Why College Isn't for Everyone

That diploma may be worth some money in the long run, but's it's going to cost in the short term. zimmytws/Shuterstock

Getting a college degree takes a lot of hard work. But is it worth it? As with many of the world’s great quandaries, the answer is this: It depends. These days, more and more employers look at a college degree as a prerequisite for job seekers. But the truth is a lot of people make a living (and a good one) without one.

Is college really worth the cost? Let’s explore some of the pros and cons.

It takes money to make money

Do college graduates make a higher salary? In general, yes. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a bachelor's degree make nearly twice the income of someone with only a high school diploma.

That being said, not all college majors are created equal. Among the majors that make the most money out of college are engineering, math and computer science. Not surprisingly, some of the lowest include art, religious studies, and early childhood and elementary education.

But college tuition is pricey

The average cost of a year of tuition in the United States is more than $30,000. That’s just one year. Because of that, many college grads come out with debt that plagues them for years after they graduate.

For many tradesmen, expertise in their specific field is all that’s needed to make not only a decent living, but a comfortable one. The average electrician, for example, makes $58,933, whereas the average preschool teacher, after college, makes around $30,000. And that salary doesn’t factor in the cost to pay back student loans from four years of college.

College grads have higher job satisfaction

Another plus for going to college? In general, college graduates are more satisfied with their jobs – 57 percent of college graduates are satisfied in their careers as compared to 37 percent of people with just a high school diploma. What’s more, college graduates are less affected by recession-driven layoffs; they are more marketable and can generally find another job more easily than their counterparts with just a high school diploma.

They also have a better social network...

Friends walking toward a building on a campus.
College can be a place where you start a network that can help you throughout your career. Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

College also provides a myriad of social benefits, providing social networks that stay with people throughout their lives. How many people do you know who met their spouse in college? The college years are formative years in our lives.

... and generally healthier lives

Perhaps more valuable than any of these factors? College graduates have higher self-esteem and tend to make healthier life choices. In addition, their children are more likely to pursue higher education and are more motivated to reach for their dreams.

Community college is just as worthy

What about going to a state school that’s cheaper than another college as a compromise? “If you're not going Ivy League, state college is just fine,” says Robin Amster, corporate developer at Express Employment Professionals and a 25-year veteran of the staffing industry. “Many people are starting in community college to save some money and transferring. That works. The college degree shows a certain level of 'sticktoitiveness' that is appealing to employers.”

Just be the best you, regardless

On the other hand, Amster acknowledges that college isn’t for everyone. “If it's not for you, then be sure to be the best at whatever you do, always ask for more, earn those promotions and let your work experience speak for your capabilities. Lastly, whether in school or on the job, make sure to build your network, look for mentors and help others along the way. In this connected age, these are resources for you throughout your career.”