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The price of a college degree: how to thrive in college and why

A college degree is more than just a piece of paper. With the ever-increasing cost of tuition combined with the state of the country’s economy, some may question if a degree is truly worth the time, money and energy students must exert over the course of four — or more — years.

The amount of value in a degree for young adults varies from person to person in terms of how much it helps with getting that first job after college.

But in the long run, its significance is skewed.

Lew Hofmann, a business professor at the College, knows this because he went through it himself.

“It took me 19 years to get my undergraduate degree because I wasn’t motivated,” Hofmann said. “When I finally went back (to school), my dad said, ‘It doesn’t matter what you get your degree in, just get your ticket punched. It shows you’re motivated.’”

College degrees can often be considered a person’s foundation in terms of potential employment.

Business Insiders reported on a study that said students who have an undergraduate degree receive an average $3,778 annual increase in salary. For those without a degree, salaries increase only $369 on average per year.

In addition to those numbers, philosophy professor John Sisko pointed out that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has data from 2012 when the unemployment rate for individuals with at least a high school diploma was 8.3 percent, while for College graduates the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.

The weekly median salary for the former group was $652, while it was $1,066 for the latter group.

However, Sisko said that it is important for students to look at more than just the numbers.

“With its gifted faculty and their dedication to close mentoring, students are immersed in the life of the mind,” Sisko said. “Students have the opportunity to explore and research what they are most passionate about in the sciences, humanities and arts.”

In order for students to make it count, they have to be shrewd and frugal with the way they spend money on college, and a lot of that has to do with student loans.

There are plenty of concerns for students paying off loans after college, and a lot of this has to do with interest rates doubling last July, as well as tuition, according to Hofmann.

States have cut back their funding, leading to a rise in tuition to compensate the lack of funds, Hofmann said. In return, more students have to take out loans, with approximately two-thirds of all college students graduating with student loan debt, according to Hofmann.

“There’s a big concern about student loans,” Hofmann said. “Last year, student loans went over a trillion dollars. There’s more in student loans than there are in consumer credit card debt.”

With a degree proving to be a must-have for most young adults, people are looking for ways to make the most of a college degree. Saving as much money as possible is certainly a way, but there are other ways too, including getting the most out of your classes, studying abroad and choosing a major you are truly interested in.

Hofmann is a big supporter of getting the most out of your education and picking a major you like. In fact, he calculated the amount that students pay for each class lecture based on average tuition.

Students at the College pay about $76 per class lecture. If a student misses a class, Hofmann translates that into wasting $76.

Another way students can make the most out of their degree is by studying abroad. By expanding their horizons, they get a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“There is no better way to gain a global experience,” Sisko said.

In addition, for students who choose to study in a field they’re interested in, it leads them to be more motivated to learn.

In a study, The Chronicle of Higher Education looked at business students compared to other majors and found that business students study less than other majors and tend to not perform well in job interviews. The leading theory is that students are picking majors because they think they’ll get a jobs, as opposed to picking majors they like.

“When incoming freshman come visit the College, I say, ‘Major in something you’re interested in,’” Hofmann said. “Don’t major in something because your parents say, ‘You can get a job in accounting.’ Maybe. But maybe you won’t be happy.”

Despite all of the obstacles and hardships, a college degree is worth it in the long run for young adults.

But in order to make the most out of it, students have to go out of their way to achieve certain things.

In the end, that’s what makes it worth it and that’s what gives them happiness.


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