Education has certainly changed drastically over the last couple of decades and so has the way students approach this pivotal part of their careers. Unfortunately money has always been an issue in choosing your education and now it has become an even bigger part of the decision making process.
In earlier times, the four year college degree was pretty much the only option for young people seeking to continue their education but now there are lots more options. Although this traditional route is still the most popular many students are becoming mindful of both the cost and the burden of debt that it brings for years to come. Of course it’s true that statistics suggest that an investment in most educational course sees a corresponding increase in lifetime earnings the benefits are not quite as clear cut as they once were.
Students are starting to actively compare the expected earnings increases with the amount of debt that they will encounter in pursuing college degrees. There is no doubt the gap in closing and in some subject areas there is little to be gained financially by pursuing a college degree in specific subjects as far as future earnings is concerned.
Americans owe more than $1.3 trillion in student debt between some 43 million students, it is a huge amount of money and only expected to rise. Do economies and individuals benefit from taking on these levels of debt? It is becoming an important election issue as well as a difficult life choice for individual students. They do increasingly realise that college degrees are expensive and extremely pressurized, the days of endless frat parties and sitting around using a proxy for Netflix to watch all day are long gone.
Many are switching from the traditional routes and looking at community college educations instead. They are generally much more affordable and flexible allowing students to continue to work alongside their studies. In essence you can normally achieve a college degree within the community college framework for much less money although it may take a little longer.
The prospect of obtaining a degree without accumulating huge levels of debt is obviously increasingly attractive to students. It’s also a useful safety net for students who are so adverse to accruing debts that they consider ignoring further education completely – community colleges give them other options.
The focus is perhaps more now on life-long learning rather than the four year cram that is a normal University education. There are other benefits as well as cost, students can adapt and structure their learning over their lifetimes something that is not always possible when you have to make such an important decision at such a young age by choosing a University degree.
James Williams, BBC World News Streaming, Faber Press, 2015.