Is a 4-Year College Education Worth the High Cost?

For the upcoming academic year, the University of Virginia, a public university, has already voted to increase their tuition for in-state and out-of-state students. This increase will now cost in-state students at the university over $30,000 per year for their education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of college per year was  $25,409 for 4-year institutions during the 2014-2015 academic year. Adjusted for inflation, this is a 120 percent increase from the price of college during the 1984-1985 academic year.

As a result of these high costs, individuals who go to college include students from wealthy families, students with sufficient financial aid, and students who are willing to take out large loans from banks and other private institutions. Historically, predominantly rich, white males went to college in order to solidify their social and economic status. The purpose of going to college in today’s society is to receive an education is to be able to leave being a global citizen and being able to use what is learned for personal advancement.  Although colleges still have more improvements to be made in terms of diversity, colleges are more diverse today in terms of gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. As a result of colleges diversifying their campuses, students gain a better perspective of the world around them and become better global citizens.  According to the 2015 Census, Asian individuals account for the majority of individuals with a Bachelor’s degree. However, minority students still tend to take on more risk by choosing to attend college.

Individuals who go to college include students from wealthy families, students with sufficient financial aid, and students who are willing to take out large loans


Lauren Lyons, the author of ““The Curious Case of the Code Switching, Tokenized Teacher”, is an excellent example of how beneficial a college education can be. Lyons was able to obtain her Bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and her Master’s degree from Harvard University. As a result of her educational background, she was able to be exposed to a multitude of professional experiences, which enabled her to explore her own identity as a “code-switching tokenized teacher”. Without her college education, Lyons would not have been able to experience being one of the few Black engineers at the large company that she worked for at the age of 22. However, her education did not come without financial or mental costs. During her experience at Harvard University, Lyons recalls having to taken on the burdensome role as the token teacher. As a result of her minority status, Lyons’ classmates would look to her for answers to questions about race and privilege. Lyons’ experience demonstrates that, although college is beneficial in the long-run, it’s costs can take a toll on a person’s life.

Despite the fact that college is not cheap, many people still agree that a college education is valuable. College can expose students to different internships and research opportunities, and enable individuals to network with professionals in their potential careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, college graduates have a lower unemployment rate when compared with individuals without a college degree. On average, individuals with at least one college degree tend to earn higher salaries than those without a college degree. With a higher salary, these individuals can afford a higher standard of living, which can yield better health and happiness. Even with higher incomes, many college graduates still have the burden of paying off their college debt. In order to ensure that a college education maintains its value to its students, colleges need to take responsibility for our current student debt crisis and supply their students with more financial resources.

Jacque Anderson: Going to College is a Gamble

Brett Marcus: The Importance of College Networking

Taylor McFadden: Breaking Down the Financial Barriers to College

Additional Resources for Making College Worthwhile