Debate Club

More, Better Jobs for College Graduates

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There's a lot to get upset about when it comes to college. The price tag keeps spiraling ever upward. The financial aid process is intrusive and byzantine. Students and their parents are borrowing more than ever to meet the tab even as the median working-age household earned roughly 7 percent less in 2010 than in 2000. The wages of college graduates over the past decade have been stagnant (women) to down (men). Far too many young adults drop out of college owing big bucks on their student loans.

[President Lays Out New Student Loan Rules.]

That said, the current fad for totting up the negatives and dismissing the worth of college is wrong. Instead, I think the unmistakable message from the brutal economy of recent years is that postsecondary education--from a community college certificate to a B.A. to a master's in engineering--is more valuable than ever. For most young adults, postsecondary education has become a necessary--even if not guaranteed--ticket into a middle-class job and lifestyle over a lifetime.

Put it this way: For all the controversy swirling over the costs and benefits of a college education, the genuinely depressing job and earnings problems in America are concentrated among workers with only a high school diploma and less (especially men).

[Average Student Debt Reaches All-Time High.]

The labor market is harsh, with more than 25 million people unemployed, involuntarily working part time, and marginally attached to the labor force. Still, people with postsecondary education are faring better than their less educated peers. For instance, in October, the unemployment rate for workers 25 older with a B.A. or more was 4.4 percent. The comparable figure for high school only was 9.6 percent and for less than high school 13.8 percent. The share of jobs requiring postsecondary education has increased from about half in the 1970s to more than three quarters currently, according to researchers at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The jobs pay better, too. In 2010, the median earnings of male and female college graduates and more working full-time was about double their high school diploma-onl peers.

Parents and students need to be extremely wary of taking on too much debt to pay for college. They should embrace the wisdom of working toward a postsecondary degree and adapting a green eyeshade mentality of shopping for the best deal possible. Nevertheless, the lifetime return on investment on postsecondary education remains compelling.

Chris Farrell

About Chris Farrell Economics Editor of 'Marketplace Money'

Tags
student loans
colleges
employment

Other Arguments

#1
184 Pts
With College, Only the Motivated Need Apply

No – With College, Only the Motivated Need Apply

Craig Brandon Author of 'The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up On Educating Your Child' and 'What You Can Do About It'

#2
116 Pts
Going to College Is a Mistake for Many

No – Going to College Is a Mistake for Many

Richard Vedder Director of Center for College Affordability and Productivity

#3
82 Pts
With College Degree, One Size Does Not Fit All

Yes – With College Degree, One Size Does Not Fit All

Peter Konwerski Senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at George Washington University

#4
55 Pts
Government Is Behind the Curve

No – Government Is Behind the Curve

Lindsey Burke Senior Policy Analyst in Domestic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation

#5
51 Pts
College Is a Safe Bet

Yes – College Is a Safe Bet

Julie Margetta Morgan Policy Analyst with the Postsecondary Education Program at the Center for American Progress

#6
44 Pts
You Can Lead Kids to College but You Can't Make Them Learn

No – You Can Lead Kids to College but You Can't Make Them Learn

Naomi Schaefer Riley Author of 'The Faculty Lounges ... And Other Reasons Why You Won't Get the College Education You Pay For'

#7
31 Pts
Some Career Pathways Require a Four-Year Degree, Many Don't

Yes – Some Career Pathways Require a Four-Year Degree, Many Don't

Robert B. Schwartz Francis Keppel Professor of Practice in Educational Policy and Administration at Harvard University

#8
11 Pts
College Graduates Earn Higher Pay

Yes – College Graduates Earn Higher Pay

Anthony P. Carnevale Director of Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

#9
7 Pts
K-12 Education Should Take a Lesson from Colleges

Yes – K-12 Education Should Take a Lesson from Colleges

Tom Carroll President of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future

#10
1 Pts
Economy Puts a Premium on Postsecondary Skills

Yes – Economy Puts a Premium on Postsecondary Skills

Kevin Carey Policy Director of Education Sector

#12
-67 Pts
A Degree Is Well Worth the Time, Cost, and Effort

Yes – A Degree Is Well Worth the Time, Cost, and Effort

Cecilia Elena Rouse Katzman-Ernst Professor in the Economics of Education and Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University

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