What is the value of a college education?

In today’s world, many students, parents, scholars, and business leaders have made the value of a college education of of the largest debates in education. Why is this? Some may attribute it to the Recession of 2009, which has increased the unemployment rate for college graduates. However, this 4-year period is only a sliver of the trend that has been occurring over the past couple of decades. According to Richard Arum and Josipa Roska, “gains in student performance are disturbing low; a pattern of limited learning is prevalent on contemporary college campuses; individual learning in higher education is characterized by persistent and/or growing inequality; there is notable variation both within and across institutions that is associated with measurable differences in students’ educational experiences” (Arum/Roska 30). In addition to these issues, they find that “many contemporary college academic programs are not particularly rigorous or demanding” (31). In the case of their research and analysis, it seems as though a college education is becoming increasingly less valuable.

In my opinion, a college education enables students to grow and broaden their academic knowledge, prepare for the workforce, and to become more socially active. However, most students seem to gravitate towards the latter. According to Mary Grigsby, 70 percent of students reported that social learning was more important than academics” (Arum/Roska 59).  This stems from a common misconception of guaranteed employment after graduation regardless of grades, as well as the decreasing academic standards that many colleges have instituted. With a valuable college educations, students have a healthy mix of academic and social learning, including learning that combines the two. Through “direct, positive interactions with their professors both within and outside of the classroom” (62), students are able to gain new perspectives on their studies and their interpersonal relationships. Students also learn and develop a sense of themselves through interactions with their peers. From talking in class discussions to chattery gossip, students learn to navigate their social life and balance it with studies. Overall, a college education is integral in transforming adolescents into educated, wise human beings.


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