By SAMANTHA KRENZER
As college and university students return to campus, freshmen and upperclassmen alike are confronting ever-increasing concerns regarding the costs associated with a higher education. Lately, the most heavily weighted questions fielded on college tours are about financial aid and the seemingly unending fees building up on students and their families.
However, despite the recent publication of stories debating the cost versus the monetary return of a college education, many still view a college degree as a tremendous asset.
Citing increasing costs and shrinking aid opportunities, these articles take aim at not only the financial worth of an education but also the time and effort that students dedicate while pursuing higher degrees.
Much more than financial gain must be considered when judging the worth of a college education because to do otherwise is to ignore the personal benefits of the college experience, which are longer lasting. Seizing upon the opportunity to discover who you are as an individual is a cornerstone of the college experience.
For those students whose expected date of graduation is fast approaching, inquiries are often made of how it is that that they intend to repay student loans. Data cited in an online article from the New York Times puts the current student loan debt for the estimated 18 million undergraduates in the U.S. at nearly $1 trillion dollars, and, given ever increasing tuition prices, this number can only grow larger.
People bemoan the price tag on a college level degree and the burden private loans place on students, and yet it took the federal government almost until the start of school to finally pass legislation which set the interest rate for the 2013-2014 academic year. College today presents a business rather than a means of acquiring knowledge. Society would prefer students to pursue degrees that pay more but may not be as individually rewarding.
Forbes published a list of ten of the highest paying majors in 2012, and not one of those majors was in a humanities field; they were all instead engineering or science based.
For years a larger paycheck has been represented as the ultimate reward for a college degree no matter the field of study, but the list published by Forbes is just one of many in positing that anyone with a degree in the humanities is going to find not worth what it cost them.
However, there is fault in this logic because it assumes that each individual college student and potential college student judges the worth of a college degree in the same way: that he or she seeks an education based solely upon the financial rewards. If this assertion were true, then students would stop studying art, theater and English and would instead take up the sciences. US News and Report stated in a profile of the University of Mary Washington, that of 2011 graduates 19 percent majored in the social sciences and 11 percent in English Language and Literature/ Letters.
No science was ranked amongst the top five most popular majors for graduates of that year. The idea of the worth and value associated with a specific major is, like most things, subject to the opinion and preference of the individual.
College is a difficult experience for many; it is not for everyone and neither is there one college, which will cater to every student. Some students will stay close to home and attend community college, while others will choose to attend a prestigious, out of state university.
Many students are living away from home for the first time, they are being forced to make decisions without the input of their parents and they are being forced to face the consequences of those decisions as well.
The world of today is a scary place, and learning to become an adult can be an overwhelming experience, but college cannot collectively be deemed unworthy because of its financial cost.
Doing so reduces the college experience for the individual. College is about discovering who you are not only as a student but as a person. It may seem like a cliché, but discovering who you are is more than a number on a price tag and each individual student should be left to determine the true worth of his or her college education and experience.