There’s a common perception that a college education results in a high salary and quality of life, but dropout rates and crippling debt often go unconsidered. Nowadays, a significant portion of college graduates struggle to find work, and high university fees and loan interest rates can affect a person’s income for many years after graduation. Skills-based training, on the other hand, costs significantly less than a bachelor’s degree and takes two years to complete rather than four. Could skills-based training be more beneficial for today’s high school students? Or, should people still believe that they must aim for university?
It used to be that a college degree was a virtual guarantee of a good career. The common path was to work hard in college, graduate with good grades, score well on the ACT and SAT, and attend a reputed four-year university. Students that followed this path were, overall, well-prepared to enter the job market and start making a living.
A high school graduation is a significant milestone in many lives, and it often coincides with a young person beginning the final transition into adulthood. In the past, what that meant differed for many people. Today, however, the predominant path involves immediate entrance into college. Many high school students spend their senior years in a chaotic rush of college and scholarship applications, after all. Despite the growing real cost of studying in a university, attendance rates continue to increase. The explanation often goes that earning a degree ostensibly makes one more valuable as an employee, so the tuition, fees, and other associated costs are a justifiable expense.
Check in with a high school senior early in the school year, and you’ll find many of them doing two things: fretting about college decisions, and worrying over scholarship applications. Many students receive heavy encouragement to apply for as many scholarships as possible — why is that? The reality is that rising tuition and material costs associated with college continue to increase the financial hurdles facing students. The conventional wisdom, though, is that a college degree is worth the effort and the cash. Is that true? Do the end results justify the current price tags, or is the cost of college too high when compared with its potential benefits? A careful look at the facts shows that circumstances profoundly influence the answer.
Understanding even basic economic principles can be tricky, and understanding opportunity cost is no different. Most of the explanations found online aren’t that helpful because they are often overly complicated. And if you’re like most people, you need a clear understanding of your options and how they stack up against each other – and you don’t have a ton of time to spend grappling with what should be a relatively simple concept.