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05 February 2017 - Are College Degrees Worth the Cost?

Is a college degree worth the cost? This week’s topic came up in a conversation a few days ago with some of the younger members of my radio-TV production crew. Several of them have children reaching college age and are in the opening stage of the college search. All of them reacted to the ‘sticker shock’ they experienced when they heard the total cost of a four-year degree plus room and board.
The discussion ended with one of the crew members asking the question . . . Is a four-year college degree worth the cost?

It obviously makes a difference with many companies who require a college degree on the initial job application. But is it a question worth asking if it means you get your degree with a heavy debt to pay after you graduate?

Fortunately, this question is in my very distant past, but I see the struggle for my son and daughter-in-law who now have a freshman and a junior in college. They started what they thought was a reasonable college-fund saving program when the kids were very young, and are now finding their loan fund falling far short of the actual cost.

It takes money to build dormitories, classrooms, laboratories and all the facilities needed to provide a college education, but I also wonder if there aren’t less costly ways to do it. My granddaughter’s dormitory room, for example, is like a classy hotel room with a main sitting/study room and three individual bedrooms for her and two other students. In the three weeks I spent as a student at the University of Wisconsin, decades ago, I lived in a 10x10 room with a bed, table and chair.

Yes, I said three weeks . . . and then I became a college dropout and never returned. Instead I did enroll in a trade school and in six months was working as an announcer on a small radio station in Wisconsin. My broadcast career started in 1952 and continues today with that trade school education. I finally received a college degree in 2003, an Honorary Doctor-of-Letters Degree frm the University of Illinois.

I know you can’t compare today with six decades ago, but there is a point I want to make; not everyone needs a college degree to succeed. People can be successful as an electrician, carpenter, plumber or dozens of other trades that are vital to our economy, yet don’t require a college degree.

You may think I am against a college education; not at all. I’m just trying to offer help for those parents and students who can’t afford the cost. I do have one other suggestion . . . there are millions of dollars in scholarships awarded every year, but they don’t come looking for you; you have to go after them. Also, local community colleges are less expensive and students can commute from home.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.