Counterpoint: Is college really worth the expense in the long run?

Caroline Katz, Managing Editor

As early as middle school, students become aware of the importance of going to college after high school.  Parents and teachers constantly impress the importance of college upon students, convincing them that college is the only viable route they can take if they want to have a successful future.  This pressure can make students forget that there are other options—cheaper alternatives that are surprisingly more profitable in the long run.

“I’ve been told by my parents, grandparents, family friends, extended cousins, and teachers that I need to go to college if I want to make an adequate income when I grow older.  It might be the most expensive form of peer pressure—a $70,000/year method of peer pressure,” said senior Julia Kim.

College tuition is rising at an alarming rate, but some graduates are finding that the cost does not pay off.  According to the College Board’s report on rising tuition, both public and private schools have seen a rapid rise in costs.  With an adjustment for inflation, students at public four-year institutions paid an average of $3,190 in tuition for the 1987-88 school year.  Today, tuition has seen a 213% increase to an average of $9,970.  Meanwhile, private schools have seen a similar climb with a 129% increase in tuition costs from $15,160 to $34,740.  In fact, tuition has risen much faster than annual inflation: the cost of consumer items has risen by 120%.  The idea that college is the only option for graduating seniors means that students must commit to bearing the suffocating costs.

In order to afford college, students find themselves forced to take out loans and depend on financial aid.  And the result?  Student loans in the United States make up a total of more than $1.4 trillion.  According to the Wall Street Journal, today, the average student loan debt for a 2014 college graduate is $33,000—double the amount of 20 years ago, adjusted for inflation.  The worst part is that the majority of students, or 60% of all borrowers, cannot afford to pay off their debt until they are in their forties.  It is wrong to push college on students without thinking about the consequences.

“It is unfair that such an emphasis is placed on attending college to have a successful future, especially since financial aid is not always sufficient to cover the costs.  I’ve had teachers who say they just finished paying their loans, or are still paying them.  People often forget that not everyone can afford the luxury of a four-year education, especially when there are two-year alternatives like technical schools,” said senior Sarahi Interiano.

Technical schools are specialized career-specific courses that teach the necessary skills for professions that range from electrical work to dentistry.  This is a great option for students that know what they want to do in the future, and can avoid paying for courses that are not relevant to their chosen professions.  Trade schools allow students to begin work immediately, and avoid the limbo that follows after graduating a four-year institution.

After years spent at college, and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on school, some students see no payoff for their sacrifices.  Oftentimes, high school graduates will actually earn more than college graduates.  According to CNN Money, college graduates of schools ranked in the bottom 25% of universities earn less on average than high school graduates.

“I find it discouraging that even after all the hard work I put in during college, and the amount of debt I subject myself to, I would still earn less than high school graduates.  Under those circumstances, I do not see a four-year college as beneficial,” said senior Emily Kraus.

The New York Federal Reserve’s report on underemployment states that around one-third of college graduates do not end up working in jobs that require a college degree.  This is another example of why college does not prove beneficial for students.

High school students should be more aware of their options so that they are not forced to commit to years of debt when they could have profited more from a faster route to steady employment.