Is college the best option?

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Going to college is regarded as the most suitable course a student should follow in order to achieve success in life. Today's culture believes that students who do not complete college will not be able to live a respectable life. Furthermore, regardless of whether the college is successful or not, many parents agree that the rate of return on a college degree is remarkably high. Degree holders are held in high regard in society, and parents would go to great lengths to ensure their children attend education. However, not everyone who is good in society went to college. It is not a necessity for a person to attend college so as to earn good salary. Going to college is not a smart investment due to the low rate of return on investment, diverse areas of as interests among learners, and variation in what constitutes financial success.

The Rate of Return on Education

The rate of return on education does not indicate the true effect of the college education. A good number of college graduates get employed and live a decent life. Having a job enable the graduates to afford substantial amounts of money to cater for house and car mortgages, health insurances, fees for children, and recreational purposes. The fact that many college graduates earn a decent living does not mean that those who did not attend college do not. A good number of successful individuals have not attended colleges and can cater for all their needs and those of families. The high likelihood of college graduates becoming financially successful is not a measure of the true effect of college. Owen and Sawhill state that “…if the smartest, most motivated people are both likely to go to college and more likely to be financially successful, then the observed difference in earnings by years of education doesn’t measure the true effect of college (209). Careful analysis of the returns on college education shows that the rate of return depends on the years of schooling. Each additional year of schooling increases the rate of return by 10 percent. The returns on investing in education are effectively calculated when the expenses incurred during the course are considered. These expenses include tuition and commuting fee, accommodation expenses, and miscellaneous costs for purchasing writing materials, mobile phone and a computer. Majority calculate their current expenses incurred after they get a promising employment. Few people remember the huge costs incurred during their learning in college hence the tendency to miscalculate the rate of return on their college education. Distributing the collective cost of college over time shows that it can take up to 15 years to cover all the college expenses. Again, the rate of return on education is not substantial due to the huge expenses included during the course of attaining the college degree (Owen and Isabel 211). High school diploma graduates incur fewer expenses in attaining their certificates. After completing their education, the diploma graduates secure employment although their payment is lower than that of college graduates. However, the difference in salaries between high school graduates and degree holders is approximate $7,000. Owen and Sawhill state that “the raw difference between high school graduates and associate’s degree holders is $7,000, but a return of 10 percent would predict the causal effect of those additional two years to be $6,000 (Owen and Isabel 210). There is a great variation of costs incurred in attaining the college and high school education. Considering the huge expenses in attaining a college degree, it can be claimed that the rate of return on education is not substantial and that students can consider other means of attaining skills and expertise.

Variation on Determinants of Financial Success

The success of individuals in the society depends on many factors such as availability of development opportunities and exclusive abilities of an individual. Similarly, the success in college depends on the student's unique strengths, weaknesses, and areas of interest. A gifted student may not go to college but may engage in personal and professional development to become successful (Holzman 128). For instance, a high school graduate can educate themselves through online programs. The online community has enormous resources that the student will need for professional development. The person becomes their own teacher and learns many things related to their areas of interest. After acquiring the necessary skills, the college graduate starts volunteering for work in the area of interest or seek a part-time employment and start building their portfolio. With knowledge and experience of work in the field of interest, the high school graduate becomes successful without going to college. The only expenses incurred are internet fees and cost of necessary electronic devices such as a computer. The employers need a person who can deliver as per work requirements and therefore there are high chances that the self-taught high school graduate will be employed. The rate of return on self-education is very high considering the little expenses used in the process of attaining professional skills. Similarly, a high-school graduate can become his/her own mentor and get connected to professionally successful individuals (Aronowitz, Stanley, and Henry 83). Through networking with other established individuals in the society, the student can learn transferable skills. The only requisite for networking is good communication and social skills. These skills can be nurtured by an individual through public speaking forums and social group meetings. It is an alternative to the college education which is expensive for some students. The return on college education varies depending on the student's unique skills. Owen and Sawhill state that “individual school will give the highest net benefit for a given student with her unique strengths, weaknesses and interests” (212). Majority of students are average in performance and therefore may not attain the highest net benefits from the college education. A talented student who does not go to college may acquire more wealth than a college graduate who was an average student. The success of college students depends on the type of schools they attended, financial stability, and the probability of completing the degree program. If a student foresees that they will strain financially and may not finish the degree course, it is better to opt for an alternative which may lead them to success. Without financial assistance such as bursaries and scholarships, investment on education may prove to be expensive and the rate of return on investment may be very low. However, if aid grants and scholarships can be obtained, the option of pursuing college education can be viable.

Diverse Areas of Interest

The ability to outshine and become successful even after attaining a college degree depends on the interest in a particular field. Individuals have diverse interests in specific fields and their chances of success increases if they undertake jobs within their areas of interest. Having an interest in a specific field does not necessarily mean the persons should go to college (Aronowitz, Stanley, and Henry 96). If there are other cheaper ways of obtaining skills pertaining the specific field, then they should pursue them instead of going to college to study the course. At the end of the period, the individual will be required to possess necessary skills to undertake a certain job. It does not matter whether the individual went to college or not, but he/she is the right candidate for the work if he/she can carry out the job responsibilities. Mike Rose states that “A waitress acquires knowledge and intuition about the ways and the rhythms of the restaurant business” (274). A person has the ability to attain personal development through acquiring of information and using their intuition to create their path of success.


The college education is a tool for enhancing the personal and professional development of an individual. Not all college graduates make it in life, but the successful people in the society comprises of both high-school diploma and degree holders. Going to college does not necessarily mean the individual will be financially successful, but his/her success depends on person's unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. There are different ways of attaining personal and professional development other than going to college such as learning through online programs and networking with established people to acquire transferable skills. Financial success and stability depends on many factors and does depend on whether an individual has a college degree or not.

Works Cited

Aronowitz, Stanley, and Henry A. Giroux. Education under siege: The conservative, liberal and radical debate over schooling. Routledge, 2003, pp. 45- 256.

Holzman, Lois. Schools for growth: radical alternatives to current education models. Routledge. 2016, pp. 2-164.

Owen, Stephanie, and Isabel Sawhill. Should everyone go to college? Brookings Institution, Center on Children and Families, 2013, pp. 208-222.

Rose, Mike. "Blue-Collar Brilliance: Questioning assumptions about intelligence, work, and social class." The American Scholar 78.3, 2009, pp. 272-282.

October 18, 2022

Education Sociology



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