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The expression "knowledge is power" rings true in many ways. Knowledge is important to companies and employees alike as it provides a sense of security. In the 21st century, where machines replace humans and simple labor is outsourced to other countries, the remaining jobs on the market require a bit more than the usual performance. College is known to provide a wealth of knowledge, skill, and connections that are more readily recognized by employers. However, in a time when anyone with access to computers, cameras, and internet can become successful, how can college compete? 

College versus DIY Education

Although much of the information learned in college is, in some form, accessible by other means, a personalized college education ensures that students learn the right way. More over, a degree is proof to employers that the education was properly put into practice and molded by professionals. 

Are Associate's Degrees Obsolete?

Employees who hold an Associate's Degree are not often recognized as high-wage earners. This is because many open jobs require a certain amount of experience or a four-year degree at minimum. A great majority of college graduates hold Bachelor's Degrees and higher, skipping the two-year degree altogether. 

Although a two-year degree may not seem to provide significant opportunities, it's still useful for those who desire a leg up in managerial or human resource positions. Typically, the appeal of a two-year degree is the time and money saved, the verification gained, and the better chance to obtain higher positions and wages. This degree also kickstarts a successful college experience for students who wish to pursue higher degrees. 

Common Benefits of College Degrees

College can be a hard sell in comparison to vocational schools, paid apprenticeships, and at-home jobs. The climbing price of attendance and accumulated debt certainly doesn't help. There are, however, several positive aspects of earning a degree that speak louder than, and may even counter, those negatives. 

Financial Security

A degree of any kind increases the likelihood that a person will earn more in his or her working life. As more jobs require expertise in a particular field and simpler jobs become less available in the states, the need for a higher education is now essential for middle class survival. Suspicions of a disappearing middle class make it even more essential to find ways to stay out of the so-called working poor status. 

Statistically, poverty rates and unemployment are higher for individuals and for families supported by adults who have not attended college. Additionally, though a college experience without a degree improves the odds of earning more overall, the income and financial status of non-graduates remains much lower than those of degree holders. The amount earned by a graduate is shown to increase with every degree and every year of experience. 

Feeling confident in the potential earnings tends to give graduates a competitive edge in the job world. They have something solid to offer and are therefore best suited for the jobs that require higher education skills. It can be thought of as incentive to graduate if the reward for going to college is being worthy of higher pay. All that money plus benefits like healthcare, vision, and dental as well as the possibility of retirement are major factors that college graduates strive for most. 

Job Security

Despite what fresh graduates might feel initially, the job market really does open itself up to degree-holders. Lay-offs don't often affect high-demand jobs, unemployment rates and poverty are lower among college graduates, and there is more wiggle room for choice of occupation. Jobs are available nationwide and overseas, and some companies will relocate workers and their families just to have someone qualified. Job security also leaks into the socio-economic mobility that many seek. 

The College Experience

Aside from the promise of future comfort, college brings students closer to their community through sports, organizations, and clubs. A perk of being surrounded by like-minded people is the chance at networking which is extremely helpful in job connections and moral support following graduation. Many college students praise the institution's ability to teach them independence, self-reliance, responsibility, and organizational habits that continue through life. On top of that, time management and proper communication skills are essential for work environments, and college is an effective method of developing them for most. 

Social Importance of College

Sure, getting an online degree gets the job done, and an apprenticeship still gives the ins and outs of a specific and highly necessary job, but college offers the interpersonal skills, discipline, and worldly experience that are also very important at work and elsewhere in life. 

On a personal level, families enjoy more opportunities to travel and indulge in leisurely activities and hobbies. Literacy, fitness levels, confidence, social skills, and overall health awareness is higher among the children of graduates. Degree holders display tendencies of tolerance, appreciation, happiness, and health-consciousness. 

Publicly, raising generations of educated folk increases the morality that is spread across the nation and world. Well-rounded people are often more knowledgeable on various topics and give insightful feedback in conversation. College provides an assorted exposure to the world, its people, and the way things work, giving the ability to engage in truly relevant interactions with others. 

Economic Importance of College

A degree isn't just an investment toward the future of the student. It's equally valuable to the country whose economic wellbeing depends on stable, educated people. There is a guarantee that the future is in good hands when it's run by officials and citizens who know a thing or two about a thing or two. College offers a sense of decorum and self, a cultured view of the world and country, and a depth of knowledge on many levels that cannot be taught elsewhere. 

Higher wages mean higher tax receipts and higher economical value within the country. When many workers make extra cash, inflation is possible. Essentially, the country needs college grads to make it look good and to help it thrive in a world where the number of graduates in the U.S. is far behind that of other countries. Potential students may need to be personally convinced that college will benefit them whereas other areas simply instill a competitive nature in students early on, ensuring that they know how a college degree can be the one thing that keeps them out of poverty. 

Dropping Out of College

Seeking jobs as a non-graduate with some college experience is often seen as effort in the job world. Low-income drop-outs are a bit closer to higher wages than high school grads or GED holders. This is because when it comes to work, knowledge is power. Those who acquire any amount of education beyond high school are more likely to benefit from the experience in some way - even if they don't earn a degree. The problem with leaving college lies in the amount of debt to be paid off with no degree to show for it. 

Is It Worth the Debt?

It's no secret that college is expensive from all angles. This is especially true for financially needy students. The trade-off for being a graduate with accumulated debt is the potential for higher wages. Unfortunately, a college drop-out might find varying financial problems based on the years/semesters attended, the type of school attended, and the choices made after the fact. 

College might only be worth a risk for curious students who dabble in community or two-year colleges. Community college is cheaper and less straining on a drop-out. Considering that "noncompleters", for-profit institution attendees, and independent students already have the worst stats in repayment history, leaving a cheaper school makes the debt easier to handle as opposed to leaving a university. 

As if a low income wasn't hard enough, financially needy students still find themselves challenged with loan payments after graduating. The difference is that they qualify for job opportunities that can eventually supplement these payments alongside a comfortable lifestyle. Statistically, financially unstable students become stable after obtaining degrees. Loan forgiveness plans, income-based repayment plans, and other debt assistance offerings are also available, making college debt seem more manageable and worthwhile. 

Students who accumulate debt for the degree show determination, stamina, and drive. They're willing to leave their financial comfort zones for a chance to gain more. This goes double for low-income students who muscle through years of college and debt, knowing the hardship can remedy itself in time. That financial durability and desire to work for more is obvious not only to the student but to academic professionals and employers as well. 

Majors are Factors

Simply having a degree seems to create a drive to pursue higher paying jobs. Many advisors and graduates recommend that entering students really consider the following when choosing a major: 
  • How important is the degree to the student?
  • How important is the degree to society?
  • What is the earning potential for the degree?

Location is a Factor

Location is just as much a factor in the success of college graduates as the degrees they choose. In fact, degree and location go hand-in-hand for some. Universities surrounded by rural communities tend to flourish in the number of agricultural and animal-related degrees sought. Similarly, colleges located in areas high in population and urban activity tend to be known for their tech programs and graduates with degrees in business or politics. That's not to say it's impossible to find a hometown job in the field that's never hiring. It's simply easier to learn career-specific information with the intention of working where the degree is most useful. 

To put things plainly, a college education is even more valuable now than it was in the past. As the low-wage work is outsourced and the rest of the jobs gain complexity with each bit of new information, how can one afford not to go to college? The technology and discoveries behind what is utilized now are so advanced compared to the past. A surgeon from the 16th century wouldn't fair well in this century without the knowledge of modern medicine, tools, and even legal aspects of procedures. Though many repetitive, muscle-memory type trades remain in-tact, certain skills will become a rarity in time.

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