The Influence Of College On Your Life

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There are many students all over the world who are preparing to make the largest decision of their life. As students prepare for the workforce, they often consider college in order to obtain a better job with better wages. However, many students also have to debate whether taking the large, financial leap is worth it. I am currently in the progress of making this decision myself. As a minor, I want to consider all of my options– even the ones that I value the least. The choice that I make will decide my entire future; therefore, I want to make a wise, educated one. I have watched many of my friends choose different paths, and oftentimes, they have very strong opinions about their choices. Listening to some of these viewpoints provides multiple perspectives from people who have had different life experiences.

Whether people should go to college or not is not a decision that many make overnight; it is one that takes careful thought from many different viewpoints. People all over the world disagree on whether college is a viable or worthwhile plan for their future or not. Does college help the poor gain prestige in our world? Will I be able to pay off my student debt in a timely manner? These are just a few of the examples of questions that people ask when they consider college for their future.

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Over the past few years, analysts have sought to answer the big question. Is college worth it? Is taking a difficult course, loading yourself in student debt, and not having any guarantee of a successful future worth it? David Leonhardt, an American journalist, and columnist at the New York Times believes it is. In his article, “Is College Worth It? Clearly New Data Say,” he states, “Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree” (Leonhardt). Individuals who have a college degree have received an advantage over others. The salary difference between those who have gone to college and those who have not has risen, especially during economic decline. The difference in pay proves that there is still a demand for people with college degrees (Leonhardt). Although a degree does not always assure a great job, some people still believe that the difference in pay and the demand for jobs justifies it.

Another issue that many college students deal with is student debt. However, many still believe that the overall financial benefits from college outweigh the initial payment. Leonhardt applies his personal experiences to data in order to explain that the downsides to college debt are dramatized:

The anecdotes may be real, yet the conventional wisdom often exaggerates the problem. Among four-year college graduates who took out loans, the average debt is about $25,000, a sum that is a tiny fraction of the economic benefits of college. (My own student debt, as it happens, was almost identical to this figure, in inflation-adjusted terms.) And the unemployment rate in April for people between 25 and 34 years old with a bachelor’s degree was a mere 3 percent.’ (Leonhardt)

Some believe that taking college has less risk than most people believe, and some believe that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Obtaining a four-year degree within our society is encouraged as a safe financial pathway. Families, schools, and friends from all over encourage many students to take the financial leap and attend a college of their choice. In fact, as the future approaches, the need for education will continue to increase as our world becomes more and more advanced. However, some people still question this outlook.

While some people believe that a college education may be the gateway to becoming successful in our American society, some see implications and would suggest other means of making a living. Ellen Ruppel Shell, the correspondent at The Atlantic Monthly and professor of science journalism, wrote about some of these disadvantages. In her article entitled “College May Not Be Worth It Anymore,” Shell states, “If future income was determined mainly by how much education people received, then you would assume that some higher education would be better than none. But this is often not the case” (Shell).

Nearly half of all people who go to college drop out, and the statistics are worse for the poor (Shell). Oftentimes, the poor have to choose between taking a lower-paying job, so they can pay their bills and fees, or going to college and risking even more financial issues. Many black and Latinos struggle with this issue more than whites, mostly because of their overall social status. Shell references a research study from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics which has taken a look into the classes of American society:

College graduates born poor earned on average only slightly more than did high school graduates born middle class. And over time, even this small ‘degree bonus’ ebbed away, at least for men: By middle age, male college graduates raised in poverty were earning less than non-degree holders born into the middle class. The scholars conclude, ‘Individuals from poorer backgrounds may be encountering a glass ceiling that even a bachelor’s degree does not break.’ (Shell)

People who are born poor often have trouble rising above. Many people argue that being poor and obtaining a degree does not always help their societal rank, rather they remain low because they are drowned in all of the hidden fees that they cannot afford. Whereas, people who are in the middle class or attend elite colleges are more likely to do better statistically because oftentimes, they have enough money to make it through.   

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