Don’t let critics of higher education’s worth fool you.
As price-tags of four-year college degrees escalate, a steady stream of scholarship has emerged that states a somewhat obvious truth: Eventually, the cost of a college education isn’t worth the salary its holder can earn.
Overt or hidden, that premise is embedded in programs that remind high school graduates that four-year schools — and the education they impart — aren’t for everyone, and that trade-school vocations (plumbing, carpentry, construction, computer repair, etc.) are viable, honorable career paths to choose.
They’re right. Those are viable, honorable career paths that can, in some cases, offer handsome salaries.
Nevertheless, 20-something college graduates with four-year degrees are better positioned to withstand the worst calamities of the U.S. economy. The last recession is proof — and now, thanks to new information from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the evidence to that fact is irrefutable.
Pew researchers determined that the recession hammered Americans aged 21-24; by any standard — college graduates or not — young adults’ employment rates fell dramatically during the downturn. But that same data showed that young adults who held four-year degrees had higher rates of employment before, during and after the recession, and that the recession affected them less severely than it did those with only a high school degree or a two-year associate’s degree. Their salaries also were reduced less during the recession.
In other words, the long-standing view that a college degree holds immense value remains true — not only in symbolism, but in real-world dollars and job security.
Guarantees don’t exist in this discussion. College-educated workers aren’t immune from the threat of joblessness. But as America moves forward in these early post-recession years, it’s imperative that educators, administrators and lawmakers work together to make four-year colleges more fiscally accessible to those with the grades and the willpower.