Tribune Intern James Messer

By Tennessee Tribune Intern James Messer

NASHVILLE, TN — As a rising high school senior, I’ve noticed that in recent years, college has seemed to become less and less of a priority for individuals in my age group. Not only has enrollment rates fallen from their record highs in the late 2000s, but statistics also show that nearly 20% of college students, 1 in 5, never return after their first year. There seems to be a fear or apprehension around pursuing a higher education growing in the mindsets of millennials and generation XY students.

Many college graduates can attest to the fact that many college graduates end up in fields outside their degree’s field, and that student debt burdens many of them for years after their graduation. Compound this with the increasing examples of highly successful individuals with little to no college education, people like Bill Gates, Jay Z and Mark Zuckerberg, and we begin to get a clear picture of the reasons behind the choice for students to never finish or, even, avoid a higher education all together.

The presumptive notion about the worthwhileness of college, no matter how well meaning, is just that, a presumption. And, the facts are constantly pointing otherwise. One advantage for those with higher education lies in compensation and benefits. Statistically, it has been proven time and time again that those that have sought and passed higher educational training, even just a bachelor’s degree, get paychecks higher than those who don’t. In a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study, it was found that, on average, that workers in the 50th percentile of pay without a college degree made around $718 a week while those simply with a bachelor’s degree made on average $1189. Meanwhile those in the middle of their field, with degree or without, made on average $471 more a week if they had a Bachelor’s. Just a Bachelor’s, a four-year degree. This clearly points towards college graduates, those with a higher education, having a greater advantage monetarily to those without, proving a practical and distinct worthiness to a higher education.

This advantage is only useful, of course, if you can get a job at all. Today, there is a societal cliché, so often perpetuated, that college graduates fail to obtain jobs often due to overcrowded job markets, lack of ease of entry, or just failing interest.  Another misconception is that college graduates more than often have difficulty finding work due to “useless” degrees or lack of career direction. In some cases, this is not entirely untrue, statistics do point to opposite, that college graduates are more likely to be employed. In another study it was shown that the higher the education a person had, the less likely they were to be unemployed. Thus, not only are you more likely to make more money with a higher education but you are also more likely to be employed.

The most important of all reasons to pursue a higher education is, of course, is that, increasingly, jobs are being locked behind a degree. It is estimated that out of the nearly 55 million job openings created since the early 2010s, 65% have required some kind of postsecondary education, whether it be an associate’s, bachelor’s, or even just vocational schooling (Carnevale). Perhaps this is unfair, especially to those who may not have the choice to seek a higher education, but it is still an important fact for graduating seniors who can attend to acknowledge, and a key factor in the essentialness of a higher education in career success.

The sum of these ideas paints a clear picture: college is not only the path towards better career success but is also becoming more and more of a necessity to stay afloat in this advancing world. Is this necessary? No. But, is it true? Yes, and it is important we, especially young students, acknowledge this so we see how integral a higher education can be beneficial so that we can make proper decisions educational decisions.