Should We Stop Pushing Kids to Attend College?

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Student loan debt is out of control. Borrowers owe $1.6 trillion. The costs don’t show any signs of going down, either. Though the popular belief for many years now has always been that college is necessary to get a decent job, is that really the case? The outrageous debt that many people have to take on in order to graduate may not be worth it, depending on what the student wants to do with his or her life. Should we stop pushing kids to attend college and emphasize other ways of gaining employment?

It’s a small miracle that neither my husband nor I had any college debt. I am technically young enough to be a millennial, but still escaped the crushing debt that seems to be par for the course for most of that generation. I see people my age and younger, all around me, struggling to pay off their student loans. It’s particularly bad for those who decided to go for their master’s or doctorate. But I’m sure they were told the same thing I was, since childhood. College is a necessity, not an option. Now I think that it’s not right for everyone. Let’s look at some of the positives and negatives so you can decide for yourself.

The Good

A great number of occupations require a college degree, and people who have them generally have a higher level of income. Even jobs that require only a two-year degree pay more than most jobs available to high school graduates. Let’s not forget internships, which most people get through their school. An internship offers a way to make industry connections and gain work experience that can be invaluable after graduation.

There’s no replacing the classroom experience. Besides learning about a chosen field, college students learn specific valuable skills like how to work as a team, or how to self-motivate. Students also have a better chance of encountering more people who aren’t like them. They can learn not just about someone else’s culture or religion, but how to get along with people who are different from them.

The Bad

A degree won’t always guarantee a high-paying job. A student might even graduate with student loan debt that far outweighs their salary, making it difficult to repay. Further, a student’s desired job might not require a college degree. This is especially true when we look at famous college drop-outs like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Not having a degree didn’t hurt them any.

Remember how I said there’s no replacing the classroom experience? Well, there’s also no replacing practical work experience, either. There is so much that a person learns by actually doing the job that college can’t prepare them for. And although formal education can teach a person a great deal, it’s not required to start a business, which can be a pretty lucrative option.

So, now what?

If you are, or someone you know is, considering attending college, be sure to carefully examine all options. Does your chosen field require a degree? Will you need a loan to pay for classes? Would learning a trade make more sense, since those careers are going up in demand? College might still be your best bet, but it’s not the only possibility.

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