Opinion: The hopeful/hopeless value of degrees


Albert J. Fisler is a junior English major and a  columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Albert J. Fisler

As you are reading this, being a university newspaper, I can safely assume you either attend, teach or are somehow involved or associated with Kent State University. Thus, being a school of higher education, there is one thing that usually itches the back of the minds of those who attend here, or any college for that matter, something that they may be dealing with now or later, and that is paying for college.

A recent BBC News article questioned the value of a four-year degree in today’s economy. Liberty Street Economics’ Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz write for the New York Fed’s blog, and according to BBC News, they speculate the value of an average United States university degree has been in its all-time high for more than a decade. However, at the same time, they point out this may be because the alternatives are so bleak. 

We all figure that earning a college degree is much more valuable than entering the workforce right out of high school, otherwise we wouldn’t have enrolled into Kent in the first place. Although there are plenty of reasons for entering college, this is probably the most popular. However, the longer it takes for a student to graduate, the less money they will make compared to a student who graduates in four years, simply because the student graduating on time has those extra few years to work their job, while the student graduating late is spending more money on college, rather than earning it from their job or career.  

Devin Fergus, an associate professor at The Ohio State University, says his students are facing a student aid crisis, the seeds of which were sown in the 1980s with changes by former President Ronald Reagan. Those changes were responsible for government spending toward higher education being reduced by about 25 percent over five years.  

“Effectively, these changes shifted the federal government’s focus from providing students higher education grants to providing loans,” Fergus writes to BBC News. 

Nevertheless, the value of a college degree is ultimately up to the individual and how they choose to use it. Some may land great jobs as a result of their degree. Some may find better money in a different work field, while the lucky few of us find better pay and success in areas that do not require degrees, like entertainment or music. Either way, your degree, as well as what your degree is in, doesn’t dictate how your life and financial situation will play out. The question being asked is whether or not the knowledge one gained and the lessons learned were worth the thousands of dollars spent.  

Whatever one decides to do with their degree will help shape their life, but hopefully the cost of the degree a student is working toward will help skew in which way they value it because price of knowledge is nonetheless ridiculously high.