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Is College Worth the Cost
March 15, 2021

Is College Worth the Cost? 5 Things to Consider When Weighing Cost vs. Value

Cost-minded consumers like you believe that you get what you pay for. You’re careful about making sure any expense will be worth the investment — even education. The possibility of pursuing a bachelor’s degree is intriguing, but is college worth the cost? It’s a good idea to examine this question from every angle before making your decision.

Is college worth the cost? 5 considerations for students trying to decide

Dr. Jacqueline McDowell, dean of the Charter School of Education and Human Sciences at Berry College, has particular insight into how obtaining a bachelor’s degree can open doors. 

1. College graduates tend to earn a higher salary

There’s no denying the fact that college graduates stand to earn more over time. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows workers who have a bachelor’s degree earn an average weekly salary of $1,248. That’s almost $280 more than the average worker earns each week.

“There really seems to be an indicator that with a college degree you will ultimately make more money across your career,” Dr. McDowell offers.

Some people point to Bill Gates and other entrepreneurs as proof that college isn’t the only way to make a good living. But keep in mind those rare success stories involved a lot of risk-taking.

“I would say go out and try to be entrepreneurial,” Dr. McDowell offers. “I think you will find it's perhaps not that easy.”

2. Many employers are seeking candidates with a bachelor’s degree

It’s true that some vocational professions don’t require a bachelor’s degree. But many employers are seeking candidates with this credential. Dr. McDowell suggests this may be due to the fact that college graduates have to develop good communication, writing, self-regulation and management skills in pursuit of their degree.

“You can’t overlook the fact that those are the types of things employers are looking for,” she says. “Even if they say, ‘We’ll train you when you start,’ those baseline skills are really important.”

There’s evidence to back this up. A survey from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) reports that executives and managers are most interested in hiring graduates who are proficient in broad skills like oral communication and critical thinking.

3. Obtaining a college education prepares you for a thriving career in numerous industries

Most everyone begins their career in an entry-level position. Eventually, they become interested in climbing the ladder. Dr. McDowell says college graduates likely have an advantage in this department.

“They're going to have opportunities to move past entry-level jobs,” she says. “And that second level of jobs, which definitely require a college degree, would include benefits like family health care.”

It’s also worth noting that college graduates are poised to pursue positions in just about any industry thanks to the previously mentioned baseline skills they develop.

4. There are numerous ways to pay for a college education

While the cost of higher education can seem prohibitive, know that there are options. Dr. McDowell says every student should start by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and then figure out how to proceed. The institution itself makes a difference.

“A school like Berry College has a mission to serve students who have financial need, especially first-generation college students,” Dr. McDowell elaborates.

And don’t forget about scholarships. Motivated students who are selected for Berry College’s Gate of Opportunity Scholarship, for instance, could potentially leave campus debt-free. And Berry College students are lucky in that they’re all guaranteed a paid position should they be interested in working during college.

“Students can find the right work opportunity that could lead directly into their career path, or it might be something that they simply use as a way to fund their tuition,” Dr. McDowell offers.

5. Attending a four-year college can provide immeasurable value

Remember that the value of a college education can’t always be measured concretely. College could help you discover passions that you don’t yet recognize. Dr. McDowell also suggests college may even be able to help you build a more diverse network than you could on your own. Those connections could be key in securing meaningful roles one day.

“How can you put a price on engaging in social, cultural and political issues and building a lifelong professional network?” Dr. McDowell asks. “You just can't put a price on that.”

Invest in your future

Deciding whether to pursue an undergraduate education based on cost alone is pretty limiting. Try a slightly more holistic mindset by asking yourself, “Is college worth the cost when I consider how that education could affect my life as a whole?” Motivated individuals often find the answer is yes.

If you have significant career goals, a bachelor’s degree is likely starting to look more appealing. A four-year college education is an important stepping stone for careers ranging from accounting to veterinary medicine. To learn more about your degree options and the professional paths that could await in your chosen field of study, visit Berry College’s Academic Programs page.

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