There is definite value in a college education. The obvious value is in the education, a college education gives you information and training that are needed for the workplace. Another obvious benefit is opening you up to new people. Whether that be making new lifelong friends, or meeting people to help you on business ventures, you are exposed to many new people. You also learn a lot about yourself, you can learn about the environment you thrive in, or maybe you get exposed to an area you never would have thought you would like. I don’t think that anyone will deny the positives of a college education, the main problem that arises is the cost, but baring that, the only downside is time. There are two main schools of thought regarding college, STEM education, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and Liberal Arts. The differences can be broken down to STEM being aimed at people that want a specific set of skills for a specific job, and as the name implies, it is in the area of Science and Math. Liberal Arts is a broader education that focuses less on specifics and “facts” and is more of a humanities education. The differences are obviously more complex than that, but that is the basis. I argue that STEM is a better choice for the average American that is getting a four year degree. The jobs are more plentiful, and your degree is going to be easier to apply to different jobs in the same field. If you go for a Liberal Arts job you are not getting specific training. Liberal Arts degrees are applicable to a broader spectrum of jobs, but each job could have different requirements on a case by case basis. If your goal is to get a job out of college where you can make good money and have good job security, then a STEM degree is a better choice than a Liberal Arts degree.
The value of a college education goes beyond solely making money. There are many things that people value just as much if not more. As Richard Cohen says,
I apply my own set of metrics to my college education. I met some wonderful people, particularly fellow students who were so much more sophisticated and worldly than I was. I had some great teachers, one of whom became a mentor and taught me how to suffer criticism. (I’m still suffering.) Whole worlds opened up to me — philosophy, which I never would have read had I not been forced to; the clotted verses of Chaucer; and, of course, the aforementioned anthropology, both cultural and physical (Cohen).
This is a great example of someone who went to college and took away much more than a degree to make money with. There are plenty of jobs out there where you can start low without a degree and climb the ladder with nothing more than experience. You could also go the route of making great money for working hard or dangerous, or weird hour jobs. Truckers and construction workers make great money, but they work their bodies harder and work harder hours. While it is true that there is almost an expectation of going to college, as stated by John Cassidy,” ‘Earning a post-secondary degree or credential is no longer just a pathway to opportunity for a talented few,’ the White House Web site states. ‘Rather, it is a prerequisite for the growing jobs of the new economy’”(Cassidy). That is not to say that it is impossible to live comfortably with no formal college education. The barrier lies with jobs like statisticians, engineers, researchers, and accountants. These are all STEM fields where they need to have proof that you understand the field, they can’t just take your word for it when you are working with 220v electricity or designing a bridge, there has to be some sort of benchmark that they can judge you on. This is what makes a STEM education a better choice for a college education. Chances are that if
you are getting a job with a history degree that isn’t a history teacher, that you could have gotten it regardless of your history degree, or at least in a more economical way.
I believe that the true value of a Liberal Arts education is to compound with a STEM degree. John Cassidy said, getting a college degree is pretty much the baseline, so getting both a STEM degree and a Liberal Arts degree is a way to set yourself apart without a lot of added time or money. In my case I plan to get a degree in Computer Science as well as a Spanish degree, this will set me apart from the numerous other applicants with essentially the same Computer Science degree and experience. Truth be told I think that resumes are far more important that just a degree, in my case, things like manager experience and Eagle Scout look good on a resume and set me apart from other applicants. A study done by the University of Kansas showed that “The study estimates that the lifetime earnings gap between high school and college graduates, including those with a graduate degree, is around $1.13 million for men and $792,000 for women” (University of Kansas). With statistics like these it is very appealing to get a degree, which is why there are so many people getting them. If all you had was a degree like a bachelor’s in psychology, you are going to have a hard time getting a job in a sea of people with other similar degrees, whereas if you had a degree in a STEM field, you are at the very least on an even playing field with the other applicants in your field. Not to long ago, getting a four year degree was almost guaranteeing yourself a good job, but nowadays that just isn’t the case. Even now there is almost a stigma against not having a college degree, before long it will be more like dropping out of high school, you will be essentially unhireable
. I argue that a STEM education is more important than a Liberal Arts education, but the real deciding factor is what you have to set you apart in your resume.