What is the Value of College?

As you read all the print news reports and listen to all the TV news bites in recent times, it would seem that the value of a college education is not what it used to be. This is not the case according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center. The report states that, “The earnings gap between young adults with and without bachelor’s degrees has been stretched it its widest level in nearly half a century.” This conclusion was based on recent census data. (Paul Tyler, The Rising Cost of Not Going to College, Pew Research Center, February 11, 2014) The report goes on to say, “Young adults with just a high school diploma earned 62 percent of the typical salary of college graduates. That’s down from 81 percent in 1965, the earliest year for which comparable data are available.”
The study reported the increasing difficulties for many adults who lack a bachelor’s degree in finding life — supporting paying jobs. The result is a widening gap between high and low wage work. More often it is the high school graduate only who lives in poverty and works in unsatisfying jobs.
The report goes on to state that, “roughly nine out of ten college graduates ages 25-32 said that their bachelor’s degree had paid off or will pay off if the future. Even among the two-thirds of young adults who borrowed money for college, about 86 percent said their degrees have been, or will be, worth it.”
The Pew report addresses the true current case of just how much college is worth by reporting, “For instance, college graduates ages 25-32 who were working full-time now typically earn about $17,500 more annually than employed young adults with just a high school diploma ($45,500 vs. $28,000). In 1965, before globalization and automation wiped out many middle-class jobs in areas such as manufacturing, the inflation adjusted gap was just $7,449.”
The most interesting and discouraging conclusion from this lengthy research report is the fact that the gap between low and middle/upper-class income is widening and more than ever dependent on one’s educational attainment level. Even in the Midwest where for many decades it was possible to make a solid living wage with only a high school education, it is now the case that entry-level jobs in most manufacturing pay in the $10-$15 per hour range resulting in $20,000 – $30,000 per year. Just one generation back, wages were higher for most of these jobs than the $10-$15 per hour of today. The recession and globalization (loss of jobs overseas) have made the entry-level, high-school only job market close to poverty. Suffice it to say, the future income potential and life success for young adults without a college education is bleak.
This writer does not want to leave the reader feeling bad about the future but rather desire to provide a ray of hope. Glen Oaks Community College is the local opportunity provider that is low-cost, high-quality, and focused on providing the training needed to either enter directly into the workforce at a much higher wage or transfer to a four-year institution successfully. The cost of attending Glen Oaks is less than $4,000 per year for tuition, books and fees. Just a quick review of the Pew report showed how good of an investment this is for one’s life income and satisfaction. Glen Oaks is here in St. Joseph County at the will of the people to serve one and all by adding value to lives and changing futures.
Dr. David Devier
President, Glen Oaks Community College
Note: The above Pew report can be accessed at:

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