It’s not as catchy as a four word question that can fit in almost any headline, but it does get an answer that applies to you.

At Weber State, the monetary burden of education is much lower than at other colleges, especially those in other states. The cons of the monetary effects are diminished because of that. It doesn’t negate them, but it lessens them.

The worth of college also depends on where you are in life. It’s much easier for a traditional student to get through a degree in four years without the burden of a mortgage or a family and other factors that impact nontraditional students.

Porter Lunceford, a traditional student senior, found he ended up gaining connections and opportunities that have helped him prepare for the adult world at WSU while also being able to find financial aid to support him.

WSU also has a high population of nontraditional students that attend school. Some of these are students returning to school after years of working or students who have a family.

Kenji Nakayu, a nontraditional graduating student and a peer mentor for other nontraditional students, has found college to be worth it for him for because of the future earning potential.

“It’s easy to look at cost and break it down and see what you would earn if you went to college and if you didn’t and compare,” Nakayu said. “There’s also the knowledge and the skillset that you learn that are applicable, like working with deadlines and people.”

While there is the monetary value to consider when considering college, benefits like improved skills and improved job outlook also have to be considered. If going to school improves your job satisfaction, and therefore your quality of life, that is a benefit to consider when evaluating your own personal view of college worth.

“When I started at Weber, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I ended up going because I was expected to go into something,” Lunceford said. “I have learned skills in time management, communication and problem solving. I have had the opportunity to work with faculty in my field, and it has solidified my confidence moving forward.”

But if you want empirical data, The New York Times published an article about the worth of college in 2018. More than a third of Americans, aged 25 to 29, hold a bachelor’s degree, and the total student loan debt rose to $1.3 trillion dollars. However, according to the Pew Research Center, in 2013, Millennials with a Bachelor’s degree made 34 percent more income than those with some college and 38 percent more than those with only a high school diplomas.

So is college worth it for you? I don’t know. And there’s no easy answer for you. It just depends on what you want to get out of it.