Long before student’s graduate from high school, they begin the arduous task of determining what they want to do with their lives. And even more difficult, there are people with five or 10 years of work experience, without advanced education, who are now facing down sizing and termination; despite the upswing in the economy. The question for each of them at this cross roads is, “do I really need to get a college degree?”
Previous generation(s) had clear cut paths to follow. The Baby Boomer generation didn’t need a college degree to make a six figure income in America.
Conversely, Generation X , the thirteenth generation since the founding of the United States of America, was and is “the best educated generation in United States history (as evidenced by college and university enrollment…”) to date. While at the same time, Generation X was gearing up for long term and lucrative careers, as a result of their advanced education(s). In the end, they were hit with corporate down sizing and industrial globalization. In other words, despite their educational pedigrees, many were out of a job.
As the Millennial generation comes of age, they are tracking to become the most educated generation in American history. Today, 19 percent of Millennial’s have a degree compared to 35 percent of Generation X. As Millennial’s continue to graduate from high school, researchers estimate that 30 percent of them will go on to receive a college degree.
So the question becomes, “does it make sense to get a college degree?” Will this generation make more money and be in better position(s) for career advancement with a college degree, even if the rising costs of education seem cost prohibitive?
According to the U.S. News & World Report, “going to college costs between three and four times as much as it did 20 years ago. About a year ago, the nation’s cumulative student debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time, and it could grow to $1 trillion by the end of this year. While college-educated people do stand a better chance of landing a job than those who don’t go to secondary school, the time it takes to pay back the money laid out for a degree is growing, causing many to question the efficacy of attending college.”
So what to do? Ultimately, there is no clear cut answer to this question. The bottom line, high school graduates earn about 62% of what those with four-year degrees earn, according to a Pew Research Center study. But it’s not an either or proposition. There are many options in between.
It’s also important to note that a college degree doesn’t necessarily have to be a four year bachelor’s degree. Prospective students can get an associates degree, become certified in a variety of trade school disciplines or work as an apprentice to learn a specific and highly specialized set of skills, which will command a high salary.
The amount of debt versus how much any particular person is earning in their current employment situation is directly related to whether or not he/she thinks that getting an education was worth it – even if he/she does foresee some sort of career advancement or promotion.
And skilled trades, especially in manufacturing are becoming more important than ever. According to an Op-Ed in the Detroit News by David E. Cole in January 2016, Baby Boomers leaving the work force over the next 10 years will create a gap in the manufacturing sector, which will require the next generation to step up; with the caveat that the skills necessary to fill those jobs are more advanced and technical than ever before.
The glamour and thrill of moving out to Silicon Valley and creating new technologies and apps, not withstanding, America is currently in need of manufacturing work force to keep our economy thriving and robust. And these are not the manufacturing jobs of yesteryear. The jobs are not dirty or dank or designed to suck the life out of the employee.
According to some estimates there are currently 600,000 well paid manufacturing jobs available throughout the United States that are unfilled because the workforce simply doesn’t exist. According to Cole, this gap threatens the strength and viability of America, as a world class player on the economic global stage. And over the next few years, that number could grow to as many as 2,000,000 manufacturing jobs that will stand empty unless we recruit, train and employ new candidates to fill those roles.
So, should you get a college degree? That answer to that question lies in your ability to analyze the correlation between your education, what it costs, and your potential earning ability over the entirety of your career.
And most importantly, there’s value in understanding that there are many ways to further your education after high school. Gone are the days of the one track career path. The Millennial generation has the benefit of having access to information to help them make well informed choices. The key is to choose wisely.