College Readiness Determines Its Value

The debate over whether college is worth its high cost has been argued in the last couple of years, primarily due to the high costs of attending, the dismal unemployment rate, and the sluggish economy. Many people are concerned that our society, schools, and academia, are pushing way too many kids toward higher education without determining their college readiness or the value of that investment. It seems as if today’s undergraduate degree is yesterday’s high school degree and that having a BA or BS doesn’t offer much job security. Many young people go to college because it is expected; often times their secondary schools do little to encourage or offer viable options and related skills. Therefore it seems logical that parents and students need to take a realistic look at what college graduates can expect once they graduate. Is the ever-rising cost of college a smart investment for young people?

Most of these discussions about the value of college do not include college readiness-but they should. If a student goes to college only because she is expected to or because she cannot think of anything else to do, then college is not a good investment. If that student is not ready for college, for whatever reason, she needs to pursue something else-gap time, job, military, apprenticeships, etc. – until she decides she is motivated, serious, ready, willing, and able.

Even when that student decides she seriously wants to pursue a degree, the question still remains: Is college a good value. A recent report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce ascertains that while employment and earnings for college graduates is down from past years, “extensive research, ours (the Center) included, finds that a college degree is still worth it.” The report continues: “A Bachelor’s degree is one of the best weapons a job seeker can wield in the fight for employment and earnings….Unemployment for students with new Bachelor’s degrees is an unacceptable 8.9 percent, but it’s a catastrophic 22.9 percent for job seekers with a recent high school diploma-and an almost unthinkable 31.5 percent for recent high school dropouts.”

The report goes on to explain that the choice of major makes a big difference. Some of the major findings in the report: “1) Choice of major substantially affects employment prospects and earnings. 2) People who make technology are better off than people who use technology. 3) In general, majors that are linked to occupations have better employment prospects than majors focused on general skills.”

While that may be true, also consider that many employers are looking only for the degree itself as an indicator of basic skill levels and maturity, often with the assumption that the employer will provide actual job training. It also is important to remember that there are several careers that do not necessarily require college degrees, but do require on-the-job training.

The point remains that college is worth it if the student is motivated, serious, and ready for college. Determining that college readiness is the first step.